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By Robin Jovanovich

Christian Miller, Rye’s City Planner these last 17 years, is a man of vision and of patience. He knows how long it can take to implement the best of plans — the just finished downtown Rye streetscape improvement took over eight years, for example. There were a number of bumps along the way.

His energies are now focused on a new City of Rye Comprehensive Master Plan, which will replace the one completed in 1985. The venerable piece of work encouraged historic preservation, recommended a shuttle bus for seniors, proposed creating parking lots on Locust Avenue to “satisfy the need for additional parking,” and assumed that “extensive demolition and redevelopment will be unacceptable because of desired low density levels.”

Community involvement is an important component of any long-term plan, Miller emphasized. “It’s not like selling glasses for an eclipse, but I’m hoping to excite the community. This is their plan, and should reflect their values.”

An updated plan must consider trends and demographic needs. According to Miller, Rye has a declining Millennials’ population and a growing number of seniors who want to age-in-place. To attract and keep residents of all ages requires a nuanced plan.

“Planners used to be futurists,” remarked Miller, “but decades ago no one was including the presence of large SUVs in their plans” — much less the disappearance of pay phones and brick-and-mortar retail establishments.

Part of any new plan, said Miller, will be pedestrian safety improvements, enhanced recreation, sustainability, and additional parking for the growing number of part-time employees who work at Rye’s many restaurants, fitness centers, and service businesses.

“The biggest industry in Rye is home development,” said Miller, who believes that is one of the issues that will draw the community in most. “A master plan should be a guide to land use now and in the future.”

The City’s 12-member Master Plan steering committee, along with a consultant, will be interviewing every City staff member, and is hoping to hear from every corner of the community.

“People like to talk about their community, and this is a positive opportunity to talk about the future of our community,” said Miller.

The City will hold the first of three public workshops on the Master Plan September 26 at 7 p.m. at City Hall. Meanwhile, get involved by signing up at www.ryeplan.com.

By Suzanna Keith

It was mid-August, and our first family trip to Europe was coming to a close. After an exciting Disney cruise with our three children that took the four of us to Naples, Florence, and Rome, we had gone on to Madrid and Barcelona and then enjoyed several delightful beach days at Sitges, a quaint resort town about 30 minutes northwest of Barcelona. I decided we should spend our last afternoon in Spain in Barcelona, where we planned to visit the Picasso Museum and do some shopping.

So after a fun morning at Sausalito Beach, one of the nicest beaches in Sitges, my two youngest and I drove down to Barcelona in our rental car, leaving my oldest son behind so that he could begin to do some things to get ready to return to college at the end of the summer.

The drive on the B-10 Motorway was quick and very easy, and we found a good parking spot not far from the Picasso Museum in La Ribera, an older section of the city. First, we decided to hit a few shoe stores in the Gothic Quarter that had been recommended by friends before we made our way over to the museum. As we neared the museum, though, we could see that the ticket line was around the block. We were told that some of the museum workers were striking that day, so everyone was forced to wait, and the clerk at the ticket window urged us to come back another time.

Not surprisingly, my 14-year-old and 12-year-old were only slightly disappointed. They really wanted to visit Las Ramblas again, their favorite shopping area in the heart of Barcelona that is anchored by a nearly mile-long pedestrian mall jammed with shops and sidewalk cafes. Since it was already late afternoon, my thought was that we could grab a snack along the way before hitting the streets and shops and then heading back to Sitges to pack for our flight home the following day.

We strolled toward La Ramblas, window-shopping on the way, and on the spur of the moment decided to pop into a Desigual outlet on the Plaça de Sant Jaume, a square in the center of the old city, to buy flip-flops for our daughter.

After that, our search for green tea matcha and a clean and free bathroom took us to a Starbucks on Carrer de Ferran, around the corner from La Ramblas. While we waited in line for our food, I struck up a conversation with another American woman and her teenaged daughter. They turned out to be from Michigan, and when I found out that the daughter was about to begin her first year at the University of Michigan, I was able to give her the names of some friends from Rye who were also going there. The three of us continued to talk, but then my children started to get very antsy, so I ended our chat and we exchanged phone numbers. In a short moment I would realize how fortuitous these slight delays would prove to be.

By Gretchen Althoff Snyder

I guess I was a little late to the party. The day before the first solar eclipse in the country in close to a century I actually focused on the event. Sitting on the beach with a friend on a sunny Sunday afternoon, I began to wonder if maybe I wasn’t taking the “once-in-a-lifetime” occurrence seriously enough. Whenever I watched the news or read something online, the warnings got more and more dire: apparently, looking directly at the moon eclipsing the sun would cause serious, long-term, irreversible damage to your eyes. Uh-oh.

