banner1gif.gif

State Senator George Latimer and Assemblyman Steve Otis are pleased to announce state construction grant awards for the New Rochelle and Rye City library systems. The grants are part of a $19 million capital fund appropriation for public library construction in the 2016 state budget.

The Rye Free Reading Room has been awarded $31,129 to create a quiet study space, while the New Rochelle Public Library will receive $78,804 to install a new HVAC system in its main building and a $28,804 grant to replace the interior windows of the Huguenot Children’s Library.

Otis, who serves on the Assembly Libraries and Education Technology Committee, stated: “These grants will help modernize and enhance our library spaces, making them more efficient, functional, and enjoyable for residents. State assistance for these important projects eases the burden on local property taxpayers to make these improvements.”

Latimer added, “For many years, libraries have served as a cornerstone in our communities. We have a responsibility to our communities — parents and children as well as the libraries, staff, and dozens of volunteers who support them — to ensure that the facilities are top-notch and best serve all those who utilize them.”

Rye Free Reading Room Director Chris Shoemaker said, “The new quiet study spaces will give teens and tutors a place to learn, and small business owners places to work and grow. We’re grateful for our legislators’ longtime support of libraries and the construction grant program.”

By Gretchen Althoff Snyder

The Central Business District Streetscape Improvements Plan, funded and approved by Rye residents in 2012, is now in the final phase. While construction and related traffic patterns have made maneuvering the downtown area quite challenging of late, residents and business owners should be relieved to hear that the wait is almost over – weather-permitting, the construction should be in the next several weeks.

The main objectives of the project are to preserve and enhance the Central Business District character and reinforce the downtown as a place of social gathering, replace deteriorated infrastructure, enhance the overall pedestrian experience, preserve traffic flow, and minimize parking loss.

The construction commenced on Smith Street in September 2016, and since that time the City has completed all curbs, sidewalks, curb extensions (also known as “bump-outs”), drainage, street lighting, and tree installation. The final phase of the project, reconstruction and repaving of Purchase Street, Elm Place, and Smith Street, is now in full force.

Despite rumors, Purchase Street is not being changed to a one-way street. During the current construction, which includes adding a raised traffic-calming intersection at Purchase and Smith streets, northbound traffic on Purchase between Locust Avenue and Elm Place has been detoured. All other streets (with the exception of Smith Street, where it intersects with Purchase) remain open. This phase includes final paving of Smith between Purchase and Boston Post Road.

Joey Forgione, construction foreman on the project, said they are currently laying the Belgian block in the center of Purchase Street, and that, weather permitting, the east side of the street should be paved on June 12 or 13. The detour will then be moved so that work can be completed on the west side of Purchase. Forgione anticipates this last phase, which includes final paving on Elm, will take one to two weeks.

The community can look forward to several new features, in addition to the bump-outs already in place: a raised intersection at Purchase and Smith (with no stop signs at this intersection), a new “all-way” stop at Purchase and Elm, and left turns now permitted from both Smith and Elm onto Purchase. While there is no parking on Purchase opposite Elm, new spots have been added on the west side of Purchase, south of Elm. Overall, about four parking spots were lost due to the project.

By Tom McDermott

A larger but more skeptical audience attended the second Disbrow Park Master Plan meeting at Damiano Center May 31 than the one three weeks earlier. A number of residents voiced their displeasure at the Recreation Commission and City Hall about a lack of communication regarding meeting schedules and an online survey. The survey ran May 11-25 on the City’s website with 261 responses, which Stantec Consulting’s Gary Sorge characterized as statistically reliable.

Sara Goddard, Chair of Rye’s Sustainability Committee, who is also a Democratic City Council candidate, said she “only heard about the meetings through a resident’s message on her Committee’s website.”

While the May 31 meeting was meant to discuss those survey results and present preliminary design plans, some residents were asking more basic questions: “What was the impetus for making changes”?; Who got the ball rolling”?; “What problem are you trying to solve”?

City Planner Christian Miller told residents, “We knew we needed public works improvements and saw an opportunity to look at a plan that would accommodate recreation improvements as well. Before we invest in public works and park improvements, let’s do some planning.”

Stantec presented three alternative plans, all of which moved the main access road from Oakland Beach Avenue to the west boundary of the park: Plan A, “The Commons”; B, “The Promenade”; and C, “Park Expansion”, a radical approach that would eliminate public works facilities, except for a County water treatment center, from the park. Residents were asked to note their likes, dislikes, and concerns regarding each plan.

Residents clearly found Plan C to be the most interesting alternative, followed by Plan A. Many were put off by a version of Plan B that included an additional DPW-only access road. Plan C, however, prompted a logical question from residents: “Where would the City put public works and how much would that cost?” Lisa Dempsey, co-chair of the Recreation Commission, told the audience that an alternative location would be presented at the next meeting.

Goddard later told the paper, “It’s a risky enterprise to entice one neighborhood with the prospect that DPW could be moved and plop it down into another neighborhood.”

City Manager Marcus Serrano confirmed that the strip of land near I-95, across from Rye Country Day School, currently owned by New York State Thruway, is a possible future DPW facilities site. Serrano said, based on resident feedback on the Disbrow plans to date, the City Council may consider “moving DPW there, or building a new playing field there and keeping DPW at Disbrow.” A partnership between the City and Rye Country Day to jointly buy the land from the for athletic fields fell through several months ago.

