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LETTERS

The Rye Record often publishes good writing, and frequently publishes <very> good writing — Paul Hicks, Bill Lawyer, and Arthur Stampleman come to mind as consistently strong contributors. But Annabel Monaghan’s column, “Paved Paradise” in the September 22 issue rises to the level of <great> writing and deserves to be recognized as such.

Bravo!

Jonathan Spitz

Recently, an ad ran in this publication, suggesting any objections to the handling of the Disbrow Park/Thruway property decisions by the City Council majority are merely partisan rhetoric.

In response, I want to simply review the proposed actions and timelines put forth by the Council majority. No additional “partisan analysis” is required to show why many Rye taxpayers are concerned about the potential cost and impact of the Council’s plans.

At the June 7th Council meeting, although not listed on the agenda, the topic of the Thruway property/DPW redesign was introduced in relation to a “possible referendum ballot on fields or parking in November 2017.” For this to occur, final language would be required by September 8, before the September Council meeting; leaving only a single meeting in July for further discussion.

Councilmember Kristin Bucci dismissed concerns about the condensed timeline, stating that the Council could come up with a plan and final language by September, and recommending that people who have questions or want to see data send her an email. She even suggested scheduling a special August meeting, if necessary, because the opportunity was “too huge.”

I am curious how the “All Rye” team can explain this timeline as anything but the Council majority trying to finalize a huge decision with little public debate, and on an extremely accelerated timeline.

In addition, the All Rye team is now tying the Thruway property sale to the Disbrow Park reconfiguration.

However, Rye Country Day, Louden Woods and Rye Park neighborhood representatives all spoke at the June 7 meeting, and described likely <strong> neighborhood opposition to any move of the DPW to the Thruway location. This makes it unlikely that, even if DPW was moved, the City could use the Thruway location.

The current City Council majority refused to participate in the purchase of the Thruway property, leading to an agreement to have Rye Country Day purchase it, with an agreement to create field space for the City of Rye use. Further delay in the sale of the Thruway property might lead to an auction to the highest bidder. How can the All Rye team assert that this is in the best interest of the community?

Steve Otis’ proposed legislation does not require a sale to Rye Country Day, just allows it. And, the City of Rye has veto power if we don’t agree with the land use. Why does the All Rye team feel it is important to block a <potential > sale to Rye Country Day?

Finally, with a sale of the Thruway property to Rye Country Day, we might get a field that the City can use for $0, versus an estimated cost of $39 million for a DPW move, before cleanup or the purchase of property. With those costs factored in, the total could easily be northward of $50 million. How is this fiscally responsible?

There is little the public support for a complete reconfiguration of the park, and DPW move, based on the consulting work touted in the All Rye ad, in fact, a staggering 56% of respondents noted this option as “least favorite. In addition, the consulting work did not include any review of the existing recreational facilities in Rye, and how a Disbrow Park reconfiguration would fit into an overall master plan.

Although the Council majority scuttled their plans to ram it through, after a massive public outcry, I’d like to submit to the All Rye team that this proposal was poorly planned, extremely rushed, and certainly NOT best for all of Rye.

— Shari Punyon

By Emily Proskine Hurd and Danielle Tagger-Epstein

In recent months, Rye residents have been hearing and reading about the NYS Thruway Authority property, Disbrow Park, and DPW. We are glad people are paying attention, because the plan in its current form goes against Rye’s best interests.  

The property in question is the piece of land on the Boston Post Road across from Rye Country Day School. The City has eyed it for decades, both to use for recreation and to prevent unwanted development. However, the cost, $7.4 million, is prohibitive. Other projects — maintaining roads and buildings, improving existing playing fields, upgrading buildings at DPW, and paying for general City operations — take precedence.

Instead, last year, the City asked the State to sell the land to Rye Country Day with provision for sharing recreational use with Rye. RCDS generously offered to raise the necessary funds. NYS passed legislation to allow it, and it awaits the governor’s signature. For Rye, this is a great deal; we would get a playing field at no cost.

Yet this summer, in June, the Mayor and some Council members switched course and began secret efforts to possibly pursue moving DPW from Disbrow to the Thruway site. 

