Former First Lady of New York State and newly-appointed Putnam County Director of Tourism Libby Pataki attended the Putnam Valley Town Board’s meeting to present her office’s ideas on how amenities and services for tourists could be enhanced that would lead to a financial benefit for the citizens who reside here and the businesses that are located her.
“While I don’t believe that tourism should drive the agenda in Putnam County by any means, I do believe that economics should drive the tourism agenda…for that reason, I try to think at a policy level what could we do to try and enhance what we do for tourism in this county,” Pataki said.
The following week, she said she had plans to attend the Metro North Expo in order to work on ideas on how to facilitate tourists’ mobility inside of the county after they arrive at one of four trains stations in Garrison, Cold Spring and the Town of Southeast.
“They want to get off at one of the four train stations and go somewhere by foot,” she said, adding that she wanted to enhance a trolley system that now operates in Cold Spring to offer an expanded route at least once a day.
Central to her proposals was the lack of overnight accommodations in PutnamCounty, adding that it was sad news to hear of the recent closures of the Bird and Bottle and Kittleman House bed-and-breakfasts.
“They are coming up there, but they are only staying for the day,” Pataki said of tourists who take the train north. “These are international tourists with money to spend.”
She added that the people of Putnam County are extremely friendly and welcoming to tourists and that the infrastructure to lodge them had to be brought up to par to match that personal hospitality.
“We need to get them to stay in the county for a few more days. Then we could get the ‘bed tax’ which Putnam County doesn’t have either,” she said.
At the very least, she said she would like to see an inn come to Putnam County, adding that she didn’t believe the residents of Cold Spring, currently the municipality in Putnam to host the most tourism, would welcome a large chain hotel.
“It’s just not going to play,” she said.
She said she is working to identify an developer who might come in and take over the Manitou Point property that she said the currents owner, namely Scenic Hudson, is aggressively trying to unload.
Would like to see the “two enormous structures” on the Campbellp roperty in Cold Spring and the mansion on the old Outward Bound headquarters in Garrison potentially developed into inns.
She said Garrison is the “land of institutes,” noting the number of non-profits in the community; a status that means some properties are taken off of the tax rolls.
“That’s all the more reason to get hotel,” she said.
Other ideas included working with a ferry service out of Newburgh in Orange County on the other side of the Hudson River to ferry people to Putnam County, developing a bike path on Route 9D from Cold Spring to Beacon in southern Dutchess County. That bike path would also keep day hikers going to Breakneck Ridge, which Pataki said was the most climbed in the Hudson Valley, from navigating the extremely narrow shoulder on Route 9D, on which pedestrians are frequently hit by cars.
Pataki also said the tourism office’s website had undergone a redesign; one feature of which was to showcase the many cultural and ethnic festivals that take place in Putnam Countyduring the spring, summer and fall months.
The members of the Putnam Valley Town Board have actively been working on a plan led by the Putnam Valley Area Chamber of Commerce to beautify the downtown area; one goal of which is to attract more tourists.
Putnam Valley Town Supervisor Robert Tendy said that he sees hundreds and hundreds of hikers in Fahnestock State Park and the Taconic Outdoor Center every weekend and said there had to be some way for the town’s businesses to tap into that.