By Tom McDermott
A larger but more skeptical audience attended the second Disbrow Park Master Plan meeting at Damiano Center May 31 than the one three weeks earlier. A number of residents voiced their displeasure at the Recreation Commission and City Hall about a lack of communication regarding meeting schedules and an online survey. The survey ran May 11-25 on the City’s website with 261 responses, which Stantec Consulting’s Gary Sorge characterized as statistically reliable.
Sara Goddard, Chair of Rye’s Sustainability Committee, who is also a Democratic City Council candidate, said she “only heard about the meetings through a resident’s message on her Committee’s website.”
While the May 31 meeting was meant to discuss those survey results and present preliminary design plans, some residents were asking more basic questions: “What was the impetus for making changes”?; Who got the ball rolling”?; “What problem are you trying to solve”?
City Planner Christian Miller told residents, “We knew we needed public works improvements and saw an opportunity to look at a plan that would accommodate recreation improvements as well. Before we invest in public works and park improvements, let’s do some planning.”
Stantec presented three alternative plans, all of which moved the main access road from Oakland Beach Avenue to the west boundary of the park: Plan A, “The Commons”; B, “The Promenade”; and C, “Park Expansion”, a radical approach that would eliminate public works facilities, except for a County water treatment center, from the park. Residents were asked to note their likes, dislikes, and concerns regarding each plan.
Residents clearly found Plan C to be the most interesting alternative, followed by Plan A. Many were put off by a version of Plan B that included an additional DPW-only access road. Plan C, however, prompted a logical question from residents: “Where would the City put public works and how much would that cost?” Lisa Dempsey, co-chair of the Recreation Commission, told the audience that an alternative location would be presented at the next meeting.
Goddard later told the paper, “It’s a risky enterprise to entice one neighborhood with the prospect that DPW could be moved and plop it down into another neighborhood.”
City Manager Marcus Serrano confirmed that the strip of land near I-95, across from Rye Country Day School, currently owned by New York State Thruway, is a possible future DPW facilities site. Serrano said, based on resident feedback on the Disbrow plans to date, the City Council may consider “moving DPW there, or building a new playing field there and keeping DPW at Disbrow.” A partnership between the City and Rye Country Day to jointly buy the land from the for athletic fields fell through several months ago.
The subject of playing fields and the possibility of moving DPW to the Thruway site arose at the June 7 City Council meeting during a discussion of a possible November bond resolution. Councilman Terry McCartney described the enthusiasm of residents for moving DPW and the “incredible opportunity” available, asking that people at least keep an open mind on the issue. Councilman Richard Mecca also fully supported the concept. Other Council members were noncommittal.
Andrea Sullivan, President of Rye Country Day’s Board of Trustees, told the Council that the school was interested in reviving talks regarding a field-sharing agreement, but cautioned that the school would not support moving DPW to the site. That sentiment was echoed by a Loudon Woods resident.
Stantec will present two edited alternative plans June 20 at the Damiano Center at 7 p.m. Survey results and the May 31 plan presentation are available at ryeny.gov.