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By Jamie Jensen

While the town has achieved surpluses in its operating budget for two years running, deferred maintenance costs to the sea wall and the landmarked buildings are estimated to be as much as $14 million.

The Rye Town Park officially opens its summer season today. From all accounts, there are many things to celebrate this season, including a roadmap for the park’s future.

The Ocean Grill, which has replaced Seaside Johnnies as the waterfront restaurant (and concession operator) for the park, is open daily from 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Owners Al and Joe Ciuffetelli are responding to community feedback and have built a reasonably priced menu with crowd-pleasing, healthy options. Not only is the menu making folks smile, they have opened a café which features a bakery case and café tables in the restaurant vestibule. Plans are to begin serving coffee at 7 a.m. Additionally, the owners will pilot a Friday night concert series with the first scheduled for late June. As the purveyors of both the Ocean Grill and the beach concession stands, Al and his partners are hoping to add bit of fun and some culinary variety to the park goers’ experience.

Park Director Terri Fanelli and Assistant Director Bill Lawyer are finalizing the season’s programs thanks to local sponsors TD Bank, Atria Senior Living, Carpet Trends, and the Ocean Grill. Among the program highlights are the Tuesday Night Concert Series in the South Pavilion, an evening magic show and outdoor movie night for families in July, and the Lawn Chair Theatre’s staging of Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” the last weekend in July. The Rye Free Reading Room will bring summer story time back to the park on Tuesday mornings. On a more permanent basis, the Rye Arts Center and Soul Ryeders are working separately on new installations for the park. Details for all the events can be found on the Rye Town Park’s new website, http://townofryeny.com/rye-town-park-and-beach.

Behind the scenes, the Commission has much to do and the publication of the NYU Capstone Report brings several critical issues into high relief. Last fall, a team of NYU Wagner Master of Urban Planning students joined with park officials to formulate recommendations for an action plan. The officials from the Town of Rye asked the team to focus their work on a guiding question <“How do we (RTP) steward and maximize access to this social good while working to protect it?”> The question captures the tension faced by the park: How do we maintain public access to this precious 62-acre property located in the heart of our community while preventing overuse? With over 1,000 respondents to the survey, more than a dozen extended interviews with community leaders, and three public forums, the NYU Capstone team had much to sift through and share.

Some of the most notable recommendations from the report include the need for active engagement of community members in assembling a vision for the park and developing a strategic plan; transparency in the day-to-day operations of the park and communications with all its stakeholders; and a strong park conservancy, like the Central Park Conservancy, that can build on the legacy of the Friends of Rye Town Park and expand to reflect the changing nature of the park’s community and its needs.

Currently, operating revenue is generated from user fees – beach permits, day passes, as well as rental fees. While the town has achieved surpluses in its operating budget for two years running, deferred maintenance costs to the sea wall and the landmarked buildings are estimated to be as much as $14 million. What taxpayers have been willing to overlook for years is now becoming an outsized problem that both the Town of Rye and the City of Rye can no longer ignore.

The park, rich in history and natural beauty, is one of the few beachfront parks on the Sound Shore that is still open to the general public. And despite recent budget surpluses, there are constraints to what can be accomplished. The fee-based revenue stream, a complicated governance process, deteriorating infrastructure, and continued overuse during the summer months pose long-term threats to the health of the park that require community vigilance and additional funding. The common refrain among local residents, “this is a park, not a parking lot,” continues to be heard loud and clear.

Last Sunday, the Rye Town Park Commission held its annual community-wide meeting under the South Pavilion. Let us hope that the Commission gives citizens many more opportunities to engage in the strategic planning process — something that needs to happen if there is to be any benefit from the work of the NYU Capstone team.

It’s hard to say no when someone comes to you with a plan to make your quality of life better, in this case your wireless capacity. But after months of review and listening to the community point out all the detriments to quality of life that Crown Castle’s plan to install node-bearing equipment in the public right-of-way posed, the City of Rye turned down the proposal.

On May 12, Crown Castle filed suit, alleging breach of the Federal Telecommunications Act.

While the news may have sent shock waves through the residential community, which hoped that the matter had been put to rest, Rye’s Corporation Counsel Kristen Wilson said she was not surprised. “I expected the suit on the day it was filed,” she said in a phone interview this week.

The City’s response papers are due May 26. Crown Castle has until June 6 to comment. The City Council’s next regular meeting is June 7.

When asked for her opinion on whether the court is likely to decide for the telecommunications industry or the community in Rye’s case, Wilson pointed to decisions for the former in Greenburgh, and the latter in Pelham.

A number of Rye residents in opposition to Crown Castle’s plan on behalf of Verizon to add 64 nodes throughout the city have pointed to what did and didn’t happen in Scarsdale. “Crown Castle started installing nodes without notification, and village officials figured out its rights and responsibilities to residents,” said Josh Cohn.

Meanwhile, Rye is in the process of revising its local telecommunications law, which it is hoped will dissuade any and all wireless providers from proposing cell sites next or near to residential properties.

