Author Archives: John Carey


Column: More about Rye’s emergency preparedness

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, “If available, emergency services personnel are the best trained and equipped to handle emergencies…you should use them. However, following a catastrophic disaster, you and the community may be on your own for a period of time because of the size of the area affected, lost communications, unpassable roads.”

This warning appears in the foreword to FEMA’s loose-leaf “Community Emergency Response Team Participant Manual.” A copy of this comprehensive volume is issued to each qualified CERT volunteer who has taken a course followed by an exam. I have access to a copy that was issued to a volunteer in New Canaan, Conn., where CERT methods are used extensively and effectively. Much can be learned by talking with the people in charge there.

The text goes on to explain that “CERT training is designed to prepare you to help yourself, your family, and your neighbors in the event of a catastrophic disaster. Because emergency services personnel will not be able to help everyone immediately, you can make a difference by using the training in this Participant Manual to save lives and protect property.”

The manual points out that “for the initial period immediately following a disaster—often up to three days or longer—individuals, households and neighborhoods may need to rely on their own resources for: food, water, first aid, shelter. Individual preparedness, planning, survival skills, and mutual aid within neighborhoods and worksites during this initial period are essential measures in coping with the aftermath of a disaster.”

The 20-hour CERT training program covers disaster preparedness, fire safety, disaster medical operations, light search and rescue, CERT organization, disaster psychology, and, finally, terrorism and CERT. Each of these subjects has a separate chapter in the manual.

My hope is that the Rye City Council will issue a call for CERT volunteers and recruit appropriate citizen leadership.



Column: We have been warned, time to act

Joaquin gave us fair warning—hurricane season is now upon us. It usually starts in September, and is a little late this year. But we are not yet out of danger just because cool weather seems to have arrived in place of the torrid summer.

Suppose Joaquin had turned northwest instead of northeast. How many trees and wires would have been torn down in Rye, ripping away power lines and plunging our town into darkness and cold on these chilly days and nights? How much flooding would have hit us if we had received a foot of rain as in Charleston, S.C.?

We were advised from City Hall a week before Joaquin came near that the city manager had alerted our uniformed staff to be ready. No doubt they would have been ready to evacuate some of our immobile seniors. But nothing has been announced about where to find emergency shelter, let alone nourishment. The device of the Red Alert could be effectively used to get the word out.

As things stand now, anyone from small babies to incapacitated elders could be isolated and overlooked. No one would know of their plight. That is a danger unworthy of a caring community. Rye should be the kind of place where everyone is looked after. We need a census of everyone who might need assistance.

A hint of what we need in Rye appeared in the New York Times of Oct. 5 on page A12, speaking of Brian Hinton, deputy chief of the Charleston County Volunteer Rescue Squad: “Mr. Hinton’s team of about three dozen volunteers had been conducting rescues through the night, sleeping only in brief shifts.”

As a vehicle comparable to Charleston’s volunteer rescue squad, our City Council has a nonprofit entity called the Rye Community Emergency Response Team, Rye CERT, available to it. A nearby example of how such an organization can be effectively used can be seen in the comparable community of New Canaan, Conn. But Rye’s CERT needs staffing and activation by volunteers.

Even if we should be lucky enough not to be hit by any more hurricanes this year, other emergencies such as a blizzard might hit us even before the 2016 hurricane season. City Council, you have the ball.



Column: A pope for the masses

My family includes members of all three major American faiths, therefore we do not judge, lest we be judged. Our late son John Jr. was a Catholic. One of my favorite first cousins is a member of the Order of the Sacred Heart. Thus, we were able to rejoice wholeheartedly in the pope’s ministry here.

We were particularly touched by his presence at locations long familiar to us. As he entered the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul, we thought back many years to when my wife Pat and I drove past that location twice each workday, en route to our jobs in the center of Philadelphia.

Many years before that, I would be driven by my parents to the nearby Academy of Natural Sciences. There, I would not enjoy mounting a long staircase topped by an enormous stuffed gorilla. Other sights in that museum were more enjoyable to youngsters, as were the live animals and birds at the
Philadelphia Zoo.

The view along Benjamin Franklin Parkway in downtown Philadelphia has changed with new buildings, but still looms the rather grotesque City Hall with William Penn’s statue atop the tower. I remember my mother taking me up in a creaking elevator all the way up to “Billy” Penn’s feet. Mother predicted that the time might come when City Hall would no longer be the tallest building in the city. How right she was, about that and most other things of importance.



Column: My experiences in Guantanamo Bay

No news media that I am exposed to has mentioned any reference by Pope Francis to Guantanamo Bay. Yet I am sure I heard the English translator of his statement on arrival in Havana say that Guantanamo must be returned to Cuba. I was not able to follow what the Pope said in Spanish.

“GTMO” was the U.S. Navy’s abbreviation for Guantanamo during World War II. We claim a treaty right to lease GTMO which we would be reluctant to give up because of its strategic importance. The huge sheltered harbor is not far from the Windward Passage and the Panama Canal. The view across the bay to the hills beyond is spectacular.

During WWII, my ship, the USS PC-1245, put in at GTMO. German subs were prowling near the U.S. east coast, so merchant ships moving north or south were in peril and needed protection. They would travel in convoys, escorted by our anti-submarine warfare ships. We were constantly searching underwater for the enemy, using the magic of SONAR.

