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Thursday, February 2, 2023
Home Government Q&A: Council Candidate Matt Fahey

Q&A: Council Candidate Matt Fahey

(PHOTO: Rye City Council candidate Matt Fahey.)
(PHOTO: Rye City Council candidate Matt Fahey.)

Meet Rye City Council candidate Matt Fahey, running for election this fall on Tuesday, November 8th. Fahey is running to serve the last year of Richard Mecca’s four year council term. Fahey is running on the GOP line and will face Lori Fontanes who is running on the Dem line.

Readers might also enjoy a 2007 interview Fahey conducted with MyRye.com.

We have also published a Q&A with Rye City Council candidate Lori Fontanes.

Your Name: Matt Fahey

Running for: Rye City Council

MyRye.com: Why are you running for Rye City Council?

Fahey: Three reasons:

1) I’ve lived in Rye and called it home since 1978 – first as a teenager, and later as a parent and spouse. I love Rye and want to protect the beauty and charm of our small city.

2) I previously served on the City Council (2004 to 2007) and know how the City functions. I know many of the city staff.

3) I personally know each of the Council members – some for many years – and know I can work well with them to make progress on Rye’s most pressing issues.

Why are you running for Rye City Council now?

Fahey: Rich Mecca left a big hole in the council, and while Emily Hurd graciously accepted the offer to continue in his footsteps, she was not nominated by the Democratic Party for reasons unclear to me. The Republican Party asked me if I would be willing to run to fill the last year of Rich’s unexpired term, despite my non-affiliated status. While I can never replace Rich, I do think I can contribute meaningfully and immediately on day one, given my experience.

What are the three biggest opportunities / challenges facing the City of Rye over the next 3-5 years? 

Fahey:

  • Flooding – we need to continue the work that the Council is doing, complete and update the hydro-engineering studies, identify projects that can have impact and work with surrounding communities and federal, state, and county officials to obtain the funding resources we need to execute these projects. This is a complex issue and won’t be solved overnight, so the City needs to stay focused and engaged until substantial progress has been made.
  • Financial – the City has a number of critical infrastructure needs (flood mitigation, sewers, dredging, stormwater runoff, etc.) and limited funds, and we need to prioritize the most critical projects first, carefully watch our day-to-day spending, and make sure money is being spent wisely.
  • Quality of life – we need to remember that residents of Rye moved here for a reason. Rye is a beautiful spot on the Sound, but when neighborhoods are routinely disrupted with rock-chipping, leaf blowers, heavy construction vehicles and the like, the appeal can diminish. We need to ensure that Rye addresses inappropriate development, promotes smart and financially sustainable practices, and supports the Police, Fire, and Sanitation Departments who strive to provide us with a calm and relaxing place to live.

What are the three biggest areas for cost containment with the City of Rye over the next 3-5 years?

Fahey:

  1. Ensure the annual financial review and budgeting process is thorough and robust, and the City Council is fully engaged in reviewing all aspects of City spending. One of the most important responsibilities of the City Council is to review, critique, and approve the annual budget. I have a great deal of experience in this field, having managed the annual budgeting process for Rye four times, as well as for the Fixed Income Department at a large investment bank for several years. It requires quite a bit of work, and I am willing and eager to roll up my sleeves and sharpen my pencil during the Fall budget sessions.
  2. Making sure we are reviewing and taking advantage of securing outside funding to the maximum extent possible – every dollar we receive from federal and state grants reduces our need to spend our own tax dollars. There are a number of existing and new programs that could result in federal or state funds flowing into the city’s coffers, and we should seek to maximize this assistance as much as possible.
  3. Look for revenue opportunities as well as costs. A number of private development projects take up an exorbitant amount of the City staff’s time, which detracts from the staff’s ability to focus on other issues. It seems only fair to me that placing undue burdens on the City staff should be offset with fees.

Please Answer the following questions Yes or No:

Fahey:

Question or Statement Yes or No One sentence explanation.
Rye City is prepared for the next “100 year” flood No Last year we had a 100 year flood… again. It is clear we are not ready. This is the most pressing issue facing us today… and for the foreseeable future.
Rye City should update its Master Plan Yes Rye City should update the Master Plan (which is now over 35 years old), but we shouldn’t drop the critical issues we are currently addressing to wait for a Master Plan to tell us what needs to be done. Once the Master Plan has been completed, I’d like to see a schedule going out a number of years to comprehensively review the various components to keep the Plan current.
Rye City should have additional restrictions on residential development Yes, but Rye real estate has always been priced at a premium. Recently we’ve seen a trend in bigger homes, which clashes with the desires of many established neighbors who’d like to preserve the unique characteristics of their neighborhoods.  While the desire of homeowners to maximize the value of their property is understandable, the demolition of smaller homes makes it harder and harder to find a property for those interested in downsizing. Additionally, increased density causes loss of permeable space and leads to more flooding.

Chapter 197 (Zoning law) needs to be thoroughly reviewed and updated to reflect the need to prevent uncontrolled and irresponsible development.

