Letter to Merchants Raises Concerns

Also, Village closes in on Dockside agreement   

By Michael Turton

Main Street business owners in Cold Spring received a surprise in their February mail: A letter from the state Division of Human Rights that stated they are required to make their shops accessible to those with physical disabilities.

“A refusal to remove architectural barriers which prevent persons with disabilities from accessing a public accommodation may constitute an unlawful discriminatory practice,” wrote Human Rights Specialist Albert L. Jacobs III. “We ask that you remove the step at the entrance and install a ramp.”

About 10 merchants received the letter, Mayor Dave Merandy said at the May 9 meeting of the Village Board. The village owns the stoop in front of most Main Street buildings but was not copied on the correspondence.  “I read the letter as a bit threatening and I think a lot of people did,” he said.

The mayor said he met with officials from the Division of Human Rights, who told him it wanted building owners to indicate whether they could comply. “That wasn’t clear at all in the letter,” Merandy said.

“We’ll do whatever we can to help business owners mitigate the problem or at least tell them why compliance is impossible,” he said, adding that state officials said they “are willing to work with people.”

What is the policy when the village owns the stoop? “That was the one thing they would not answer,” Merandy said. “It was like asking a politician, I guess. They danced around that.”

Deputy Mayor Marie Early said only a few businesses received the letter because state officials “looked at a number of properties and concluded it was too expensive and not readily achievable to make the stores handicap-accessible.”

Merandy cited Doug’s Pretty Good Pub as an example. Compliance would be difficult because it has a village-owned stoop and a pole in front of a narrow entrance. He said state officials indicated they would accept an explanation as to why compliance isn’t possible. The pub’s owner, Doug Price, said he had referred the matter to his lawyer.

In other business …

  • Village resident Cathy Carnevale has donated $1,000 to cover the cost of three Main Street garbage cans. The village will match her contribution.
  • Greg Phillips, the superintendent of water and wastewater, told the board that a deteriorated sewer line on Fair Street can be relined without excavating. The cost savings means repairs to the Market Street sewer line can be done within budget.
  • Trustee Fran Murphy said she had met with Jack Goldstein of the Cold Spring Area Chamber of Commerce to discuss the Chamber paying half the cost of maintaining the public restrooms near the pedestrian tunnel.
  • Trustee Lynn Miller said Main Street merchants plan to lobby Putnam County legislators for a share of sales-tax revenues collected in the village.
  • Trustees approved the sale of a village-owned stoop at 69 Main St. at $4 per square foot plus legal costs. The board is also considering requests for the purchase of property on Moffat Road and at 37 Fair Street.
  • The board approved the hiring of a full-time Highway Department laborer at $16 per hour plus benefits.
  • Philipstown Justice Court Judge Camille Linson was appointed acting judge for the Cold Spring Justice Court.
  • The Cold Spring Boat Club has donated $600 for tree and shrub plantings at the club site and will provide volunteer labor for fence painting.

In May 16 business …

  • Merandy reported that an agreement that will allow the village to oversee Dockside Park has been sent to the state parks department for approval. Merandy said the village will be able to earn revenue from the property, including from the sale of alcohol at events. While the village will be responsible for basic maintenance, it will no longer be required to maintain shore protection proposed by the state.
  • Trustees authorized the mayor to sell a 1,002-square-foot village-owned property at 26 Garden St. for $4,008.