By Tom McDermott
On June 27, Stantec Consulting, which is assisting the City and the Recreation Commission in developing a Disbrow Park and Facilities Master Plan, attached some “probable costs” to various concepts it has proposed to improve recreation areas and upgrade DPW facilities in the 47-acre park. The concepts would also seek to protect woodlands and wetlands that make up about a third of the park.
The numbers stunned many in the audience at Damiano Center.
Stantec estimated that Concept C, which removes DPW from the park (a County water treatment plant would remain), would cost $35.1-39.9 million, depending on remediation costs. An alternative , Concept C1, which moves all DPW buildings to Feeley Field inside the park, was estimated to cost $33-39 million and requires the City to relocate the baseball field to an as yet unspecified location.
Concepts C and C1 include $6.7-10.8 million for non-deferrable costs related to recreational and public works improvements previously included in the City’s 2017-2021 Capital Improvement Plan. Gary Sorge of Stantec emphasized that all work and the costs would be phased in over a number of years.
To put those concept costs in perspective, the 2017 City of Rye Budget is $36.9 million.
The audience included a sizable contingent from Rye Country Day School, including Headmaster Scott Nelson and Board of Trustees President Andrea Sullivan. She, and others, urged Sorge and Rye Recreation Chair Bart DiNardo, who kept a tight rein on the meeting, to state that the probable costs did <not> include the $7.4 million cost to purchase a nine-acre NYS Thruway parcel across from the school. That is where the City was considering moving DPW, much against the wishes of the school, which was trying to work with the City and State Assemblyman Steve Otis on a plan to share the use of the land. The estimates did not include the purchase price.
Perhaps lost amidst all the tension surrounding the relocation of DPW, was concept B1, a combination of previous “Promenade” and “Commons” concepts. B1 keeps an upgraded DPW in the park, improves fields and pedestrian areas, and adds a dog run. Its estimated cost is $22.1-26.9 million, and with no need to purchase land for DPW. A relatively bare-bones Concept D was estimated to cost $12.8-17.6 million. All Concepts are available at rye.gov.
Meanwhile, Mayor Sack and Otis continued their public squabble over what Sack believed was Otis’ end-run when he introduced a bill in Albany to have NYS Thruway Authority sell the land across from Rye Country Day to the school. In a letter to Governor Cuomo, distributed via the City’s email system, the Mayor contended that the City told Otis to hold off on a bill, since it might reconsider its earlier decision to pass on buying the land. The Mayor asked the Governor not to sign the bill.
The bill includes the stipulation that the land be used for recreational purposes only <and> that the school must enter into a sharing agreement with the City. It passed both the Assembly and the State Senate. According to Otis, as of July 11, it has not yet been signed by the Governor. After each legislative session, the Governor receives batches of bills. “Once delivered,” Otis told the paper, “ the Governor only has ten days to act, so they do not deliver them all at once. This is the normal procedure.”
Sullivan confirmed that there are currently no talks between the City and Rye Country Day. “I asked the City to contact me if and when they see a partnership with the school as a viable option. I think an environmental assessment of the site would give us all a much better understanding of what can actually be built and at what cost.”
A long-planned “final” meeting at which Stantec was to present plans and costs scheduled for the July 12 City Council meeting was cancelled. Instead, the agenda included, “A public hearing on a November, 2017 Referendum to the qualified voters of the City of Rye a proposition for an investment in fields.” A note described the public meeting as “…ministerial only; the Hearing will be opened and closed and no action will be taken by the City Council.” The referendum was not discussed prior to press time.The referendum was not discussed prior to press time.
Asked if he considered the master plan to be on hold, Councilman McCartney replied that he did not. “The Rec Commission requested more time to conduct a review. That might take two to three more months. We’ll continue to gather information while they do their work and wait for Stantec’s recommendation sometime in the fall.” Asked if the City’s focus had turned from moving DPW to the Thruway site to possibly using it for playing fields, McCartney said, “We have not abandoned the idea of moving DPW there. We’re trying to keep our options open. Personally, I think it’s a perfect place for it. But it’s too early to say if it’s realistic. We have to look at the financial and environmental information. Playing fields are also a possibility. It might take a year or two.”