What happened? She decided to move to Paris, France – read more. Her Q&A with MyRye.com is still relevant – Fontanes will still be governing until her term ends January 1st and readers will be able to compare and contrast her views with the other three still actively campaigning. Watch for our upcoming interviews with all candidates running this fall.
The three seats opening are currently held by Carolina Johnson (not running for reelection), Josh Nathan (incumbent, running for reelection) and Fontanes. Four candidates are in the ballot – Fontanes, Josh Nathan (incumbent), Jamie Jensen (challenger) and Keith Cunningham (challenger).
Your Name: Lori Fontanes
Running for: Rye City Council
MyRye.com: Why are you running for Rye City Council?
Fontanes: As an incumbent on a one-year term, I feel like I’m just getting started and can offer the city so much more. In just six months I feel like I’ve been able to effectively integrate my previous volunteer work for Rye, especially on the Conservation Commission and Rye Sustainability. It’s been such a pleasure to participate in civic life as an elected representative, in particular, attending events with our many community groups, as well as listening to and working with citizens to help achieve the best outcome on any given issue.
Why are you running for Rye City Council now?
Fontanes: I believe that my record of civil discourse and responsible governance is especially useful at City Hall right now. It’s heartening to see so much public participation, too.
What is your party affiliation?
Fontanes: Democratic Party
What are the three biggest opportunities / challenges facing the City of Rye over the next 3-5 years?
- Flooding, flooding, flooding and other climate risks. As I sit here filling out this form, Rye is under a flood watch (again) as well as a tornado watch. Last month, we endured unhealthy levels of bad air for days. Heat waves, especially in a city that regularly endures power outages, also a major concern especially for the elderly, the very young, and other vulnerable members of our community.
- Updating our comprehensive planning. The citizens have been calling for this repeatedly and we should ensure there is substantial public engagement in the entire process. There really is no excuse not to do whatever it takes to get this underway again to ensure the best future for Rye. We should also consider an expedited recreation plan with fiscally prudent, effective solutions for field space and other usage needs.
- Citizen engagement and volunteer recruitment. It is exciting to see so many new families and to celebrate our longtime, especially those who have given many years of service on our boards, commissions and committees. That said, considering the accelerated pace of challenges in this moment, I think that a more organized, robust approach to explaining how our local government depends so much on volunteers and inviting residents to participate in this essential contribution will be even more important than ever in the coming decade.
What is new about these opportunities / challenges since the last election cycle?
Fontanes: It’s only been a year but I would say that flood risk is as serious as ever, if not more so. Planning is also crucial, including emergency and disaster prep aspects. I have always appreciated the importance of public conversations and volunteer service but, again, now that I am on the council, I value it even more and want to support this process as much as possible. Considering recent controversies, it’s clear that residents want to be heard. At this key moment, I have been one of the people on City Council making sure the public has a voice and are respected.
What are the three flood mitigation measures the City should undertake with the greatest cost/benefit?
Fontanes: Flood mitigation is a complex, costly and, in a time of climate change, inevitable challenge. There will be many different measures but here are three buckets–short-term, mid-term and long-term.
- In addition to ongoing efforts to upgrade stormwater systems, apply for state and federal grants, coordinate with upstream municipalities on mitigation projects, we should activate the Climate Smart Communities task force. Project implementation must be a priority.
- Comprehensive planning, long overdue, needs to happen now. We need to look holistically at flood risk through the lens of community, not just parcel-by-parcel.
- Any major construction projects related to flood risk require planning, engineering and funding that is well outside our individual capacity as a small city to achieve. Mamaroneck just completed projects that began right after Sandy. All the more reason to pursue large-scale measures now before the next superstorm hits.
Should Rye Recreation’s Nursery Field be considered as a potential location for a turf athletic field, yes or no?
Fontanes: It’s my job to keep an open mind on an issue currently before us on the council so, yes, I will give anything due consideration. That said, I have not received enough information from neutral parties regarding funding, taxpayer financial risk, post-Ida flood risk/mitigation/wetlands delineation, analysis of other field options, days lost to weather (all reasons), updated climate risks (including heat), etc. We are waiting to receive more diligence and I hope we can find a solution that meets the entire community’s needs.
Should Rye have more turf athletic fields, yes or no?
Fontanes: The City of Rye is not growing but our rec user group population is growing a lot, according to the presentation we heard earlier this year. The question then is how to best accommodate this vital need for citizens within the constraints of a limited resource—square footage? In my view, I think we need to telescope out and consider enhancements, redesign and other collaborations outside Rye Rec, especially as heat impacts from climate change will make synthetic turf likely unplayable sooner than we have all expected.
