By Robin Jovanovich
Rex Gedney’s forebears settled in Rye in 1690, more than half a century after they’d arrived in Salem, Mass. Rex loved growing up in Rye. As a teenager, his very first job was at Sunrise Pizza. “I worked for the original owner, Burt Scalisi. Sunrise didn’t deliver; yet, when I turned 16, Mr. Scalisi asked me to drive orders to longtime customers. There were lots of them.” Rex also worked at Playland, part-time, full-time over summers, and for architect Robert Crozier.
At Rye High School, Rex was a hockey star, and, after he graduated in 1975, he played on the Penn State team all four years of college. He decided to study architecture, a demanding major. “One of my professors told me I could be an architect or a hockey player, not both. Somehow that made me work harder.”
He went on to teach at Penn State, where he also earned a Master’s in Architectural Engineering. “I might have stayed on, but in 1983 my father died suddenly so I moved back to New York and landed a job at Edison Price Lighting. They were a well-known firm that worked on such projects as Philip Johnson’s ATT building and created the lighting for the Four Seasons restaurant. They were consultants to Louis Kahn. Mr. Price was good friends with I.M. Pei. I was also teaching graduate school classes at Parsons. It was an extraordinary time for me in every way; I loved living and working in Manhattan,” said Gedney.
Meanwhile, he had kept in touch with Bob Crozier, who would call to tell him about the projects he was doing on the Hudson River and several big ones in Greenwich. In 1986, Crozier invited him to come join him at the firm.
“I never thought I would move back to work in the town I grew up in, but somehow it made sense,” he recalled. “I was engaged, and my fiancée was excited about the prospect of moving to the suburbs. Laura and I ended up in Rowayton, Conn., where she grew up. Like Rye, it is a great place to raise a family.”
Rex has no regrets after undergoing office moving. “In the last 36 years, I’ve had the privilege of designing really nice homes,” he said. Not to mention restaurants — Rye Grill & Bar, Ruby’s Oyster Bar (his favorite), the Pier Restaurant (his first tiki bar), and Seaside Johnnie’s. Over the last 20 years he has done a number of additions and renovations at private clubs in the area — Coveleigh (several, including the current remodeling of the dining room), Apawamis, Manursing, Shenorock (14 and counting), and Quaker Ridge — and rebuilt one, Ardsley Country Club, after a fire.
Asked how many projects he and his team of nine are currently working on, he replied, “Ballpark? A lot!”
When Bob Crozier founded the firm 70 years ago, he numbered each project, starting with No. 1. When Rex joined Crozier, the firm was working on project No. 1,500. They are approaching No. 5,000.
“It’s taking on a challenge that keeps me going,” said Gedney in our interview in his office at 41 Elm Place. “I listen to clients, and, while I try to guide them in the best direction and away from a project that requires too many different permits, I build what they ask me to do.”
While Rex Gedney hasn’t lived in town since 1975, he is still a very big part of the fabric of the community — he serves on the Landmarks Advisory Committee and the Rye City Lions Club and is a volunteer with the Rye Fire Department — and that has stood him well. He’s in a place where everyone knows his name.