The three seats opening are currently held by Carolina Johnson (not running for reelection), Lori Fontanes (incumbent, on the ballot but no longer actively campaigning) and Josh Nathan (incumbent, running for reelection). Four candidates are in the race – Fontanes, Nathan, Jensen (challenger) and Keith Cunningham (challenger).
Your Name: Jamie Jensen
Running for: Rye City Council
MyRye.com: Why are you running for Rye City Council?
Jensen: After living here for more than a dozen years and spending considerable time volunteering in support of Rye City Schools, Rye Town Park and our community organizations, I have a strong sense of what our community needs and, more important, how to make change happen. I also have a sense of what makes our community special and what we should fight to preserve. Above all, I believe city government needs to serve the whole community; together in Rye we should be a model for good government and how it can work.
Why are you running for Rye City Council now?
Jensen: People who know me well tell me I’m a good listener and someone who can bring people together and find workable solutions. I am willing to show up, do the hard work, and I don’t tire easily. After a particularly divisive year for our City Council, I think, now more than ever, I have just the right energy, commitment, and temperament for the role.
What is your party affiliation?
Jensen: I am a registered Democrat.
What are the three biggest opportunities /challenges facing the City of Rye over the next 3-5 years?
- Flood mitigation – Since Hurricane Ida 2021 there has been measurable progress, but we have more to do and can’t take our eye off the ball. We need a sensible balance to our approach to development that reflects the reality that our beautiful, historic, coastal town is built at the bottom of a 14-mile watershed. When heavy rain and strong seasonal storms hit, too many residents face threats to their personal safety and costly damages to their homes and shared public spaces.
- Sensible development – The last master plan for Rye was written in 1985. We are long overdue for a comprehensive plan that reflects the goals and desires of our citizens and ensures our community thrives in the years ahead.
- Pro-community ethos – The citizens of Rye deserve a vibrant, healthy and safe community life that includes strong and well cared for recreation programs and parks, fire and police departments, and other community-based organizations that serve and support our residents. Working to meet the needs of all our residents while exercising fiscal discipline is the challenge before us I believe we can do this.
What is new about these opportunities / challenges since the last election cycle?
Jensen: These challenges are not particularly new; we’ve had valuable conversations and taken productive (though too often reactive) steps to address these issues. But frankly we have not made sufficient progress on developing a master/comprehensive plan for Rye. We need to stop waiting for bad things to happen and playing “whack-a-mole.” To paraphrase Lewis Carroll in Alice in Wonderland, if we don’t know where we are going, we will never get there.
What are the three flood mitigation measures the City should undertake with the greatest cost/benefit?
- Tight controls on floodplain development – Hurricane Ida extended beyond our 100-year floodplain map and the City Council and staff have focused our municipal government on rethinking our flood mitigation tools and procedures. This includes our capacity to manage stormwater run-off when we have flooding rains. This is a positive move.
- Protection of mature, healthy trees and our wetland buffers when new local construction is underway. Both are a natural part of flood mitigation.
- Up-to-date and thoughtful investment in the city’s infrastructure in coordination with our neighboring partners in Harrison, Rye Brook, Port Chester and Mamaroneck. Flood mitigation in our watershed, which includes both the Blind Brook and Beaver Swamp Brook, requires working in a multi-municipality manner. We need to move ahead on flood mitigation projects within Rye and with upstream communities if we are going to reduce our flood risk. And it requires understanding the latest advances in technology to insure the safety of life and property. I look forward to digging deep and learning from the good work that has been done to date.
Should Rye Recreation’s Nursery Field be considered as a potential location for a turf athletic field, yes or no?
Jensen: As an elected representative in our community, I will weigh all factors involved in any development project. I have listened carefully to everyone who has weighed in on the issue and, given all that I have learned, I would not support the current turf proposal being evaluated for the Nursery Field. However, increasing recreation options in Rye is a priority of mine. We should pursue redesigning the drainage at Nursery Field to increase recreational use, while respecting the flood damage concerns of neighbors. I am open to learning and am ready to roll up my sleeves and work with Rye families to find alternative solutions.
Should Rye have more turf athletic fields, yes or no?
Jensen: I am not opposed to turf fields. These decisions need to be made on a case-specific and site-specific basis. Throughout the country communities debate the various issues based on location, proximity to homes, comparative costs to taxpayers and safety. I will bring an open mind and my analytic skills to proposals at all locations. Beyond the turf field issue, I will be a supporter of expanding recreation opportunities for the many programs and leagues in Rye.
What are the three biggest areas for cost containment with the City of Rye over the next 3-5 years?
- Litigation – We pursue too many lawsuits and these suits have hidden costs that most citizens do not realize.
- Aging infrastructure – We need to invest in our aging infrastructure in the near term to avoid more expensive problems and repairs in the long term.
- When passing new ordinances, we need to consider long-term costs to homeowners, local business, and all of Rye’s taxpayers.
