In the midst of much publicized political discourse over the state parcel along Boston Post Road, recent prospective costs and a number of unanswered questions related to relocating the Department of Public Works to the state property could hinder the Rye City Council’s future plans for Disbrow Park.
According to the most recent survey conducted by Stantec Consulting Services, which has been tasked with coming up with a plan for improvements needed at the park, the most talked about concept that includes moving the city Department of Public Works, DPW, from Disbrow to the New York State Thruway Authority property across from the Rye Country Day School is now estimated to cost as much as $39.9 million.
The plan calls for relocating Grainger and Founders fields within the park and installing synthetic turf to Sterling Field on top of the relocation of DPW. The proposal also involves developing new seating, adding spectator viewing spots, and creating better access to the 47-acre park’s wetland areas; it would improve pedestrian and vehicle circulation throughout the park and would add more than 185 parking spaces.
In addition to the cost of the project, there are several other hurdles that may prohibit the city from relocating DPW to the state-owned land, which is estimated to cost as much as $8 million alone.
According to Councilwoman Danielle Tagger-Epstein, a Democrat, the state parcel of land desired for the relocation is located on an uneven surface and will cost an “immeasurable” amount of money more than the general estimation by Stantec, which based their study off of moving DPW to flat land.
Stantec’s report shows that demolishing the current facility at the park and building a new one at another location—a flat surface—is estimated to cost $$22.1 million, which is included in the total $39.9 plan.
“Knowing what we know now, I think moving [DPW] to that particular spot is not the right way to spend taxpayer dollars,” Tagger-Epstein told the Review, adding that she would support relocating the DPW to another place large enough for the operation. “It’s absolutely the wrong spot for [the department] and we have enough data to support that.”
The city may also be too late in its consideration of moving the department to the Thruway property.
State Assemblyman Steve Otis, a Rye Democrat, recently sponsored state legislation to allow the Rye Country Day School, RCDS, to purchase the property.
Otis told the Review the window of opportunity to acquire the land can expire at any point.
The assemblyman explained that it’s already been two years since the Thruway Authority began soliciting a buyer for the unused property and exhausting any more time to find a deal may result in the Thruway Authority trying to find another interested party, actualizing the long-held fear of an outsider controlling the property which sits at an entry point to the city.
The property has been eyed for decades by city officials in an effort to protect the community from the potential of some type of private development plans. The incentive became greater once it became known that the state agency was willing to part with the land.
Otis’ bill, which passed through the state Legislature on June 15, currently awaits a signature from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat.
If the bill is signed by Cuomo, a stipulation requires RCDS to come to terms with the city on a shared-use agreement for the property.
Meanwhile, Republican members of the Rye City Council have been at odds with Otis, a former Rye mayor, over his efforts on behalf of RCDS.
In particular, Mayor Joe Sack, a Republican, has been engaged in a war of words with Otis. Sack said that with many unanswered questions about the property, the bill seems “forced” and “too early” before any complete studies could have been conducted on the land.
“It’s important to not jump the gun and consider all options,” said Sack, who sparked a renewed interest in the state parcel after announcing his re-election campaign in May. “Everyone needs to take a deep breath. This is going to be a long process and we need to hear all perspectives before making any decision on the [property].”
As of press time, there is no timeline for when the city intends to make a decision on how to address Disbrow Park. A presentation by Stantec was planned for the City Council’s next meeting on July 12, but that discussion has been postponed for a later date.
Originally, the city dropped all efforts to pursue the Thruway property after Sack lost support from most of his City Council colleagues last fall. With an $8 million price tag on the parcel, most councilmembers felt that it was too expensive. In a previous interview, Sack called that decision one of his biggest regrets as mayor.
Councilman Terry McCartney, a Republican who is also running for re-election, echoed similar sentiments of the mayor regarding the city taking its time to make the right decision, adding that it would be “reckless to give away a clearly good option” without further conversations on the property.
“It’s way too early to say what the best use for the land is,” McCartney said. “There may be a way for this to work for everybody if we find another place to put DPW, but we have to really analyze what’s reasonable first.”
City Manager Marcus Serrano declined to comment on whether or not the price of Stantec’s proposal is affordable.