Seastreak Cruises Still Unresolved

Damage at West Point leaves no place to dock

Details are yet to be finalized for the annual fall boat cruises that dock at Cold Spring. James Barker, a representative of Seastreak cruises, told the Cold Spring Village Board at its Wednesday (Sept. 6) workshop that damage caused by the severe storms July 9 at the West Point dock has complicated the company’s plans. 

As part of its agreement with the village to preserve scenic views, Seastreak has docked some of its boats at West Point after dropping passengers at Cold Spring. The company has been permitted to leave a boat at the Cold Spring dock during its four-hour visit once per weekend. 

That arrangement worked well. For the past two seasons, Seastreak added tours of West Point, which Barker said were popular. However, because of the storm damage, West Point has not allowed Seastreak to dock this year.

Barker said the company has approached Bear Mountain State Park about docking there after dropping passengers in Cold Spring. If that is not an option, the Village Board will have to decide whether all boats can remain at the Cold Spring dock for the duration of each visit. 

The village has anticipated more than $46,000 in docking fees from Seastreak from up to three cruises per weekend from Friday to Sunday. If the company can only run one cruise per weekend, the drop in revenue for Cold Spring would be substantial. 

“We have to be very pragmatic and realistic,” Mayor Kathleen Foley said, adding that because installation of Main Street parking meters is behind schedule, revenue from that source will also fall short.

“I don’t love having the boats docked there,” she said. “But I am more comfortable with it than I would be under normal circumstances.”

The mayor said while having every Seastreak boat stay at the dock will make some people unhappy, “it’s just real at this point, budget-wise.” 

During the public comment period, resident Walter Ulmer questioned increasing the boats’ carbon footprint by making them travel empty to Bear Mountain and back, “for the convenience of folks who don’t want to see boats at the dock.” 

Ulmer commented that if the village is seriously committed to environmental responsibility, “let’s take Bear Mountain off the table and just live with a little inconvenience.”

A decision on Seastreak will be made after the board receives more details on Bear Mountain dockings and a proposed cruise schedule. Seastreak boats have typically come to Cold Spring from mid-September through mid-November on Saturdays, Sundays and some Fridays. 

In other business…

  • Public hearings on revisions to Chapter 126 (Vehicles and Traffic) and Chapter 127 (Residential Parking Program) of the Village Code have been postponed pending Gov. Kathy Hochul’s consideration of a bill that would enable expansion of a parking program to include streets in the upper village. Foley said the process will proceed for the residential parking program on the 11 streets east of the Metro-North tracks previously approved by the state.
  • Trustee Laura Bozzi is looking into electric-vehicle charging stations on village-owned properties as part of a Central Hudson installation grant. Sites discussed include Main Street near St. Mary’s Church, the municipal parking lot on Fair Street, the Visitor Center, High Street, Northern Avenue, Market Street and the corner of B Street and Mountain Avenue. Foley noted that the Butterfield redevelopment site plans to add four EV chargers that will be available to the public for a fee, and to Butterfield residents at a discount.
  • The agreement with CivicPlus, the company that provides the template for the village website, will be renewed for another year. Foley said the village will look at other providers during next year’s budget discussions. 

8 thoughts on “Seastreak Cruises Still Unresolved

  1. The barges sully and compromise the bucolic appeal and river views that draw visitors to Cold Spring in the first place.

    The village administration had already made the sound and resolute decision to allow only one docking of the despised tourist barge per weekend. We expect it to honor that decision, and not revert to the former arrangement, which was anathema to lower-village residents. Such a reversal of fortune would be disingenuous, and might tarnish the administration’s reputation.

    It’s a pity that the village feels compelled to consider unappealing Faustian bargains to fill its coffers — driven solely by capitalist interests. Parking meters, once installed, will easily make up the revenue shortfall. Once we have them, we should cut loose docking privileges for the barges altogether.

