Policy Limits Official Flag Displays

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Also: Cold Spring board rejects earlier cruises by Seastreak boats

The Cold Spring Village Board on Wednesday (Aug. 10) approved a policy that limits the display of flags on village-owned properties to the U.S., New York State and POW/MIA flags, ending, for now at least, a months-long debate.

The vote was 4-0, with Trustee Tweeps Phillips Woods absent.

On June 1, the board voted unanimously to stop accepting requests to display flags on village-owned sites, after earlier in the year approving the temporary display on village property of Ukrainian and LGBTQ+ Pride flags, including at Village Hall.

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

The Ukrainian flag was removed voluntarily from Village Hall. Pride flags flew at village-owned locations through June, which is LGBTQ+ Pride Month.

ukraine flags cold spring

A Ukrainian flag was displayed at Village Hall following the Russian invasion.

Village Attorney John Furst recommended the board no longer accept flag requests from groups and organizations.

During Wednesday’s public comment period, resident Gaston Alonso said there was no justice in the policy.

“You let it be known that the Village of Cold Spring will now give aid and comfort to all those who want gay people to disappear and just go back in the closet,” he said. “You voted to reject an international symbol of civil rights flown across the state, the country and the world; it is a shameful night in this village.”

Sean Conway said he felt the policy was adopted specifically to prevent the Pride flag from being displayed. “This sprang into action after we made a request to hang the Pride flag,” he said.

Foley responded that in four public sessions at which the issue was discussed, “it has been made clear by this board that this is not targeting the Pride flag.”

She said the board also received a request to hang the Thin Blue Line flag often displayed by police departments.

“This is not an arena in which the Village Board desires to be engaged,” Foley said.

Conway countered that the board was elected to make difficult decisions and described the flag vote as “insulting.”

“It is insulting to us to be framed as people who are anti-Pride,” Foley responded. “That’s very insulting to me personally.”

She added that no individual’s free speech is impacted by the policy, which applies only to village-owned properties, and that the Pride flag can be flown on every porch and front lawn in the village.

The policy “is a decision grounded in fear,” Conway continued.

“It is not grounded in fear,” Foley answered. “You perceive it is grounded in fear,”  she said, adding that the board has essential work to do that does not include mediating flag requests.

The mayor and trustees expressed a desire to support the LGBTQ community by other means.

Trustee Eliza Starbuck suggested painting pedestrian crosswalks using the Pride rainbow color scheme.

Cathryn Fadde said she supports celebrating Pride month without the use of flags on village-owned sites.

“I don’t think there’s a person on this board who doesn’t endorse, and have very strong feelings about celebrating Pride,” Fadde said.

Trustee Laura Bozzi agreed. “I hope there are opportunities for this  board to make policy and operational decisions that are inclusive and support LGBTQ community – that aren’t through a flag,” she said. “I really welcome those kinds of actions.”

The mayor encouraged people to bring forward, “365-day ideas that aren’t hanging a flag on a government building.”

Alonso persisted, saying he would not give up on the idea that flying a symbol of inclusion is worthwhile and that the board might someday rescind the resolution passed earlier that evening.

“You can always undo something,” he said.

In other business…

■ The board turned down a proposal from Seastreak to dock its boats beginning Aug. 26 and over Labor Day weekend. The cruises, which Seastreak began in 2012, have traditionally started in late September. The board, which meets on Aug. 31, must still consider a proposed schedule for cruises from Sept. 9 to Nov. 13. In addition to Saturday and Sunday dockings, Seastreak proposed a number of Friday arrivals and one Monday cruise, with a maximum 400 passengers. In the past, boats have had up to 800 passengers. The company is also considering a cruise from Cold Spring to Manhattan, with a return trip a day or two later.
■ Matt Kroog, the superintendent of water and sewer, asked residents to begin conservation measures. The village reservoirs in North Highlands are at less than 70 percent capacity, compared to 91 percent at this time last year, he said. Kroog said the ongoing drought could affect hydrant flushing scheduled for later in the summer.
■ After a July 14 public hearing, the Planning Board approved a change of use at 37 Chestnut St., the former home of Grey Printing, as a fitness and dance studio. However, the applicant made further changes and a second hearing is scheduled for Aug. 25. No objections were raised at the first hearing.
■ The Planning Board was scheduled to meet with representatives of the Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail on Thursday (Aug. 11). Chair Jack Goldstein said the board has sent questions in advance about the trail’s potential impact on Cold Spring. Video of the meeting will be posted on the village website.
■ The Cold Spring Fire Co. responded to 21 calls in July, including seven activated fire alarms; a structure fire; five mutual aid calls to North Highlands and Garrison Fire companies as well as to the Highlands Falls Fire Co. on the Hudson River; three assists to emergency medical services; and two hiker rescues at Breakneck Ridge. Other calls included an oil burner malfunction and an elevator rescue.
■ Cold Spring police officers responded to 60 calls for service in July. They issued 14 traffic and 156 parking tickets. There were no arrests.
■ The Historic District Review Board will create a separate application and design standard for solar panel arrays, vice chair Sean Conway said, adding he hopes the standalone document will make it easier for applicants. Conway said the board has never turned down an application and that “there will always be a place for renewable energy within the historic district.” He asked that the $30 fee for solar installations be waived.
■ Jill Golden, chair of the Community Day planning committee, reported that the Sept. 3 event has added a traditional pie baking contest and dunk tank to the list of activities. The committee has not yet secured a local organization to provide food and beverages. Resident parking will be available at Haldane school. Parking will not be allowed on Main Street from Fair Street to Church Street during the block party scheduled for 4 to 8 p.m.