Weeks before I had seen social media posts galore: where to buy the eye-saving solar eclipse glasses, which stores carried them, which stores were sold out. As the day got closer, people were desperately searching for the glasses, asking friends and strangers alike whether they had a pair to spare. I ignored all the commotion and went about my business; much more concerned that the heavy sound of cicadas in my backyard signaled summer was coming to an end.

With August 21 only one day away, the feeding frenzy started to get under my skin. Was I naïve to think my family didn’t need special protective glasses to shield our eyes? Maybe I was being too casual about the whole thing – maybe I was burying my head in the sand, all the while jeopardizing my children’s precious eyesight? At this point, there was little chance of getting my hands on those sought-after viewing glasses without a hefty price tag (I heard scalpers were charging $90 a pair on the Village Green).

That night, I woke up at 2 a.m. with my heart pounding out of my chest. Surely I had not taken this situation seriously enough. What if my boys and I were outside and, despite all our might, could not stop ourselves from looking up to the sky? I imagined flames shooting out of their eyes like something out of a bad 80s horror flick. What if our faces melted off like the character at the end of “Raiders of the Lost Ark?” In my head, all I could hear was that creepy little lady from Poltergeist whispering, “Come into the light.”

After tossing and turning for a good hour, I finally fell back to sleep. As soon as I woke, I hurried downstairs to my computer to read up on the imminent eclipse and how to protect our eyes from utter destruction. Thankfully, The New York Times had a very informative article with the exact time the sun would be partially eclipsed by the moon in our area, and instructions for an easy-to-make-at-home pinhole projector. All I needed were two pieces of cardboard or paper plates. I breathed a huge sigh of relief – I have paper plates – I can do this!

As 2:44 p.m. approached, I poked a tiny hole in one of the paper plates as instructed (really tiny just to be safe) and anxiously waited for the big moment to arrive. And then it was 2:44. Sadly, my homemade projector failed miserably – maybe the pinhole was just too small. The sky darkened ever so slightly, and my son and I managed to catch a quick glimpse of the eclipse by using the selfie mode on his phone with our backs to the sun. And then, just like that, it was over — at least for us — and our eyes were still in their sockets functioning properly.

The good news for many of us is that the next total solar eclipse in the U.S. will occur April 8, 2024. That gives me plenty of time to order the glasses.

By Paul Hicks

Pullquote: “We are not the first Americans to witness our political parties mired down in vitriolic political warfare.”

While delving recently into the period from 1776 to 1815, I was struck by certain episodes in our nation’s history, which bear remarkable resemblance to a number of current news stories:

*On July 9, 1776, upon hearing the newly adopted Declaration of Independence publicly proclaimed, 40 American soldiers and sailors under the command of Capt. Oliver Brown stole down to the Bowling Green in Lower Manhattan under cover of night. They lashed ropes around the gilded statue of King George III, pulled until their ropes broke and then pulled again.

By Janice Llanes Fabry

Where do I begin? Last December, our daughters told us they were pregnant, both due on August 22, 2017. Nine months later, lo and behold, Jesi gave birth to Cora Lane and Jena gave birth to Cole Richard at the same hospital, three days and two ounces apart. To admit it’s an embarrassment of riches is an understatement. At the risk of getting sappy, to witness two miracles of life in one week, both whom we met in the Labor and Delivery Room minutes after their births, is an affirmation of all that is good in the world.

Moreover, my husband and I have found ourselves in the unique position of having our grandchildren live with us. Our daughters and their husbands’ New York City apartment leases expired this summer and we persuaded them to move back home while they look for houses in Westchester and Connecticut. On a nesting spree, I unburdened myself of the girls’ childhood desks, art projects, and trophies to make room for bassinets, changing tables, and more baby paraphernalia than any unsuspecting newborn would ever need.

Once they moved in, everything ran pretty smoothly for a while as we awaited both babies’ imminent arrivals in the dog days of summer. We managed to have dinner and a few laughs together every evening after their commute from work in the city.

Then one night while we were all sleeping, our idyllic arrangement was turned on its head. Cora came along on a Thursday, Cole on that Sunday, and by Monday we were all together again plus two.

What a gift it is having a bird’s-eye view of our children’s new lives unfolding, and watching our daughters come into their own as young mothers. I’m also noticing sides of our sons-in-law we never saw before as they lovingly cradle their newborns. While one hopes to win a parent/child golf championship with his son one day, the other sings JT’s “Cry Me A River” to soothe his daughter whom he’s convinced will one day be president.