— Robin Jovanovich

By Gretchen Althoff Snyder

Parents, teachers, coaches, and administrators all need to send the clear message that there are no good drugs for adolescents.

Nearly a year after the RyeACT Coalition held its first meeting amidst serious concerns over teen drug and alcohol use, things appear to be headed in a better direction. On May 9, the Coalition presented the results of the November 2016 survey, in which 90% of Rye students in grades 7-12 participated. The results show lower rates of past 30-day alcohol use across all grade levels than in the November 2014 survey. Significantly, 53.2% of 10th graders reported using alcohol in the 2014 survey, whereas only 35.5% reported past 30-day use. The numbers for 11th graders dropped from 75.7%% to 58%. And, with the exception of 12th grade, marijuana usage decreased across all grade levels.

Despite the lower numbers, alcohol use among Rye 10th and 12th graders is substantially higher than the national averages — respectively, 35.5% versus 19.9%, and 71.7% versus 33.2%. E-cigarette usage among Rye teens is also way above the national average.

 

 

 

Spring was in full bloom at the Jay Heritage Center on April 20, as guests were treated to a stunning display of daffodils from local gardens. As they sipped spirits provided by Wine at Five, guests admired countless varieties of daffodil specimens entered in the Little Garden Club of Rye’s annual Daffodil Show. 

 

Proceeds from the evening will benefit the Jay Meadow Restoration, and will go towards planting thousands of daffodils throughout the Jay Heritage grounds.

 

— Kathleen Durkee

 

 

Cheryl Adler, chair of the Daffodil Show, with her husband Ed 

 

 Phyllis Schmiedeberg, Little Garden Club president, and Scott Sherman

 

Chris Duncan, Suzanne Clary, and Liz Garrett co-chaired the Cocktail Party 

 

Disbrow Park Master Plan Gets Fast-Tracked

By Tom McDermott

Mention Disbrow Park to Rye residents and you could get a dozen different reactions. The 47-acre property is known for its Little League and softball fields (Grainger, Founders, Feeley), public tennis courts, and an often-soggy soccer field (Sterling). It is also home to Rye’s Recycling Center, various DPW garages and storage buildings, and a County treatment plant. One-third of the property is designated wetland, through which Blind Brook picks its way. All this, and basically one access road from Oakland Beach Avenue, limited parking, and many traffic safety hazards, particularly when young athletes are about.

One thing many residents seem to agree on: It’s time for a fix. Which is why late last year the City retained global design and project management firm Stantec Consulting to help prepare a Disbrow Park Master Plan and cost estimates.

The first of four planned public meetings to enlist feedback from area neighbors, recreation user groups, and interested residents took place May 11 at Rye Recreation’s Damiano Center. The same day, an online survey went live on the City’s website, ryeny.gov.

At the meeting, Lisa Dempsey, chair of the Rye Recreation Commission, introduced Gary Sorge and Jennifer Waldron of Stantec who conducted the meeting and breakout sessions. City Councilman Terry McCartney and Mayor Joe Sack observed and participated in the breakout meetings.

Some residents voiced a concern that not enough notice had been given for the meeting or the survey; others were particularly worried about protecting the wetlands. But as the night progressed, the four smaller breakout sections allowed for concerns to be heard while eliciting ideas and suggestions.

Each breakout section shared its combined thoughts regarding the park’s assets, current weaknesses, opportunities, and possible threats presented by a new design. Common assets mentioned were the natural beauty and need to protect the wetlands (in a FEMA flood zone), central location, and valuable field space. Many agreed the fields needed to be fixed – especially Sterling Field, buildings need to be nicer, traffic flow must be improved, more parking and restrooms were musts, as well as safe drop-off areas. An opportunity to create better sight lines at Feeley Field emerged, as did the idea of a new walking path. Some saw too much parking as a threat to the park, and a basic conflict of purposes between the recreation and public works functions.

On May 31 at 7 p.m., Stantec will present preliminary plans based on resident input and information gathered from the survey for further public comment. Based on feedback from that meeting, Stantec will present a preferred design alternative on June 20. Both meetings will be held at Rye Rec. A “final” presentation will take place at the July 12 City Council meeting.

On Saturday night April 29, Rye Police Officers responded to a noise complaint at 6 Barberry Lane. Upon arrival, officers observed approximately 30 under-aged individuals drinking what appeared to be canned beer on the rear deck and inside the home. Numerous empty cans of Bud Light were scattered throughout the yard. Many fled as police arrived at the scene.

During the investigation, one of the officers observed a 17-year-old male in possession of a nine-pack of unopened beer and one open Bud Light in his hand that he dropped and kicked under the car near where he was standing. Several individuals were detained and identified and evidence was confiscated. The homeowners were not home.

Public Safety Commissioner Michael C. Corcoran stated, “This is an ongoing investigation into who may have supplied the alcoholic beverages, which will include interviews with multiple parties.” Corcoran added that an anonymous tip was submitted through the Tip Line, which led to the department’s response.

“Rye Police Department will continue to take a zero-tolerance approach to under-aged drinking and the hosting of these types of parties,” said Corcoran. RPD Detectives continue to investigate the case, with charges pending.

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