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<<Hugh J. Greechan>> was named Commissioner of the Department of Public Works and Transportation by County Executive George Latimer last month. In the position, Greechan, a professional engineer, is now responsible for maintenance and management of the County’s infrastructure, including 160 miles of County roads, 86 bridges, and 71 traffic signals, as well as all County government buildings. He will also supervise the County’s capital projects, the Traffic Safety Program, the Bee-Line Bus System, the Westchester County Airport, and specialized transportation services.

 With pix

<<Dr. Jeffrey A. Geller>> is leading a new team of sports medicine and orthopedic physicians at NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital Orthopedics. He serves as Chief and Director of Research, Division of Hip & Knee Reconstruction at Columbia University Medical Center’s Department of Orthopedic Surgery, and is the Nas S. Eftekhar Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at Columbia University Medical Center. Dr. Geller is a nationally recognized leader in the non-operative and operative treatment of arthritic disorders of the hip and knee.

 

By Robin Jovanovich

Nine days into his new position as Mayor of Rye, Josh Cohn delivered his first annual message. He began by emphasizing that his was not a “state of” speech, but rather an opportunity to share what he’s observed and what he and his colleagues hope to accomplish — with the help of the community.

He wasted little time getting down to business: finances, infrastructure needs, and continuing challenges.

“A first and very deep concern is the effect of recent federal tax law changes on the City’s financial position,” Mayor Cohn began. What effect these changes will have on home sales and values and Rye’s tax base is not yet clear. “One thing is certain, though,” he continued. “Local taxes have immediately become more unattractive than they already were.”

His view, which is the view of the new Council, is that they must act with “great financial caution.” Noting that the available fund balance is only “about $400,000 above the amount that is our self-imposed bright-line to protect our triple-A rating.”

To that end, one of the first things the Mayor intends to do is “re-energize” the Finance Committee.

With four open union contracts to negotiate, Mayor Cohn said diplomatically, “Our city workers contribute immeasurably to the quality of life in Rye. We honor and respect them. At the same time, we must work within the budget we have inherited and within the uncertain financial environment we face. We must and will be prudent on behalf of the City present and the City future.”

Noting, as every mayor has at least once in his or her time in office, that the City receives only 16% of the tax revenues — the School District and the County receive 59% and 25%, respectively — Cohn said that additional revenue sources and grants and aid are especially important.

Moving on to infrastructure, Cohn stressed that the City “must deal with longstanding and, in some instances, neglected issues.” He remarked on the poor overall condition of the roads. “The effects of our recent weather have underscored the need — deeply — pothole deep.”

On his list of immediate tasks is making sure the New York Rising flood grant funds, “which the City has had access to but been slow to pursue, are deployed” (in a reproval of the previous Council).

Looking ahead, Mayor Cohn anticipates substantial wastewater and stormwater infrastructure improvement costs. Pedestrian safety enhancements will require new sidewalks, grants and aid, and perhaps neighborhood contributions.

He looks forward to negotiating a shared-use agreement with Rye Country Day School on the Thruway property that the school plans to convert into playing fields.

On the matter of going ahead with any of the proposed plans to improve Disbrow Park and the surrounding athletic fields, his view is more multi-pronged. “We respect the Recreation Commission and will hear its selection of one of the consultant’s plans, thought we think the Commission has been inappropriately burdened in this instance.” He continued, “Our consideration will be framed by our regard for the City’s financial situation and its many other needs, as well as by environmental concerns and the thoughts of park neighbors. Our hearing the Rec Commission’s thoughts will certainly enrich our outlook on what might be done at Disbrow, but it will not dictate any particular outcome.”

Having stood up to Crown Castle when they first proposed to install mini cell towers throughout residential neighborhoods, Cohn is not likely to back down if Crown Castle goes ahead and appeals the decision by the federal district court, which dismissed its lawsuit against the City.

Cohn promised that the Council would look at the persistent parking shortage in the Central Business District “with fresh eyes and open minds;” work with the State “to ameliorate the disruption” that the Last Mile project will cause at the I-95 exit off Midland Avenue (expected to take close to two years); and begin a community conversation addressing concerns about residential development.

When communicating with the public, Cohn said, “We will endeavor to treat you as owners. And we hope you will treat us as temporary caretakers (and co-owners), trying our best to work on our collective behalf.”

The Mayor closed by saying, “When considering our plans, I made a list of things I would like the City to do and another list of things coming to get us, whether we like it or not. And so we will work off both lists, — and with your help — we’ll get things done.”

 

 

By Bill Lawyer

Even though winter came in like a bomb cyclone blizzard, the sub-zero conditions didn’t stop contractor Lou Larizza from moving his latest Rye project forward.

Five winters ago, Larizza and members of the Westchester County Planning Department presented a proposal to the Rye City Council to build an affordable housing complex on the corner of North Street and Theodore Fremd Avenue.

The 2.07-acre property required a re-zoning, traffic studies, and settling of the question of the number of units that could be built. Over the course of the following year, the concerns were addressed, with considerable input from nearby residents and environmental consultants.

The adopted plan resulted in 40 rental units, plus a unit for the building’s superintendent, all of which qualify as affordable housing. Preference is given to seniors, 62 and older, who earn at or below 50 and up to 60 percent of the area median income in the County — $39,792-$47,751.