What are the three biggest areas for cost containment with the City of Rye over the next 3-5 years?
Fontanes: Some of this is the same as last year although I’m thrilled that we have been able to obtain some sizeable grant funding thanks to our capable staff!
- Evaluate our use of consultants on projects. Apply feasibility metrics and assessing/seeking broad community support for expensive, optional projects before hiring consultants.
- Continue to seek grants and partnerships, especially on complex issues such as flooding and climate risks. We are not going to be able to solve problems like this on our own.
- As I said last year and for many years, we need to revisit how we handle household waste, including a necessary and cost-saving redesign of food scraps curbside pickup program.
Please Answer the following questions Yes or No:
|Issue||Yes or No||[Please add a one sentence explanation.]|
|Rye City is prepared for the next “100 year” flood.||No||First of all, the definition of 100-year flood is changing all the time now. Secondly, even though flooding has been a part of Rye for decades, it seems like only now, as the climate crisis looms, we are starting to take the necessary measures.|
|Rye City should update its Master Plan.||Yes||Way overdue and the citizens have been asking for this for many years.|
|Rye City should have additional restrictions on residential development.||This cannot be answered without an updated comprehensive plan.|
|Rye City should be more pedestrian and bike friendly.||I am a longtime walker in Rye and, for the most part, have not had any issues getting around town and I’m pleased to see the installation of new crosswalk lights everywhere. That said, safety issues, including bike-friendliness, is always a top priority for me.|
|I voted for (or would have voted for) the recently passed tree law.||Yes||Although not perfect and long overdue, the new tree ordinance is a step forward. We should revisit it regularly to evaluate and make any necessary adjustments.|
|The City should either find a way to enforce the leaf blower law or eliminate it.||The City should enforce the law.|
|Landscapers should be registered with the City so practices such as leaf blowers can be more closely controlled.||No||This is excessive. Not only is another layer of permitting costly for small businesses, it would also be expensive for the City to add staff time to monitor compliance. Regardless, I do not think it would achieve the goal of less non-compliance.|
|Rye Playland will be in good hands with Standard Amusements.||Too early to tell. I certainly hope that such an important part of Rye will succeed, for our community’s sake as well as the larger Playland user base.|
|Do you support the raising of the Pride flag on City flagpoles?||Yes||Demonstrating our respect for all citizens is important, now more than ever.|
|The current road conditions in Rye are acceptable.||We have made discernible progress in our paving schedule around town, even despite regular and unavoidable disruption from utility companies. There’s always more to be done and staff has created a plan to continue implementing road improvements on an ongoing basis.|
|Rye City needs to reduce its deer population by active management that might include sharp shooters or bow hunting||We should look at what current best practices are concerning deer management and I agree with residents who have spoken on this. It’s not just a garden nuisance but a public safety issue on our roads.|
|Should Rye have its own designated, year-round off-leash dog park (similar to what Port Chester has)?||Rye dog owners have some good options today. We should survey dog owners on additional needs and study what reasonable options exist. As always, public input will be important.|
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?
Fontanes: My answer is the same as last year with the update that now as council liaison to the Board of Architectural Review (in addition to my years on CC/AC where we often advised the Planning Commission), I have an even better understanding of where and how some of the information gaps can occur. As I’ve said before, many Rye residents have told me they do not know how building decisions are made, which commission or board does what and how they can participate in the process. Transparency can be enhanced through education, timely notification, easy access to information, and outreach. Here are some specific recommendations:
- Update comprehensive (development) plan
- Building database (see answer below)
- Review all communications methods regarding development/building for improvement
What benchmarks could the City publish annually or semi-annually that could help residents understand the state of land use in the City?
Fontanes: I continue to recommend that the City could maintain a resident-accessible database regarding the number and type of applications and update relevant information as needed. Posting statistics, timelines, and process flow would go a long way to helping people understand what is going on. They want to know what their rights are, which board or commission handles at which point, and, most importantly, residents want to feel as if their concerns are being heard and taken seriously.
What are your current 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?
Fontanes: The plan is lower in height than the version originally approved by Port Chester. Traffic flow issues need to be addressed and should be of concern to residents of Rye, Rye Brook and Port Chester. The City needs to be more involved.
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.
