Rye Town Supervisor Joe Carvin took some heat at the Rye Town Park Commission Meeting on January 15. Residents and a Rye City Council member grilled Carvin about the deterioration of the park. But Carvin, as chairman of the five-member commission, quickly calmed the critics by detailing recent repairs and longer-term park improvement plans.
By Jon Craig
Rye Town Supervisor Joe Carvin took some heat at the Rye Town Park Commission Meeting on January 15. Residents and a Rye City Council member grilled Carvin about the deterioration of the park and delay in announcing December layoffs of Town employees. But Carvin, as chairman of the five-member commission, quickly calmed the critics by detailing recent repairs and longer-term park improvement plans.
Rye resident Deirdre Curran, who owns a dog-walking business, posted a video on January 5 identifying sidewalk lamps that had blown out last summer in Rye Town Park. Curran’s video — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=es-KR0QA0cA — also showed how lights in the locked public restrooms were left on round-the-clock. In the video, Curran commented that the Town would pay high Con Edison electric bills by burning up fees collected from summer park goers. Visitor parking and beach-access fees fund 80 percent of the park budget and 90 percent of the summer visitors are non-residents.
Carvin called Curran’s videotape “deeply embarrassing,’’ but said “everything on that video has since been addressed.” the Supervisor added that the park staff has done “triple back flips. . . I’d like people to give us a little bit of time to solve the problems.”
Carvin explained that the Town of Rye has been operating at a deficit, forcing it to dip into $350,000 in reserves and cut staff on December 18. The decision to lay off employees was made at a closed-door meeting of the Town Board on December 3. “Laying people off is the most difficult thing we do,’’ he said.
Carvin said Bishop Nowotnik, who has experience with contracts and finances, is now overseeing daily maintenance of Crawford and Rye Town parks. Nowotnik said an outside electrical contractor repaired all the non-working sidewalk lamps within a week of Curran’s broadcast.
At last week’s commission meeting, Curran said she did not mean to disparage park employees, three of whom were laid off in December as part of a larger budget-cutting plan.
Carvin took exception to pointed criticism and questions from Rye City Councilwoman Catherine Parker.
“I do want to look forward,’’ Parker said to Carvin. “I’m not here because of politics. I’m here because of passion. . . Communication, communication, communication. That’s my mantra this year. I just want to work with you, not against you.”
Mayor Doug French, as a member of the Town Park Commission, praised Supervisor Carvin for helping drive change at the park. French detailed the history of reducing crime, vandalism, rising costs, parking problems, and poor park management in prior years.
“Can it get worse?’’ French asked. “Absolutely. You’ve got to drive change.”
In addition to three parks jobs, two full-time jobs were cut from the Town Assessor’s office and one from the Town Receiver of Taxes’ office. A full-time job at the Town Clerk’s office was reduced to part-time and a full-time job in the Town Court was eliminated.
Curran said that while she’s happy the town has taken care of the problems detailed in her video, there is more work to be done. This includes monitoring pollution and other runoff from parking lots, damage to trees from storms and car fluids or exhaust. Carvin said long-term improvements will be discussed at the Town Park Commission’s next meeting, Monday February 25, 6 p.m. at the Town of Rye Courtroom on Pearl Street, Port Chester.
Assistant Park Director for Development Bill Lawyer, who lives three blocks from Rye Town Park, said, “There’s always room for improvement. We inherited a very complicated lighting system. . . . We know what the needs are and we’re working on it.” (Lawyer is a regular contributor to The Rye Record.)