Chaos in Cold Spring

Parking in Cold Spring

A fender bender took place on Railroad Avenue in Cold Spring on Saturday (Oct.10). (Photo by Patrick Biesemans)

Overcrowding creates parking problems, safety concerns

Parking tickets provide revenue to Cold Spring, but they may be the one funding source elected officials would prefer to see reduced. 

At the Tuesday (Oct. 13) meeting of the Village Board, Deputy Mayor Marie Early asked Larry Burke, the officer-in-charge of the Police Department, to explain a large increase in parking tickets issued last month (227) compared to June (50). 

“People are coming up in droves and basically parking wherever they want,” Burke explained. Burke said a veteran Cold Spring officer told him the weekend of Oct. 10 and 11 was the busiest he has seen in the village in 17 years. 

Mayor Dave Merandy agreed. “It was just insane,” he said, citing the din of traffic, sirens and motorcycles. “If you closed your eyes, you could have been in New York City.”

Burke outlined problems that arose last weekend: 

  • With parked cars lining both sides of Marion Avenue, the street could not accommodate two-way traffic. He said police broke up a verbal altercation between two motorists there.
  • A minor car crash occurred near The Depot Restaurant.
  • On Fair Street, some drivers ignored the one-way sign while others parked illegally on the west side of the street. 
  • Residents complained of parked cars blocking driveways.
  • “No parking” cones had to be positioned on narrow sections of some streets to ensure access for emergency vehicles. 
  • Parking overflowed into areas seldom used by visitors in the past, including Academy, Cherry and High streets and Marion and Northern avenues. 

Patrick Biesemans, who lives on Railroad Avenue near The Depot, told The Current that the weekend “was the busiest I’ve seen in the five years I’ve lived in the village. The traffic generated by the Depot and ice cream shop is increasingly busy and becoming a huge inconvenience and possibly a hazard.

“Aside from having to manage tourists using our property as though we were an attraction at Disneyland, the streets are getting to a point where near car accidents are a constant,” he said. “Commercial vehicles are also constantly getting stuck between Stone and Depot, on Railroad, usually needing police assistance.”

At the Oct. 13 meeting, Merandy suggested the board re-establish the parking committee it approved and revisit a permit system for residents. One hurdle, Merandy said, is a state requirement that 20 percent of all spaces be available to visitors. 

The board discussed a number of potential mitigations, including expanding and metering parking at Mayor’s Park, shortened parking times, lobbying Metro-North to encourage weekend parking at its riverfront lot and marking the street in front of driveways as no-parking and tow-away zones. 

A substantial increase in fines could also be considered. Burke noted that if five people visit Cold Spring together by car and split the cost of a $45 parking ticket, “that’s not a bad fee for a full day of hiking.” 

The issues go beyond village boundaries. Merandy said he welcomed a petition being organized to protest congested conditions along Route 9D to the north of Main Street. But he noted that the village ends at Fair Street, just before the entrance to Little Stony Point. 

“I’m glad people are getting riled up,” Merandy said. “But the petition needs to go to the right people — send it to DOT and Parks,” referring to the state departments of transportation and parks. “DOT does not seem to want to help,” the mayor said. “They’re the ones that put up signs, control the speed limits.” 

In addition, “state parks has a responsibility,” he said. “They advertise, bring people in, but don’t seem to want to control the numbers. It’s destroying our properties and our parks.” 

Trustee Lynn Miller suggested the village join forces with the Town of Philipstown, which has threatened to sue the state over its management of local parks. 

Rally canceled

Blue Live Matter, a Carmel-based group that has hosted rallies at the Putnam County Courthouse and whose motto is “only criminals have a reason to hate the police,” circulated a flier calling for supporters to gather at the waterfront on Oct. 25 to “show support for the Cold Spring Police Department.”

The flier targeted Heidi Bender, identifying her as the owner of Split Rock Books and claiming that she “wants to abolish the Cold Spring Village Police Department! Come out and show Heidi that CSVPD is here to stay!” 

Bender is running unopposed for a seat on the Village Board. She wrote in an email to The Current: “My job as trustee will involve examining all aspects of the budget, which includes the Police Department. I am not going in with the idea of mindlessly slashing anyone’s budget. I plan to do my research, learn from seasoned trustees and think about how we can all best be served.”