3 thoughts on “Policy Limits Official Flag Displays

  1. I stand in full support of flying a flag that endorses human rights. The LGBTQ+ flag belongs in our community — it is our community. The trustees, unfortunately, took this matter and created an “issue” where there was none, and yet can’t bring themselves to tackle actual issues.

  2. Rather than deal with the serious issues facing our village, over the last two months Mayor Foley mounted a fear-mongering campaign to convince the public that if a LGBTQ Pride flag is allowed to fly again on village property, Cold Spring would be sued by right-wing groups and plunged into a “culture war.”

    There is absolutely no evidence to back up her claims. First, the flag already flew in our village for the month of June without any public complaints or lawsuits being filed. Second, state law already forbids the display of hate flags or symbols on public property. Third, local governments do have the power to make decisions regarding what flags they choose to fly as expressions of their government speech. Fourth, every year municipalities across the Hudson Valley and the nation choose to fly LGBTQ flags without lawsuits or even controversy ensuing.

    Rather than spend time reaching out to more experienced officials to learn how other towns have flown the Pride flags without facing all the terrible outcomes she suggests are inevitable, Foley chose to double down on her baseless claims. She zealously pushed on, creating the very “culture war” she said she wanted to avoid. As a result, Foley has put Cold Spring on the list of towns that officially will not fly the LGBTQ Pride flags.

    As to not appear anti-LGBTQ, Foley claimed in public meetings and in The Current that the ban was necessary to prevent flag requests from right-wing groups she personally found “abhorrent,” such as the National Rifle Association. If the village flew a LGBTQ Pride flag, she argued, it would be forced to also fly the NRA flag or risk being sued by them. However, the truth is that Village Board has received no request to fly the NRA flag. Moreover, Foley’s use of the NRA as an example relies on a false equivalency between a flag flown by millions of individuals and municipalities around the world and one that represents the membership a 501(c)(4) organization.

    This distinction matters because if Foley really wanted to ban the latter but allow the former to fly, she could have revised the flag policy to specifically prohibit the village from flying flags that represent membership organizations. But that wasn’t the point. The point was to scare the liberal voters who constitute her electoral base into supporting her flag ban by suggesting that a request by the NRA was inevitable and would result in either the village having to fly their flag or risk being sued.

    The only option, she argued, was to ban the flying on village property of all flags except the U.S., New York and POW flags. Of course, as I explained above, that was not the only option. When it came to Foley justifying her flag ban, facts and reason didn’t matter, only inflammatory rhetoric did.

    At last week’s meeting, Trustees Fadde, Bozzi and Starbuck — despite seeming personally uncomfortable — sadly failed to muster up the courage to stand up to Foley. Instead, they went along with her campaign to change the village’s flag policy in such a way that Cold Spring won’t be able to fly LGBTQ Pride flags in the future. (Deputy Mayor Woods was not present.) When pressed about the anti-LGBTQ message sent by not flying Pride flags in the future, they all said, as your article suggests, that they wanted to do something to prove they were not anti-LGBTQ. However, the video of the meeting posted on YouTube shows that when the public suggested concrete ideas — passing a local anti-discrimination ordinance, establishing a local human rights commission, and creating Rainbow crosswalks — board members either dismissed them out right or explained them away with vague reasoning.

    In other words, when given a chance to prove they are not anti-LGBTQ, board members failed to support specific policies that would defend the dignity, lives and rights of LGBTQ people. Without such action, the trustees’ rhetoric rings hollow and exposes the hypocrisy of those who proclaim themselves allies of LGBTQ residents while banning the flying of their Pride flags by the village and doing nothing else to value our lives. We must not allow let our elected officials use inclusive-sounding words to hoodwink us.

    Cold Spring deserves better than what Foley, Fadee, Bozzi and Starbuck did last Wednesday. Let’s hope that in the future we can elect public officials who will not resort to using baseless allegations to inflame public fears and dividing our village along cultural lines as strategies to draw attention away from their failure to improve their constituents’ quality of life.

  3. This policy is a punishment in search of a crime. Shabbily written and hastily passed, the resolution is an act of fear for what may be, in ignorance of actual reality.

    The trustees received no complaints about the Pride Flag, only praise; and conversely, they heard no public support for this resolution, only valid concerns for its consequences. If they can light up the courthouse in Carmel or the White House in rainbow colors every year, why is Village Hall running scared?

    In turning their backs on our LGBTQ neighbors, the trustees have carelessly banned everything from our Arbor Day flags to the ceremonial banners hung at our firehouse to honor lost members, while creating a clear and unfortunate precedent for bad-faith challenges to other expressions of our community’s identity, such as the menorah, the holiday wreaths and the Christmas tree at our bandstand.

    They have telegraphed quite explicitly to every crackpot in the area with an ax to grind that with even the slightest whiff of controversy, our trustees will give up and fold, rather than fight for Cold Spring’s values.

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