The four-story facility, named the Vienna Senior Apartments, is served by two elevators. Twenty-eight units are one-bedroom (800 square feet), and 12 two-bedroom (930 square feet). Monthly rents range from $995 to $1,204 for a one-bedroom to $1,198 to $1,449 for a two-bedroom unit.

The kitchens come fully equipped. Common laundry facilities are located on each floor. A community room and patio are on the third floor. There are 64 on-site parking spaces.

A public lottery was held in September, but applications are still being accepted and will be placed on a waiting list. Applications are available in English and Spanish.

For more details about the apartments and eligibility requirements, visit the county’s affordable housing website, www.housingactioncouncil.org.

 

When Mayor-elect Josh Cohn and the new City Council members takes office New Year’s Day, they will face several pressing land-use issues: DPW and the Playing Fields, the Master Plan, and appointments to Planning Commission and Zoning. In a recent interview with The Rye Record, Cohn shared some of his views.

Disbrow Park

“I do not think the decision-making process regarding moving or renovating DPW has been a healthy one,” said Cohn. “It should not have been up to the Recreation Commission to approve a consultant’s proposal regarding DPW, one that has major planning implications.” [On ---, the Rye Rec Commission recommended for Council approval a $20-26 million plan to renovating DPW at Disbrow Park, moving access roads, and adding new tennis courts.]

“I do believe that Rye Rec’s focus should be on recreation, fields and field safety, and I looks forward to hearing their view on the needs of the recreational and athletic community.”

The Master Plan

One of the major initiatives of Mayor Sack and the Council last year was to revise the 1986 Master Plan. A consultant, BFJ Planning, was hired, a Master Plan Task Force was appointed, and a timeline set to approve a new plan by May 2018.

“I am very worried that the process is much too fast; it does not allow enough time for thoughtful input,” said Cohn. The Mayor-elect noted that the previous Master Plan took several years to develop. He hopes to broaden the membership of the task force to include those with expertise in city planning. Cohn emphasized the need for further time and study so that the Plan didn’t inadvertently contradict zoning regulations.

Appointments to Planning and Zoning

On January 1, 2018, the terms of six members of the Board of Appeals and Planning Commission will expire. All will have served over a decade, and several between 15 and 20 years.

Since the election, Cohn said he had talking to both members of the public, who deal with Rye’s land-use boards and commissions, as well as the sitting members, as to how they have functioned.

“I’m concerned there is a public perception that these boards are looked on as clubs or closed shops,” says Cohn. The Mayor-elect plans to review the performance of these bodies as he considers new appointments.

Would he consider enforcing or establishing term limits for Rye’s boards and commissions?

“Having spoken to members of other communities about land-use boards, I find there is a value in experience gained, including gaining a tolerance for the procedures, lengthy at times,’ Cohn remarked. “I think appointments should be judged individually on the merits, rather than a blanket tenure policy.”

While there were no trombones on the occasion of the Inauguration Ceremony marking the 76th anniversary of the City of Rye, there was plenty of good cheer inside City Hall on New Year’s Day.

Judge Joe Latwin had the pleasure of swearing in Josh Cohn as Mayor, and Sara Goddard, Julie Souza, and Ben Stacks as Councilmembers.

Families and friends stayed for light refreshments and the chance to catch up and converse in a room filled with warmth and good feelings.

 

At 2:45 a.m. on December 13, Rye Police responded to a call from a Johnson Place resident about suspicious persons walking down a neighbor’s driveway. The call turned out to be prelude to a wild and dangerous car chase and manhunt for the officers involved.

As responding units entered Johnson Place, a Lexus SUV and a black Infiniti with headlights on drove directly at them. The Lexus struck the front end of an RPD SUV, with Sgt. Jason Washco at the wheel, causing the Lexus to roll over, after which the suspect was placed in custody. The driver of the Infiniti stopped, observed the officers, and quickly fled eastbound toward Boston Post Road, striking a second RPD vehicle, driven by Officer Keith Parker. Washco was injured and required assistance due to injury from Officer Angie Cyr who was also on the scene.

The Infiniti, reportedly stolen in New Jersey, was driven around police units, over a lawn, then eastbound on Barlow Lane as it was pursued by police to Trails End. There, the suspects fled on foot from the vehicle over a fence to Long Island Sound.

Officer Parker was joined by Officer James Foti and they pursued on foot, joined by Port Chester Police. One suspect was captured and officers found a pack containing a fully-loaded Springfield Armor .40 calibre Semi-automatic handgun. Two other suspects fled the scene and remain at large at press time. A Code Red message was sent to Rye and Rye Neck school districts and area residents.

The suspects in custody were later charged with the following felonies: Grand Larceny and Reckless Endangerment, and Fleeing an Officer in the 2nd Degree; Criminal Possession of Stolen Property 2nd Degree; Criminal Mischief 3rd Degree, as well as felony weapons and motor vehicle violations.

Public Safety Commissioner Michael Corcoran stated that he was “extremely proud of our officers for their bravery and professionalism in engaging these dangerous individuals.” He reminded residents to lock vehicles overnight and not to leave keys or valuables in vehicles.