Also: Planners begin review of four-story project
The Beacon City Council on May 4 approved a contract to allow the Beacon Farmers’ Market to operate along Veterans Place, between Main and Henry streets, but, as in previous years, the agreement with the market is only good for a year.
Phil Ciganer, the owner of the Towne Crier Cafe, which is adjacent to the market location, has repeatedly protested that its vendors block entrances that musicians need to bring equipment into the venue. The Sunday market moved from the waterfront to Veterans Place in 2017.
The council last month allowed the market to open outdoors for the spring, using social distancing; the May 4 vote extends the agreement through late November, except for Spirit of Beacon Day and the Beacon Car Show. The market changed its hours to 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. (they had been 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.) in an attempt to avoid conflicts with Ciganer.
For his part, Ciganer agreed to give the market notice a week or more in advance, if possible, when bands are scheduled to perform at the venue on Sundays. “I’m willing to give it a chance to see if it works,” he said this week.
But several council members said that it appears the market has made most of the concessions.
“I would hate to get into a situation where the Farmers’ Market is consistently told ‘We need the loading space, we need the loading space, we need the loading space,’ ” said Council Member Amber Grant during the meeting, which was held by videoconference.
Council Member Air Rhodes suggested that the Towne Crier could instead use the city-owned parking lot behind the venue for some load-ins.
While the agreement includes a provision that market officials may submit a request to renew the contract with the city by Dec. 31 each year, Council Member Dan Aymar-Blair said it should be given the security of a long-term deal.
“Doing the annual contracts creates a lot of uncertainty for the Farmers’ Market, and they provide a vital service for our city,” he said. “They’re a cornerstone. We wouldn’t do this to the volunteer ambulance corps every year.”
The Beacon Planning Board began its review this week of the latest proposal to construct a four-story building on Main Street, although it’s the City Council that will decide whether the project moves forward as it’s currently envisioned.
The developer proposes to merge the lots at 416 and 420 Main St., including a vacant parcel that was formerly occupied by a food truck, to build a structure with retail at the street level (the Kitchen & Coffee cafe would remain), office or commercial space on the second and third floors, and two apartments on a recessed fourth floor.
The design of the building includes a 48-foot-high corner tower, a nod to the historic Beacon Hotel, which features a similar tower next door at 424 Main.
A single-family home and an artist’s live/work space would be constructed behind the building, according to its plans.
Project officials told the Planning Board on Tuesday (May 12) that they can only provide four of the required 26 parking spaces and will seek a waiver.
While that decision will be made by the Planning Board, the City Council on May 4 adopted amendments to Beacon’s zoning code that require all Main Street four-story proposals in or around the city’s historic district to seek a special-use permit from the council.
In addition, any four-story proposal on Main must include one or more public benefits, such as increased parking, affordable housing units, green building features or public spaces, before it can receive the permit to build a fourth floor.
The 416/420 Main proposal will require a second special-use permit from the council for its corner tower design.
The appearance during the Planning Board’s meeting, held by videoconference, was the first for the project, although feedback had preceded it.
“I have never seen as many comment letters on a project when it’s not even the public-comment period yet,” said Board Member Jill Reynolds, who noted that about 80 percent of the feedback so far has been in opposition to the project.
The members of the Planning Board offered mixed opinions. While there was praise for a Main Street proposal that includes significant office and commercial space, some board members took issue with elements of the design and nearly all expressed reservations about the request to waive 85 percent of the required parking.
Oh, my goddess, Towne Crier, which has complained the Beacon Farmers’ Market blocks one of its loading entrances. A quick check of its online calendar shows zero concerts on a Sunday for the next six months.
Forcing the market to an earlier 8 a.m. opening and an earlier closing is cruel. Local farmers sustain us in ways that are immeasurably valuable to life, particularly during a pandemic. How can the Towne Crier be a part of any action that makes it more difficult for them? As our governor says regarding compassion toward each other, “If not now, when?”
I stand with Beacon City Council Members Amber Grant and Dan Aymar-Blair. The Farmers’ Market needs to be respected and given an extremely long-term deal, for as long as it is willing to come to Beacon. Our city must open her arms and give every vendor a huge welcome and many thanks!
I’m a frequent customer at the market, but did a council member really just compare a farmers’ market to a volunteer ambulance corps?
I’m so sad that even during this crazy bizarre time, this conflict has reared its ugly head again. Framing this issue as one private business versus the gigantic public good of a farmer’s market distracts from real issues.
If our city can recover from this economic, social and health disaster, we need to come together, not continue fighting the same old battles.
Here are the facts that existed before the pandemic, and will exist again if we make it to the other side:
The issue is not “to have a farmer’s market or not to have a farmer’s market.”
The issue is about location and compromise with the only business directly impacted by the Veteran’s Place location.
All Main Street businesses are suffering right now. Some will likely not make it. All brick-and-mortar businesses that have to continue paying rent while not earning an income are suffering now and there’s no telling how long, if ever, it will take to recover.
A mobile, once-a-week market is in a position to be flexible, particularly now, while bricks cannot move.
Why attack a struggling Main Street 24/7 business, especially now? Why mock the loss of Sunday concert dates that are the result of an unprecedented national crisis? Why not support a business that in our better times brings life and music and community to this small city?
Why are there so many haters out there? Compassion anyone?
We can both support a thriving farmer’s market and be sensitive to Main Street businesses who pay rent 12 months a year and are now in the most precarious financial situation of our lifetimes.
Even if it’s only one business that suffers under the current arrangement with the farmer’s market, that one business deserves to be heard and respected.
I have also been a patron of the Towne Crier for more than 20 years. I have come to love the musicians and artistic presentations at this 47-year-old venue. Its owner (and my friend), Phil Ciganer, received scores of invitations to bring the Towne Crier from Pawling to towns up and down the Hudson Valley, yet because of his friendship with Pete Seeger he chose Beacon.
Given that, I am perplexed at the manufactured drama around the Farmers’ Market demanding to be placed on Veterans Place, despite occupying Memorial Hall during the winter and inclement weather. The market was on the waterfront successfully for 16 years.
The Towne Crier is a tremendous asset to Beacon’s arts calendar and tax base; it’s a world-class venue that employs many residents. Why is it portrayed as the villain? Phil has been a longtime supporter of farmers’ markets, including this one, as well as many nonprofit organizations. It comes down to the market location’s many negative impacts on his business, despite repeated assurances by a rotating cast of coordinators.
The Towne Crier and the Farmers’ Market are two institutions that enrich our local community. They are not mutually exclusive; cities of all sizes across the country are able to have both coexist peacefully. Why are some Beacon residents using their support of the Farmers’ Market to take such an acrimonious stand against the Towne Crier?
It’s discouraging to hear certain residents painting Phil as “the bad guy,” and he has told me he’s seriously reconsidering how he and the Towne Crier will fit into the city’s future. It would be a tragedy for Beacon, and the Hudson Valley, to lose one of its historic cultural attractions.