Letter to the Publisher from Rye resident and State Assemblyman Steve Otis
State Assemblyman Steve Otis sent the letter below to MyRye.com regarding the Thurway property issue on Monday in response to former Mayor Joe Sack's letter that was posted early Monday.
Full letter is below:
From State Assemblyman Steve Otis :
"As was the case two years ago, Mr. Sack is again wrong on the facts and on protecting the community. Rye voters rejected his last minute plan to move Rye DPW to the Thruway parcel and take back his own request that the state sell the property to the school.
The purpose of the state legislation passed in 2017 and the new bill passed this year is the same. Both are to guarantee the public’s ability to use this property for recreation purposes, shared with the school, and prevent commercial or industrial development on the site located at one of Rye’s gateways.
This has been the consistent planning goal of this city since the late 1980’s. The parcel is included for recreation in the City of Rye’s Recreation Master Plan. Mayors of both parties (Ilse, Ross, Dunn and I, when I served as Mayor) had sought control of this parcel and opposed uses harmful to Rye for decades.
Guaranteeing public use can be accomplished in more than one way. It is my hope that the city and the school will come to an agreement on a use plan, basically a schedule of times to be allocated to public user groups or the city recreation department and times allocated to the school.
If they cannot agree, the new legislation exists as a backup plan to make sure the Rye public recreation groups are protected and to make sure we do not lose the property to other uses Rye has consistently opposed. Without the backup legislation, losing the property becomes almost a certainty.
In 2016 Mr. Sack determined that the city could not afford to buy the property and requested I seek state permission to sell the property to the school. At the time I preferred city acquisition with shared use by the school.
For decades Rye Country Day School has rented, or shared at no charge, its facilities to community groups and city activities on a regular basis. Rye Youth Soccer and Rye Youth Lacrosse will receive additional field time at the school with this acquisition.
The school is now prepared, through fundraising and charitable donations, to spend $30 million to purchase and improve the site by adding a field, track, parking and an ice rink to replace their existing facility whose primary user is the community’s public hockey program. A new rink is vital to the existence of the Rye Rangers Hockey Club. The city of Rye is not contributing any funding towards the costs to acquire or improve the property.
There are simple sound principles for local governments everywhere. Elected officials, regardless of party, should not treat not-for-profits in their communities as adversaries or enemies. Community and volunteer organizations should be treated as partners by the city with local elected officials playing a supportive role where possible.
In 2015 the NYS Thruway Authority determined they would sell the property at auction. I intervened and requested that the parcel be sold to the community for recreation purposes instead. When the city requested that I win authority for sale to the school, I succeeded in securing permission. The state parcel is important to our community. The school is receiving no discount, they will be paying full price to secure a property local taxpayers cannot afford.
State officials have been extremely patient and supportive of our efforts to have this property go to the community for recreation purposes and not sold on the open market.
I am confident that the Rye’s decades-long quest to have kids playing soccer and lacrosse on this field will be achieved in the near future. I hope everyone will work together.
Sincerely, Steve Otis
Steve Otis served as mayor of Rye from 1998-2009.