The Highlands Current is a nonprofit weekly newspaper and daily website that covers Beacon, Cold Spring, Garrison, Nelsonville and Philipstown, New York, in the Hudson Highlands. This podcast includes select stories read aloud.
Beacon to Form Fishkill Avenue Committee
Group will study zoning, trails, streetscapes in northeast Beacon
Beacon Mayor Lee Kyriacou plans to create a citizens' committee to develop ideas and advise the City Council on, among other things, the potential rezoning of the Fishkill Avenue corridor.
The mayor said during the Monday (Nov. 27) council meeting that he hopes to name between nine and 11 members by next month. An application is available at beaconny.gov with a Dec. 15 deadline.
Kyriacou said he expects the committee will meet twice monthly for six to nine months. J.C. Calderon, an architect and former Planning Board member, will chair the group.
The committee can determine how it will receive community input, and the city said it will assist with timing and logistics.
In a statement that he read Monday, Kyriacou asked the committee not just to study Fishkill Avenue (Route 52), but also to develop proposals related to a Fishkill Avenue-to-Matteawan Road connector; a possible trail running along the dormant Beacon rail line; and linkages to the Lofts at Beacon apartments, Fishkill Creek and the city's rail trail, which will start at the Metro-North station and, when complete, run along the creek.
Kyriacou said he wanted the committee, which he is calling the Fishkill Avenue Concepts Committee, to consider what the Fishkill Avenue streetscape should look like, "recognizing that it is a main thoroughfare into and out of Beacon." Specifically, he asked the group to think about building design standards, the proximity of buildings to the street and sidewalks.
Another topic will be an access route from Fishkill Avenue to Matteawan Road, which, if created, would connect Route 52 to Beacon High School and Rombout Middle School, Camp Beacon and existing senior housing developments. "That includes thinking about bikes, pedestrians and transit along an access road," Kyriacou said, adding: "If any additional state land becomes available, what might be appropriate uses," such as light industrial or affordable housing?
Other questions for the group will include:
What are appropriate bike routes, and how would they connect to commercial and residential areas?
How should the proposed rail trail adjacent to Route 52 be incorporated into concepts?
Could a pocket park be developed alongside the rail trail and where?
What spots along Route 52 might be appropriate as viewsheds?
Like the Main Street Access Committee that Kyriacou created in 2020, the Fishkill Avenue committee will have access to the city planner, though it's unknown who that will be. John Clarke, a former Dutchess County planner who was hired in 2016 as a planning consultant, is retiring at the end of the year.
City Administrator Chris White said Wednesday that a new consultant is expected to be hired in January.
The City Council began to discuss rezoning a mile-long stretch of the Fishkill Avenue corridor three months ago, after four sizable parcels owned by the Healey Brothers auto dealerships were listed for sale. The goal, council members said, would be to encourage mixed-use development that would include affordable housing and create a more walkable, "Main Street-type" feel for the area.
As proposed, the rezoning would have affected about 30 properties between Memorial Park and Mill Street. However, a group of about 70 residents sent the council a petition asking that parcels in the corridor on Mead Avenue remain residential.
The council seemed close to scheduling a public hearing in October when Kyriacou said he thought the city might be moving too fast. The creation of a zoning district, he said, would be more appropriate to discuss during the city's next update to its comprehensive plan, which is expected in 2027.
New Meeting Rules in Cold Spring
Mayor cites threats, harassment
The Cold Spring Village Board on Wednesday (Nov. 29) approved policies to combat what Mayor Kathleen Foley described as harassment involving a "First Amendment activist."
Foley said that, since June, the Village Board, Police Department and village staff have been subjected to harassment that has escalated in recent weeks.
Earlier this year Leonard Filipowski, who online sources list as a 59-year-old resident of Fishkill, filed a complaint with the village, alleging he had been abused by Cold Spring police officers when he was issued a traffic ticket and during a subsequent appearance in traffic court.
Under the name Leroy Truth Investigations, Filipowski posts videos on YouTube that outline cases from around the country of what he portrays as egregious police misconduct. His channel has 29,000 followers; a 34-minute video about Cold Spring, posted two months ago, has been viewed nearly 51,000 times.
In another video that has received 40,000 views, he describes Foley as "the meanest mayor in America." After filming at the village's Community Day in July, he posted a video alleging "the people are scared" of local officers. He claims that Officer-in-Charge Larry Burke and Officer Kenneth Baker, who gave him the ticket, should be fired because they were named during past jobs in complaints or lawsuits.
In May, The Boston Globe described a scene in which Filipowski and a colleague provoked passersby outside a suburban public library in what they called a "First Amendment audit, a kind of performative protest that tests their free speech rights by confronting government employees in public places, often provoking objections that generate viewership. For municipal workers, the stunts add to the rash of hostile behavior many face these days."