Please Answer the following questions Yes or No:
|Issue||Yes or No||More|
|Rye City is prepared for the next “100 year” flood.||No||We are getting there but as Hurricane Ida made clear we have a lot of work to do.|
|Rye City should update its Master Plan.||Yes||See detailed answer below|
|Rye City should have additional restrictions on residential development.||NA||This is not a question easily answered. It is a question our community needs to answer through a comprehensive planning process. Every time a new home that had three bathrooms is taken down and a developer builds a new one that has 5-6 bathrooms on the same size lot, we need to be asking a series of questions about impact on aging infrastructure and quality of life.
Whatever the community ultimately decides through a comprehensive planning process, the questions need to be asked and answered.
|Rye City should be more pedestrian and bike friendly.||I walk an average 4-7 miles every day and I have walked in every neighborhood and almost every street in Rye. Thanks to resident volunteers and our police, we are safe and pedestrian friendly. We can always do better, of course, and I will stay attuned to resident concerns and suggestions.|
|I voted for (or would have voted for) the recently passed tree law.||I would have voted for the tree law, but I also believe it is a flawed ordinance and we need to review it regularly. As a member of the City Council, I will not let “perfect become the enemy of the good” when it comes to our city. The bottom line is that protecting our tree canopy should be part of our larger comprehensive planning discussions.|
|The city should either find a way to enforce the leaf blower law or eliminate it.||Quality of life issues came to the forefront when we were all working and studying from home during COVID. Noise pollution is real. Moving away from gas powered landscaping machines is our future. Real change takes time, and the leaf blower law is part of that change process.|
|Landscapers should be registered with the City so practices such as leaf blowers can be more closely controlled.||I am a small business advocate and believe that we should not be putting landscapers out of business with unnecessary surcharges. I do think that landscapers will have to make changes and Rye should take this time to get ahead of future state mandates and be a leading voice in the changes that are coming. As a strong local market for local landscaping companies, Rye residents should be part of the sustainable solutions as we move through this inevitable transition.|
|Rye Playland will be in good hands with Standard Amusements.||The jury is still out for me. I worry about quality of life for Rye residents, particularly those living near Playland. We will need to be vigilant and, if elected, I plan to be.|
|Do you support the raising of the Pride flag on City flagpoles?||Yes. Anytime we as a community can make clear to all our neighbors that we are welcoming and inclusive, we should.|
|The current road conditions in Rye are acceptable.||The roads are getting better and should continue to be a capital priority for the city. For Rye residents, this is always a central issue and again, if elected, I plan to stay on top of this issue.|
|Rye City needs to reduce its deer population by active management that might include sharp shooters or bow hunting||Safety comes first for me. It is clear that deer and other garden ‘pests’ are aplenty, and we do not have enough natural predators. I am open to learning more.|
|Should Rye have its own designated, year-round off-leash dog park (similar to what Port Chester has)?||Rye Town Park has clear off leash rules in effect in the early morning hours all year long. This is a much beloved time for dog owners in Rye. The County has dog beach hours on Playland Beach in the off season. As someone who is well acquainted with the Town Park and conversations among dog owners, it appears most residents are happy with this arrangement. I am always open to hearing any concerns, however.|
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?
Jensen: I’m a big believer in greater transparency. Citizens tend to vote in their best interests when presented with all the information. Right now, flood mitigation is top of mind, yet residents are often blindsided by new construction and other development plans that impact quality of life without first understanding the facts and implications.
- We need to do more to engage local citizens as volunteers in our boards and commissions. We are lucky to have such smart and talented Small government — that is largely voluntary — requires we do our best at nurturing, appreciating and supporting our volunteers.
- We need a comprehensive planning process that will provide a road map for future development and capital investments.
- We need to give residents better access to information and tools to understand how building and land use decisions are As they say, “sunlight is often the best disinfectant.”
What benchmarks could the City publish annually or semi-annually that could help residents understand the state of land use in the City?
- Before we set benchmarks through a comprehensive planning process, making land use materials more accessible to residents would be good. I have downloaded the new Government app and look forward to using this and other tools our city staff are developing to making the business of the city more accessible. Perhaps enhancing these tools with an online format to make land use activity easily visible to the public is something to consider.
- The City’s comprehensive planning process would be improved by providing the public with an overview of our current comprehensive plan/policies. Compared to our neighboring communities, Rye has been the beneficiary of policies that have prevented commercial sprawl and minimized traffic on our main roads. That is a good thing. Sharing the baseline of what we have now should be an important part of involving the public and setting benchmarks for our future.
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?
Jensen: Land use decisions at municipal borders is a common event, and we should seek cooperation with our municipal neighbors on issues within Rye and beyond our borders. As a representative for Rye, I would keep a close watch on any development project and focus on hearing the concerns of all neighborhoods involved. For the United Hospital parcel I know there are ongoing concerns regarding the traffic plan and how it may impact traffic in Port Chester, Rye Brook and Rye. My goal will be to have Rye actively involved in obtaining the best solutions.
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.
Jensen: Yes, we should have a comprehensive plan and it should begin with a process that surveys/summarizes existing conditions and provides our community with a guide for the future use of both our built and natural environment. It should give our elected and appointed volunteers the tools they need to regulate the physical development of our city, and it should reflect our vision for the future.