Bender added she doesn’t know why Blue Live Matter is targeting her. “Perhaps because I have unequivocal support for Black Lives Matter and I’ve made it clear,” she wrote. “I believe strongly in citizen engagement.”

There have been discussions for years about whether Cold Spring needs its own police force, which accounts for about 17 percent of the village budget, when the area is also patrolled by the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department, which has a station in Nelsonville.

In the 2015 race for the Village Board, for example, the three candidates were each asked about abolishing the department. Fran Murphy, who is currently on the board, said she believed the village needed a police force, while Marie Early, the deputy mayor, said “we need police services” but that “who provides them, I think, is a good question” to investigate.

A representative for Blue Live Matter, who declined to be identified, said on Thursday (Oct. 15) that the rally had been canceled. “We decided it would be best to refocus our efforts to reelect President Donald J. Trump,” he said.

In other business…

  • Showtime is considering Cold Spring as the location for a limited television series to be filmed between January and June 2021.
  • Burke is compiling a list of private surveillance cameras whose footage could be accessed during criminal investigations. Participation is voluntary and confidential, he said.
  • Burke said he has received noise complaints as a result of cars lining up at the Philipstown Food Pantry on Academy Street as early as 4 a.m. on Saturdays when fruits and vegetables are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. A night-shift officer will be assigned to patrol the area.
  • Officers responded to 57 calls for service in September, Burke said, and issued 45 traffic and 227 parking tickets. No arrests were made.
  • The Cold Spring Fire Co. answered 17 alarms in September. The department has requested an increase in funding of $2,435, or 2 percent, from the village for 2021.
  • The village said it would launch a public-relations campaign to discourage people from visiting Cold Spring for Halloween.

17 thoughts on “Chaos in Cold Spring

  1. I think this is called “burying the lede.” The shocking story here is that so many of our neighbors are struggling with food insecurity and rely on charity, not that they make too much noise while accessing it.

  2. In the eight years I’ve had my shop on Main Street, I thought I’d seen it all when it comes to the hostility that is generated toward our local businesses, but the Merandy Regime has taken it to new heights.

    What does surprise me is that now The Current seems to be buying into the proposition that there is just too much business and tourism in Cold Spring when the fact is, that thanks to the draconian and unconstitutional Lock down, many of our neighbors are in danger of losing their livelihoods, the enterprises that they worked so hard to establish.

    During my time here, there has not been one town or village board that stood up for the business owners. There has not been one elected representative who took the fight for taxpayer justice to Carmel or Albany. Instead, it is constant roadblocks, regulations, rules and restrictions that are designed to stifle commerce and keep tourists away.

    I find it truly disheartening that just as we are starting to get back on our feet, the Village Board is trying to knock us down by chasing away the money spending tourists who contribute so much to Cold Spring. These people are the taxpayers best friends. They come here for the day, use minimal services, spend their money and leave. This is exactly the situation and most “Smart” Communities across the U.S. try to encourage, but not Cold Spring.

    Here is Merandy & Co.’s vision for Cold Spring: no street lights, no cars, an unpaved Main Street, no businesses, no tourists and skyrocketing taxes. If you want to get an idea what that’s like, try checking out neighboring Putnam Valley. The only difference is that we actually envy your prosperity and wish we had something like that over here.

    One other thing that you could actually learn from Putnam Valley: We got rid of our local police department years ago, strictly as a money saving measure. That was way before Black Lives Matter, Antifa, et al., and there was never any thought that we were going to totally abolish our valued police protection. Just like Cold Spring, we were paying for three separate police departments: the Putnam Valley Police Department, the sheriff and the state police. If you can get past all the politics involved, you guys could save a lot of money. Maybe enough to make up for all that tourism you seem to hate so much.

  3. Thank you for this article. I am very grateful for the Cold Spring leadership and its thoughtfulness in examining quality-of-life issues.

    I also am very concerned about the demand for the food pantry assistance. If you drop off food on a Saturday morning, you will see all the bags neatly holding places down the walk, just blocks from where hundreds of tourists were showing up to shop and dine. This topic needs its own article. I encourage everyone to donate as they can to help our neighbors.