Filipowski has appeared at several Cold Spring meetings, along with supporters, shooting video, even after he was asked to leave when he became argumentative and disruptive during the public comment period. On one occasion, after a meeting, he and his supporters followed board members across the street to Doug's Pretty Good Pub, where Filipowski was asked to leave by the owner.
Foley said Filipowski's followers on YouTube are prompted to harass public employees and elected officials with aggressive, even threatening phone calls, emails and social media posts.
"I have received threats on my life and threats on the lives of my family sufficient to warrant engagement by the district attorney and the FBI," Foley said. "This isn't a game; it isn't a joke. It is reckless, and frankly it's a form of domestic terrorism."
She said in the days after videos are posted village offices are inundated with what she described as disgusting, degrading messages. "The degree of misogyny, racism, sexism and violence in these contacts is simply nauseating," she said.
Under the new policies, recording video or audio anywhere in Village Hall except at public meetings will require permission.
Rules governing the public comment period will also be tightened. Going forward, a majority of the board must agree at each meeting to hear comments.
"We recognize and value a person's right to free speech," Foley said. "But there are appropriate times, places and manners in which those rights can be expressed."
There is no law in New York that requires municipal boards to hear comments except at public hearings. Each board makes its own rules. In a follow-up email, Foley said the Village Board would "consider questions from the press and the public on a case-by-case basis." She added: "It is appropriate and lawful for the board to choose, on a meeting-by-meeting basis, to restrict comment to topics on the current agenda, so that discussions are focused and productive.
"None of us would have chosen to modify the public comment policy in the way we did had we and our staff not faced such pressing, unrelenting threats and chaos in session," she wrote. "The policy does extend flexibility and discre
Philipstown Proposes Freeze on Large Oil Tanks
Environmental concerns drive call for moratorium
Philipstown is moving to impose a six-month moratorium on projects storing more than 10,000 gallons of oil products as it considers zoning restrictions to protect the environment and drinking water supplies.
The Clove Creek aquifer
Members of the Town Board voted Nov. 22 to schedule a public hearing for Dec. 13 on a draft law declaring that applications for land uses that include storage of oil products will not be "accepted, processed or approved" for six months. The Town Board would be able to extend the moratorium for two additional six-month periods.
Philipstown's zoning code restricts storage tanks and facilities of 400,000 gallons or greater in environmentally sensitive areas. Those areas include the Clove Creek Aquifer Subdistrict, which was created in 2011 and prohibits certain facilities, such as gas stations and landfills, and requires special permits for other uses.
But, according to the town, allowing properties to store up to 400,000 gallons of oil represents a significant danger of environmental damage from leaks, spills and the damage to tanks from natural disasters or extreme weather.
"We have identified a flaw in the zoning and are addressing it in an effort to protect the environment, specifically the Clove Creek aquifer," said Supervisor John Van Tassel.
The aquifer, which lies beneath the creek, parallels Route 9 from East Mountain Road South to the town's border with Fishkill. Groundwater from the aquifer feeds the wells that supply residents and businesses in the highly developed northern part of Route 9, and the towns of Fishkill and Wappinger, the Village of Fishkill and Beacon.
Along with Foundry Brook, which supplies water for Cold Spring and Nelsonville, the aquifer was identified as a key water source in the most recent Philipstown Comprehensive Plan, which recommends the creation of a watershed coalition to monitor its quality.
The current law applies to "a tank, holding facility, or other container for oil or petroleum of any kind and in any form including but not limited to oil, petroleum fuel oil, oil sludge, oil refuse, oil mixed with other waste, crude oil, gasoline and kerosene." The oil does not have to be for a property's main use; it can also be for "part of the main use, or an accessory use."
If the Town Board passes the version drafted, the moratorium would not apply to applications for single- and two-family housing or applications for multiple housing units "provided that the oil storage facility involved in the development is the minimum necessary to meet the needs of the proposed development and does not exceed 10,000 gallons."
Commercial developments would be exempt if the oil-storage facility is to be used solely for consumption on-site; the capacity is the minimum necessary for the development's needs; and the capacity does not exceed 10,000 gallons.
Property owners applying for "expansion, alteration or modification" of storage facilities that do not call for an increase in size or capacity also would be exempt.
112 Years of Local Scouting
Philipstown troop founded in 1911
Jaiden Gunther of Cold Spring led a recent meeting of Boy Scout Troop 437 at the Garrison Fish & Game Club focusing on wilderness survival.
Members of the troop, which is based in Philipstown, learned what to do if lost in the woods and how to build a shelter with sticks, leaves and moss.
Gunther, the troop's senior patrol leader and a freshman at Haldane High School, has been a member of the Boy Scouts for three years. He says he loves the organization because it gives him the opportunity to learn outdoor skills while having fun with his friends.
