2014-08-27 / Commentary

The Circular Worlds of Cold Spring, Philipstown & Putnam County


A Venn diagram, named after John Venn, an English logician. A Venn diagram, named after John Venn, an English logician. I generally find politics in the village, Philipstown and Putnam County to be fairly savage. In my experience, it's far more cutthroat than most places.

But, after last week's Butterfield session before a committee of the Putnam County Legislature, I've concluded that our current political state has more rounded edges. I'm thinking here of a Venn diagram, in which the best way to understand it is to look at the group within the series of overlapping circles. Put simply, in the very middle of the multiple circles are the rabid opponents of growth, proper county services and facilities, and even modest development on this side of Putnam County.

Several years ago now, developer and Butterfield site owner Paul Guillaro, of Garrison, sought to move his proposal for a multi-use development ahead. Senior housing, consolidated government space (such as one courtroom with state-of-the-art security for Philipstown, Nelsonville and Cold Spring) and room for new county services would all be included, as well as a desperately needed new senior center. Later, he incorporated room for a new Post Office, too.

Douglas Cunningham is editor-in-chief of the PCNR. He can reached at doug@pcnr.com, or 845-265-2468. Letters on this or other topics are welcome. Douglas Cunningham is editor-in-chief of the PCNR. He can reached at doug@pcnr.com, or 845-265-2468. Letters on this or other topics are welcome. At first, Philipstown and Cold Spring governments spoke favorably about it, and wanted to move Guillaro's plan along. Guillaro and his supporters, who included then- Mayor Seth Gallagher, hardly a reactionary pro-development person, ran into the buzzsaw of Cold Spring opposition. The open space! The mass of the buildings! The impacts on the school district, and the water lines, and the traffic and the tax base! The demographics of having more seniors! Think of it all. And not a single impact was good, in this telling.

Guillaro and his team, and the town's long-suffering seniors, endured endless meetings and reviews, and at one point Guillaro, fed up, even walked away.

But he returned. His team and the village developed a zoning change that seemed to reflect what both he and the village needed. The neighbors along Paulding Avenue were mollified. The tax impact, and especially the benefit to Haldane, was clear.

Then, new opposition surfaced, both in Philipstown's government and in county government, in Carmel. Philipstown began to talk about a "town campus," about expanding the American Legion building behind Town Hall for a senior center and overhauling the current Town Hall, too. In this telling, the town didn't want to be held hostage to the vagaries of Cold Spring politics. Imagine, Cold Spring politics stalled. Hard to conceive of it, that one.

But the backstory here is that the opponents of Butterfield in Cold Spring are from the same group as now wants the senior center behind Town Hall, and the same group that doesn't want development in Cold Spring at precisely the best remaining large site for development along Route 9D. What's happening here, in fact, is that Village Trustee Stephanie Hawkins and her pals are now publicly espousing their support for seniors (See! We really do care!), though at every turn they've put up roadblock after roadblock to Guillaro's proposal, the very project most likely to quickly bring a modern, fully equipped senior center to fruition.

Then, the third circle intersects the first two. We learned last Wednesday that at least a couple of county lawmakers aren't especially eager to provide county services on this side. Carmel to Philipstown: We don't particularly care whether you fall off into the Hudson River. Also, Legislator Dini LoBue made clear again her antipathy for any idea County Executive MaryEllen Odell presents. Because Odell backs a senior center at Butterfield, LoBue was compelled to trash it. There was also antipathy among lawmakers to private property; Legislators Roger Gross and Kevin Wright, in fact, suggested seizing Butterfield by eminent domain once it's built.

If there is a benefit to this parade of criticism in Carmel, it is that the duplicitous alliance of Hawkins, Philipstown council members Dave Merandy and Nancy Montgomery, and county Legislator Dini LoBue has become clear, at the center of the Venn diagram. The question, friends, is whether Cold Spring and Philipstown residents, and especially seniors, are comfortable with this group deciding their fate. We shall see.

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