June 01, 2005 Newsletter
June 1, 2005
To My Rye Brook Friends and Neighbors:
With the spring coming to a close, I am pleased to provide an update on many of the items the Village Board has been actively working on over the last several months. As you may recall, in my State of the Village Report in February I provided a “score sheet” that listed the Board’s accomplishments in 2004, and also outlined the things that still needed to get done. Let me focus on those parts of the list that were “works in progress”:
- The 2005-2006 Budget. Over the past several months, the Board focused on keeping the rate of tax increase at or near the rate of inflation, while expanding services and maintaining the Village’s fund balance at approximately 15% of revenues. We have achieved this goal. In April, the Board approved a budget with a tax levy increase of slightly more than 5%, allowing Rye Brook to have one of the lowest average Village taxes of all Villages in Westchester County. Moreover, the Rye Brook budget includes adding to our staff, spending more funds on public safety issues, including additional funds to the EMS corps, adding more services to our recreation programs and investing in quality of life matters (Village beautification, infrastructure improvements, etc.). I am personally grateful for the work done by our staff and the Board throughout this process;
- Speaking of public safety, we successfully concluded negotiations with Port Chester for a long-term Fire Protection Agreement that is fair and reasonable to both communities and, most importantly, continues the excellent working relationship that currently exists between the two villages and our respective fire departments. The new contract, which was approved by the Boards of both Villages, went into effect on June 1, 2005.
- In terms of the King Street Athletic Fields, all systems are “go” from our perspective. The Village completed the Intermunicipal Agreement (IMA) with Westchester County for Legacy Grant funding for this project. We are hopeful that Rye Brook will receive funding approval of the full Westchester County Board of Legislature in early June. Many thanks are due to Westchester County Legislator Marty Rogowsky and County Executive Andrew Spano for their continued support of this project. Once the county funding is approved, the Village will close on the two properties at the site and we will acquire the county roads in Rye Brook (Anderson Hill Road will be acquired immediately and part of Ridge Street will be acquired after the County has made improvements to it). Westchester County will provide us with approximately $2.75 million of the $3.5 million we need to build the fields, (the Village already has put aside $600,000) and the Board has approved a $200,000 financing to fund the relatively small shortfall. With the monies in hand, we anticipate construction to begin this summer. Given the magnitude and complexity of this project, including coordinating with private entities (The Arbors, Tennessee Gas) and public bodies (Blind Brook School District, Westchester County), we should be quite pleased;
- The Village is also moving ahead with improving the land deeded to us for recreational use by the developer of BelleFair. Following a study we commissioned from our consultants, and with the recommendation of our Recreation Council, the Board will be declaring this land as parkland, and we will build a walking and nature trail along the Lincoln Avenue/King Street corridor. Not only will the park protect the residents of BelleFair from any future use of this land for other purposes, but also it will serve as a natural buffer from noise and pollution from the airport. The BelleFair Homeowners Association is also considering expanding the use of its gym facility for all Rye Brook residents. This would be a win-win arrangement for all of us.
- Another of the items on my list is the clean up of mercury on Hillandale Road. It is now more than a year since the mercury has been rediscovered, and working closely with the EPA, a remediation plan finally has been agreed to and is being implemented. Unfortunately, this project will result in serious disruption for residents who live in the immediate vicinity. This clean up, which includes a tear down of 55 Hillandale, will not impact the plans for the building of either the Village or the Blind Brook School District athletic fields; nor will residents in The Arbors be inconvenienced. While the EPA suggested an alternate site for staging the clean up, the Board decided that timing and other issues made that plan undesirable. If the EPA keeps to its schedule, we hope to be able to re-open the path from Meadowlark Road to the Blind Brook High School – Middle School campus by September. To stay apprised of the clean up project,please visit the Village’s website, (www.ryebrook.org, which contains a link to the EPA’s website at www.epaose.net/PortRefinery.)
Several other items on February’s “to-do list” have been moved to the “done” column. These include giving final approval authority, on a number of matters, to the Planning Board; improving parking on a number of streets; and trying to deal with traffic flow on our main arteries, especially King Street.
Regarding the King Street joint traffic study with Greenwich, the final report and recommendation of the Rye Brook-Greenwich steering committee has been prepared by our consultant and is available on our web site. The next step is to meet with Greenwich officials to accept this plan and send it to NYS to implement the design.
The Village has hired a consultant, through a grant, to prepare a Hazardous Mitigation Plan. This plan will include an assessment of the Village of Rye Brook’s risks and vulnerabilities to potential hazard events, a strategy for minimizing those risks, and an action plan to implement the objectives of the plan. Please visit our web site (www.ryebrook.org) to comment on a list of identified hazards in Rye Brook and to receive updates on the progress of this plan.
The Village Board is also looking forward to several projects in Rich Manor Park. Through a $100,000 grant from Westchester County, this Summer we will be implementing a program to restore the stream bank and the stream bank buffer areas along the Blind Brook, removing invasive species, and replanting the area in a way that will help the water quality and improve the natural habitat of the brook.
The Village is also studying a plan for a detention basin in the northern section of Rich Manor Park that would help reduce flooding of downstream residential properties. Let me emphasize that this project is NOT on the immediate horizon but is one that we are evaluating. Among other things, we will look at cost/benefit ratios and we will also get input from the residents who would be affected, both positively and negatively, from this project.
We are also very concerned with any illegal housing in the Village and will soon be implementing a Safe Housing Program with a goal to protect the safety of the residents in illegal apartments or homes as well as the safety and quality of life of their immediate neighbors, through our code enforcement officials.
Finally, as I noted just about a year ago, our Village looks lovely and people are out and about. We have joggers, walkers, and, most important, our children are playing outside and going to and from our schools, parks and fields. Please drive very carefully, have a safe summer and enjoy your neighborhood.
Lawrence A. Rand