Rye City should be more pedestrian and bike friendly We should look to make our streets safer. Our 30 MPH speed laws were the lowest speed allowed in NY state. Recently, the state lowered the minimum to 25 MPH, which should help in reducing vehicles travelling too fast on our streets.

We also will likely have more “work from home” residents, and they will want access to safer walking, running and biking trails.

Are you supportive of an ongoing version of Purchase Plaza (some version of a downtown street closure)? Creating a more vibrant and unique downtown business district will draw more clients and make the town more attractive to potential buyers. I’m all for closures on certain days or possibly for certain hours of certain days, but the City Council should listen very carefully to the needs of the merchants, who require easy access for their livelihoods.
Rye City property taxes are too high I have yet to meet a Rye resident who wants to pay more taxes. The portion of our tax bill for the City is only 19%; anyone looking for substantial property tax relief should focus efforts on the School and County budgets, which cover 79% of the tax bill.
Landscapers should be registered with the City so practices such as leaf blowers can be more closely controlled While the City is considering legislation on this, I believe registering landscapers would create a bureaucratic headache, put smaller businesses (which help to keep landscaping costs low) at a significant disadvantage. Lastly enforcement would present challenges.
Leaf blowers are a health and quality of life nuisance and we should consider significant additional controls on their use Yes and No Gas leaf blowers are extremely loud and polluting, but electric blowers are quieter and do not spume emissions into the air. Yet gas leaf blowers are more effective in getting the job done – one reason why the louder gas blowers are more prevalent.

Both are currently prohibited between May 1st and September 30th – yet the law is regularly ignored. Prior to adding additional controls, more enforcement of our current laws is required.

Curbside food scrap recycling should be expanded across the City. The City Council already decided against the curbside food scrap program but is retaining the drop-off program. In my opinion, the environmental impact of moving the food scraps to processing centers outweighs the benefits. I’d be willing to revisit this concept if these negative impacts could be lessened or eliminated.
Rye Playland will be in good hands with Standard Amusements Standard Amusements has greatly improved the infrastructure of the park, including electrical, water, and sewer service. Furthermore, they have overhauled many of the rides that had been neglected for years. They have already improved the park immensely.

(Full disclosure – Standard Amusements is a client of my firm. We have upgraded their keying system and door hardware).

Rye Town Park should be controlled (or owned) by Rye City Rye Town Park is jointly managed by the City of Rye, the Town of Rye, and the Village of Port Chester. It is doubtful the other two municipalities will ever give up their access to the water.
Rye City needs to reduce its deer population by active management that might include sharp shooters or bow hunting Too many deer will attract predators (coyotes). If we protect the herd by eliminating coyotes, it will increase the likelihood of overpopulation, which will lead to widespread starvation. Prior to that, an out-of-balance deer herd can do significant damage to the biodiversity of our environment as they strip the land of all edible fauna. We should address the problem of deer overpopulation using humane measures; I’ll leave it to experts to advise on what that might be.
Rye City parking downtown is suboptimal and has a negative impact on local businesses and residents enjoying downtown Though it’s hard to believe, parking was once much worse prior to the introduction to meters. Alternatives have been discussed through the years, including parking garages and shuttle buses to remote parking areas. I’d much prefer the current rates be raised to increase available spots, rather than disrupting the downtown area further.
Do you believe there is an issue with racial bias and equality in our community and that the City has a role to play in addressing it? While I have not seen nor heard of any racial strife in Rye, it is possible, even likely, there are some who are treated unfairly or who suffer from abuse because of their race or ethnic background – particularly our younger generation. If the city becomes aware of any such event, the Council should take whatever action is needed to protect the rights of all to live in peace without bias.
Do you support the raising of the Pride flag on City flagpoles this past June and every June? I don’t believe any government has the right to dictate what consenting individuals can and can’t do in private; I also believe the city should support all subsets of our population, provided such subsets respect the rights of others to peacefully disagree with their views.

 

Land use and the control of development has been raised as an issue in Rye, fueled by a variety of concerns including flood control, rock chipping and the development of flag lots.

Should more be done to bring transparency and control to land use decisions in Rye? If so, what are three of the top recommendations you would make?

Fahey:

  1. Overhaul Chapter 197 of the City Code. Chapter 197 covers zoning and has been tweaked a few times over the years. The constant public complaints about rock chipping, flag lots, steep slopes, and occasional sideways houses are indicators that we need to review and re-draft the chapter. Of particular note will be the increased pressure from the state to include multi-family structures near transportation hubs, which could easily put additional stresses on our infrastructure. This is likely the most complex chapter of the City Code … and certainly the most important.
  2. Strengthen the ability of the BAR (Board of Architectural Review) and the ZBA (Zoning Board of Appeals) to strictly enforce the (re-drafted) building codes. What good are written codes if the city does not enforce them?
  3. Develop a better working relationship with local developers. Most of them want to stay within the law, and they improve the real estate inventory of Rye. A few of them are also residents in Rye and are dedicated to improving our City. We should work with them constructively as partners to mitigate flooding while improving the value of our real estate here in Rye.

Further on land use, what benchmarks could the City publish annually or semi-annually that could help residents understand the state of land use in the City?

Fahey: There are a number of metrics that could be determined or estimated by the City, such as overall FAR (Floor to Area Ratio), average FAR, total undeveloped acres, total wetland acreage – with updated figures every year analyzing the reasons for the change. Changes may be from individual lot development, new construction, new surveys, donated private land, parkland alienation, etc.

However interesting this information would be to residents, it would require a significant amount of labor on the part of City staff to accumulate the data and calculate the information.

What are your views on the development plan for the former United Hospital site just over the Rye City line in Port Chester? And what should the City be doing to represent its interests?

Fahey: This site has been “in play” for well over 10 years and has represented a continued large threat to the Highland Avenue neighborhood and our local traffic patterns, particularly in the already busy section of the I-87 and I-95 interchange. The City of Rye does not have jurisdiction over the site, as it is not on Rye City property, but we certainly have concerns about the future use.

Ideally, the Village of Port Chester should look to convert the area into a park; however, the proposed redevelopment of the site includes a mixed-use community comprised of only a half-acre of open green space surrounded by multi-family buildings with over 19,000 square feet of street-level commercial/ retail/ restaurant uses, a 120 room hotel, and 200 retirement housing units.  The family component consists of 775 multi-family residential units, along with over 1,000 parking spaces. That location is already far too busy to add more traffic. I am very much  against the proposed plan, but again, the City of Rye does not have jurisdiction over this site.

The City’s Master Plan was written in 1985, over 35 years ago. Should the City update its Master Plan? If yes, describe the process, timeline, stakeholders, and a few of the issues and policies that might be addressed in this work.

Fahey: The Master Plan should be updated. It could be done in as little as 9 months to a year. First step would be to interview, select, and retain the services of an experienced consultant to assist in the development and drafting of a Master Plan. The next step would be to determine what components of our City should be included in the Master Plan (historic structures, zoning, transportation, roads, recreation, non-City owned land, shoreline, etc.). Then, discussing, drafting, reviewing, and editing the plan, socializing it, holding hearings for public comments, and re-drafting. Finally, Council approval, publication and setting a schedule for a periodic review of the components of the Master Plan to keep it up to date. Once completed, the Master Plan should be viewed as a reference to be referred to for any discussion touching on the components. It should not be put up on the shelf and forgotten.

Tell us about you:

How would your friends and family describe you in one word?

Fahey: Dedicated.

What is your day job? 

Fahey: I am running a commercial security business, advising clients on their needs and providing installation, maintenance, repair and monitoring services. I left the Investment Banking business in 2017 after a successful 30-year career. Running a small business without the large support network of a corporation has been both challenging and rewarding. Challenging because I have to manage all the roles within the firm and rewarding because I determine what is – and isn’t – important to achieve our goals.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why, and who would you take with you?

Fahey: Nikko, Japan, and I’d take my family. Years ago, when I was working in Japan, I stumbled across this area in the Japanese Alps, and was simply stunned at the beauty of the place after living in the middle of Tokyo for two straight months. The food and lodging (Ryokan) were the icing on the cake!

What are you watching these days?

Fahey: I don’t have as much time as I’d like to watch all the great shows and am hoping some of the spin-offs from Game of Thrones prove to be worth the time… but I’m looking forward to more Yellowstone, and The Crown. One of these days I’m going to sit down and watch The Sopranos, of which I’ve never seen a single episode.

Where do you live in Rye and how many years have you been in the City?

Fahey: We’ve lived in Rye Gardens for almost a quarter of a century – it’s been wonderful to move into a neighborhood as a newly married couple and watch our three boys attend Christ Church Nursery School, Osborn School, the Middle and High School, while slowly morphing into the older crowd in the neighborhood.

What affiliations do you have with organizations in Rye? 

Fahey:

  • Former AYC Trustee (2015 – 2017) and Fleet Captain (2018-2020), current volunteer on Membership and Race Committees. AYC is a volunteer-heavy club, and I’ve learned that volunteering is the best way to really get to know and love any well-run organization.
  • Past member of the Rye City Council, Rye’s Traffic and Transportation Committee, Rye City Finance Committee, and liaison to the Rye Golf Club.
  • Former parishioner of Resurrection Church, where collectively we’ve received just about every sacrament (baptism, receiving the Holy Eucharist, confirmation, reconciliation/confession, matrimony, and anointing of the sick/last rites).

What are three of your favorite food takeout / delivery restaurants in or around Rye?

Fahey:

  1. Pizza 2000 – they’re the best at making a black olive, sausage, onion and green pepper pizza!
  2. Tandoori – which recently re-located from North Main Street to be closer to my office! Two favorites are Chicken Tikka Marsala and Lamb Vindaloo.
  3. Water Moon – my favorite is their sushi and sashimi combo – usually have enough left over for lunch the next day!

What do you enjoy doing in your free time? 

Fahey: I love being on the water, whether it’s on a rowboat, sailboat, or motorboat, regardless of the weather. Being on the water brings a comforting solitude not found on land and puts me closer to the natural beauty of Long Island Sound. I also enjoy running but have recently had to take a hiatus to allow an old ankle injury to heal properly. But I will be running again!

Thanks Matt!

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