Cold Spring Halts Flag Displays

Also, village creates short-term rental committee

The members of the Cold Spring Village Board on Wednesday (June 1) voted unanimously to stop accepting requests to display flags on village-owned property, including Village Hall.  

The village attorney, John Furst, advised the board to adopt the policy. He will now draft a regulation that will allow only the U.S., New York State and POW/MIA flags to be displayed.

The Cold Spring board earlier this year approved requests for Ukrainian and LGBTQ Pride flags to be displayed at locations such as Village Hall and parks.

“We didn’t think through the Pandora’s box that was being opened,” said Mayor Kathleen Foley. “You get into that sticky area where you are acting as arbitrator of free speech.” 

The Ukrainian flag was removed from Village Hall a few weeks ago. Pride flags will remain on display through June, Foley said.

“Our facilities are places where the public comes for services,” Foley said. “I don’t want anyone to have to walk under a symbol that they aren’t comfortable with or that makes them feel unwelcome.” 

The Philipstown Town Board on May 25 adopted a similar six-month moratorium, with the temporary exception of an LGBTQ flag that is flying in June and a Ukrainian flag in a window, while it considers a policy.

STR committee

At the same meeting, the board appointed seven members of a newly formed ad hoc committee to provide recommendations on short-term-rental regulations. 

Last month the board proposed a number of changes to an STR law adopted in 2021, including allowing rentals only if the owner lives on site, increasing the number of operating nights and revising fees and fines. 

The mayor proposed nine people, including Branis Buslovich, Peter Farrell, John Lane, Maryanne Remy, Lara Voloto and Tom O’Quinn, each of whom operates an STR. (O’Quinn’s is located in California.) The mayor also suggested Travis Fyfe, Megan Shea and Jennifer Zwarich, the only non-STR operators among the 15 people who applied.

Trustees Eliza Starbuck, Cathryn Fadde and Laura Bozzi suggested reducing the size of the committee. “Nine can be a lot; even scheduling is tough,” Bozzi said, while Starbuck suggested the committee had too many STR operators.  

Starbuck suggested that because Lane had already provided extensive input on STRs, he didn’t need to be on the committee. Farrell also has been substantially involved in discussions about the law. 

“You raise a good point; we’ve had a lot of good feedback from them,” Foley said. “This is an opportunity for fresh voices, creative approaches.” 

“I’m a little agnostic as to the number” of members, said Trustee Tweeps Phillips Woods. “This is probably the best balance we’re going to get. Being an STR operator doesn’t mean you won’t be reasonable and balanced in your thinking.” 

The board agreed to limit the committee to seven members, and to not include Lane and Farrell.  

“I’d like more time to think about the chair; having a strong chair is important,” Foley said, adding she would make a recommendation at next week’s meeting.  

In other business, the board continued discussions on the village parking plan, which was adopted last year by the previous administration but not implemented. The current board has agreed that the residential permit program, covering 11 streets north of the Metro-North tracks, will go into effect first, as early as this summer, followed by paid parking on Main Street.

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6 thoughts on “Cold Spring Halts Flag Displays

  1. I am bewildered and extremely disappointed that the mayor and Village Board are adopting a policy of cowardice that expressly communicates to members of historically oppressed groups that the village they live in, and spend their money in, does not, actually, have their backs.

    The U.S. Supreme Court recently affirmed in Shurtleff v. Boston that “government speech” is not subject to scrutiny under the First Amendment (citing a 2009 case, Pleasant Grove City v. Summum), and that “the government must be able to decide what to say and what not to say when it states an opinion, speaks for the community, formulates policies or implements programs.”

    In other words, Cold Spring should be able to support its LGBTQ+ residents, as well as victims of a horrific genocidal war, on village property without needlessly worrying about its role as an arbiter of free speech.

    The mayor and Village Board should not, moreover, be worried about having people “walk under a symbol that they aren’t comfortable with or that makes them feel unwelcome,” since state law (S.4615A/A.5402A) expressly prohibits the display of hate symbols on village property.

    The residents of Cold Spring should be able to expect that its political leadership take pride in supporting the individual liberties that the U.S. flag (which would be allowed) purportedly represents, rather than give in to antiquated bigotry that would suppress such expression. If not, then the village deserves new leadership.

  2. The Village of Cold Spring recently decided against flying any flags on village-owned property after June to avoid problematic groups requesting that their flags be flown.

    I believe that the village wants to fly the Pride flag and applaud the initial decision to put it up and the efforts of those who made it happen. However, I am deeply troubled by the logic being applied to the ultimate decision to halt flags beyond the U.S., New York State and prisoner-of-war flags after this year. It sets a precedent for other towns around the county that will inevitably be asked to consider these requests, and is pandering to bigots by creating some kind of equivalency between Pride flags and other flags.

