Putnam Adopts Climate Smart Proposal

Transportation director named coordinator

Voting 8 to 0, the Putnam County Legislature endorsed a Climate Smart/Complete Streets proposal on Tuesday (Aug. 3), two weeks after rejecting Legislator Nancy Montgomery’s call for a more robust version. 

Montgomery, a Democrat whose district covers Philipstown and part of Putnam Valley, was not present at the meeting in Carmel. The other eight legislators are Republicans. The Legislature’s Physical Services Committee had approved the proposal in July; it closely resembles an earlier directive from County Executive MaryEllen Odell.

A day later, Vinny Tamagna, the county’s transportation director, told The Current that Odell has named him as the Climate Smart coordinator, succeeding Lauri Taylor, who retired.

Double Duty

Vinny tamagna

Tamagna

Vinny Tamagna, the county’s transportation director and a former county legislator who represented Philipstown, is running for mayor of Cold Spring.

Asked if he intends to remain a county employee if he is elected on Nov. 2, Tamagna replied on Thursday (Aug. 5): “While the mayor’s role is part time, I recognize that time investment is close to full time. I will remain an employee of Putnam County as I determine my time requirements and the impact of being mayor.” 

He added: “I am also close to retirement but will most likely remain in the Odell administration” until her term ends on Dec. 31, 2022. He noted that the previous Climate Smart coordinator, Lauri Taylor, is the mayor of Pawling in Dutchess County.

The Climate Smart effort includes the Complete Streets initiative, which is focused on making streets user-friendly to pedestrians, bicyclists and mass-transit users, as well as drivers in pollution-emitting cars. Municipalities that complete a Climate Smart checklist enhance their eligibility to receive state grants. 

During the Tuesday meeting, Tamagna said that as transportation director he has developed a transit-oriented development and revitalization plan for Brewster and hopes to finish a Cold Spring counterpart this summer. 

After the meeting, he elaborated, saying that the Complete Street possibilities for Cold Spring include a river walk from Constitution Island or Constitution Marsh to Dockside Park; more access for the physically disabled; bikeways and trails, including a sidewalk between the village and Boscobel (an idea already under discussion by the Town of Philipstown); better shoulders, curb cuts, parking for Springbrook apartments, and other improvements on Fair Street as it leads toward Route 9D; and fixing crumbling sidewalks and installing others in places lacking them, such as on High Street at the edge of the Tots’ Park.

“Why not put a sidewalk where strollers travel across an uneven field of sometimes mud, snow or ice?” he asked. 

The Legislature’s resolution declares that Putnam’s green infrastructure and energy-efficiency goals will consider the needs of all residents and visitors using roads, bike paths, walkways and mass transit, and acknowledge “connections across all modes of transportation.” It also states that since 2018 Putnam has invested $8 million in green energy, putting it “ahead of the curve.” 

In July, Montgomery urged the county to implement a more comprehensive plan, such as the one Dutchess County enacted in 2016, which lists assignments to complete and checkpoints for tracking progress.

In other business…

  • Legislators authorized right-of-way acquisition, preliminary engineering and a public hearing for a bridge over Canopus Creek at Sprout Brook Road near Winston Lane, off Route 9 in Continental Village in Philipstown. The project includes widening the bridgeway to accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists. According to the Legislature, the project will be funded with federal money.
  • A household hazardous waste collection is scheduled for Oct. 9, following one in May that the county’s solid waste management coordinator said drew a record 368 participants. The October event is expected to cost $55,000, with half reimbursed by the state.
  • Legislators approved amending the budget to include $2.1 million in federal funds to conduct COVID-19 testing in schools. Legislator Amy Sayegh of Mahopac, who heads the Health Committee, said it was uncertain whether schools would be compelled to participate.

