Should Cold Spring Police Stay?

Reform committee recommends referendum 

Should Cold Spring have its own police department? That question could be put to village residents in a non-binding referendum in 2024 if the Village Board follows a recommendation from its Ad Hoc Advisory Committee on Community Policing.

Victor Burgos, the AHAC’s chair, addressed the recommendation before the Village Board at its Wednesday (Feb. 15) meeting. The committee also suggested that, before a referendum, the board develop a plan to “impartially educate” residents on the pros and cons of keeping or dissolving the Cold Spring Police Department. 

The CSPD review is part of a plan adopted by the Village Board in March 2021 in response to former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order in June 2020 requiring all municipalities to assess their police forces. 

He issued the order in response to the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in May 2020, and other high-profile, racially charged killings involving police and the nationwide protests that followed. 

Burgos said while not everyone on the committee agreed a referendum is needed, “in light of everything that was going on nationally” at the time of Cuomo’s executive order, “we thought it was a relevant conversation to have and a relevant question to pose to the community.” 

Mayor Kathleen Foley leaned toward keeping the CSPD intact, saying that the possibility of disbanding the village’s police force “is not a small question, not a decision to be made lightly” and that having a locally accountable department is “for me very important.” 

She suggested that the committee can help by asking “hard numbers questions” and developing data to assist in decision-making. 

“Deterrence is an element,” she said of the police. “We need to do a better job communicating what our officers do and what their value is; that’s on us as a board.” 

Trustee Eliza Starbuck also expressed reservations about a referendum, saying it would be “dangerous without proper data and information” to aid residents in making “good decisions.” 

She encouraged the committee to begin gathering statistics and data that the public needs to be well informed. “The longer question is much larger; it’s not ‘yes’ and ‘no,’” Foley said, adding that the impacts that needed to be considered ranged from fiscal to quality of life. “It’s not black and white,” she said.

The AHAC report addresses a wide range of topics, from improving CSPD information on the village website and developing a recordkeeping system integrated with the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department’s system to improving domestic violence reporting and increasing post-traumatic-event support in conjunction with the Philipstown Behavioral Health Hub. 

In addition to Burgos, village residents Gretchen Dykstra, Sean Conway, Lithgow Osborne, Doron Weber and Karen Jackson serve on the AHAC. Their report is available at 

Fjord Trail 

In an update, Foley clarified that neither the Village Board nor Planning Board is currently reviewing the planned Fjord Trail, a 7.5-mile linear park between Cold Spring and Beacon.  

The project’s first phase, the Breakneck Connector and Bridge, which includes a span over the Metro-North tracks, received a negative environmental impact declaration under the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (meaning it would not have adverse effects). The declaration cleared the connector, estimated to cost $85 million, for construction.  

Unlike the Breakneck Connector, Cold Spring is identified as involved in the broader environmental review of the entire trail, which has already received a positive SEQRA declaration, triggering a more-detailed environmental analysis that is underway. 

“That means our local land-use regulations and comprehensive plan have to be considered” as part of the project design review, Foley said, adding that the analysis is expected to be finished by the end of the year. 

But she pointed out that the state parks department is the lead agency for the overall trail project and raised concern that it can potentially argue that it “is completely exempt from local land use laws,” leaving the village “little or no say.” 

Foley and Starbuck said they met with officials from state parks and Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail Inc., the project’s developer, on Jan. 27 to clarify roles and responsibilities. They also asked for details about the legal relationship between HHFT and state parks, said Foley, and are awaiting a response.  

During the public comment period, Nelsonville resident Heidi Wendel suggested a public meeting be held with officials from Nelsonville, Cold Spring, Philipstown, HHFT and state parks so residents can give input and ask questions about the trail. 

Residents complained that recent open houses held by HHFT at Dutchess Manor and the Cold Spring firehouse were ineffective because there was no presentation or public question-and-answer period.

Former Cold Spring Mayor Dave Merandy described the sessions as a “divide and conquer” strategy by HHFT and urged the Village Board to state its position on the trail project. Former Nelsonville Mayor Michael Bowman, also a former Cold Spring trustee, agreed. 

“It’s important that the board go on record either supporting or not supporting the project, given that it changed so drastically since 2017,” he said. 

MJ Martin, director of development and community engagement for HHFT, attended the meeting virtually but did not comment. 

13 thoughts on “Should Cold Spring Police Stay?

