At the 7th Annual “Community Conversation” held by the Rye Town Park Commission on May 14, residents of the City and Town of Rye shared their views about the Park with Commission members.
By Peter Jovanovich
At the 7th Annual “Community Conversation” held by the Rye Town Park Commission on May 14, residents of the City and Town of Rye shared their views about the Park with Commission members. To a man or woman in attendance at the Park Pavilion event, the message was “Don’t Change the Park.” In particular, residents expressed displeasure at the thought of signing a contract with a private, for-profit operator.
Carolyn Cunningham, former Rye City Council and Planning Commission member, and current chair of the Rye Conservation Commission, spoke for many in saying: “The park is for public use and should not change from its mission.” Cunningham acknowledged that improvements needed to be made, and urged the Commission to ‘think creatively” to keep the historic buildings intact.
Several Rye residents spoke to the potential of volunteer efforts to help save the park – measures that didn’t cost tens of millions. Rye resident Bill Bisceglia, a member of The Friends of Rye Town Park, urged the Commission to “draw on the talents of the community” and “find people who can give their time and effort to save the Park.”
Helen Gates, who has served Rye in so many ways, including As Executive Director of Rye Arts Center, suggested a myriad of ideas to help raise money for the Park, among them: Conduct an annual appeal; throw some fun outdoor/fundraising events, e.g. Parks and Recreation: Knope! (Invite Amy Poehler to a luncheon), or Picnic in the Park or Sunset Supper: food, views, music; research and apply for Grants, and apply for Capstone Project (free consulting services) through local universities.
“The Park is perfect,” declaimed Jamie Jensen, who lives right across the street. “But why would be talking about spending $10 million or more on a building without a purpose?”
The cost of repairing the Administration buildings did seem to be top-of- mind with the Commission members in attendance. City Council member Julie Killian and Mayor Joe Sack from Rye, Paul Rosenberg, Mayor of the Village of Rye Brook, and Rye Town Supervisor Gary Zuckerman all alluded to a potential cost of as much as $14 million to restore the historic buildings.
The Commission has been searching for ways to deal with the renovation issues. As Supervisor Gary Zuckerman stated early in his term, there are three choices: “Do nothing, have government invest funds, or seek private sources of capital.” The RFQ originated during the term of Zuckerman’s predecessor, Joe Carvin. The idea was that a private public partnership might generate funds to repair the historic structures.
However, consistent opposition from the public, as witnessed on May 14, and growing disquiet among Commission members, led Supervisor Zuckerman to propose at the May 17 meeting of the Commission to rescind the RFQ. Zuckerman believes “the Commission needs to examine the alternatives, including revisiting the budget for capital expenditures.” The Commission, which voted unanimously twice to approve the RFQ, voted unanimously to rescind it.
In speaking with The Rye Record, Supervisor Zuckerman acknowledged that over the years there has been “little appetite within the Commission” to spend the capital necessary to repair years of neglect of the Park’s historic structures. Now that a public/private partnership is off the table, the Commission’s constituent governments (Port Chester, Rye Neck, Rye Brook, and Rye City) may be faced with two alternatives: “Do nothing,” and, as one resident remarked: “Let it crumble.” Or, vote to spend government dollars to save the National Landmark and its beautiful Pavilions.