I may be the matriarch, who’s supposed to be adept at baby care, but it had been a long time since I held umbilical cord stumps and applied diaper rash ointment. Though I was a little rusty, it wasn’t long before I estimated that our two newborns go through 200 diapers a week and realized that a diaper can’t be fastened securely enough.

I’ve also finally learned the difference between a Pack ‘n Play and a Rock ‘n Play, and I’ve become quite proficient with the machinations of an UPPAbaby stroller. While sprints to buybuy Baby have superseded runs to Bloomingdale’s, pediatrician visits have supplanted manicure appointments. Speaking of manicures, I discovered tiny emery boards for our babies’ Lilliputian fingernails and clippers with built-in magnifier lights for middle-aged eyes.

Our expanding family still manages to have dinner together every night, only now a symphonic soundtrack of newborn-pitched cries plays in the background. Some of us sit at the table, while some of us stand and jiggle and coo.

Storied Lives

In the Swim With Kristina Dorfman

By Denise Woodin

After volunteering with the Rye Y’s Parent-Child swim class for a decade, Kristina Dorfman has seen all kinds: babies who cry or won’t leave their mothers’ arms; excited toddlers proudly showing off their new bathing suits; the fearful; and the kids who show no fear at all.

A native of Ontario, Canada, Kristina and her husband Rob migrated to London and New York City before landing in Rye in 2006. With two young children —their third would be born two years later — the Dorfmans quickly found their way to the Rye Y. Not long after, Kristina found herself chatting with the Parent-Child instructor after her son’s class. “She mentioned that the Y needed additional swim teachers for that class and they would train them,” Kristina recalled during a recent conversation. “My husband said, ‘You should do it!’ And ten years later…”

Most of Kristina’s experience came from the swim classes she took with her own children: Reece, now 13, Seth, 11, and Lily, 8. However, she was no stranger to water. Though she considered herself more of a runner, she grew up with a pool in the backyard and competed on her high school swim team. She also ran, biked, and swam in “a few” triathlons while in her 20s and 30s.

“Swimming was definitely something I felt comfortable doing,” she said. The teaching part took a little longer to ease into. “For the first five years, I had laminated notes. It’s kind of daunting to be in front of your peers and feel confident even though you know what you’re doing.”

Held in the shallow end of the Y’s Pa Cope Pool, the Parent-Child swim classes engage babies and toddlers ages 6 to 36 months in games, song, and water acclimation. Kristina teaches three classes on Thursdays, two of which are Swim and Gym classes.

“It’s like being a music teacher in the water,” she laughed. “Sorry, I’m not Dawny Dew or Armelle. But they don’t mind.” As she sings, Kristina shows the children how to blow bubbles or kick their legs. “It’s play-based,” she noted. “We want to get them splashing with two hands so they can pull with two hands when they get a little older and realize that’s what’s going to propel them forward in the water. You give them the skills, the building blocks. And when they’re ready, they’ll do it.”

As Kristina has learned to adapt her lessons to the varied needs of the very young, she has also come to understand their parents. Some feel self-conscious when their child cries. Some can’t swim themselves. “That’s the most interesting,” she observed. “When you see a parent who obviously just wants their child to swim because it’s been an inhibitor in their life.”

And then there are the parents who perhaps expect just a little too much from their toddler’s time in the pool.

“You have to manage the expectations and the emotions of both the parents and the children,” she said. “Some turn into independent swimmers when they’re little, and some don’t. Their biggest milestone is when they’re ready to leave their parent and move on to the next swim class.”

Rye Y Aquatics Director Vickie Tsakmakis says, “ Kristina is a selfless volunteer who has helped change the lives of many. She has taken the typical sing-along parent/child swim class to a new level.”

Kristina’s involvement with the Rye Y extends beyond the water. In 2009, she joined the Y’s Auxiliary Committee and then in 2011, was elected to the Board of Directors, where she served on the Financial Development, Program/Membership, and Executive committees. She enjoyed helping with the Rye Derby and the March Madness benefits, which raised money for the Y Cares financial assistance program. She also coordinated the Y’s private swim lesson program until it was rolled into a staff position. Although she left the board in 2015, she continues to serve on the Program/Membership Committee.

Reflecting on her years as a volunteer swim teacher, Kristina said, “I definitely get more out of it some days than I give. When I knew I had the time, I wanted to use it for something that was meaningful. The parents are so appreciative…and it’s nice to be part of the Aquatics team.”

She added, “And I can’t imagine the community without the Y. You walk in, and there’s a smiling face. You go to the locker room and you overhear conversations between seniors who are going out for lunch or inviting people they’ve just met in a class to a holiday party.”

<The author is Director of Community Impact and Social Responsibility at the Rye YMCA.>