Revenues for the Village, Customers for Main Street, Concerns for Residents
The pros and cons of increased tourism took center stage at the Cold Spring Village Board’s Wednesday, June 8 workshop, as the mayor and administrators, business owners and residents discussed weighed in on the return of Seastreak’s fall weekend cruises and the possible addition of midweek berths in the summer.
Seastreak officials have offered to bring cruises to the village on Saturdays and Sundays from September 17 to November 13.
Mayor Kathleen Foley said the New Jersey company is also considering moorings on Wednesdays and/or Fridays from July 1 through September 16.
The village council workshop, she said, was aimed at discussing the need to safeguard “critical village revenues” from berthing fees against concerns raised by residents.
Seastreak began its fall Cold Spring excursions in 2012, with passengers boarding in New Jersey and at the foot of Wall Street in New York. On some pre-COVID weekends, two boats docked on the same day, each with up to 500 passengers, creating crowded sidewalks and long lines in public restrooms.
“We have learned from the past,” said administrator Eliza Starbuck. “We have tried to reduce the impact and the negative points expressed by the residents.”
Even 600 to 800 passengers “flooded the village”, she said. “I always thought it was too much for businesses, too much for residents; it was very uncomfortable.
The restaurants “didn’t have enough seats to feed those numbers at once,” Foley said. “So you ended up with a lot of angry people.”
For its 2022 deal with Seastreak, the village proposed restrictions such as only allowing one boat to dock each day; limit passengers to 400 on weekends and 200 on weekdays; limit mooring hours on weekends; compel boats to dock at West Point or other places; limiting the time boats spend at the dock on weekdays; and the end of the weekday summer schedule in August.
A number of those present at the meeting, including board members, business owners and a Chamber of Commerce representative, agreed that when passenger numbers were reduced to 400 during the pandemic, the crowd was manageable.
As cruises add to already busy tourist weekends, Seastreak has become a remarkable source of income, adding $36,000 to the village’s coffers last year. Starbuck estimated that could rise to $44,000 or $45,000 this year.
“It keeps our taxes relatively low; the fee offsets village costs,” Starbuck said. Starbuck, which owns a wine store on Main Street, noted that passengers support local businesses “without contributing to parking shortages.” “
Cold Spring charges $8 per linear foot for boats docked at the main dock. For prolonged impurities, the fee increases to $12.
Seastreak officials requested that the village base its fee on ticket sales, but Starbuck said the village would stick to the size of the boat. “They’re taking the business risk of operating a boat when they’re not sure they can attract enough customers,” Starbuck said. “This risk should not be ours.”
Foley noted that Seastreak revenue cannot be earmarked for specific village projects. “They are part of the general fund, with the board deciding spending priorities,” she said. “This creates budget relief which allows us more flexibility.”
Nat Prentice, president of the Cold Spring Chamber of Commerce, shared feedback submitted to him by Main Street business owners who consider Seastreak’s return vital to their livelihoods. More than one mentioned that foot traffic has been slow this spring and the economic outlook is not promising.
The inhabitants of the lower part of the village see the situation very differently. “Here at ‘ground zero’, many of us are out of breath; there is so much traffic, so many people, so much noise,” said Derek Graham, who lives on West Street. “We can’t have a quiet weekend picnic; there is simply no calm.
Graham questioned the relative value of Seastreak’s earnings. “If we generate $40,000 in revenue [from Seastreak] and the budget is $2.5 million, that’s less than 2% of revenue. It’s not worth it for what we have to bear. The whole waterfront is ruined. It’s not just the boats; that’s all.
Gaston Alonso, also a resident of the lower village, said something was missing from the discussion. “This summer and this fall are not like the previous ones; Dockside Park is a mess of construction, out of order,” he said. “Residents and tourists who usually go there don’t have the opportunity; the lawns next to the bandstand are already overcrowded on weekends and it will get worse once school is over.
Alonso warned council not to assume residents in the lower part of the village are not upset, as only two residents spoke at the meeting, compared to nine business owners.
“Please put the needs of residents first,” he said. “We shouldn’t have to bear the brunt of this, so others can benefit.”
Foley replied that the issues in the lower village are being looked at from “all angles” and that the council has advocated for the mitigation of impacts at Dockside and around the proposed Fjord footpath.
“We recognize that this is an area impacted by tourism, a unique area because it is on a public waterfront,” she said. “We cannot prevent people from visiting, it belongs to everyone; it’s a matter of balance.
Graham commented that taxes from an increase in Seastreak Cruise Village business will simply go “to the Putnam slush fund where the good old boys in the back room decide” where the money will be spent.
Foley urged residents to pay attention to the Putnam County Legislature over the next two months as it enters the next budget cycle. Lawmakers, she said, will have to consider the county executive’s proposal for tax sharing.
Putnam is one of the few counties in New York State that does not share retail sales tax revenue with its municipalities.
During the Seastreak revenue discussion, Starbuck called the Village’s budget process “torturing” because there are so many good projects the Village is unable to fund. “Revenue streams are limited and we need to leverage the ones we have,” Foley said. “What do we want to achieve in terms of quality of life, and how do we get there? »
Responding to her own question, she said the village either needs to have adequate sources of revenue or raise taxes. “It’s all about balance,” she says.
Village officials planned to meet with Seastreak on Friday, June 17.
In other cases….
■ City Hall will be closed on Monday (June 20) for June 19, which was designated a federal holiday last year. Juneteenth, which is short for June 19, commemorates the day in Galveston, Texas in 1865 when federal troops arrived to ensure that all slaves were freed, marking the end of slavery in the United States. United.
■ Foley said she hopes to have village attorney John Furst’s draft as soon as next week’s board meeting of a policy outlining how the village will handle requests to display flags.
■ Jennifer Zwarich was appointed chair of the ad hoc committee on short-term parking rentals. Zwarich also chairs the village tree advisory council and is one of three members of the seven-member STR committee that does not operate a rental.
■ Veronika Bilinski has been hired as a seasonal parking attendant. A graduate of the Putnam County Sheriff’s Cadet Program, she will be paid $17 an hour.
■ Council has given approval to sell village-owned land at 14 and 16 Stone St. to owners for $4.55 per square foot.
■ The village council will hold fewer meetings over the summer. The tentative dates are July 13 and 20 and August 10 and 17.