This week, just before the last City Council meeting of the year, we caught up with Mayor Doug French, who leaves office at the end of the month after serving a four-year term.
By Robin Jovanovich
This week, just before the last City Council meeting of the year, we caught up with Mayor Doug French, who leaves office at the end of the month after serving a four-year term. He chose not to seek a second term. We found him somewhat wistful but pleased with the strides he and his Council made in a challenging economic climate.
“I could not be more pleased with the City’s position,” said the mayor. “When we came into office, we faced major challenges, notably sources of revenue drying up and an inability to borrow without going out for a public bond, a $5 million IOU on 1037 Boston Post Road, crumbling infrastructure, stalled flood mitigation effort, a high cost of labor path, and insufficient affordable housing.”
French said the Council had to “change the trajectory of the City of where we were headed.”
The “transformation” under his watch includes affordable housing on Edgar Place, affordable housing for seniors on Theodore Fremd Avenue, the reopening of the Central Avenue Bridge, funding for downtown improvements and safer crossings near schools, outsourcing the school crossing guards, and agreement from the County to expand the catch basins at Westchester airport, which will lessen flooding downstream.
“Rye Town Park made a profit in 2012, and if the Town of Rye doesn’t dissolve, the City wants and will get another seat on the Rye Town Park Commission,” French stated.
One big quality of life enhancement is the Sustainability Plan, he noted. “Our coordination with emergency response has greatly improved over the last few years, as has our communication with the public.”
He’s happy that the Council: “changed the relationship between the City and the library and was able to restore their funding, renewed the Rye Arts Center lease for another 30 years; and restructured Rye Recreation, whose camps and programs have never been stronger.”
And with money in the bank (the General Fund) from the sale of 1037, the City will be able to pave, stripe and add a crosswalk to the lower portion of the Metro-North parking lot, from the Police Station to Purchase Street.
“The search for a new police commissioner is on, and Rye Police have done a great job with high-profile crimes and cases.”
Mayor French said the two tenets of good government are “a strong financial position and sound public safety,” and he feels he leaves office with both of them in place.
He wishes he’d had more time to implement a plan for additional parking in downtown. “We had a lot of good ideas on the table, but we didn’t have the bandwidth to do the proper planning to present them to the public.”
French and his running mates in 2009 came in with a mindset that the City shouldn’t be running a restaurant (Whitby Castle). “I wish we had pushed earlier, harder. We might have identified the problem [the theft by the former Golf Club manager] earlier.” He thinks the pool at Rye Golf should be considered public recreation, run by Rye Recreation and the City should invest in it.
As far as the plan from Sustainable Playland, he says, “The elements deserve scrutiny, but the concept of SPI works. The amenities are all there — it’s just the size and scale of them. That’s why we need to have this project to go through the Planning Commission.”
What will he miss most about the job? “Working with City staff. They’re such pros and they possess the vision to lead Rye forward on so many fronts. They’ve been a joy to work with.”
What is French looking forward to starting in January? “Focusing on my career. Getting back in shape. Probably at the Y. Having my evenings back. My wife Carrie is the happiest woman in Rye.”