5 thoughts on “Putnam Adopts Climate Smart Proposal

  1. Reading your two recent articles, “Putnam Backs Compete Streets Concept” and “Putnam Adopts Climate Smart Proposal,” one could get the impression that the Putnam County Legislature is taking the climate crisis and the need for better transportation alternatives seriously.

    Unfortunately, exactly the opposite is the case. Since it joined the statewide Climate Smart initiative in 2018 the Legislature has accomplished little, while rejecting calls for public participation, transparency, and accountability. The county’s fleet of vehicles remains powered by fossil fuels, its roads remain unsafe and inhospitable to bikes and pedestrians, public transportation is practically nonexistent, and no serious attempt has been made to engage with local communities. More recently, it ignored Legislator Montgomery’s proposal for a comprehensive plan that follows state protocols and would potentially qualify the county for state funds, opting instead for a vague and toothless proposal that fails to meet the urgency of the moment. This is how you kill an initiative, not how you “back” it.

    And now we learn that Transportation Director Tamagna, whose list of qualifications and accomplishments in this area is equally thin, will be granted the additional responsibility (and, presumably, salary) of coordinating the county’s Climate Smart program — all while running for Mayor of Cold Spring. A great way to sabotage a public initiative, while simultaneously undermining people’s faith in government, is to put someone in charge who is neither qualified nor committed to its mission. It appears the Legislature has done precisely that.

  2. I have lived in Cold Spring since I was 2, attended Haldane, graduated from a Hudson Valley college with a degree in environmental studies and worked for Philipstown as its Climate Smart Communities coordinator for three years beginning in 2018.

    Because of this, I feel obligated to share the following: Although Putnam County adopted the Climate Smart Communities pledge and named Lauri Taylor as the coordinator in 2018, she was given little support or direction from the Legislature and already had too much work on her desk to dedicate energy to the new position.

    Due to this situation, during my three years as coordinator, I was never contacted by Lauri to ask how the county could support Philipstown or other towns; I connected with Lauri by calling her. This is in contrast to other counties such as Ulster that have robust Climate Smart programs. I saw nothing that suggested our county leaders are “ahead of the curve,” as the Legislature states in its resolution. That claim insults the hard work that villages, cities, towns and other counties have put into their climate change and sustainability programs.

    I don’t know Vinny Tamagna, so I can’t speak to his character or qualifications to be the Climate Smart coordinator for Putnam, but as county transportation director he has not shown anything on this side of the Taconic Parkway that suggests a passion for sustainability or community-informed governance. An example is the poorly managed, county-run Cold Spring trolley — no designated stops, no route map, no modern payment system, no community-informed decisions and no sustainable fueling.

  3. Based on the two obviously knowledgeable commentators, our earth needs help now! Running for mayor and named Climate Smart coordinator is quite a coincidence.

  4. How many salaries do county residents have to pay Vincent Tamagna? Already director of transportation, he has been appointed Climate Smart coordinator, and he wants to be the mayor of Cold Spring as well. He has not been capable of running even the Cold Spring trolley. The trolley drives around empty because no one can figure out how to ride it. Where do you catch it? Where does it go? When will it come back? No one knows. If the county legislators are serious about Climate Smart policies, I recommend they look beyond their Republican cronies and find someone with the necessary commitment and competence to do the job.

    Starbuck is the former president of the Cold Spring Chamber of Commerce. She is campaigning for a seat on the Village Board with Kathleen Foley, Tamagna’s opponent in the mayoral race.

  5. This is another empty resolution passed by the Legislature, ignoring and dismissing the one I proposed that would have moved us closer to Climate Smart certification and added us to the list of counties who have actual Complete Streets policies, including Dutchess, Orange, Rockland, Ulster and Westchester.

    Instead, Vinny Tamagna, County Executive MaryEllen Odell and the Legislature put forward another smoke-and-mirrors resolution that has no policy directive and no bearing on state-sponsored programs or the $11 million in grant funding. [via Facebook]

    Montgomery represents Philipstown and part of Putnam Valley on the Legislature.

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