DPW facilities need updating. A Disbrow planning process has been underway. However, one of the proposed plans, moving DPW to the Thruway site, is simply unaffordable. Furthermore, it was conceived without analyzing the most economical way to add playing fields. It ignored the potentially enormous expense of the environmental remediation required to turn a DPW site into a safe playing field. Perhaps even more shockingly, it ignored the cost of buying and developing a new DPW site. This plan would cost $50 million dollars or more. To put this in perspective, the biggest City borrowing in the last 20 years was $4.1 million to modernize a firehouse.

And it would give us only one additional field. If RCDS buys, develops, and shares the property, we would get one additional field plus a track – for $0.

When they understood this, residents objected vociferously. In response, Mayor Sack and Councilman McCartney backtracked, saying, “We are keeping all options open.” Instead of moving on to realistic alternatives, they accused the plan’s critics of partisanship. Instead of acting with the transparency residents deserve (and NYS law requires) they have continued to pursue this plan with closed-door conversations and secret actions.

In June, Mayor Sack asked the Governor to veto the Assembly bill allowing RCDS to buy the land. He did this behind the backs of at least some City Council members, in violation of our City Charter. It also went against Rye’s best interests, as it could cause a return to the original plan of selling the land to the highest bidder.

Worse, the Mayor has discussed with the Mayor of Port Chester a joint DPW facility at the Thruway site. He did not disclose this to the rest of the Council or the public. Only when we asked did we learn that the discussion had taken place, and that Sack, through the City Manager, had helped Port Chester send its own letter to the Governor requesting a veto of the legislation allowing the land sale. This letter mentioned Rye, Port Chester, and Rye Brook sharing the site for their DPWs.

To do this behind the backs of City Council members, in violation of the City Charter, and without extensive analysis of its potential effects, shows disregard for proper decision-making and breathtakingly poor judgment.

It is futile to keep saying, “We are considering all options,” rather than admitting that moving DPW is unaffordable and unwise. When a plan is glaringly wrong it is time to drop it and move on.

I wanted to take a minute and say thank you to all the players, coaches, and umpires in the Rye Recreation Softball Leagues. We had another great season of softball and I hope you all had a great time playing in Rye.

I would like to say thank you to John Demarco and his staff for all his help with the fields this season. Rye is very well known by umpires and players alike to get games in when other leagues cancel after rain. This is because of John and his staff’s good work. 

Have a great summer everyone and we will see you next season at the field!

— Doug Scott,

Rye Recreation Softball Commissioner 

In July, the City Council endorsed a policy presented by the chair of the Human Rights Commission dealing with the City’s police, essentially providing that the City police would not give information to Federal immigration people except in limited circumstances.

The City Council endorsed this, a companion to sanctuary city legislation, on the grounds that it simply codifies existing practice.

Two things should be noted. First, if it simply codified existing practice, there was no need for it.

Second, while existing practice would not be binding on the City, by codifying the practice (or creating this practice), it created rights in anyone adversely affected by any error the City might make in what is now mandated as to what is permitted when dealing with the federal government on immigration issues.

In context, if prior to the codification an illegal immigrant were reported to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in violation of historic practices, and deported, that individual would have had no complaint against the City.

By codifying (or creating) this practice and making it binding on the police, that same individual could now point to the codification and sue the City if the policy were violated.

While this is a black swan event and the likelihood of this happening is almost non-existent, in light of the fact that the potential liability could be astronomical — presumably the difference between what the deported individual could earn in the States and what he or she could earn in his/her native country over the course of their business life — Rye should review this policy.

Irrespective of whether this is merely codification of existing practice, there is clearly no benefit to Rye from this.

I do not believe the City Council focused on the liability issue at the time they adopted the proposal.

They should review it and terminate it post-haste.

— Howard G. Seitz

When I called Rye Golf Club last month to inquire about the cost of pool membership for the summer season, I was informed that it would set me back $1,668. We are a British family and have been out of Rye for six weeks of the summer, so this was an eye-watering figure we couldn’t entertain.  

Howard Husock is absolutely right in saying that the Golf Club pool is a luxury good and that Rye is crying out for an affordable city-owned swimming pool. If the similarly affluent suburbs of Scarsdale and Great Neck can manage it, why can’t Rye?

My family and I recently discovered the eminently affordable public pool at Saxon Woods, just ten minutes down the road, and were hugely impressed. The high quality facilities are well maintained. The pool — Westchester County’s largest – is vast and the children's water play area kept our two sons amused for hours. We live in hope that one day Rye might enjoy something similar.  

With many thanks and kind regards, 

— Fiona Philip