By Emily Proskine Hurd and Danielle Tagger-Epstein
In recent months, Rye residents have been hearing and reading about the NYS Thruway Authority property, Disbrow Park, and DPW. We are glad people are paying attention, because the plan in its current form goes against Rye’s best interests.
The property in question is the piece of land on the Boston Post Road across from Rye Country Day School. The City has eyed it for decades, both to use for recreation and to prevent unwanted development. However, the cost, $7.4 million, is prohibitive. Other projects — maintaining roads and buildings, improving existing playing fields, upgrading buildings at DPW, and paying for general City operations — take precedence.
Instead, last year, the City asked the State to sell the land to Rye Country Day with provision for sharing recreational use with Rye. RCDS generously offered to raise the necessary funds. NYS passed legislation to allow it, and it awaits the governor’s signature. For Rye, this is a great deal; we would get a playing field at no cost.
Yet this summer, in June, the Mayor and some Council members switched course and began secret efforts to possibly pursue moving DPW from Disbrow to the Thruway site.
DPW facilities need updating. A Disbrow planning process has been underway. However, one of the proposed plans, moving DPW to the Thruway site, is simply unaffordable. Furthermore, it was conceived without analyzing the most economical way to add playing fields. It ignored the potentially enormous expense of the environmental remediation required to turn a DPW site into a safe playing field. Perhaps even more shockingly, it ignored the cost of buying and developing a new DPW site. This plan would cost $50 million dollars or more. To put this in perspective, the biggest City borrowing in the last 20 years was $4.1 million to modernize a firehouse.
And it would give us only one additional field. If RCDS buys, develops, and shares the property, we would get one additional field plus a track – for $0.
When they understood this, residents objected vociferously. In response, Mayor Sack and Councilman McCartney backtracked, saying, “We are keeping all options open.” Instead of moving on to realistic alternatives, they accused the plan’s critics of partisanship. Instead of acting with the transparency residents deserve (and NYS law requires) they have continued to pursue this plan with closed-door conversations and secret actions.
In June, Mayor Sack asked the Governor to veto the Assembly bill allowing RCDS to buy the land. He did this behind the backs of at least some City Council members, in violation of our City Charter. It also went against Rye’s best interests, as it could cause a return to the original plan of selling the land to the highest bidder.
Worse, the Mayor has discussed with the Mayor of Port Chester a joint DPW facility at the Thruway site. He did not disclose this to the rest of the Council or the public. Only when we asked did we learn that the discussion had taken place, and that Sack, through the City Manager, had helped Port Chester send its own letter to the Governor requesting a veto of the legislation allowing the land sale. This letter mentioned Rye, Port Chester, and Rye Brook sharing the site for their DPWs.
To do this behind the backs of City Council members, in violation of the City Charter, and without extensive analysis of its potential effects, shows disregard for proper decision-making and breathtakingly poor judgment.
It is futile to keep saying, “We are considering all options,” rather than admitting that moving DPW is unaffordable and unwise. When a plan is glaringly wrong it is time to drop it and move on.