Philipstown board questions art space zoning
By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
The Philipstown Town Board last week questioned whether Magazzino Italian Art on Route 9, approved as a warehouse, should be re-zoned as a museum.
During the board’s monthly meeting on March 1, Supervisor Richard Shea praised Magazzino, owned by Nancy Olnick and Giorgio Spanu of Garrison, as a benefit to the town but suggested that its true identity be acknowledged.
“I know it was constructed as an art-storage facility, but everybody knows it’s a museum,” he said, suggesting the zoning should be changed “so it can be a museum, because it’s silly to just go on like this.”
He added: “I can’t imagine a better outcome for that [former industrial] property. In my wildest dreams, I couldn’t have imagined a museum coming into town with great artwork and the architecture is incredible, they hired all local contractors. And they throw a hell of a party.”
Kim Conner, a Planning Board member, agreed that Magazzino “is a great thing for the town.” However, she told the Town Board, “it would’ve been nice if they’d been upfront from the beginning,” when the Planning Board reviewed site plans.
“I asked them repeatedly” exactly what the building would be, she recalled. “I just caution applicants to tell us the truth.”
The minutes of a November 2016 Planning Board meeting noted “board members felt the applicants were still being vague regarding the use of the building.” They questioned how many people would be visiting it (a maximum of 155, although realistically, no more than 50 per day, they were told) and whether there would be sufficient fire safety features and access for emergency vehicles.
Documents filed with the Planning Board before a January 2017 public hearing stated that Magazzino, which is Italian for warehouse, would be a building “in which extensive collections of art will be stored” and would be “used for educational and research purposes.” It would be “absolutely not open to the public but rather made accessible by appointment only in order to limit the number of visitors,” the documents said.
Magazzino opened in June. Visitors can make appointments online for visits between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Thursday to Monday. Because of the limited parking, it often runs shuttle buses to Main Street in Cold Spring.
Why Shea raised the issue is not clear, but his Town Board colleagues agreed that Magazzino’s zoning should be reconsidered. It is not clear what practical effect a change would have on the building, beyond allowing Magazzino to admit visitors without reservations.
Amid a snowstorm, Shea did not immediately respond to emails seeking more details. In a statement, Olnick and Spanu said, “We appreciate the support of the local community for Magazzino and welcome the initiative by the Town Board to amend the zoning.”