"It's not just tying knots," he said.
Scouting has a long tradition in Philipstown, dating to October 1911, when Scoutmaster Franklin Byxbe organized Cold Spring Troop 1, according to the Putnam History Museum. Its 20 scouts met on Friday evenings at Grove's Hall, at the corner of Main Street and Morris Avenue.
Troop 1 eventually became Troop 37. By the 1930s, it had dissolved and reorganized. Troop 4 in Garrison was created during the same period. At some point, Troops 4 and 37 combined to form Cub Scout Troop 137 and Boy Scout Troop 437, according to records from the National Eagle Scout Association.
Leaders like Gunther and Tom Campanile, Troop 437's scoutmaster for the last three years, continue the deep-rooted tradition of Boy Scouts in the community.
Campanile, a partner with the consulting firm Ernst & Young, became an Eagle Scout, the highest rank in scouting, in 1989. He has been an adult leader with Troop 437 for 15 years and is the vice chair of the Greater Hudson Valley Council of the Boy Scouts of America, which represents 7,000 scouts in Dutchess, Putnam and five other counties. His vision, he said, is to leave the organization as a "scout-led, adult-guided" organization.
"Every success I've enjoyed professionally I owe to scouting," Campanile said.
Tom Campanile, the scoutmaster for Philipstown Troop 437, collected these patches from national jamborees.
In the past few years, Philipstown scouts have canoed in the boundary waters of Minnesota, traveled to South Korea to participate in the World Scout Jamboree, skied downhill at Whiteface Mountain in upstate New York, sailed in the Bahamas and backpacked in New Mexico.
The troop's members have also traveled to West Virginia for the National Jamboree, a 10-day event held every four years that draws scouts from all over the country for activities such as concerts, bike parks and ziplines.
Locally, they have organized community-service projects, such as collecting and delivering donations for the Philipstown Food Pantry, building a drop box for old U.S. flags outside the Masonic Lodge in Nelsonville and decorating Cold Spring's Village Hall for Christmas.
Scouts from Troop 437 fish at the Durland Scout Reservation in Putnam Valley
Aiden Noormae, a first-year scout with Troop 437 and a seventh grader at Haldane Middle School, recently learned how to use a map and compass while completing a scavenger hunt at the Durland Scout Reservation, the Greater Hudson Valley Council's 1,400-acre camp in Putnam Valley.
Noormae, who lives in Cold Spring, described the outing, his first as a Boy Scout, as "good for the first 10 minutes," before rain soaked the campsite for the rest of the weekend. But waking up to the smell of doughnuts and hot chocolate wafting through the cold, wet morning air made the trip worthwhile, he said.
Jude Morrison is an aspiring Eagle Scout with Troop 437.
Letter: Renaming Library Would Be Affront to Black Veterans
It's come to my attention that the Alice Desmond and Hamilton Fish Library in Garrison is discussing changing its name, and that this is being done because of allegations that former Rep. Fish, the library's co-founder, collaborated with pro-German interests before World War II, thinking that we could and should avoid entering the war.
Among his friends and supporters there were many who disagreed that America should be involved in European problems. I am not a historian, but there was a time when even the late and great Franklin Delano Roosevelt indicated that he would never send our troops abroad.
Having said that, the main thing that I can add to this discussion is that the late Capt. Hamilton Fish III was one damn cantankerous patriot and warrior when it came to African Americans and their performance in combat under his leadership. I know much more about racism in the U.S. than I do about fascism in the 1930s, but I can assure you when African Americans - who were known as "Negroes" at the time - needed a friend, Ham Fish III was there.
Most people don't know that our great country refused to allow Negroes to participate even as volunteers in World War I. An exception was made for the 369th Regiment in New York, an all-Black unit. They were trained in segregated facilities, and as our military refused to allow them to fight with U.S. troops, they were sent to Europe to fight alongside French troops. Not only did Capt. Fish help prove that American Negroes were capable of fighting in World War I, he brought his troops home as the most decorated American soldiers that fought in that war.
In 1950, I was a volunteer in the U.S. Army stationed in Fort Lewis, Washington, with an all-Black, 155-mm howitzer artillery unit in an all-white division, then known as the 2nd Indian Head Division. We were the first U.S.-based troops to arrive on the Korean peninsula to help halt the Communists from invading below the 38th parallel, which had been set up by the United Nations to separate North and South Korea after World War II.
By the time I was discharged in 1952, I had a Purple Heart, four battle stars and Korean presidential citations, yet I was not well received in stateside veterans' organizations, whose leadership was largely composed of white men who had served in World War I and World War II.
However, right in my community - only a dozen blocks from where I was born and raised and where I live today - stood the 369th Armory and the home of the Harlem Hellfighters of World War I. They welcomed veterans of every war, including veterans of the Korean War.
