Do you pay your mortgage with your credit card? Do you sell a piece of jewelry to cover expenses at the end of the month? Of course not. But you know who does? Westchester County under the leadership of Rob Astorino. Rob Astorino has “branded” himself as a “no tax increase” County Executive. And that is true — he has not raised taxes. But instead of raising taxes he has used the County’s credit and is “privatizing” assets to cover the budget shortfall. That is fiscal mismanagement in my book. Here are some facts: The budget shortfall in Westchester County for 2017 was $15,000,000. A modest increase in taxes could have made up the difference. As an example a homeowner with a $20,000 property tax would pay roughly $150 a year. So for 50 cents a day, we could have no budget issues. I would sign up for that in a heartbeat. Instead, Westchester County has borrowed $15,000,000 from reserves to offset operating expenses with the expectation that Oak Tree Equities will pay it back when they take over the airport. If the deal doesn’t happen (and there are lots of questions about it), guess who pays that money back? You and me! So if you think you are avoiding taxes, guess what? You are getting a balloon mortgage coming back to bite you, with interest. This is a shell game. He’s passing the buck to the next guy. Rob Astorino wants to privatize the airport and give up control so he can continue saying that he didn’t raise your taxes. The first step in this process should have been to see if the county could have better monetized the airport. If that analysis failed to produce the desired results, then he should have created an open process to get the best deal. Instead, he suggested that we accept a deal with Oak Tree Equities without any other bidders in a completely closed process. Can you imagine a business approaching a deal of that importance and magnitude without getting multiple proposals? The County Executive has set a ridiculously fast time line to make the airport decision; faster than any timeline the FAA has ever approved. Importantly for the County Executive, the process would culminate right before his reelection. 8 Here’s the net of this. As we saw with the attempted Affordable Care Act repeal, without replacement in Washington, Republicans are great on rhetoric, bad on policy. Astorino has his own political advancement as his motivation. I have zero confidence that he has my or Westchester County’s best interests at heart in this deal or managing this county. — Mona Klein Klapper, Rye Brook

For some time now I have been concerned about the horrific noise level in our local restaurants. Some of the noise is due to deliberate design, with nothing but hard surfaces and loud wait staff, but I also think that folks’ manners, expressly the lack thereof, is greatly responsible. People need to be reminded to keep their voices down. No one needs or wants to have to speak louder because of inconsiderate people at the next table or across the room.


We had dinner on Purchase Street last week. It was positively ghastly. You could hear the noise a block away. I told the manager as we left, and he immediately concurred, screaming at the top of his lungs, though I could barely hear him.


Needless to say, our special dinner with our daughter was a huge disappointment. Everyone in the place was shouting. No one even tried to speak at a polite level — they just yelled louder.


It is rude to disrupt other people’s meals with loud voices. We all need to be reminded of basic courtesies and manners. 



— Nancy Jane Carson


Kudos to Don McHugh for his thoughtful article on McMansions in Rye… “The Character-Changing Consequences of the Building Craze on Our Community.” As a former member of Rye’s Board of Architectural Review (1990-2001), I can confirm that in the early ’90s we too saw it happening, and we did what we could to inhibit excessive size. Under the leadership of BAR chairs (the late) Wendy Rolland and then Nick Everett, and with Planning Commission collaboration, we tightened the rules for calculating permissible floor area (for example, by requiring that two-story entry halls be counted as two floored spaces).  

Loss of privacy is prominent among the “character-changing consequences” of ballooning houses Mr. McHugh has identified. He mentions how his neighbor’s house looms over the six-foot fence that separates their backyards; he fails to note, however, the character-changing consequence of the fence itself. In the 1990s, as megamansions were blooming throughout Rye, we were also seeing more and more six-foot fences, as homeowners sought to scratch back a few feet of privacy.  This bothered the BAR, not so much for aesthetic reasons as for its predictable social impact — increased isolation of neighbors and an erosion, however subtle, in our sense of neighborhood and community. Sadly, today, fences, walls, higher hedges – and gates – increasingly define Rye.  


— Otto Spaeth

The more City Council meetings I watch, the more dismay I feel at our local government’s lack of responsiveness. 


I attribute this to Mayor Joe Sack, who appears to favor commercial interests over residents’ quality of life. For example, he ignored massive rock chipping projects, Starwood’s United Hospital Plan, and Crown Castle’s wireless proposal — until citizen outrage forced him to take notice. 


