Award Winner, Rising Revenues, New Commish,
Consideration of New Leaf Blower Law
BY ROBIN JOVANOVICH AND TOM MCDERMOTT
At the October 20 City Council meeting, Mayor Cohn took great pleasure in announcing the recipient of the 2021 John Carey Award — Councilman Richard Mecca — who was thoroughly surprised and humbled. He said he would knock on neighbor Carolyn Cunningham’s door the minute he got home. Cunningham received the award in 2019.
In his remarks, the mayor praised his colleague, who has served on the Council since 2014 for “his tenacious dedication. Rich has served on the Board of Architectural Review, the Flood Advisory Committee, the Master Plan Task Force, and the Planning Commission. He is also a longtime volunteer with the Rye Fire Department.
“He has made meaningful contributions to community life, and we appreciate his experience, insights, and his warm and collegial style, even when he disagreed.”
In his third quarter results report, City Comptroller Joe Fazzino said, “The news is good across the board, and it will benefit us next year.”
Among the good financial news: sales tax is up 18% and mortgage tax, building permits, and parking meter revenues are already at or what was budgeted for the entire year.
City Manager Greg Usry asked the City Council for their consent in hiring a new Commissioner of Public Safety. The Council unanimously agreed with his selection of Mike Kopy, a longtime state police supervisor and former volunteer fire chief who has served as Director of Emergency Management for the Governor’s Office since 2019. Kopy is a Mamaroneck resident.
Usry thanked interim Commissioner Lt. Mike Anfuso, “who has done a tremendous job the last three months while we conducted a search.”
While still dealing with the destruction from Hurricane Ida, the Council tackled one of Rye’s persistent bugaboos: leaf blowers. They opened a public meeting to discuss a proposed local law entitled “Landscapers and Leaf Blower Regulations.”
If approved, regulations would be significantly different: Beginning in January 2022, all landscaping companies would be required to register with the City annually; the party operating the machine, and the person who employed that party to operate it, <and> the party who owns the property would be subject to $250 or $350 fines for first and second offenses; a third offense would lead to revocation of a license for six months and any landscapers found operating after revocation would pay a $1,500 fine.
The biggest change is that, beginning in January 2023, all fuel-operated leaf blowers would be prohibited; only electric leaf blowers would be allowed.
The proposed law also reduces operating times by two hours a day from October 1 to April 30. Leaf blower use would still be prohibited May 1-September 30.
Under the new law, the city, schools, religious institutions, clubs, golf courses, hospitals, retirement communities, and cemeteries would continue to be exempt. City Manager Greg Usry said that the main issue is with private landscapers on small residential properties close to other properties, and not with large parcels with more dedicated maintenance crews.
Kate Briggs, a landscape designer, told the Council the law would “hurt the smaller person starting a business and probably double the cost of maintenance” for residents. Resident Bob Zahm applauded the effort but wondered how enforcement would change. Although Usry admitted enforcement would basically remain the same, he said other towns had found that the stricter penalties led to fewer infractions.
Leslie Winters, who lives on Grace Church Street, perhaps the most frequently cited area for leaf blower abuse, stated that few infractions actually lead to fines and questioned why the R-1 zone is exempt. “Why treat R-1 and R-2 differently,” she said. “The entire City should stop the use of leaf blowers.”
Milton Point residents Rob Alexander and Gibby Kane were supportive, both arguing against club exemptions. Kane played a tape he’d made at 7:15 that morning in his bedroom of loud leaf blower use from Shenorock Shore Club.
Landscaper Curtis Spacavento criticized the new law and the electric machines. “They do not last a half-day. We have an e-blower that does not work. People have stopped planting trees because they don’t want to deal with leaves.” Regarding enforcement, Spacavento said, “While the police are checking permit tags on trucks, on the other side of town someone may be having a heart attack.”
It was not surprising that Mayor Cohn left the public meeting open.