    • Andrea Bach, coordinator at the Philipstown Food Pantry, told The Current she wasn’t aware of people lining up at 4 a.m. until she called the Cold Spring Police Department on an unrelated matter. She has since spoken to all pantry clients to let them know they cannot arrive that early. Clients have lined up around 7:30 a.m. in the past for the 9 a.m. opening. She added that donations from Glynwood, local vendors, an anonymous donor of Foodtown gift cards and support from Foodtown itself have helped the pantry deal with a 150 percent increase in clients since the pandemic shutdown began.

  4. I agree with Patty Villanova that more should be done to support the businesses on Cold Spring’s Main Street. The Putnam County Legislature should agree to share sales tax revenue with the towns, so residents realize some benefit from retail sales in their communities. The legislature’s stubborn refusal to even consider sharing sales tax revenues when they exceed budget is hard to square with Republican pro-business rhetoric.

    Second, installing parking meters on Main Street, something the Cold Spring Village Board could do with a simple majority vote, would improve access to parking and provide a way to bring some order to the traffic congestion. (Many of the cars crowding the street are just drivers looking for a place to park; properly priced spaces would speed turnover and make them available.) Some of the estimated $200,000/year in net revenue from meters could be applied to beautifying and promoting Main Street, as an added benefit. A lively Main Street unquestionably brings many amenities to our Village, boosts the value of homes to the benefit of every home owner, and should be welcomed, while we acknowledge and address the need to better manage crowding.

  5. The village is launching a public-relations campaign to discourage people from visiting Cold Spring for Halloween? How about using that time, money and energy to create a public relations campaign on how to enjoy the area’s shopping and hiking while keeping everyone safe by wearing a mask. Some residents (and businesses) actually like having visitors to our town as long as the weather will allow it.

  6. I understand the safety concerns and the frustration with the flood of tourists but a parking system does not exist in the village and the fines are not $45. I received a ticket in September and it was $175. There was no sign that parking was not permitted and more than 10 other cars were parked there, as well. The police officer did not even fill the ticket completely.

    I have no problem paying for parking but when a village is just ripping off visitors with $150 to $200 fines, it sounds like corruption. The village seems to be doing everything to keep tourists away: ridiculous fines, no traffic lights, no organized parking.

    I’m wondering if local business have the same state of mind and are not willing to welcome tourists.

    The writer lives in Scarsdale.

  7. It’s a very small town and very easy to get to from Metro-North. That is why so many people are coming; it’s just too easy and accessible.

    There are too many tourists so the town has no choice but to discourage them. At the moment they aren’t doing a very productive job and need a better solution. I saw a sign in at the Croton Point Park that said only county residents allowed, ID must be shown or something. There just isn’t enough room for all of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens… plus European tourists and everywhere else and then some.

    This past weekend I witnessed what was by far the worst behavior of tourists in Cold Spring. People were pulling random U-turns anywhere and everywhere. I almost got plowed over by a speeding Mini-Cooper going the wrong way because they couldn’t find parking and were lost. People were walking in droves over private properties or in the roadways. I think the city needs to set up check points and possibly find out if there is a capacity law or possibly instate one. The revenue is great for the town but at what cost? People are rude, entitled and just leave without giving a damn. But this is our home, not theirs.

  8. We seriously need to waste policing on the food-pantry patrons? C’mon, Cold Spring. Have a heart! [via Facebook]

  9. The Village needs to establish what is parking versus storing a vehicle on a public street, i.e., storing a weekend car on the street during the week instead of in New York City. Academy Street cannot handle two-sided parking. [via Facebook]

  10. When has Cold Spring ever been shy about giving out tickets? The revenue would be good for the budget. [via Facebook]

  11. Does anyone think the congestion will get better once the Fjord trail is constructed? [via Facebook]

  12. I drove down Route 9D at about 5 p.m. on Saturday and was amazed at how many cars were parked not only on the highway but on all the side roads. It must be difficult for residents to enjoy their village on weekends. [via Facebook]

  13. Is there no space for parking in all of Cold Spring? This is not a new issue. Implement a park-and-ride to and from a dedicated, income-producing site. There are so many ways to think outside the box. [via Facebook]

  14. Why is it that if you park four blocks away from Main Street in the village lot, you have to pay, but anyplace else is free? The Village Board has ideas but zero true resolution. Change is drastically needed this November. [via Facebook]

  15. People should use the train station on weekends and whoever manages Dockside should have organized parking there. [via Facebook]