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Home Government Rye Mayor Looks Back on 2011 Before His State of City Address

Rye Mayor Looks Back on 2011 Before His State of City Address

Mayor French issued a 2011 look-back, just before his State of the City address in front of the council this Wednesday night. What issues impacted you in 2011? Leave a comment below.

Here is the Mayor's write-up (numbers added):

A 2011 Year-End Retrospective From Mayor Douglas French

2011 will be best remembered when two forces – the economy and Mother Nature – left their mark on the City of Rye. The following is a look back at 2011 highlights from this column:

#1 Snow Appreciation
The City was hit with record snow falls right after the Christmas Holiday heading into the New Year – and ended with another record snow fall on Halloween. The Council and I want to again thank the City staff and departments for an extraordinary effort and setting the example for the Sound Shore in getting the City back up and running in such a timely fashion after what was a never-ending series of snowstorms.

#2 The Osborn Resolution
It's official. Representatives from the City, Rye City School District, and the Osborn Home met to reconcile the outstanding property tax balances and refunds. Following the Court decision, the agreement ends the more than 10-year Osborn Home dispute — and instead begins a look toward the future and partnership opportunities.

#3 Playland's Citizen Committee Report
After more than 3 months and several meetings, the 19-member Citizen Committee established by the County Executive in March released its final report identifying three proposals for further County consideration. The Committee's charge was to evaluate the feasibility of proposals in response to the Westchester County request for proposals to "Re-invent Playland Park for the 21st Century".

#4 $1M in Bird Homestead Grants Fully Received
As part of Rye's efforts for historical preservation, the City received notification of receipt of the final two Bird Homestead Grant monies. The NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation grant in the amount of $350,000 and a Westchester County grant in the amount of $200,000 were both received bringing the total funds received to $1,000,000 to fully restore the City's financial outlay.

#5 1037 Boston Post Road Site
In 2006 the City acquired the old CVS site (Lester's) with the implied intent of developing a Police Station/Court House facility. In 2010, based on up to $25M in development plus acquisition costs, the Council reversed that decision. With no public purpose intended for the site, in 2011 the City began the process of long-term planning for the site and weighed the merits of extending current downtown zoning. The state of the real estate market, flooding, traffic, parking and the potential impact on schools leave few immediate answers for the site.

#6 Successful Kickoff to Environmental Sustainability
The City took another important step to a sustainability plan for Rye with a kickoff forum of over 100 attendees to introduce the concept of sustainability, hear from leaders on the subject, and dialog and gather community feedback. The City later became the first community in Westchester to ban plastic retail shopping bags.

#7 Affordable Housing Project Update
As part of the affordable housing settlement and the consent decree between the U.S. Department of Justice and Westchester County, Rye moved forward with one of the first qualified projects for 22 units at Cottage Street.. Rye is one of the named 31 communities in which the County is required to build 750 affordable units over 7 years.

#8 Pedestrian Safety on Purchase Street
The first phase in converting to stop signs on Purchase Street has proven to be an effective pedestrian safety, traffic flow and cost-effective measure. In addition, parking spots were marked to identify parking stalls and improve traffic flow. Other elements of the project included curb extensions and additional sidewalk space, landscaping and lighting.

#9 A Roadmap for a Safe and Active Community
The Council created the Shared Roadways Committee to make recommendations to the City on policies, projects and programs that will make Rye a safer and more enjoyable walking, jogging and biking community. The Committee is a cross-section of non-profit organizations, schools, community leaders, and concerned residents that represent a continuation of the grassroots sentiments in Rye for improved pedestrian safety. In their initial report, the Committee makes several recommended projects and policies for City implementation.

#10 Central Avenue Bridge and Former Black Bass Property
The City continues to wait for NYS Department of Transportation approval as the regulatory process is extremely slow when funding comes from elsewhere. Central Avenue is a key connecting road through Rye and the need to re-establish access to that area for traffic and emergency vehicles is imperative. Also, the City is working with the owner of the former Black Bass property to obtain the necessary permit and approvals for demolition as well as an application with the Planning Commission to review plans for a new structure.

#11 Damage Assessment
The damage assessment for the City after Irene as we all experienced is significant as many areas including downtown were severely hit by a combination of coastal flooding, brook flooding and torrential rains simultaneously. Late storm wind gusts on Sunday evening further exacerbated tree damage and power outages. 800 homes were without power and the City worked with Con Edison to restore power, clear roads and remove trees. An estimated 200 structures have been impacted including the Locust Ave Firehouse. Damage to City structures is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. An oil spill at Highland Hall required assistance and coordination with State DEC and County Department of Health. The work of City of Rye employees from storm management preparedness to implementation was as strong in Rye as anywhere in the County.

#12 September 11th Ceremony
The City held a ceremony on the 10th anniversary of September 11th at the Locust Avenue Firehouse and then proceed to the September 11th Memorial Gazebo. The focus of the event remembered Rye citizens lost, paid tribute to our first responders, and called on residents to volunteer with community organizations ongoing as part of a National Day of Service. Volunteering is one of the things that brings communities together and is a way to remember and establish a legacy.

#13 A Final Budget Approved at 2.92%
Three years since the economic crash of 2008, the City continues to hold the line on property tax increases to reflect the relief needed by the community. Unemployment, under-employment and significant drops in wealth are realities in Rye with no end in sight. The total property tax increase for the last 3 years has been 5.45% or an increase of 1.82% per year. The average increase the 10 years prior was 6.53% per year. While the City has done incredible work in maintaining service levels during a down economy, the effects will be felt in 2012. There are no new capital projects planned beyond the ones that have already been funded. There will be no surplus revenues for the undesignated fund balance. Other impacts could be felt in labor relations. The City is currently in labor arbitration with the Police Union with an expired contract from 2009, and negotiations have yet to begin on the expired 2009 contract with the Fire Department.

#14 A Sudden and Tragic Loss
Most of all, for those that frequent City Hall, 2011 will be remembered for the day we lost Vinny Tamburo, the City's long-time Building Inspector. His commitment to his family and this City were an inspiration. He is missed.

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