Your Name: Joe Sack
Your Elected Position: Member of the Rye City Council, beginning in January 2008.
Your Day Job: I run my own law practice, which focuses on securities and criminal litigation. Prior to that, I was an in-house attorney at Citigroup, a regulator with the NYSE, and an Assistant D.A. in Brooklyn .
MyRye.com: What is your political affiliation?:
Republican. I registered as a Republican when I moved back to Westchester .
Why did you run for elected office?
The simple answer is, I ran for City Council because I love Rye . Rye is a special place, and Kerri and I have chosen Rye as the place where we will raise our children. We haven’t lived here for 30 years, but we will live here for the next 30 years, and I want to make a contribution to the future of our city. There are so many great ways that people in Rye can and do volunteer their time. I chose the City Council because I have always been interested in public service (my Jesuit education taught me to be a “man for others”), government (I worked my way thru law school as an assistant to County Executive Andy O’Rourke) and politics (my bookshelf is lined with biographies of famous presidents and statesmen). Anyway, since I watch all the meetings on cable TV (which my wife teases me about), I figured I might as well be there for them!
Rye sustained $80 million in damage from the April 15th flood. The Sells Report was just published with its recommendations on flood mitigation. What are the three most important things Rye needs to do to prepare for the next “100 Year” flood?
Flooding is a problem in Rye , including flooding along the Blind Brook. The magnitude of the flood events that took place this past spring have certainly refocused attention on an issue that goes back to the beginning of time. I think the Sells report was a good step in the right direction, as far as sizing up what our mitigation options are and assigning possible price tags to those options. It could be that the cost of some projects no matter how marginally worthwhile may be prohibitive, and we need to focus on getting the most bang for our buck. I am reluctant to rank items as requested in your question at this point, and am interested in looking at both the upper and lower ponds up by Bowman Avenue . The City is exploring funding sources from the state and federal governments, and Westchester County has also announced a large pot of flood money. But it seems clear that Rye will have to pony up a share too, and a flood bond seems to be an essential way to do this.
A few months ago, City Councilman Andy Ball called for Rye to hire a Flood Czar that would oversee future flood mitigation efforts. Do you believe this is necessary?
I think the City staff has done a very good job in positioning us to be in line for state and federal money for repair and mitigation projects. This has been such an intensive undertaking that I am sure it has seemed like a full-time proposition. We have devoted so much time and energy to this effort this year, perhaps at the expense of other day-to-day business. In a perfect world, we will regain our equilibrium, and be able push ahead on all fronts without having to fund an added position. But under the circumstances, I am certainly open to all creative approaches.
Besides flood mitigation, what are the three most important issues facing Rye over the next five years?
Again I am reluctant to ascribe a ranking, but clearly there are issues that will need to be addressed over the short term that will have impacts much further into the future. For example, the police contract will expire at the end of next year and I’m sure negotiations will pick up soon. The CSEA (Civil Service Employees Union) contract is also undecided at this point. A new police and court facility will be on the drawing board, which will involve a discussion of needs, costs and further borrowing. And on the traffic and safety side, we must implement and pay for changes to our roadways at both ends of town, on Boston Post Road near Greenhaven and on Purchase Street near Ridge Street .
You serve on the Rye Downtown Retail Task Force and the Rye Zoning Board. Where we too late in putting a ban on new bank branches downtown? On the zoning side of things, do we have a problem with “McMansions” in Rye ? What type of controls are in place and what if any do we still need?
The City Council wasn’t too late on banks, because I am told there were other banks lining up to come in. Also, prior to my service on the zoning board in 2004, the City Council made some restrictive adjustments to the zoning code. Still, many homes that some view as too large or out of character with the neighborhood do not even need variances. It’s always a balancing test between the rights of the property owner and the welfare of the community. One zoning issue that has been kicked around before that I think needs an up or down vote is the provision that essentially discourages new flag lots.
