Another Wild Saturday in the Village

Pedestrians filled Main Street in Cold Spring on Saturday (Oct. 28). Photo by M. Turton

Pedestrians filled Main Street in Cold Spring on Saturday, Oct. 28. (Photos by M. Turton)

‘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.

A long line formed for tables at Le Bouchon.

A long line formed for tables at Le Bouchon.

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.

Main Street

Main Street, Cold Spring, at 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 28. (Photo by M. Turton)

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.

Main Street Sunday

Main Street, Cold Spring, at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday (Oct. 29) (Photo by M. Turton)

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).

8 thoughts on “Another Wild Saturday in the Village

  1. Cold Spring must be the only place in the world that does not welcome tourists and customers with open arms.

    I had a shop on Main Street for nine years and it never ceased to amaze me how, at times, the rulers were almost hostile toward small businesses. Any other city, town or village would welcome those hundreds of visitors and be grateful for all the sales tax that was being generated.

    Cold Spring is blessed to have a vibrant and successful Main Street that other towns like mine (Putnam Valley) can only dream about. The Main Street shops are second to none when it comes to diversity and quality. There are antique shops, boutiques, galleries and great restaurants, although the loss of Hudson Hil’s was devastating.

    There is nothing like it in Westchester or Putnam and I can’t believe that the locals aren’t proud and delighted by their good fortune to live in such a wonderful place.

    By the way, the reason your taxes are much lower than ours is partially because of all that commerce on Main and else-where in town. A little gratitude might be in order.

  2. But isn’t it true that “[Putnam] County does not share sales tax revenue with any local governments within its borders”? Nevertheless, it’s also possible to support local shopkeepers and be sensitive to the tourist inundations at the same time.

  3. I want to cry when I see the throngs of people flooding Cold Spring. The village simply cannot handle the crowds. [via Facebook]

  4. During weekdays, when locals would want to go shopping or enjoy the village, most shops are closed and it seems a ghost town. Why? Because many of the shop owners don’t live in our area and are not part of our community. But they have no problem setting our political agenda to suit their needs and improve their profits at our expense. If you own a business, being open during the week is part of the deal. [via Facebook]

    • I personally know more than two dozen small-business owners in the village who live in Cold Spring. Many stores are closed because the people who own them, who live in the community, have other responsibilities besides being in their shops all day, every day. The vast majority of shops are owned and operated by locals. [via Facebook]

  5. Cold Spring was turning into a tourist trap 14 years ago. I wish it wasn’t true but every year something worth visiting shuts down and is replaced by something less beneficial to residents. We rarely go into town on weekends.

    The village gradually transformed because of the lack of imagination of those that revamped it. It was a depressed, upstate town but there were places for locals to go. Now it’s full of places where the store owners chose to make a quick buck off tourists. The restaurants are still good, but there is little else for me to buy there. We do most of our shopping in Fishkill and mostly use Cold Spring for gifts, prescriptions and a quick gallon of milk. [via Facebook]

  6. As a longtime shopkeeper in Cold Spring, I was delighted by the quality and quantity of visitors on Halloween Day. They were nice, polite and respectful. It was fun!

    This fall has been more like a pre-COVID tourist season than any year in Mayor Kathleen Foley’s administration. Visitors have been wonderful, despite the limited restaurant capacity and toilet facilities. None of our visitors complained about the rain; they had a good time. Many came by train and boat, not bringing cars to our village streets. They walked, they hiked, all for good health and vitality.

    We need to take a page from successful tourist destinations and learn how to greet and manage our visitors effectively, efficiently and politely. Recently I noticed our village police helping tourists; perhaps we could provide them additional training so that they are even better equipped to assist our guests.

    Visitors to Cold Spring support Metro-North and our businesses, and that helps all of us. We need to invest in facilities and training that support our guests. Some visitors move here, supporting our real-estate prices, property taxes and local schools. I first came here as a tourist from New York City.

    Cold Spring has welcomed visitors for its Halloween parade for nearly 30 years and guests from West Point, New York City and around the world for more than 200 years. Certainly, we can continue this fine tradition of hospitality for years to come.

    Silver Timm owns Bijou Galleries.

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