The community was invited to a forum to voice their thoughts on the operations of Rye Town Park last season and changes they’d like to see this season.
By Robin Jovanovich
The community was invited to a forum to voice their thoughts on the operations of Rye Town Park last season and changes they’d like to see this season. And they came out in full voice last Saturday morning to the forum co-sponsored by the Friends of Rye Town Park and Rye City’s Rye Town Park Advisory Committee.
Rye Town Supervisor Joe Carvin and Rye Mayor Doug French were on the dais, with the other members of the Rye Town Park Commission: Town of Rye Commissioner Benny Salanitro, Rye City Councilwoman Laura Brett, and newly-elected Rye Brook Mayor Paul Rosenberg. Joan Feinstein, Rye Brook’s former mayor, who was in the audience, will continue to serve on the Commission.
The main topic of discussion was not what to do about unleashed dogs at the park, which many officials acknowledged was a growing issue and one they’ll deal with through greater enforcement this season, but how to fund, at minimum, $12 million in capital repairs. With that challenge in mind, and after a “deliberative process,” the Rye Town Park Commission has sent out a Request for Proposals (RFP).
“The RFP is a broadly crafted concept,” said Supervisor Carvin. “It gives proposers an opportunity to manage a specific part of the park or the entire park. It’s open to nonprofit organizations, as well.”
Mayor French said this was a good step. “We don’t have a capital budget. The cost to fix the Administration Building alone is $4 to $5 million.” He added that while there are grant monies, without another partner both Rye City and the Rye Town would have to come up with a $1 million each to fix the building.
“For fifty years, there was no investment in the park buildings, unfortunately,” remarked Carvin.
Councilwoman Peter Jovanovich asked the Commission if there were any downsides to public/private partnerships.
Mr. Carvin assured listeners that the municipalities would never relinquish oversight in the park. Mayor French said that when the time came the Commission should be able to work out an asset management agreement, similar to the one County Executive Rob Astorino signed with Sustainable Playland in April, would be put in place when the time came. Councilwoman Laura Brett remarked that everyone involved “was sensitive to the history, neighborhood, and the environment.”
In recent weeks, Carvin reported, he has been approached by spas and wellness centers interested in taking over space in the Administration building.
Several residents in the audience expressed concern about the potential for over-commercialization. One said, “I think the park should be thought of as a place of respite.”
The park has both active and passive uses, commented Mr. Salanitro. “With limited resources and today’s economics, we have to strike a balance.”
Councilwoman Catherine Parker brought up another important question: “If the Town of Rye is going to be dissolving (as has been proposed and is being worked on in the legislature), isn’t there an issue of control?” She recommended that the Commission explore further fundraising opportunities. Parker pointed to the proposed field house at Rye High School, which is being funded privately, as a good example.
Carvin said he’d hate to see the RFP “held hostage to the dissolution process.”
The RFP is available on the Town of Rye, City of Rye, and Rye Town Park websites.