When interviewed by the Rye Record, you mentioned (money aside), the importance of preserving open space including the Durland Scout Center on Stuyvesant Avenue and the contiguous parcels off Locust Avenue. Is there any chance of recovering the Durland Center property at this point or have we lost that battle? What is the opportunity with Locust Avenue?
It was my understanding that the Durland opportunity came and went, that the cost was deemed too high, and that the private owner has approvals for two homes. On Locust Avenue across from the YMCA, I am told there are some contiguous lots along the Blind Brook with the same owner. Obviously, this is a unique space as it borders our Central Business District.
MyRye.com has been told the Rye Hospital Center on the Boston Post Road may be put up for sale. Nearly three acres running from the Post Road down to the Blind Brook, the property borders an existing .48 acres of property along the brook designated park land according the city maps and is also very close to the Rye High School and Middle School property. Is there an opportunity here for the City?
I hadn’t heard that, and don’t know that much about the property, having only passed by at 30 miles an hour on the Post Road.
In no particular order:
1. Regarding the dynamics of our Council: Ensuring the importance of cooperation and consensus building on the City Council. I am a litigator by profession, so I know all about disputes and dealing with aggressive adversaries. But in local government, my immediate background on the Zoning Board emphasized to me the importance of compromise and of speaking with a unified voice. While there will always be differences in opinion and instances when a particular member needs to stick to his or her guns, it is possible to maintain convictions without drawing stark battle lines. Chief Justice Roberts of the U.S. Supreme Court is a big believer in developing unanimous decisions whenever possible based on this approach.
2. Regarding the budget: Maintaining our high level of services while also controlling taxes. This dual task is at the crux of our responsibilities on the Council. Of course, the devil is in the details, and will spawn countless hours of careful consideration.
3. Regarding a specific project: I would like to see some action taken to address the sidewalk and road conditions in Rye , especially along Oakland Beach Avenue and the questionable stretch from Disbrow Park down to the bridge.
What are the three best reasons to live in Rye ?
1. Great families and schools. That definitely comes first.
2. Great quality of life – from downtown shopping and dining, to parks and recreation, to not-for profits (the Rye Free Reading Room, Rye Nature Center, Rye Arts Center and Rye YMCA are all jewels).
3. Great location – easy commuting and on the water.
What are your three favorite restaurants in Rye that deliver?
We don’t do delivery, but we do take out. Our three favorites:
1. Piazza Pizza on Milton Road. Ross runs a great business. Our garage quickly piles up with old pizza boxes for recycling! 921-4444 (520 Milton Road, Rye)
2. Playland Market on Forest Avenue. It is great to have a place nearby that is open early and late for coffee, a chicken cutlet sandwich or a pint of ice cream! 967-2450 (488 Forest Avenue, Rye)
3. Water Moon on Purchase Street . I love their pan-seared sesame tuna dish. 921-8880 (66 Purchase Street, Rye)
What is your favorite restaurant in Rye for a family meal?
The Dock Deli on Milton Road is our favorite family restaurant, hands down. I am there with the girls most Saturday mornings for breakfast, while Mommy gets to sleep in an extra hour. Scrambled egg sandwiches and French toast are our favorites, and don’t forget the mini cup of OJ with the “set up”. Neil and Maggie are great, and the girls love seeing their Christmas card hanging on the wall! 967-3344 (615 Milton Road, Rye)
Where do you live in Rye ?
We live on Thorne Place, a cul-de-sac off of Oakland Beach Avenue, next to Disbrow Park – home of the world’s best Halloween parade and party every year! We are in the Osborn school district, where our oldest daughter attends kindergarten. We previously lived for 5 years on Barlow Lane in Greenhaven.
How else are you involved in the community?
I am a member of the Rye Zoning Board and the Rye Downtown Retail Task Force. We are members of Resurrection Church, Rye Golf Club, and the Rye YMCA.
Tell us your contact information:
Your web site: www.sacklawfirm.com
Your phone: (914) 701-0806 (work)
Your email address: jsack (AT) sacklawfirm.com