Our stakeholder groups should include: homeowners, local businesses, houses of worship, community organizations, the Osborn, and our schools (both private and public). In other words, our taxpayers. Public participation is critical and that process should include informal participation through public workshops and informational sessions. Public participation should also include mandatory hearings by those who have been designated to prepare the plans, and by our City Council, before anything is adopted.
The plan should address development of private homes and public spaces and look at quality-of-life concerns (everything from noise pollution to community shared spaces), our tax burden, and basic capital needs.
Tell us about you:
How would your friends and family describe you in one word?
Jensen: It’s a tie between “committed” and “approachable”
|Select from:||Your Pick:|
|Coke or Pepsi?||Coke|
|Regular or diet?||Diet|
|Action movie or rom com?||Both|
|Cook, order in or eat out?||Cook|
|Dog, cat or no pet?||Dog|
|Balsamic vinaigrette or ranch?||Balsamic|
|Ruffles Original, Lay’s Barbeque or Funyuns?||Ruffles Original|
|Still, sparkling or tap?||Tap – we have great city water|
What is the kindest thing someone has ever done for you?
Jensen: I have had many folks show me kindness, especially here in Rye. I am grateful to friends for the flowers left at my door when I’ve had a bad week, for the soup when I come home from the hospital, for the words of encouragement when I really need it. For me it’s not about the “most kind act” but the gratitude I feel every day for my friends and family.
What is your day job?
Jensen: I am a semi-retired, 25+ year non-profit consultant and educator. And I am currently building a tutoring practice in reading and writing with an emphasis on students who struggle with dyslexia.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why, and who would you take with you?
Jensen: I would visit Alaska with my husband, son, and daughter. I want to see the glaciers, hike in the crisp mountain air, and experience the wild, untouched majesty of this part of our country.
What is your favorite streaming / TV series ever?
Jensen: For me TV is about the shared experience. I loved Friends when I was in graduate school. I loved watching Star Trek with my three brothers as a kid. Today, TV shows are part of dinner party conversations and morning dog walks here in Rye, as notes are compared and discoveries shared. Mrs. Maisel and The Bear are currently keeping me entertained.
What is your favorite movie?
Jensen: There is no such thing as a favorite movie for me. Again, it’s all about the shared experiences. I love the action adventure / Marvel series that I watched with my son. I loved Harry Potter when I watched all of them with my daughter. I love watching thought-provoking, timeless movies with my husband.
Where do you live in Rye and how many years have you lived in the City?
Jensen: I live near Rye Town Park on Forest Avenue. We moved to Rye in 2010.
What affiliations do you have with organizations in Rye?
- Friends of Rye Town Park (Board Secretary) – current
- Rye Town Park Alliance (FB page administrator/park advocate for local residents) – current
- The Rye Record (contributing writer) – 2017-2023
- Open Door Family Medical Centers – Portchester, Mamaroneck, Kisco, Ossining, Sleep Hollow, Brewster. (Chair of the Foundation Board) – 2017- present
- Police Advisory Committee – 2020
- Rye City Public Schools – former Rye Middle School Parent Organization co- president, Rye High School class parent – 2014-2018
- Heard In Rye – High school rep and then Co-Chair – 2010-2016
- Healing Arts Collective in Rye – Co founder – 2016-2019
- Lawn Chair Theater – Shakespeare in the Park marketing team – 2014-2019
- Rye Garnets Varsity Soccer – Team Parent – 2017-2018
- Westchester County Election Inspector at Rye polling places – 2019-2022
- Westchester Women’s Agenda – Open Door representative
What are three of your favorite food takeout / delivery restaurants in or around Rye?
Jensen: We have so many fabulous food establishments in Rye it is too hard to choose! We have enough to meet my family’s varied tastes and moods, and I recommend trying them all. We are so lucky to live in Rye and should support our downtown and neighborhood eateries.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Jensen: I love to walk, hike, and play tennis with friends and family. I can’t wait to learn to play pickleball!
At home, I love to read, play board games and build puzzles, but mostly I love to write with my writing group – The Ten – a group of ten Rye women who share their talent and voices through writing. This group has changed how I see the world. We are so lucky to have a town filled with such talented people.
Please provide links to:
Jamie Jensen is a longtime advocate for and supporter of Rye Town Park and currently serves as an officer of the Friends of Rye Town Park, where she helps improve the park’s infrastructure, gardens, lawns, and programming. She has also forged partnerships with community organizations to bring new programs, performances, and art to the park and beach. Jamie Jensen has also served as a Parent Organization president, Co-chair of Heard in Rye, class parent, and founding member of the Rye Fund for Education. In addition, Jamie Jensen has served the Rye community as a contributing writer for The Rye Record since 2016. Beyond Rye, Jamie Jensen is Chair of the Board of the Open Door Foundation which supports the work of the widely- recognized Open Door Family Medical Centers, which serves more than 65,000 patients each year in seven locations across the Lower Hudson Valley, including Mamaroneck and Port Chester. Jamie Jensen is a graduate of Wellesley College and earned her MA in Education at University of Michigan.