Part two of Wigwam’s conversation with Mayor Randy Casale, which took place in mid December.
What do you see for the next two years?
I see development. I see, hopefully in the next two years we’re going to see some good development coming—sustainable, smart development which will enhance our business district, make it sustainable. Because if we put more people closer to our business hub, more people will shop here, which will give the businesses more clientele to make money, and as people see that, more businesses will want to come here.
People are concerned about parking in Beacon. Is the city looking for ways to address that?
I’ve been looking at putting parking meters on Main Street, to make it paid parking, to make sure people move, there’s a turnover of vehicles. Parking’s not free, there’s a cost to making parking lots, there’s a cost to putting parking stripes on the road. I believe there should be some funds coming back in from parking. Not only will that help in turnover in traffic, it will also help in our society with more people thinking about walking down to Main Street if they can, or parking in a lot and then walking up and down Main Street.
Right now, they want to park in front of every store they want to go to. I just think it’s something that we’ll never be able to satisfy, so we need to look for other avenues. I’ve said all along a parking problem is a good problem because it means your city’s got some energy. As of now I don’t see a parking problem because I’m around a lot and I see a lot of our parking lots empty. But they’re not right where the people want to go.
I would love, and I probably will never get it done, but one of my goals when I took over, is that spur rail going up from MetroNorth to Fishkill, I’d like to see them run a simple trolley along there, that would pick a hundred people up and bring them back and forth. I think that would solve a lot of problems.
A lot of the proposed development is right on the creek.
And as Texaco gets developed, and park and rides, it would solve problems down at the train station. I know it’s expensive, but they make these trolleys now that you can run on road or on tracks. You put one person on it. It’s one car going up five or six times a day. But you gotta get MetroNorth to buy in . And that’s the tough part.
Right now what they’re going through with that accident, they’re probably not going to be in a position to do much. But my other argument is if they can’t afford to do nothing, let us use it as a bike trail. Because if we could bike along there, we could almost get up all the way to Hopewell, to the Walkway over the Hudson. It would enhance the economics of our community, Fishkill’s community, East Fishkill’s community. And we’re working on the Fjord Trail to get from Beacon to Cold Spring. If we get that done, it’s just going to enhance the whole southern Dutchess. If we can make those connections, we become a worldwide bike and greenway tourist attraction.
Will all this development fundamentally change the nature of Beacon?
You know I don’t think it is, and the reason I say that is because when I lived in Beacon in the old days, all down here that’s open [ed: near City Hall and the waterfront], if you look at old pictures, it was all houses built right on top of each other, right on down to the river. We lost all that population.
When we had industry, we had different volumes of traffic. We had tractor trailers coming in. I remember being highway superintendent, tractor trailers being hung up on Tioranda, going down to Tuck Tape and those places, trying to get over the railroad tracks. In the winter it was a nightmare. That’s the type of traffic we had then. I really don’t think it will be that much of a difference. And I think our cultural thinking, people are starting to think more about walking, biking. And they want to move back to a city so they can walk and bike to where they want go and not use the car as much.
You know, the bad times in Beacon was because of suburbia. Suburbia started getting built, everybody wanted to live out in the country, everybody wanted to be in their big houses, and they didn’t care where they drive. Now I see people wanting to be able to walk down to Main Street, to go to their local pub, to go to their local store, and not have to get in their car. That’s the way it was when I was young. We walked everywhere. They tell me Green Street’s too far. We walked everywhere, to all the parks, the schools, everywhere.
A lot of the commerce in town is oriented toward tourism. Is the city looking for ways to encourage diversification?
That’s one of my biggest concerns. I said many years ago, we really didn’t learn from our mistakes because all our eggs were in the basket of industry. And when industry went belly up in Beacon, Beacon went belly down. Now all our eggs are in the arts and in tourism. We’ve got to find a way to diversify.
I don’t have that answer yet. I’m thinking about it. I was thinking about hiring a headhunter and going down to New York and seeing if any of the big office people would be interested in moving up here and have the people do the reverse commute. Have the big shots come here and have the workers be able to walk to work. To get small industry here, say the film industry, this back room stuff that people do that’s not done out on the lot, it’s done by editing stuff. If we can get some of them to build a place here to put people to work it would help us. But we have to start looking to diversify because any good portfolio is a diversified portfolio.
My other big concern is, and I know a lot of people moved here from Brooklyn. But they moved here because it was expensive in Brooklyn. I don’t want our community to become so nice that we can’t afford to live here and we gotta come visit it. And that’s a fine balance. Because that’s what happens a lot of times….People that make big money down in the city will be able to move up here but people that live up here and commute and work around here because you don’t make that kind of money will have to move out of here. And that’s a concern to me. The key to that is whatever government is here, how to control spending, share services to keep the cost down.
You ran as a “one and done” mayor. Do you still feel that way?
I believe in one and done because I believe too many politicians make decisions to garnish themselves blocks of votes so they can win the next election. I’d rather look at everything that comes before me, and not worry about the next election and vote the way—because sometimes the right vote is not the popular vote. And when the time comes to run again, if somebody asks me, I’ll make a decision. But right now, as I said when I ran, I ran as a one and done, because I believe if you start thinking about two terms, you’re not thinking about what’s right for the community, you’re thinking about how to get the blocks of votes because all those blocks get you elected again.
But if you’re having fun and…
Well, I’m having fun. I can tell you this, I’m enjoying every minute of it. I’m here every day. I enjoyed talking to everybody I’ve met, working with everybody, and I believe my mind has expanded from learning from people that I met. The new people that moved here brought a lot of good ideas here. And, as mayor I took on some of the toughest issues that no other administration would take on. I took on the cops, nobody would do that. Nobody. And I’ve been around a long time and they were, carte blanche. And I knew when I took them on I was gonna get beat up. And I bet if I run again for reelection a lotta the people that voted for me, won’t be voting for me next election. I believe a lot of firemen won’t be voting for me, because we’re making changes. I believe they are changes that need to be made, for the better of the future of the community, and I’m not worried about the votes.
Read Part I of this interview: