MyRye.com has recently reported on the precarious state of the Wainwright House and its five acre property on Milton Point, as well as its proposed arrangement to host RowAmerica Rye when the rowing program’s current lease adjacent to the city boat basin expires in the next two years. This past Tuesday, the Wainwright House submitted paperwork to the Rye Planning Commission to renew and extend its ability to host events, a critical financial contributor to the non-profit.
Wainwright is asking for permission to host 15 weddings (up from 10) and four community events outside (under a tent) with amplified music. The amplified music ends at 10pm for weddings, earlier for community events. The Planning Commission is expected to walk the Wainwright property on Saturday, April 10th. It is not clear how quickly questions, a public comment session or a vote will come after the visit, but it is reasonable to expect a decision in April or May.
In the wake of the Planning Commission meeting this week, Wainwright trustee and Rye resident Patricia Goodwin-Peters penned an open letter. Partly a love letter to Wainwright, Goodwin-Peters also takes the non-profit’s neighbor to the west, Robert and Libby Alexander, owners of 290 and 300 Stuyvesant Avenue, to task for wagging a “a dirty and untruthful war” against the 70 year old institution.
Here is the letter, unedited and in full:
“I write to you today primarily as an independent resident of Rye. However, I am also a member of the Board of Trustees for Wainwright House (WH). Recently, the Rye City Council tabled a thoughtful proposal where a benefactor would donate a new building to WH that would allow WH to receive rental income from the RowAmerica Rye program (in danger of leaving Rye) as well as move weddings with amplified music indoors. Our neighbors spearheaded a false propaganda campaign that this would somehow “commercialize” Milton Point when in truth it was the complete opposite. Now, the Rye Planning Commission must determine whether WH will receive a permit renewal for its outdoor tent and condition such permission on WH’s agreement to host only a limited number of events with amplified music therein. These same neighbors have already objected, including with threats of litigation. As the City determines the fate of WH, there are a few personal thoughts that I would like the community to consider.
My husband introduced me to Rye over ten years ago and we have been residents for the past eight years. We were drawn to Rye for its history, beauty, and the proximity to the Long Island Sound. A few years ago, I was invited to WH to host a seminar on the changing dynamics related to the Development of Boys. The event was a smashing success and taught me two very important things: that we are incredibly fortunate to have an institution dedicated to the Development of Human Potential and to have a property like the WH to share with the broader community.
Soon after, I became a Board Member and learned a very different lesson that I would like to share with you today.
From the beginning of my tenure at WH, the immediate neighbor to the west, made it clear that they had no intention of allowing WH to continue on with outdoor events or with amplified music. At every turn, they seemed determined to work against us rather than with us for the benefit of the community. The immediate neighbors to the west also led the misinformation campaign that halted the consideration of a partnership with RowAmerica that would have resolved any noise from outdoor music, which was the basis of their original complaints.
Our immediate neighbors to the west also:
- Moved directly next to a mindfulness center that hosted weddings and leased its space for exercise classes, on the same block of three social clubs, and two doors down for the once Durland Scout Center (now two mansions) and who now complains about noise and traffic.
- Trespassed on to the WH property, photographed and harassed guests of a wedding.
- Purchased one parcel of land several years ago “to throw us a lifeline’’ and upon hearing about a possible financial solution for WH through RowAmerica, returned in November of 2020 to offer additional “help’’ by purchasing more of the land adjacent to their home.
- Deceived the Rye Community through a website filled with lies to stop a proposal that would save two Rye institutions and that peddled untruths about the “commercialization of Milton Point.”
But the declaration that resonated with me the most was when they told us that as Board members will come and go from WH, but that they are living in their forever home and that should take priority.
We all understand the love and devotion for our forever homes. Our forever homes hold memories and moments of the passage of our lives. But beyond the idea of house as home, how does one actually measure forever. I believe the neighbors to the west when they say that their home is their forever home, but like all of us, they will not be here forever. They too will also come and go. And during the limited time that they and all of us are here, what the neighbors to the west may gain today will be something forever lost to Rye.
Future generations will be deprived of five acres of waterfront property preserved to this point for all members of the Rye community and beyond. Preserved to this point as The Center for the Development of Human Potential. Preserved to this point as the founders of the Laymen’s Movement had intended. A refuge from the monotony of work. A place to expand the mind.
The Board of Trustees is made up of nine volunteers who joined the Board to revitalize its relevance within the community and return it to the vibrant center it once was that saw hundreds of visitors to the property on a regular basis.
These dedicated volunteers did not join the Board to enter into a dirty and untruthful war of words with our neighbors or to be depicted as villains or traitors to the neighborhood. However, the neighbors to the west, who moved into Rye in 2011, sixty years after the establishment of WH, sixty years after the first wedding was held on the property, sixty years after WH became an asset to all those who wanted to take in the beauty of the sound whether or not they had the financial means to do so, have pulled WH into this battle.
WH has the potential to go on for another sixty years. Generations to come will have access to waterfront property in a town where the majority of the waterfront requires initiation payments, sponsorship by current club members, and ongoing monthly membership fees that exceed what one might pay for their rent.
I hope that with your help, for another sixty years, this community will have access to the tranquility of the sound on land that will give back to the environment in ways no other property in Rye can do. For another sixty years, those in our community can seek out a place dedicated to the Development of Human Potential. And for another sixty years, those who seek to give back beyond themselves will preserve WH in the way that it has been up till now.
In sixty years, we may all be gone. Let’s make it our business to see that Wainwright House lives on.
-Rye resident Patricia Goodwin-Peters