In a single, typical meeting (December 7, 2016), Sack said he wanted a solution to Crown Castle proposal that “benefits the entire city and not [the 64] individual property owners” who are upset at the prospect of being forced to host wireless mini-cell towers on their lawns. He interrupted resident Josh Cohn, who was speaking politely and appropriately, with a long, angry, and utterly inaccurate tirade. One resident told me she found Sack’s treatment of Councilwoman Emily Hurd in the closing section of that evening so distressing that she had trouble sleeping that night. 


If Mr. Sack decides to run for re-election, I predict that he will suddenly appear more interested in residents’ opinions. Voters should not be fooled. This November, we should choose a Mayor who works for the benefit our community all the time, not just when running for office. 



— Meg Cameron, Rye Democrats chair


Thank you for the excellent article in the March 3 issue by Don McHugh about the building craze that has gone unchecked in our community. I would like to think our Mayor, City Council members, members of the Board of Architectural Review, the city planners, and every single real estate agent in town read it, but I hold no illusions. Are Rye’s leaders ever going to realize they are letting developers destroy the character of this town?

Every time I see a “For Sale” sign these days, I snap a picture of the house because the certainty that it will be demolished and replaced with a monster is so great. So much so that when one sells and doesn’t get torn down I want shower the new owners with gratitude. More frustrating than the ominous “For Sale” sign, though, is when a house is just suddenly under demolition, with no warning until the bulldozers appear, because it was sold directly to a developer. Shouldn’t there be some oversight and review before a house, especially an old, charming, and possibly historic one, can be torn down and replaced?

Isn’t there a good chance many of these so-called teardowns might be sold to people willing to do renovations and updates, rather than allowing developers to replace with something that is almost always too large for the lot?

Every house in Rye doesn't have to have six bedrooms, does it? Whatever happened to the idea of a starter home? And what about the many baby boomers that might love to downsize to an affordable cottage, or a ranch with fewer steps to climb? It feels like Rye is telling empty nesters, “Just leave,” and middle-income starter families, “Forget about it.”

When did Rye give free reign to developers to build the monstrosities Mr. McHugh described, on lots way too small for them? These ghastly look-alike behemoths, many of which are built on spec, have no place on the average street in Rye. One need only look at the number of spec houses that have been sitting unsold for six months or longer. Isn’t it time for Rye to just say enough?

It’s not just about the houses either. At a recent Council meeting, Councilwoman Tagger-Epstein mentioned that Rye was once a USA Tree City, but had lost that honor in recent years because of the loss of so many trees. And yet, developers take them down, unrestricted, all over town, or carelessly destroy the roots of whatever few remain, so that they too are eventually dead or dying. The developer responsible for the monster mansion on our block a few years ago not only took down four beautiful trees but undermined the roots of four more that were eventually also lost. How long are we going to continue to let this happen?

Mr. McHugh listed countless reasons why this overbuilding is not good for our city, so I won’t repeat them. But I would urge people to get up in arms about this. Do we really want to see Rye turned into a mini-suburbia, all humongous houses with plastic-looking landscaping, fewer and fewer old-growth trees, no character, no charm, and no history? Because it’s what’s happening. We need to stop it now, or soon, very soon, it's going to be way past too late. 



— Bonnie Council


I was struck by School Board President Katy Keohane Glassberg’s remark that “We all acknowledge that we live in a tax-cap world” (“School District Proposes $86.9 Million Budget, 2.64% Tax Levy Increase,” February 17, 2017). I’m not sure what bothers me more — the sense of resignation that this comment conveys or the fatalistic message it condones. 

We may, indeed, live in a tap-cap world, but we don’t have to like it or accept it as a permanent condition. I regard Governor Cuomo’s tax cap as a prescription for the slow death of quality public education in Rye. The extent of the damage is not always noticeable right away, like a slow leak in an automobile tire. But, when “the tire” starts to wobble and you lose control, the results can be dangerous and the damage too late to repair.

To be clear: I’m not advocating higher taxes. What I wish our community members, school officials, and elected representatives would fight for is a return to “home rule.” As in the past, the citizens of Rye alone should decide the size of the school budget, based on what’s needed to continue to provide our children with a first-rate education, not by having to overcome an arbitrary limit set by politicians in Albany by extraordinary means. 

— John E. Stafford

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