  2. The situation detailed in your article regarding the Seastreak captures the incompetence of Mayor Foley’s time in office. Per Foley’s own admittance, her inability to implement a two-year-old parking plan has cost the village important revenue. If Trustee Starbucks, charged with the implementation, and the mayor can’t get the job done in a timely matter, they need to get out of the way and let others get it done.

    Of course, the incompetence goes beyond the parking plan. For example, for months we have been promised Big Belly trash receptacles for the waterfront to avoid the littering that happens every weekend. The busy summer season is over and still no Big Belly. We have been promised lights for the dock, and still no lights. Sounding busy at board meetings has not translated into delivering on promises.

    Further, leaving the village budget in a position that a mere $48,000 from Seastreak is presented as being indispensable is irresponsible leadership and betrayal of their fiduciary duty. If they are being honest in presenting the budget situation as dire as they do, they need to be held accountable for their mismanagement of the village budget. If they can’t manage the budget properly, then they need to get out of the way and let others do it.

  3. As usual, Mr. Alonso hits the nail on the head. For the first time in seven years, the village is in fairly serious fiscal trouble. Unlike the federal government, the village can’t print money to overcome its deficit. We are all hoping for the best, but it will be interesting to see how the village board climbs out of this hole it has created. Perhaps it can begin by listening more closely to its residents.

  4. Commenters here seem unaware or choose to ignore the benefits the Seastreak ferry brings to our village. Transporting seasonal visitors without adding to congestion issues stemming from cars endlessly circling in search of parking is one. The air pollution generated by one ferry carrying hundreds of people is considerably less that created if they all came by automobile. Additionally, Main Street merchants depend on the sales boost from Seastreak visits to survive the winter season when retail traffic slows. The docking fees contribute to the Village bottom line, helping to offset the costs of unpredictable weather events, extra trash collection, and bathroom maintenance.

    The original docking plan for Seastreak to stay only one weekend day was a good compromise to reduce the impact on our scenic views. That contract is usually signed in early spring, but no one could predict the devastating floods that significantly damaged infrastructure in Highland Falls and West Point. That other accommodations must now be made is unfortunate, but does not indicate VBOT incompetence.

    Developing a parking plan to bring meters to Main Street without additionally burdening residents is a complicated process, contrary to what many people believe. Implementing residential parking waivers requires approval from multiple state governmental entities, and yes, that process is frustratingly slow.

    Clearly, the commenters above are unaware of the expense generated by the purchase, programming, installation, insurance, and digital maintenance of smart parking meters. The last I looked at the issue, it would require floating a bond to spread out the costs over several years before the village would see any increased revenues. That doesn’t mean it should not be done.

    Big Belly trash systems are a boon for many municipalities, but one should also consider the lease costs are roughly $4,560 per unit for the most basic model in addition to installation and supplies costs. Buying them outright would be over $4,000 each with maintenance, tax and installation costs added on, so the lease agreement is preferable. If they are damaged by vandalism, floods or accidents, Big Belly replaces them if leased, but not if purchased out right.

    It’s easy for the uninformed to criticize the Village Board as being incompetent when these projects take so much time. Making the effort to understand these project costs, larger implications and effects on local residents is considerably harder than indulging in acid-tongued lashing of our village mayor and trustees.

  5. Lynn, as usual your comments are thoughtful and thorough. I feel there are many residents who are, in fact, aware of the extraordinary challenges associated with running a village and its budget. As I’ve noted in the past, this board has done a number of good things for the village. Nevertheless, its tone has become increasingly autocratic, which is clearly frustrating many residents. We are a village that celebrates diversity, but we also need to celebrate ideological diversity. I follow the board meetings because they are interesting and keep me informed, firsthand, of what is going on in the village. What I’ve noticed with this board is an increasing lack of diversity in its proceedings. If you look at the history of its votes, you will struggle to find votes which are not unanimous. Unfortunately, there have been times when its tone is condescending, and it appears to discount input from long-time residents. Comments in The Current reflect this frustration.

