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But says policy needed to handle requests
The Philipstown Town Board agreed May 5 to display an LGBTQ flag at Town Hall during June, although not on the pole that flies the U.S. flag, and called for a policy to regulate flag-flying on town property by outside groups.
Sean Conway, who lives in Cold Spring, asked the board to display a Progress Pride flag during National Pride Month.
“I have no problem with any flag representing your movement,” as long as it’s not on the main flagpole, said Supervisor John Van Tassel. “That is for the American flag, and the American flag only.”
The board offered to hang the Pride flag outdoors on a new, shorter pole — “I’ll even install it for you,” Van Tassel promised — or in a Town Hall window, like the Ukrainian flag placed there to show support following the Russian invasion.
Conway found both options acceptable. “I can guarantee there are more queer people in our town than Ukrainians,” he said. “If we’re concerned about representing the people who live in Philipstown, I feel confident I can rally enough people to outnumber the Ukrainians.” Local businesses would pay for the flag project, he assured the board.
The discussion prompted consideration of what comes next.
“Once you allow one non-governmental flag to be displayed, you have an obligation — because you make it an open forum under the First Amendment — to display other flags” upon request, said Stephen Gaba, the town attorney. “You can open quite a can of worms when you start flying other flags, unless you have other poles designated for that purpose.”
“We will have to have a policy” on flag-flying, Van Tassel concluded.
After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled May 2 that Boston could not stop a Christian group from flying a flag featuring a cross on city property, a Satanic group sought the same accommodation. Boston had permitted private entities to fly their flags over a city plaza when holding events but was sued after it rejected the Christian flag because of its religious symbols.
Philipstown Councilor Megan Cotter suggested the town avoid flying other flags until they establish a policy. But Gaba advised that “just because you don’t have a policy now doesn’t mean you can’t adopt one going forward” after displaying the Pride Progress flag in June.
A policy can come soon, Councilor Robert Flaherty concurred. “Right now I think we’re just going to say we’re all in favor of flying this flag.”
Although it took no formal vote, the board said it planned to award funds from its federal American Rescue Plan money to the Philipstown Behavioral Health Hub, Philipstown Aging at Home, an initiative to help the town make grant requests and an anti-hunger campaign with the Cornell Cooperative Extension.
As outlined by Councilors Jason Angell and Judy Farrell, who oversaw the town’s review of applicants, The Hub would get $10,000 now and another $40,000 later; Aging at Home would get $15,000 upfront, and $35,516 later; the granting-writing effort would receive $10,000 now and $20,000 going forward; and the anti-hunger/food security initiative would get $15,000 upfront, and $129,760 later – with all of the latter amounts contingent upon enough funding for the Garrison water district, which Farrell and Angell described as the town’s “most urgent infrastructure need.” Putnam County has expressed interest in helping pay for the water district upgrades.
“My thought would be to support all of these” four recipients, Van Tassel said. “They certainly seem legitimate. There is a need. The money is here. We should get it out there to where it’s needed.”
“There’s a lot of Philipstown residents going hungry right now,” Angell said. “The problem is that it’s hard to identify them.” The grant would fund efforts to locate needy residents, which probably will entail door-to-door outreach, he said.
The board approved an eight-month contract with Curbside Compost, an organization that collects food scraps for composting. The town plans a pilot program, beginning this month, to help residents corral waste in household bins before dumping it into a container at the town’s former landfill on Lane Gate Road.
Flaherty noted that minimizing food waste will also reduce the town’s pollution-related carbon footprint. “It’s amazing — the amount of food waste and the amount of carbon it produces,” he said. “I was shocked.”
The board unanimously voted to incorporate the eco-friendly NY Stretch Code into town law. The code, which is more stringent than basic state building code, requires such things as better insulation, windows and lighting, and similar adaptations for new construction, as well as charging stations for electric vehicles.