2012-07-18 / Commentary

Stasis for Cold Spring

Cunningham’s Corner
Douglas Cunningham

Trudie A. Grace, in her excellent book “Around Cold Spring,” recounts that train service here began in 1849, after track had been laid the year before along the Hudson River.

Of course, at the time, Cold Spring’s waterfront was full of industry, and train service would have been roundly welcomed. More industry, more transit, more options, more trade. Think of it!

Now, zip forward in time to 2012, when Cold Spring is controlled by three members of its Planning Board. If this Planning Board had been in charge in 1848 and 1849, there would be no train service today. No Hudson Line as we now know it. No growth. No traffic. No outsiders. The outsiders might have come from places like, oh, Peekskill.

This Planning Board would have had none of it. If they’d been around in 1848, you can bet they’d have put a stop to all this new business on the waterfront, all these new people coming in.

Douglas Cunningham is Editor-in-chief of The Putnam County News & Recorder. Douglas Cunningham is Editor-in-chief of The Putnam County News & Recorder. Among other things, here’s one largely unremarked aspect of this travesty: Today, in 2012, some members of this Planning Board are talking about not wanting outsiders. Explicitly and openly, during their public meetings. Sometimes, but not always, they mention other places, such as Peekskill, or Wappingers. They speak of not wanting any seniors from elsewhere—from outside Cold Spring—to live in senior housing contemplated for the Butterfield project.

Is it possible that Cold Spring is hostile to outsiders, when you get down to the nub of the matter? That Cold Spring is so wrapped up in its idea of being a “special” place that it has embraced stasis? Notably, the Planning Board’s June report to the Village Board on the Butterfield project did not go into the full details of the “outsiders” discussions.

In any case, the next thing routinely cited by the antidevelopment cohort, and by this Planning Board, is the defense that, We are just protecting the community. Keeping our little village from being savaged by the big, bad Mr. Developer (played here by mild-mannered Paul Guillaro). Ensuring that our beautiful green space is not destroyed by cavalier development that’s not “in character” with the community.

And “in character” with Cold Spring means what, exactly? That the paint embargo present in some parts of the village will continue to be unbroken? That some older man or older woman who needs an affordable apartment to call home will be turned away so as to preserve a decrepit hulk?

Friends, there comes a time to just face facts: This Planning Board is broken and out of control. The entire development process, in Cold Spring at least, has been missing an axle for some years. The idea that any private property rights exist at all seems to be regarded as laughable. The idea that an applicant who presents a thoughtful, detailed plan is to be delayed indefinitely by saddling him with more reviews, more engineers, more studies, but never an approval—when and how did that happen? All the while, of course, a contingent in the village gins up opposition and heartfelt community spirit about the many, many things that would be lost if Cold Spring no longer has a falling-down hospital on its southern end. Or if it came to have a Dunkin’ Donuts on Route 9D/Chestnut, of all places. Imagine, a coffee and donut place on a state highway? The cheek of it.

I’d posit that Cold Spring is now at a point of inflection: Cold Spring seems to be wed to a fanatical desire to preserve itself by stalling all development, restricting change of any kind if proposed by those not favored, and preventing outsiders from venturing in for longer than a day. Is this what the village wants? Whether it is—or is not—what it wants, it’s what the village is allowing. And it is what the Village Board, in particular, is allowing, at least so far.

This current path will certainly lead to an inexorable, painful decline. Think Cold Spring without the Hudson Line. Without the city, the connections, the vibrancy. Because Cold Spring’s future is all right here, thank you, and it’s all inside the fence this Planning Board has erected at the village line, a fence it seems to fortify with every new decision. There seem to be only two rules that count: 1, No developers. And, 2, No outsiders.

If this Planning Board had been in place in the mid-1800s, we’d still be saddling up the horses or hitching up buggies.

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