Cold Spring extends closure of waterfront parks
Cold Spring Mayor Dave Merandy announced Tuesday (May 12) that because of concerns about a lack of social distancing, Dockside Park, the village dock and nearby areas will be closed from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays through at least the next few weeks.
“Two weeks ago, it was very busy and crowd control was a challenge” along the riverfront, Merandy said at the Village Board meeting. “We had police officers down there, but as soon as they left people just did whatever they wanted,” including putting hammocks in trees, picnicking and playing soccer at Dockside.
“We’re following a game plan set down by the governor,” Merandy said. “The level of activity [at the riverfront] was contrary to that.”
The mayor said the closure hours will give residents an opportunity to use the parks on weekends. They remain open during the week.
Merandy said he understands people’s desire to use the parks on weekends. “I sympathize,” he said. “We’re all in this and feeling the same pressure.” But with warmer weather approaching, “a lot of people will be coming to town.”
The mayor praised the Rincon Argentina cafe for its efforts at managing visitors. “They did a good job; they had ropes up and were controlling people, keeping them apart,” he said.
He was less complimentary about the situation at Moo Moo’s Creamery on West Street, where he said that over the May 2 weekend customers were clustering and “not abiding by the [state] orders.”
Larry Burke, the officer-in-charge of the Cold Spring Police Department, said that on that weekend officers enforced distancing outside Moo Moo’s, but when they left the riverfront area customers largely ignored the rules.
“It’s up to businesses to enforce social distancing and [wearing] masks,” Merandy said.
Trustee Steve Voloto asked the mayor if the village has the authority to close a business that doesn’t enforce the state rules.
“Yes, we can definitely do that,” Merandy said. “And there are heavy fines.”
Alexi Katsetos, the owner of Moo Moo’s, viewed the situation very differently, saying on Thursday (May 14) that he “went above and beyond the guidelines to keep customers safe” and that his ice-cream shop is complying with social-distancing regulations.
Katsetos said while there might have been “some growing pains” on May 2 and 3, the first weekend his store was open, “to say there was no social distancing is far-fetched.” He said he marked the sidewalk to delineate the required 6-foot separation between customers in line and said the vast majority have respected the limits. “I’m just trying to make a living,” he said.
Merandy said he’s received a number of inquiries about how the village will reopen once the Mid-Hudson region is allowed to “un-pause” under a plan outlined by the governor. That began a lengthy discussion about the role the Village Board and businesses will play.
“When crowds come, and they’re already here, what can we do as elected officials that might make sense?” Merandy asked. “When a business reopens at 25 percent capacity [under the proposed rules], who enforces that?”
“If the question is enforcement, we should take our cue from what the governor says,” said Deputy Mayor Marie Early.
(On Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that county health departments will be in charge of determining if businesses that reopen are complying with social-distancing rules. Counties will also be in charge of penalizing businesses.)
Crowded sidewalks were identified as a major issue.
Trustee Fran Murphy suggested one-way pedestrian traffic could be considered along Main Street sidewalks. “People could walk up one sidewalk one way and down the other,” she said.
Merandy said the board should think in terms of the worst-case scenario. “The streets are full now — with no stores open!” he said. “There will still be social distancing; every store is going to have to do something.”
Trustee Lynn Miller suggested signage encouraging people to wear masks. Shop owners, she said, could consider a “no mask, no service” policy.
Voloto asked if the board’s goal is to protect people from getting sick or to make sure businesses can be open. “You can’t really do both safely; the village is too small, the shops too tiny” and the sidewalks too narrow, he said.
Merandy responded by asking if there can be a happy medium. “We have to look at people’s welfare,” he said. “But we also have people with a vested interest in their businesses.”
Miller said the board shouldn’t “let perfect be the enemy of the good; we’re not going to have perfect compliance,” adding that if people are reminded to wear masks and if shop owners limit the number of customers allowed inside, “at least we’ll be moving in the right direction.”
A common theme of the discussion was that New York State needs to assist its municipalities.
Merandy asked the trustees to think about what makes the most sense for Cold Spring. “Maybe it’s signage; maybe it’s talking to the Chamber of Commerce about having all businesses ready,” he said. He suggested the village might benefit from observing the experiences of communities upstate that reopen sooner.
But basically, he said, “We’re between a rock and a hard place.”