    While I would have worded it differently, I agree with both Mr. Alonso’s comments regarding the budget; this dilemma was avoidable, even with the additional costs associated with the July 9-10 flood. I believe the board should focus solely on operating the village and, when and where it can, add consultants and expenses for a more strategic plan. Right now, we need to “keep the lights on.” This is not fearmongering; it is reality. I am confident the board will overcome this fiscal setback and am looking forward to how it approaches the deficit.

    I have no preference one way or the other on whether the Seastreak continues to dock at Cold Spring; I can see the many complex sides of the issue. However, I would not presume that the Seastreak’s passengers are an “either-or” cohort; that is, that they are taking the Seastreak instead of driving. Even on Seastreak days, the village is packed with automobiles searching for parking. As a climate activist, I am concerned with how we can reduce our collective carbon footprint, especially as village residents. It frustrates me greatly to see cars idling on temperate days, residents “warming up” or “cooling down” their vehicles, (instead of accepting a little discomfort), and garbage trucks and maintenance vehicles spewing black smoke because they haven’t been properly serviced. What did we do on hot days before cars had air conditioners? Why, we opened the windows to let the car air out before we got in!

    I have made suggestions to the board to help reduce the village’s footprint, including not having the Seastreak drive to Bear Mountain to dock for the day and to include language in the Village Code that requires the board to suspend some types of activities during the most severe water emergency. Last year, during our water emergency, the Seastreak continued to run and the village hosted a block party. Both of these events put an additional strain on the village’s dwindling water supply and both involved visitors from outside the village. The policy implementations I suggested were reasonable (and free), and would help to not only clarify the board’s authority during resource-related emergencies, but to take every reasonable opportunity to reduce our carbon footprint, no matter how small. Reducing the impacts of climate change is everyone’s business and every little bit helps. Board members ran on their commitment to preserving the environment. Interestingly, none of these suggestions were implemented.

    As the village continues to deal with its challenges, I can’t help but hear George Orwell’s voice from Animal Farm: “No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?”

    I hope more residents participate in the village board meetings and workshops and, respectfully and appropriately, provide feedback and concerns to the board. This is how democracy works most effectively.

  6. It’s easy to see how those driven solely by capitalist ideologies would be insensitive to resident quality of life and peaceable living issues. Yet, to be clear, no matter how much revenue any shopper contributes to local stores, our village receives exactly $0 tax revenue from the county. Thus to say “the docking fees contribute to the village bottom line,” is an absolute falsehood, with no merit or basis in fact.

    If I read correctly, according to one reader, the barges reduce congestion. If they don’t come, congestion is increased. Residential parking permits are a bad idea, as are the larger refuse containers, and parking meters. When residents are promised a reduction barge service -– and that promise is rescinded, they are out-of-line to complain. This sort of negative discourse is cynical, and intended to quell opposition of those who advocate for peaceable living as opposed to capitalism.

    How easy is it to be NIMBY critical when you don’t have your face rubbed in ‘it’ every weekend. I have said that the barges should be outphased altogether, because they contribute to the degradation of the character of the Village. In absence of that reality, I suggested that the barge should have no docking rights. Docking of the barge is merely rubbing salt in the wound. There aren’t a lot of people who can give voice to advocacy for the integrity of our downtown, but what few there are will be heard, and not put off my capitalist equivocations.

  7. The issue with the Big Bellies is that they were presented as a fait accompli, either donated or provided by a grant, it was not clear (or is not clear to me now). Regardless, they were coming, yet they are not. Same with dock lighting.

    The issue is one of presentation. The desire to always be right, always be 5-0 in votes and always appear on top of it trumps what is really happening. I would suggest that a marketing consultant be hired (we love consultants after all).

    As I see it, this administration’s only real accomplishment has been the flag ban. I encourage and support future tongue lashings for what’s become a discriminatory, autocratic and ineffective government.

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