Philipstown Discusses Community Garden

Also extends vape shop ban, protests Percherons

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong

The Philipstown Town Board — in three meetings in seven days — took up issues ranging from better Recreation Department lighting, fields (for crops or sports), vape shops, a county Percheron purchase, and Upland Drive — a narrow, muddy mountain lane that appears better suited for horses than horse-powered vehicles.

On May 1, Garrison resident Tim Donovan briefed the board on the concept of a community garden on a 10.8-acre parcel at the intersection of Route 9D and Route 403, near the Desmond-Fish Library.

community garden map

A map by RJR Horticulturalist LLC, based in Philipstown, shows the community garden concept outlined by Tim Donovan to the Town Board. (Click to enlarge)

The town government acquired the land as a gift in 2017 from the Scenic Hudson Land Trust and the Open Space Institute.

As outlined by Donovan, the New Leaf garden project would include raised beds, at least initially, as protection from invasive-species plants; communal berry patches; a pergola for shade; 30 garden plots approximately 36 feet by 24 feet, each subdivided into nine beds; an area for compost; perennials along a meandering path by Arden Brook; a meadow; a small parking lot; and other features. He estimated that the project would cover about 3.5 acres, including a 1-acre meadow as a buffer.

“We’re looking to try to help build an intergenerational site that can be [devoted] to a really good purpose and help community agriculture here,” Donovan said.

Board and audience members welcomed the idea, although some had questions.

For one thing, Recreation Commission members Bill Mazzuca and Claudio Marzollo pointed out, the property has already been viewed as a potential site for athletic fields.

“There are a lot of other things already [envisioned] on that site,” Marzollo said. The commission supported the idea, he said. “The question is, where does it go? Where is the best place to put it?”

“There’s competing interests, here, there’s no doubt,” said Supervisor Richard Shea, who described Donovan’s proposal as “impressive.”

The Recreation Commission and Donovan agreed to confer.

In other business …

  • After a public hearing which produced no comments, the board on May 2 voted 5-0 to extend its vape shop ban for another six months. Town officials say they want more time to draft a law restricting e-cigarette businesses.
  • At a workshop on Wednesday (May 8), the board unanimously accepted a proposal from Lime Energy Services Co. to improve lighting at the Recreation Center in Garrison. The upgrade will cost $10,810 but could feasibly reduce costs by $700 per month through energy efficiencies, Shea said.
  • Councilor Mike Leonard reported on May 2 that a drive he took on Upland Drive was an eye-opener. The road is private, but some residents have sought the town’s help to improve it. Leonard said he was accompanied on his visit by Max Garfinkle, the town wetlands inspector and natural resources officer, and Carl Frisenda, the highway superintendent. “Some of the road — I don’t even want to call it that — is extremely dangerous,” Leonard said. “It should be closed — that’s how bad it is.” Shea said the board has invited residents to propose a plan but so far has not received anything.
  • On May 2, Nancy Montgomery, who represents Philipstown on the county Legislature and is a former Town Board member, and Shea questioned a county move to bring two Percheron draft horses to Tilly Foster Farm, a county-owned property in eastern Putnam. Montgomery said the county lacks a master plan for the farm. The houses reportedly cost $5,000 but could require about $37,000 in the next two years to maintain. Shea termed the equine expense “absurd.” As a county, “we won’t support the business incubator in Philipstown but we’re going to buy two horses?” (The county declined a request for $60,000 to support a project to cultivate international businesses.)  The County Legislature voted 6-2 on Tuesday (May 7) to proceed with the purchase. Montgomery, a Democrat, and William Gouldman, a Republican who represents Putnam Valley, cast the “no” votes.

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