The support that I received marked the beginning of the journey of a high school dropout who went on to serve as a member of the House of Representatives for 46 years, culminating eventually in my becoming the first Black chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee.
I cite this long history because the 369th played such an important role in the formation of my career and that of the many veterans of World War I who were attending meetings of the 369th Veterans Association. There I heard the stories of the 369th's role in Europe, and the legend of the courageous Capt. Fish battling racism in America and abroad in order to give Black soldiers an opportunity to defend our great country. It made me more proud than any of the medals I had earned in Korea.
I went on to become president of the Manhattan branch of the 369th Veterans Association and I participated for decades in the parades that we held each year. Black people and Black leaders would come from all over the country to share in our pride as we marched up Fifth Avenue, just as the 369th had marched after their return home from World War I.
Each year as we passed the grandstand, there was one elderly white man, standing tall and erect and proudly saluting the veterans of the 369th. As president of the association, I would return Capt. Fish's salute, while he stood there, in his 80s and later his 90s, saluting the troops.
Haldane Loses Heartbreaker
Haldane goes for the win but falls just short
The Haldane High School football team's season ended Nov. 24 when a last-second, two-point conversion failed, leaving the Blue Devils to reflect on a hard-fought 21-20 Class D state semifinal game.
The game, played at Middletown High School in Orange County, ended a season of triumph and tragedy for Haldane, the Section I, Class D champs, who finished with an 8-3 record. The Stillwater Warriors (11-1), the Section II, Class D winners out of Saratoga County, will face Tioga in the title game on Saturday (Dec. 2). Tioga (13-0) has won the last two state championships.
The semifinal game was decided in its final minute, when Haldane quarterback Ryan Van Tassel found Evan Giachinta in the end zone for a 32-yard touchdown. With 18 seconds left and the Warriors ahead 21-20, Haldane had a decision: kick the extra point and tie the game to send it into overtime, or go for two points and the win.
Serigne Faye advances the ball for the Blue Devils against Stillwater. (Photo by Frank Becerra Jr./The Journal News)
The Blue Devils went for the latter, and moved almost all of their offensive linemen to the left side. The play didn't fool Stillwater, however, and Van Tassel couldn't get off a good throw.
The trick play was one that Haldane had been working on all season. "Earlier in the week, we made the decision that we were going to go for two if we were in a situation like that and we were going to play to win the football game," said Coach Ryan McConville.
When it didn't work, the Blue Devils tried a last-ditch onside kick, but it was unsuccessful. With possession of the football, Stillwater took a knee and the win.
Haldane had the ball first to start the game, and on the second offensive play, Giachinta burst through a hole and scampered 48 yards for a touchdown, giving the Blue Devils the lead 37 seconds into the game.
The Haldane defense swarms a Stillwater runner during the Class D state semifinal. (Photo by Frank Becerra Jr./The Journal News)
Once Stillwater took possession, it became apparent that the team was going to rely on the run game and attempt to wear down the Haldane defense. With 8:04 left in the first quarter, an illegal participation penalty on the Blue Devils rescued the Warriors from a fourth-and-2. Moments later, Stillwater running back Jaxon Mueller took it in from 3 yards out.
Mueller, who is listed at 6-foot-4 and 232 pounds, proved to be a wrecking machine, finishing with 32 carries for 130 yards and three touchdowns. The scoring drive took 6:41 off the clock.
Evan Giachinta (25) races toward the end zone against Stillwater. (Photo by Frank Becerra Jr./The Journal News)
After a three-and-out from Haldane's offense, the Warriors marched back down the field. The drive, which began at the end of the first quarter, ended with another touchdown by Mueller, giving Stillwater a 14-7 lead with 10:35 left in the half.
The Blue Devils got the ball back and 36 seconds later the game was tied, thanks to Van Tassel's 53-yard rushing touchdown. But Stillwater would keep pounding and once again was in the red zone when Mueller barreled through for a 4-yard touchdown, making the score 21-14 with three minutes left in the half.
Stillwater started the second half with the ball and used nearly the entire quarter on one drive. With 1:40 left in the third quarter, it was fourth-and-goal from the 3 and the Warriors were lining up for a field goal.
Video by Jeffrey McDaniel
A Haldane defender jumped offside, putting the ball at the 1-yard line. Stillwater gave the ball to Mueller on the fourth-and-goal but the Blue Devils' defense held.
Haldane then started to move the ball behind Giachinta's rushing, but the drive was interrupted when a Van Tassel pass was intercepted. After trading possessions, Haldane found itself with the ball at midfield with 1:41 left in the game, but Van Tassel was again picked off on a deep throw.
Haldane had only one timeout remaining, so all Stillwater had t