    • Darn right, Len. Who started this nonsense? A disgraced governor whose top achievements were renaming a bridge in honor of his father and eliminating the possibly of fracking and thus dooming upstate New York for any hope of economic recovery for decades. Your common-sense approach should prevail, lest the decent citizens of Cold Spring incur avoidable suffering.

  1. Cold Spring spends $500,000 each year on its police force. This is money Putnam County does not need to spend on additional policing through its Sheriff’s Department. We already subsidize the county with our sales tax revenue. Should Cold Spring continue subsidizing county policing, too?

    • You are so right. I will never understand why the good people of Cold Spring feel that they need three police departments. As it stands now, the village is patrolled by its own PD, the sheriff’s department and the state police. There’s even a substation on upper Main Street. Is there really so much crime in Cold Spring?

      After a virtual civil war, the town of Putnam Valley got rid of our police department back in the 1990s and we never looked back. We have saved millions of dollars and the sheriff does an outstanding job.

      If more police protection is really needed, contact your county and state elected representatives and demand that they provide what you need. That’s their job. Good luck to Cold Spring.

  2. The rogue Ad Hoc Advisory Committee on Community Policing is out of order. It has no business insisting on a time-wasting referendum to defund the police or demanding our mayor and board conduct a special fiscal assessment.

    According to its own survey, village residents are resoundingly satisfied with the performance of our police. We must question the credibility and motivations of the committee as beyond the pale of reason, as well as consider ignoring it altogether. I urge the committee to read its own report, and cease and desist its disruptive behavior.

  3. As pertains to recent HHFT forums, I didn’t find them altogether “ineffective.” One of the important takeaways I’d like to share with my neighbors is that, despite the absence of a village traffic study, the consultants did due diligence in their work elsewhere. I noted that a flow-study chart posted at the forum indicated that some 2 percent of the total of 23,000 hikers in 2021 utilized Metro-North to get to Cold Spring. Therefore, a bus fleet would be in service of about 460 people over the entire hiking season, plus some unknown number of prospective new riders anticipated from a “build it they will come” policy. Perhaps a proper cost-benefit analysis would make this shortcoming abundantly clear to all.

  4. Assessing municipal services is always an important exercise. It might make sense to increase investment in the Cold Spring Police Department, allowing for more traffic enforcement, which will make the village safer and increase revenues from tickets for speeding, moving violations, noise from loud mufflers, parking violations and vehicles without proper registra-tions or inspections. Add a traffic camera at the intersection of Chestnut Street and Route 9D.

    Most of this stuff will impact the out-of-town folks and travelers passing through, as locals will “be in the know.” Increased enforcement should produce a significant amount of revenue to help fund improvements and result in a safer, more enjoyable village experience.

    • Annual expense for the Cold Spring police: around $500,000. Annual revenue from tickets: under $3,000. More cops does not lead to more revenue, but the opposite. This has been the case for many years. If I misunderstood the budget, I hope someone corrects me.

  5. Ask the residents of Brewster how it worked out when they abolished the village police force in the late 1970s. They wound up reinstating the department.

  6. The question about the Cold Spring Village Police Department is not whether it should exist — of course, the village needs law enforcement. The questions are: 1) Who benefits and who pays? and 2) What form should law enforcement in the village take? Aaron Freimark (cost) and Len Getler (tourism) nicely highlighted this in their comments.

    A quick analysis shows that as many as 73 percent of the calls responded to by the Cold Spring police are outside village limits. When this happens, village taxpayers are gifting the police services to the surrounding communities. Clearly, either Philipstown or Putnam County should be paying a significant portion of the Cold Spring village police budget, just as Philipstown does with the Cold Spring Fire Department.

    Additionally, parking is a perpetually nagging issue in Cold Spring. In 2020, Officer-in-Charge Larry Burke and I calculated that the parking enforcement officers were 45 times more cost-effective at handling parking issues than the police officers. The parking enforcement officers wrote 15 times more tickets per hour worked and were paid about a third as much as the police officers.

    This might be a good time to consider an alternative policing strategy. First, fully staff the parking enforcement officers. Second, consider a model where the Cold Spring police patrol the village on foot during the busy tourist days and/or week-ends and the sheriff provides the balance of coverage, as it does for the rest of Philipstown. Two or three officers on staggered overlapping shifts walking Main Street would provide far better coverage than the occasional drive-by we frequently see with the current model.

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