Fontanes: Beyond the obvious need for an updated comprehensive planning process, it is also clear that we must take climate impacts on our coastal community into consideration as well. Flood, heat, air quality and rain rates were quite different in 1985. Beyond that, we need a robust, transparent process that includes voices from across the community. I believe we can work together on such a plan because we all want to preserve what makes Rye such a wonderful place to live. Involving the public in an informed and collaborative process is needed for a successful outcome.
Tell us about you:
How would your friends and family describe you in one word?
|Select from:||Your Pick:|
|Coke or Pepsi?||We were always a Pepsi family|
|Regular or diet?||No aspartame for me|
|Action movie or rom com?||Sci-fi action preferred|
|Cook, order in or eat out?||My home cooking|
|Dog, cat or no pet?||How can I make cat videos without a cat???|
|Balsamic vinaigrette or ranch?||Either|
|Ruffles Original, Lay’s Barbeque or Funyuns?||BBQ!|
|Still, sparkling or tap?||Sparkling with lime|
What is the kindest thing someone has ever done for you?
Fontanes: Can’t tell you or I will cry! Needless to say, I’ve been lucky to have many people do kind things for me and I hope that others can say the same about what I’ve done for them, too.
What is your day job?
Fontanes: Writer/producer, community advocate and adjunct professor, Manhattanville College where I teach in both the undergraduate and graduate programs.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why, and who would you take with you?
Fontanes: So, you asked me this question last year and I answered Iceland and guess what, I went there in June! Now I guess I need to rethink my bucket list and get back to you!
What is your favorite streaming / TV series ever?
Fontanes: Ever is a strong word. Thoroughly enjoyed Call My Agent, Stranger Things and The Diplomat. Currently watching The Witcher because Henry Cavill, not the script.
What is your favorite movie?
Fontanes: Star Wars, of course.
Where do you live in Rye and how many years have you lived in the City?
Fontanes: I’m on my third place in Rye, which has given me the benefit of different neighborhoods and different lifestyle perspectives. We started out in Hix Park near the water, then moved to a much larger parcel near Milton School and now I’ve downsized to a cute house closer to Rye Town Park.
What affiliations do you have with organizations in Rye?
Church of the Resurrection (2009-present), ResPREP and Carver Center volunteer (2011-2012)
Rye YMCA Cross-District Wellness Committee (2012-present), also other Rye Y projects such as Derby Goes Green, Healthier Sound Shore, etc.
Member, Board of Trustees, Jay Heritage Center, 2020-present
City of Rye Sustainability Committee, 2014-2017, including co-chair, Healthy Yards Program. Emerita advisor, 2018-present.
City of Rye Conservation Commission/Advisory Council, 2017-2021, including two years as Vice Chair. CC/AC advises council and planning commission on land use and conservation issues and reviews wetland permits.
Rye CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), supporter and volunteer 2012-present
Milton Mom, 2009-2012, Safe Routes to Schools, edible gardens, wellness committee
Project manager, pollinator initiative, Rye Town Park, 2020-2021
Rye Seniors (2022-present)
NAACP Port Chester Rye Branch 2022-present, focused on enviro & climate justice issues, including emergency preparedness
Public speaker, Rye venues include Rye Garden Club, Rye Country Day School, Watershed Literary Festival, Wainwright House, and Jay Heritage Center.
What are three of your favorite food takeout / delivery restaurants in or around Rye?
Fontanes: Even though I love Star Wars, I will not be drawn into the pizza wars, Jay!
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Fontanes: Gardening, travel, walking, reading, photography, spending time with friends working on civic projects.
Please provide links to:
Long active in her community, current City Councilmember Lori Fontanes has served in a variety of leadership capacities including Vice-Chair of the City of Rye Conservation Commission/Advisory Council, founding co-chair of the Rye Sustainability Committee healthy yard initiative and member of the Board of Trustees of the Jay Heritage Center, Rye YMCA Cross-District Wellness Committee, Safe Routes to School, Milton School edible garden program, and many other efforts.
Lori’s work in communications spans decades and she tells stories in all media. Her first film as a writer/director premiered at the Sundance Film Festival; her producing projects have played in Paris, Salzburg and Los Angeles, among other venues; and her articles have appeared both in print and on digital platforms. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Lori comes from a family of firefighters, police officers and educators. She deeply understands the importance of public safety as a key function of local government.
Lori received a B.A. in Radio/Television/Film from Temple University and a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from Manhattanville College where she is also an adjunct professor. She has one child, a Milton School alum, who is currently studying at the University of Chicago.