Now former Rye Mayor and current State Assemblyman Steve Otis has accepted the MyRye.com invitation to submit views on the NY State Thruway property and has added relevant thoughts on Disbrow and the current disagreement with Rye Mayor Joe Sack. MyRye.com posted Sack's column on these subjects just yesterday.
Here are Otis' views in full. What do you think? Submit a comment below.
By former Rye Mayor and current State Assemblyman Steve Otis:
Dear Jay – Thanks for your continuing coverage of these issues. The key questions for the Rye City Council are: what is the best method for securing the Thruway parcel at our community’s gateway, what can taxpayers afford and what is the best way to allocate scarce resources for a municipality that has many demands for infrastructure and operating dollars.
One answer is apparent now. The City cannot afford to move DPW to the Thruway site because the price tag is far beyond the ability of the City to pay. The City’s own consultant estimated that moving DPW to the Thruway parcel will be as high as $39 million without including acquisition costs ($7.4 million) or real contamination cleanup costs at Disbrow. Moving DPW is not possible financially because City taxpayers cannot afford $50 million in new debt for one additional athletic field. More time is not needed to reach this conclusion.
The largest City bond issue in the last 20 years was $4.1 million to rebuild the Milton Firehouse. One choice is for the City to incur $7.4 million in new debt to acquire the property and an additional $7-13 million to turn the site into a playing field. Another is to work with Rye Country Day School on school acquisition of the parcel, which the Mayor supported until a few weeks ago, and allow the school to raise the estimated $20 million to purchase and develop an athletic field and track for shared use.
The issue is complicated by the fact that the City had previously asked that the school purchase the property for shared recreation use and then did not inform the school that the City was considering placing DPW at the site instead. Another financial consideration for the City is that with the school’s purchase of the Thruway property, the City would be in a better position to make City dollars available for improvements at Disbrow or DPW.
The last question is how to make sure the community does not miss the opportunity to secure the Thruway parcel for shared athletic field space. If a community acquisition fails, the property would be auctioned to the highest bidder as the state intended in 2015. This would open the door to a long list of commercial, industrial and transportation uses that Rye has consistently opposed at that site for almost 30 years.
The City Council has had almost two years to make decisions regarding this parcel and has taken a number of conflicting positions, including being interested in buying it (Fall 2015 to Fall 2016), declining to buy it and supporting the school buying it (Fall 2016 to May 2017) to its current undetermined position (May-June 2017).
As for the state legislation, Mayor Sack’s latest post repeats false statements already disproven by the materials I provided on June 21, which are available to readers on MyRye.
What is important for residents to know is that the City requested my help in pursuing a way for the state to sell the parcel to the school when the City passed on the opportunity to purchase the property directly. The legislation only allows, but does not require, sale of the Thruway parcel to the school. The City retains the ability to block the sale because the City’s consent is required in a shared use agreement before the parcel can be conveyed. This protection for the City was specified in the legislation at my insistence.
If the City is unable, unwilling or without the funds to acquire the property, the legislation provides the means for school acquisition, but with the requirement of a shared use plan agreeable to the City with public use guaranteed in perpetuity. The legislation is necessary to provide the option for sale to the school. The other alternative is a state auction of the parcel to the highest bidder leaving the community without the ability to control uses at the site. Without my intervention, and the tremendous cooperation of state officials, the parcel would have been auctioned away two years ago.
Everyone needs to work together to make sure we do not miss this opportunity.
Warm regards, Steve