    I am aware that the hesitation might be around having to allow Thin Blue Line, Confederate and other such flags, which could legitimately be problematic. However, many other municipalities have figured out this conundrum without reservation; all it takes is the fortitude to explain that these symbols are not the same.

    If someone feels uncomfortable walking under a Pride flag, they’re a bigot. If someone feels uncomfortable walking under a Blue Lives Matter/Thin Blue Line flag, it is because they are wrestling with the fact that it’s used by Nazis in white supremacist marches and created expressly to counter and dismiss the Black Lives Matter movement. The Confederate flag isn’t an issue because there is a state ban on hate symbols being displayed in municipal spaces.
    Cold Spring is the most progressive government in Putnam County. I urge the Village Board to set an example and not give in to the fears of a handful of bigoted people seeking to create a false equivalency in an effort to once again silence the LGBTQ+ community.

    McDermott is the founder of Putnam Pride.

  3. While it’s not clear in the article what kinds of STRs the new committee members have been running, I wish The Current had made it clear which of them, if any, have been actively and knowingly flouting the existing regulations, and for how long.

    Can we expect these STR operators to start obeying the law if they have a hand in writing it? Will the village seek out repeat parking violators for the next parking committee?

  4. I respectfully request that you clarify your article in the June 3 edition of The Current related to the village taking up a policy related to the flying of flags on municipal properties.

    I would like those clarifications placed in your online edition, with the article, and in your print edition. Your dramatic headline and pullout quote, taken out of context, misrepresent the intention of me as mayor and that of the Board of Trustees.

    The village has three options right now:

    1. Creating an open forum to allow diverse expression via flags without restriction beyond that of hate speech, as defined under the law. As you are aware, there is a world of free speech that does not meet the definition of hate speech, but is nonetheless viewed as abhorrent by some. Think of a National Rifle Association flag, Right to Life flag, Socialist flag, etc. The result would likely be a culture war, centered on village government. That is simply unnecessary and entirely unproductive.

    2. Establish a policy for which kinds of flags could be displayed on municipal property, and review each request under the criteria of the policy, effectively taking control of the speech — that is, making it government speech. This is similarly problematic, and could lead to an endless cry of “not in my name” from those offended by the speech. Again, not productive and a huge distraction from the actual work of village government.

    3. Hang no flags.

    The scenarios laid out in Option 1 and Option 2 are what I was addressing in my comments. Your article, however, and particularly the pullout quote, creates the impression that I and the board are saying we’re creating the policy because the Progress/Pride flag makes people uncomfortable. I’m sure that it does make some people uncomfortable, but that was not my point. In fact, we are delighted to be flying the Pride/Progress Flag. At issue here is the downstream ramifications of having hung it on municipal facilities.

    Further, your article covers nothing of the substance of the village workshop: the implementation of residential parking permits. Given this skewed focus on several minutes out of a nearly two-hour meeting makes me question The Current‘s motivation.

    Clearly, there many, many shades of gray under consideration in the matter of flag policy at the local level. Your article is black and white and sensationalist, clearly meant to stir a pot of discontent. And so it has done. I note that this is not the spin you placed on the very same issue at the town level, handled in exactly the same way by the Philipstown Town Board. No sensation, just facts. Why have you made such a dramatically different editorial decision when covering the village’s considerations? That kind of yellow journalism at the local level should have died with Roger Ailes.

    Foley is the mayor of Cold Spring.

  5. Regarding Cold Spring’s short-term rental ad hoc committee, I was surprised to read in the June 3 issue that nine appointees were STR operators, and flabbergasted that the mayor hand-picked this Great Ennead. This conundrum struck me as even more dubious than the police or building department regulating that industry.

    When did it ever become ethical for lobbyists or those with self-interests to lead a committee in their own industry? This is what is known as garden-variety conflict of interests, or better — the fox guarding the hen house. It is the reason why we shudder with disdain when lobbyists in Washington, D.C., join regulatory committees to support their industries, such as guns, cigarettes, alcohol, and oil and gas.

    As Trustees Eliza Starbuck and Tweeps Woods alluded, the committee is ill-conceived in its scale. It is certain only to foment divisiveness and derision before it dissipates of its own impetus. As if the village’s negotiation of STRs wasn’t already completely feckless: No one is going to respect the proceedings of such a committee of political dilettantes dressed in “borrowed robes” calling the shots.

    If the village has to rely on laypeople to enact regulations, perhaps that government is out of its element. In truth, the government has much bigger fish to fry but appears not to have the industry or competence to do so.

  6. You reported that I was not appointed to the Cold Spring short-term rental committee because Village Board members felt I had been “substantially involved in discussions about the law.”

    I found this puzzling. I have never made any public comments regarding proposed laws or regulations regarding short-term rentals, so am not sure why I was singled out.

    The board could have decided not to add me to the committee; it didn’t need to create a false narrative.

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