The Boat Basin in Milton Harbor, a key Rye amenity for hundreds of boat owners and kayakers, got a new lease on life last week. In a unanimous vote at its October 18 meeting, the Rye City Council authorized a $6.1 million project to dredge the marina and channel to a depth of at least five feet, to clear the way for sailing, yachting, and paddling even at low tide.
The majority of the cost, $4.38 million, will be paid by the Boat Basin through slip holder fees. The City will pay the additional $1.7 million to continue the dredge, already underway, of the Blind Brook channel. A $350,000 Federal Emergency Management Agency grant, received by the City following Hurricane Ida, will be divided equally between the City and Boat Basin treasuries. The Council authorized a five-year loan to the Boat Basin Enterprise Fund to enable it to pay the dredging bill as it comes due. The Fund will repay the City with five percent interest.
The vote was the culmination of an effort that City Manager Greg Usry noted “began a decade ago” and reflected, added Mayor Josh Cohn, the combined efforts of the Boat Basin Commission and the Finance Committee. The last Boat Basin dredge took place some 18 years ago, stated Usry.
Boat Basin Commission Chair Joe Pecora, who has championed the project, was exultant.
“I’m so happy I have no words,” Pecora said, in thanking the Council.
An increased depth, he told the Council, is key to keeping the Boat Basin competitive with similar facilities in New Rochelle and Greenwich, an important consideration because many slip holders are non-Rye residents who pay 50 percent higher fees to dock. The Boat Basin rents space to some 600 crafts.
Fees will be going up 12 to 15 percent for all slip holders depending on the length of a boat. Non-resident fees, a key revenue source for the self-supporting Boat Basin Enterprise Fund, will rise by only 3 percent, however, in order for the Marina to remain competitive. Pecora expressed his belief that post-dredging, the Marina will become more attractive and able to charge higher fees.
“If you go to a restaurant and the price is high and the food is lousy, you won’t go back,” he said. “If the food is good, you forget about the price.”
The extensive dredge will remove up to 25,000 cubic yards of soil and silt from the Channel alone; just 40 cubic yards, said Pecora, is enough to fill a large dumpster. The Boat Basin docks will be removed temporarily as well. The cost is owed, in part, to the toxic nature of the soil of the Basin, once home to a commercial boatyard that left behind lead and petroleum. Because of its toxicity, the soil must be trucked to a landfill in New Jersey, rather than simply being dumped at sea.
In other action, the Council took a key but not final step in moving forward another quality-of-life infrastructure project — the $2.8 million construction of sidewalks on the south side of Forest Avenue from Apawamis to Davis avenues. The goal of the project is to make it possible for neighborhood children to walk safely to Midland School. In another unanimous vote, the Council approved a resolution to accept a report that found the sidewalk would not increase the risk of flood or erosion or create other environmental ill effects. Neighbors, including Tod Smith of Forest Avenue, called for the Council to consider ways that additional flood mitigation, particularly around the driveway of the Rye Community Synagogue, might be incorporated into the project.
In contrast to the Boat Basin dredging, which may get underway as soon as next month, the sidewalk project must receive design approval from the State Department of Transportation, which is covering $1.8 million of the cost. Once the City gets that approval, it still must go through the public bidding process for a contractor. Mayor Cohn expressed his hope that construction could begin in the summer of 2024.
Notably dropped from the Council agenda at the last minute was potential approval of a new fee schedule for Rye Golf Club, which is planning its own $1.5 million capital improvement to upgrade golf course irrigation, the swimming pool, and the event and restaurant space at Whitby Castle.
In leaving it off the agenda, the Council put off what will likely be a controversial Club proposal to charge a higher, first-year fee for new members. That proposal has drawn opposition in the past. Consideration of Golf Club fees will be on the agenda of the Nov. 13 Budget Meeting at City Hall, which is open to the public.