Town Board Renews Support for Paving Strip of Dirt Road

Residents from East Mountain Road South again object

Despite a chorus of opposition featuring old points raised anew, the Philipstown Town Board last week refused to abandon plans for paving 1,111 feet of East Mountain Road South.

The board took no formal vote because the paving was approved six years ago. But one by one, at their Sept. 3 session, Supervisor Richard Shea and the four other members, or councilors, reiterated their support.  

On Tuesday (Sept. 8), the town Highway Department announced plans to begin work on Thursday (Sept. 10), but rain forced the department to reschedule it for today (Friday, Sept. 11). The project is designed to smoothly join the already-paved southwestern length of East Mountain Road South with paved East Mountain Road North.

The two roads wind eastward from Route 9 and connect atop the mountain. Beyond the Y-shaped intersection with East Mountain Road North, a northeastern prong of East Mountain Road South continues, unpaved, toward Dutchess County and is not part of the project.

Paving opponents have asserted that dirt roads deter speeding and serve as handy venues for leisurely walking, meeting neighbors and similar pursuits. Some have also accused the Town Board of dismissing their concerns or ignoring democracy.

Shea said he understands their feelings but “I’ve not been swayed by the arguments.” Furthermore, he said, “democracy involves the entire community.” Over the last decade the board has only paved 1.5 miles of dirt roads, although it has “had many meetings with people who want us to pave further. We’ve resisted,” he explained. “It’s not as if we are anti-dirt roads. We put a lot of money into preservation of dirt roads.” Moreover, he noted, “the majority of people in this town do not live on dirt roads but they do fund them with their taxes.”   

Councilor John Van Tassel, who lives on East Mountain Road South, said paving opponents’ familiarity with Highway Superintendent Carl Frisenda indicates “our guys are spending way too much time on dirt roads.” He commended the paving foes because “you have a purpose and you fight for it,” but he rejected the argument that dirt roads serve as ready venues for outdoor pursuits. “Our roads are just that: roads,” he emphasized. “They’re not recreation areas. They’re not trails. The roads are for transportation.”

Because dirt roads create dust and can spill run-off into their surroundings, he expressed doubts that anyone can be both an environmentalist and a dirt-road fan. “I don’t want to offend anybody, but I’m 100 percent in favor of paving that section” of East Mountain Road South, Van Tassel concluded.  

Councilor Mike Leonard likewise focused on the environmental impact of dirt roads that are “filling up our wetlands” and contributing to flooding. He, too, praised the anti-paving contingent for speaking out but remained unconvinced that dirt roads decrease speeding. “I really don’t think that is a valid reason” for not paving, since other means of controlling speeding exist and because there appears to be little difference between speeding on paved versus dirt roads, he said. 

Councilors Robert Flaherty and Judy Farrell made similar points.  

If the board found some anti-paving advocacy unpersuasive, paving opponents said the same of Town Board views. 

Speaking by a remote connection, Roy Rosenstein, of East Mountain Road South, said that “a mountain of people do not want to see” the 1,111 feet paved. “This is just another step in paving East Mountain Road South” in its entirety, he predicted. 

Karl Dushin, a dirt-road supporter from the southern end of Philipstown, discounted references to pro-paving sentiment. “You claim there’s people in favor of paving, but we don’t see any evidence,” he said.

Evidence soon arose, however. 

“Pave tomorrow,” Robert Jordan, of East Mountain Road North, told the board. “Pave more than 1,110 feet. Go farther. Please pave.”

One thought on “Town Board Renews Support for Paving Strip of Dirt Road

  1. This article shows only part of the picture, but thanks again Liz Armstrong for your devoted reporting.

    At this meeting and the previous “workshop”, only ONE person stood up for paving, while at least 15 in the workshop and 8 in this meeting spoke eloquently AGAINST paving this section and any more of EMRS. Also, when Mr. Van Tassel said “our guys are spending too much time on dirt roads, so you know them,” I quickly added that the reason we know Highway Superintendent Carl Frisenda, is because when he was campaigning, he came by and spoke to us about the job; and promised no more paving on EMRS.

    So that’s why we know him. I really do not understand this process; and continue to be baffled about how these decisions are made. When the people speak for what they prefer it seems no one hears the wishes of the majority. Sad to say, but that is the truth. I was there.