The subject of playing fields and the possibility of moving DPW to the Thruway site arose at the June 7 City Council meeting during a discussion of a possible November bond resolution. Councilman Terry McCartney described the enthusiasm of residents for moving DPW and the “incredible opportunity” available, asking that people at least keep an open mind on the issue. Councilman Richard Mecca also fully supported the concept. Other Council members were noncommittal.

Andrea Sullivan, President of Rye Country Day’s Board of Trustees, told the Council that the school was interested in reviving talks regarding a field-sharing agreement, but cautioned that the school would not support moving DPW to the site. That sentiment was echoed by a Loudon Woods resident.

Stantec will present two edited alternative plans June 20 at the Damiano Center at 7 p.m. Survey results and the May 31 plan presentation are available at ryeny.gov.

Completion Date for Affordable Housing Project in Sight

The idea of constructing affordable housing in Rye, on a site owned by Westchester County, goes back to the 1980s, but it wasn’t until 2013 that the dream began to take shape. And by early next year, expect to see people moving in to the four-story, 41-unit building going up at the intersection of Theodore Fremd Avenue and North Street.

Earlier this month, the last hurdle was completed, and with the project financing in place, developer Lou Larizza expects the modular units to arrive any day.

All the preliminary site work on the 2.07-acre property development was completed by the spring of 2016 and it was hoped the project would be completed by last fall.

However, the New York Housing Finance Agency reported a huge backlog in processing new projects, which delayed the start by many months. But, reported Larizza, thanks to the efforts of State Senator George Latimer and Assemblyman Steve Otis, the project got back on track.

By mid-April, all the infrastructure and utilities were in place, and the office and other non-residential elements of the project the grounds near completion.

The units will start arriving from the Scranton, Pa., in early June, and take about two months to be assembled, using cranes to mount them down from above — sort of like a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle, or Legos.

When finished, 27 of the units will be counted toward the Federal government’s requirement of 750 affordable housing units throughout Westchester County.

Michael Martino, an associate of Mr. Larizza, estimates the project with be completed within another six months, with people moving in by January or February of 2018.

— Bill Lawyer

Two Democrats and two independents are running together as a ticket on the Democratic line for City Council in this fall’s election. In a joint statement, Josh Cohn, Sara Goddard, Julie Souza, and Ben Stacks said, “Our goal is a City Council that responds to residents’ concerns and welcomes public participation. We are running because you deserve to be heard.”

Cohn, who is running for Mayor, is best known by the community for co-founding the citizen’s group, Protect Residential Rye, in order to prevent, in the short-term, an application to install cellular equipment in the residential right-of-way, which would negatively impact quality of life and home values all over town.

Watching the current City Council handle citizen concerns was “motivational” for Cohn, a Rye resident since 1991. In a conversation last weekend, he said he’s been disappointed in the Council’s response on a number of issues, not solely Crown Castle’s application to install 68 mini cell nodes. “The fact that the current Council comes to public meetings ‘pre-decided’, before hearing from the community. Their actions and behavior convinced me that I could accomplish something.”

Among those tangible “somethings” is: taking better care of roads, finding funding for dredging at Milton Harbor, strengthening the City’s tree law, and ensuring that residential development projects don’t diminish Rye’s character or add to citywide drainage issues.

“I am not anti-development,” said Cohn. “We should neither discourage the development we need, nor a thriving real estate business. But we must do so with an eye to preserving the character that drew so many here.”

Cohn, who retired last year from Mayer Brown, a leading global law firm, of which he was a partner and head of the U.S. derivatives practice, says he has the energy and the enthusiasm the job of mayor requires and will be a good financial steward, finding efficiencies and securing more grants.

As founder and chair of the Rye Sustainability Committee, which produced the Rye Sustainability Plan and won national recognition from the EPA, Sara Goddard has been a strong and steady leader on conservation and protection of the environment. “I am a task-oriented person who likes to get things done, and one of the reasons I am running for City Council is that I’ve been frustrated by the Council’s inability to get things done, especially in an empathetic way.” She added, “A level of empathy defines how I conduct my life.”

Goddard says one of her primary goals is to ensure that the community works <with> the environment — in the form of a strengthened tree law, and pesticide-free public property.

Since leaving the world of energy and structured finance to raise three children, Goddard has volunteered her time and skills to benefit the Rye community full-time.

Ben Stacks is Market Manager for Northeast Commercial Real Estate at Capital One Bank. A longtime member of the Rye Traffic and Pedestrian Safety Committee, he is active with the Protect Residential Rye residents group.

In addition to a career in sports media, Julie Souza serves on the board of directors of Carver Center, is president of the Loudon Woods Neighborhood Association, and volunteers with Midland Elementary School, POTS, and the Children’s Philanthropy section of the Woman’s Club of Rye.

— Robin Jovanovich

By an overwhelming majority, 1,275 to 259, voters approved the Rye City School District’s $86.9 million budget for 2017-18 on May 16. Considering that the budget called for a modest increase in taxes, 2.2%, and that it was tax-cap compliant, strong support of the District was expected.

School Board members Karen Belanger and Blake Jines-Storey were reelected with 1,276 and 1,109 votes respectively. While they ran unopposed, there were 63 write-in candidates.