Mayor sees no need for crowd law in K’hook

KINDERHOOK–Mayor Jim Dunham told the Village Board last week that he would not move forward with creating a law on mass gatherings in the village.

He had been discussing with board members and the village attorney some sort of law to make sure large public events like the protests in front of the office of Congressman John Faso (R – 19th) went off safely.

At the March 8 board meeting Mayor Dunham said of a law, “I don’t think we’ll pursue that.” He pointed out that the two major protests that took place at the end of January and February, with several hundred people attending, have “gone peacefully and safely.” He also said there were at least two smaller protests recently in front of Mr. Faso’s office, which is right next to the Village Square, that also happened without incident.

Mr. Dunham talked about the constitutional right to free speech and assembly. He said that if a group organizing an event wanted to use the bandstand in the square, they would need to ask permission from the board. But to use the sidewalk and the block-long village street that runs in front of Mr. Faso’s office was their right.

At previous village meetings the mayor had said the organizers of the protests, a group called Indivisible CD 19 NY, had contacted him before the events to let him know they would be there. He also said the State Police and county Sheriff’s Office were made aware of the events.

At the beginning of the meeting Stuart Peckner, who owns a shop next door to the congressman’s office, expressed concern about pedestrian traffic and parking during the protests. He warned the board, “It’s only a matter of time…we’re going to [have a] tragedy in the village” with someone hit by a car, he said.

In the past, Mayor Dunham has discussed the possibility of authorizing parking tickets in the village to help with the limited parking options, but he did not mention that option at last week’s meeting.

Also at the meeting:

• The board heard form Fire Chief Larry Eisen that he had received a list of chemicals stored at the CaroVail Fertilizer facility on Route 9, in the village. He said that though most of the chemicals stored there are “normal, everyday stuff, it just doesn’t do well when it burns.” He said that on the list were pesticides, fertilizer and other, similar products. He did not know how long they are stored there. But he said that putting out a fire there could cause in issue with runoff of chemicals, especially since the village wells are nearby.

“It’s a groundwater issue,” said Mayor Dunham. The board plans to look into it further

• The mayor said the Traffic Calming Committee was looking into the just-completed study of village roads. The study did not include Route 9, since it is a state highway, but Mr. Dunham said the state will do a study of truck speeds and the board will discuss reducing the speed limit on that road

• Village Historian Ruth Piwonka said that a sign to be put up at the African-American cemetery in Rothermel Park has been finished. The village needs to do some archeological work to identify where to put posts for the sign that will mark the site. She hopes to have that done by dedication ceremony May 13 at 11 a.m.

• Village Economic Development Director Renee Shur reported on four major projects that she’s been working on. She said a designation to make Kinderhook Creek a state waterway was moving along through the state legislature. That will help the municipalities along the creek apply for grants. She is working with the village Climate Smart Committee to see whether grant money can be used for a lighting study for the municipal parking lot. She is also working with several other village groups on creating a rack card with a map that links all the village’s historic sites. And she announced that materials for the monarch butterfly park at Mills Park have been secured thanks to help from Trustee Dale Leiser.

The next board meeting will be Wednesday, April 12 at 7:30 p.m. Village elections will be held March 21 at the Village Hall on Route 9.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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