‘The busiest day I’ve seen in more than 10 years’
Busy fall weekends are nothing new to Cold Spring, but Saturday (Oct. 28) was beyond busy.
The day was busier than even the most recent busiest day ever, Oct. 22, 2022, a Saturday that Mayor Kathleen Foley said at the time left the village “very, very full” because of Seastreak, family weekend at West Point, near-peak fall foliage and a Haldane home football game.
This past Saturday, Metro-North Railroad sold 3,010 tickets to passengers headed to the village (population 1,986) from Grand Central Station. Throw in the first nice weather in seven weekends, 400 visitors aboard the Seastreak, hundreds more by cars that lined every side street between Route 9D and the river, West Point families and a Halloween parade, and the picture becomes clear: The village was mobbed.
“It was the busiest day I’ve seen in more than 10 years,” said Mike Procopio, owner of Cold Spring Pizza. “We sold about 250 pizzas, almost all by the slice.”
On a typical Saturday they make pizza dough once for the day; on Oct. 28 they made it five times, he said.
Procopio didn’t mind the extra business, but he wasn’t happy with some fellow shop owners. Procopio said customers told him that some Main Street businesses that have restrooms sent them to his restaurant instead.
“That isn’t fair,” he said. “There was a lineup for our restroom for five straight hours.”
The queue at public restrooms near the Visitor Center at the foot of upper Main also often stretched back to the pedestrian tunnel.
At Brasserie Le Bouchon, visitors waited in a line along Fair Street. It was the restaurant’s busiest day ever, but Michael Vierra, the head waiter there for the past 16 years, wasn’t fazed.
“If you’re in a restaurant or retail business here, the crowds are nothing,” he said. “Once I’m full, I’m full.” For Le Bouchon, that meant all 100 seats were taken.
Vierra estimates there were about 6,000 visitors in Cold Spring on Oct. 28. “We don’t have 1,000 restaurant seats in the village,” he said. “It would be awesome if there were designated spots for food trucks” that could serve people wanting to grab a bite without waiting for a table.
Craig Muraszewski, owner of the Cold Spring General Store, embraced the large number of visitors. “It was a bright spot,” he said. “There were a lot of people, but after two months of weekend rain, I welcomed a bit of craziness. It was great for business.”
Judiann Romanello, owner of DamnAged Vintage, agreed, describing Saturday sales as phenomenal. “As a small business, these days are crucial to keep us going, especially when Monday to Thursday foot traffic is so low,” she said.
Evan Thompson, manager of Hudson Highlands State Park, said it was probably the busiest day he’s seen, reminding him of when the pandemic shutdown meant parks were the only place to go.
The long lines weren’t a problem, he said, but the number of cars were. “Cars were parked illegally in places I’ve never seen before, including right in front of the lot here at Little Stony Point and at Breakneck,” he said, adding that as soon as one driver parks illegally, others quickly follow suit. Cars parked perpendicular to the road in parallel-parking zones was also a problem.
One trouble spot was the stretch of Route 9D from Little Stony Point north to Breakneck Ridge, where cars lined the no-parking zone. At least one car had to be towed after it became stuck in the roadside ditch. Removing it caused traffic to back up all the way into Cold Spring.
Thompson said many cars were ticketed by officers from the state park police, Putnam County Sheriff’s Department, New York State Police and Palisades Park Police.
“It was just so many people,” he said. “It’s like sticking your finger in the dike; it’s just impossible to stop” the illegal parking.
Thompson thinks the park saw up to 10,000 visitors that day. Between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., he estimates 2,000 people walked past Little Stony Point returning to Cold Spring.
Only one injury was reported in the park. An older hiker who hurt her foot on the Undercliff Trail was assisted by the Cold Spring Fire Co., which used its all-terrain vehicle.
In the village, two Cold Spring police officers and one parking enforcement officer had their hands full. Officer-in-Charge Larry Burke called the day a “perfect storm” that included traffic that was “out of control.”
He said drivers routinely ignored no-parking signs and fire hydrants and “just parked wherever they pleased.” That resulted in “a bunch of summonses.”
Fair Street, where parking is only allowed from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays, saw a long line of illegally parked cars through much of the day.
At the Wednesday (Nov. 1) meeting of the Cold Spring Village Board, Mayor Kathleen Foley also referred to Saturday as a “perfect storm.”
“It felt like a tide of people because it was a tide of people,” she said, adding that the Metro-North data would be forwarded to the Fjord Trail’s Data Committee to make it aware that worst-case scenarios do occur in the fall. “We need to plan for that eventuality moving forward,” the mayor said.
Foley noted there wasn’t much towing in the village on Saturday because the companies were “fully engaged on Route 9D — there just weren’t enough tow trucks to go around.”
She said one car had been ticketed after it was left in the traffic lane of a side street, but not towed. In the past, cars were not towed unless they were impeding emergency vehicles or blocking a driveway, but the Village Code now gives officers more leeway. She said she has instructed the Police Department to ensure its officers are trained regarding their ability to order towing.
The mayor also cleared up what she called “mythology” that Seastreak on Saturday brought more than the 400 passengers allowed by the village. The boat had 586 passengers, she said, but 186 disembarked at Bear Mountain State Park before it reached Cold Spring.
A week earlier, at the board’s Oct. 25 meeting, Foley said that while the village can’t stop people from driving to Cold Spring, it can make it more inconvenient. The soon-to-be-implemented residential parking permits will help, making many streets unavailable to visitors, she said.
She said the number of hikers coming into the village must be reduced drastically. “The village can’t do that alone,” she said. “State parks and the Fjord Trail must make trail parking truly satellite, corralling trail visitors long before they enter the village, getting them on trailhead shuttles that bypass our residential community.”
Pleasant fall hiking weather is forecast through Monday (Nov. 6).