While Sustainable Playland’s plan has been going through the County review process, a tidal surge of unrest in Rye is mounting.
By Robin Jovanovich
While Sustainable Playland’s plan has been going through the County review process, a tidal surge of unrest in Rye is mounting. More and more Rye residents are questioning how much of the original vision — the Great Lawn, opening the park up for waterfront use and passive recreation, preserving the historic elements, increased educational and cultural opportunities, cutting back on the number of rides — is still in the plan.
At SPI’s February 25 informational session at City Hall, requested by Mayor Joe Sack, the public was given a chance to “register” their views. And they showed up and stayed, many for nearly the whole four hours the meeting ran, to do so. There were so many attendees, including members of the Board of Legislators and the chairman of the Parks Commission, that it was standing-room-only in the hall outside the Council Room.
Mayor Sack set good ground rules: “We don’t want this meeting to be a pep rally. I hope we can make good progress tonight.” He added, “It is legitimate to say we need more field space, and also legitimate not to put a field house where it’s going to cause negative environmental impact.”
It’s difficult to say how much progress occurred, although a lot of new voices were heard; a number proffered alternate proposals to the proposed 95,000 square-foot field house, most notably an inflatable dome on the Rye Recreation field instead.
SPI President Kim Morque provided a great deal of information about the nonprofit’s mission and management structure. He also emphasized that bringing back the park’s original landscape remains part of SPI’s vision, with a “lush connection to the water.” Once the Playland Improvement Plan is approved, in “year one,” according to Morque, their plan is to create the new fields, construct the field house, remove the miniature golf area, and restore the colonnades, a $12 million investment on the part of operators.
The facts about the Field Zone were presented by Norm Gill of Pinnacle Indoor Sports. He noted that the field house footprint is 33 percent smaller than it was on the original RFP (Request for Proposal). In his professional opinion, the 35-foot-high sports facility will not have a visual impact on the views of neighboring Roosevelt Avenue residents.
Engineers addressed questions about potential flooding. They noted that pervious turf fields were replacing 3.8 acres of asphalt, drainage improvements will be made, and SPI plans to install water quality controls.
Traffic/parking engineer Rich Pearson explained that an extensive study of 11 intersections with Playland Parkway had been performed. In his summation, he stated that there would only be six days a year where parking will be over capacity and satellite parking needed.
The accuracy of much of the information provided by SPI representatives was strongly disputed by longtime resident and former City Councilman Mack Cunningham. Among his comments: neighbor’s views will be affected because fence netting will have to be installed to prevent balls from league games ending up in yards; the parking study was done during a period of heavy rain; the plan is based on 2007 FEMA maps, which are far removed from the 2013 FEMA and insurance maps, which New York State has not yet adopted.
Midland Avenue resident Joe Porter, who said he has followed the SPI proposal from the beginning, reasonably stated, “To have a proponent mention Bryant Park [as a model] was very impressive. A set of values that the public and private sectors agree on is a good idea. As the Board of Legislators goes through its review process, does it make sense to establish a set of values since 2006?” He added, “What’s important is the collaborative process you establish with the community involved. In the design development of the field house, I hope there is room to change.”
George Szczerba, an Adelaide Street resident, questioned SPI’s claim that the field house will have no impact on neighbors as it will sit 100 feet from some and 75 feet from others. Further, “a similar facility in Ardsley has 1.5 million visitors a year. Playland has one way in and one way out. I ask the Board of Legislators not to approve this plan as it exists now.”
Morque reminded listeners that the park is in very compromised shape. “The field house is an integral part of the year-round plan. Revenues generated by operators will go back to the County and the restoration of the park.”
The next BOL meeting is March 11. Legislators plan a site visit on March 18. They’ll focus on traffic and parking issues at their March 25 meeting. The committee will meet with Rye officials April 8.