The City Asks Only for a Fair Shared-Use Agreement for Thruway Property
Rye Country Day School, to the City’s great disappointment, terminated negotiations with the City over use of the valuable property owned by the Thruway Authority across the Post Road from the school. The negotiations were doomed after Assemblyman Otis passed a bill in June, without the City’s knowledge, that undermined our talks. Here is the story.
We have been negotiating a “shared use agreement” under Assemblyman Otis’ 2017 law. That law allows Rye Country Day to purchase the Thruway property at a fixed “fair market price”, rather than facing the normal public auction that might well produce a higher, bid-up, competitive price on property so close to both railroad and highways. The law requires RCDS to enter into a shared use agreement with the City of Rye before the purchase.
RCDS wants an agreement in perpetuity and the rights of an ordinary owner of property, despite its advantaged purchase and the shared use agreement requirement. The City wants to make sure that City residents will have a genuine opportunity to rent playing space on the property. A proper shared use agreement is the City’s only means of doing this.
In 2019, RCDS produced a term-sheet granting the school sweeping rights, including sole discretion to change the facilities on the property, change the terms to which renters must agree, raise rents above market, and change times of use. The City has been negotiating to get RCDS to acknowledge that its rights should not be used to limit or end shared use by Rye residents, either for the benefit of other renters or the school.
RCDS has taken a “trust me — I am a nice guy” approach. The City knows though that a forever agreement can’t assume that school administrations will remain consistent or that town-gown relations will be stable. The City doesn’t understand why the “nice guy” needs terms that allow it to be not nice at all.
Without telling the City, Assemblyman Otis passed a second bill in mid-June of this year to strip the 2017 law of references to the City of Rye and the shared use agreement. The new bill, not yet signed by the Governor, allows RCDS the same advantaged purchase, subject only to a uselessly vague public rental requirement. The Assemblyman passed the bill before the City had even replied to Rye Country Day’s terms. The Assemblyman claimed worry that the Thruway Authority might auction the property, an impulse the Thruway Authority denied.
One question immediately became plain: Why should RCDS respond to the City’s views if RCDS can fall back on the new bill, which fulfills their every dream?
In late June, RCDS demanded that the City not hold a public hearing on the draft terms. In August, RCDS, sent the City its “final offer”, referencing the new bill. In September, RCDS refused further negotiation.
At this point, the new bill remained unsigned. The City Council voted 5 to 2 to send a letter to the Governor urging him not to sign. Negotiations resumed, however, and the letter was put on hold. On November 1, RCDS again terminated negotiations.
The Council met on November 3 in duly noticed executive session, with a quorum present, and decided to renew the request to the Governor and also to send a letter to RCDS asking that negotiations continue on the few, but important, remaining issues. Every Council member knew or should have known that our deliberations would include the fate of the pending letter to the Governor. Protest to the contrary rings hollow.
Your City Council has no desire to inhibit Rye Country Day’s enthusiasm for the great investment it proposes to make. The Council majority, however, recognizes our fiduciary obligation to obtain a fair shared use agreement for the City.
- Mayor Josh Cohn