SONAR sent an audible sound wave out through the water. You could hear it going “ping… ping… ping” night and day. If we heard it go “ping… thud,” that meant something solid was bouncing the sound back, possibly a school of fish, possibly a sub. That was called a “contact” and would usually bring the entire ship’s crew to “General Quarters,” with all hands at their assigned battle stations.

I first heard a shot fired in anger one time when SONAR indicated a contact. Excitement raced through the crew. We fired weapons called “hedgehogs,” small bombs that landed in the water ahead of the ship, sinking, and set to explode on contact with anything solid. We heard no explosion that time, so it was back to escort duty.

Upon victory in Europe, we were ordered to the Pacific. After passing through the Panama Canal, we stopped at Pearl Harbor. There we acquired additional automatic fire power, to be able throw up at attacking Kamikaze planes the greatest possible amount of metal. We heard we were to be part of a “picket line” of small ships to draw fire from suicide planes at a distance from Japanese shores where our landing craft would be operating. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki avoided all that.



Column: Changing meanings, changing tastes

What is now called “cool” used to be “hot.” A “square” deal used to be a fair deal, but now it is not chic to be “square.” And as the changing of word usage goes, so does the changing of architectural styles.

Here in Rye, we have the historic Square House. The original reason for the name, I’m told, was that the building began as one square room. It is also square in the sense that it has no gables or gingerbread adornments. Its beauty lies in its simplicity. Those who built it in the 17th century evidently did not feel it needed extra decoration.

I have taken great pleasure in watching the construction of a brand new square house on Forest Avenue across from Rye Town Park. It keeps company with its nearby neighbors, two square or rectangular houses with the added attribute of being built from brick, reminiscent of Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

I like brick construction and I am delighted to see that the house around the corner from us, on the corner of Stuyvesant Avenue and Halls Lane, is being given a brick skin to match the original brick façade facing Stuyvesant that has been preserved. And whenever I stroll down Pine Island Road, I am awed by the brick home recently built by former Mayor Ted Dunn and his wife.

In the early 1930s, a Democratic former bricklayer named Jack Kelly ran for mayor of Philadelphia and came close to winning, even though the GOP had dominated local elections for half a century. His company’s slogan, seen around town, was “Kelly for Brickwork.” He had an actress daughter named Grace, who became a princess. My wife’s parents were invited to her wedding in Monaco, where my mother-in-law donated one of her sculptures for the palace.



Column: Summerfest: a uniquely Rye celebration

Here in Rye, we celebrate as a community the secular occasions of July Fourth, Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day. On Thanksgiving and religious holidays, we each observe according to our own traditions and beliefs. But there is one day observed just in our community and open to all, and that is Summerfest.

Germans can have their Oktoberfest, when fall is in full swing and the beer is flowing, but we in Rye are hesitant to bid goodbye to summer. We want to wish hail and farewell to the warmer months before the equinoctial storms howl and bid us to check for warmer clothing.

And so it is that for the past two decades, Rye has said a fond farewell to summer with our community event called Summerfest. The original brainchild of two young men of Rye, Douglas Carey and Michael Kennedy, Summerfest provides an annual field day of fun for kids of all ages.

This year’s Summerfest is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 6 and will be held as usual at Recreation Park on Midland Avenue close by Midland School. The opening event, at 2:30 p.m., is the Jack Curran Memorial Bare-handed Ball Game. Contests, races and booths begin at 3 p.m.. The performance of live music for dancing and reminiscing begins at 5 p.m.. The Post Road Market provides ample snacks.

Some individual events at Summerfest are the bean bag toss, face painting, the peanut scramble, the 30-yard dash, potato sack races, decorating cupcakes, the water balloon challenge and the cupcake eating contest. By the time all this is over, many participants are feeling weary but sorry that Summerfest will not come again until next year.



Column: Driving on Forest and storm safety

My family and I have lived on Forest Avenue for close to 60 years.

At first, there were no joggers and few walkers on the street. In fact, it was so rare for anyone to exercise on Forest that a rookie police officer stopped me one evening because he suspected I was running away from the scene of a crime.

We now know that a police stop based solely on running, even if the runner is glancing backward apprehensively, is improper. It was so decided in 2014 by the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department, in the case of People v. Thomas, 5845/10. The rookie who stopped me did not remain on the Rye PD for long.

Today, there are many joggers on Forest, along with walkers, cyclists and adults with small children in baby carriages. These are all good to see, as long as they don’t expose themselves to needless danger, as long as they—other than cyclists—stick to the paved sidewalks where available.

The scariest sight for a conscientious motorist is a person in dark clothing walking or running after dark on the right hand side of the street, unable to see traffic approaching from behind him or her.

Then, there is the question of the Rye speed limit. For many years, the citywide limit was 25 mph. Then someone in their wisdom raised the citywide limit to 30. Recently, the limit was lowered to 25, but only in select locations, including part of our street.

The licensed drivers in my immediate family are unanimous in urging a return to a citywide speed limit of 25 mph, except on I-95 and I-287 where it is not up to us.

P.S.: As I write this, the air is briefly clear and cool, after a series of hot, humid days. While perspiring through such days, I worry about the September storms likely to follow such hot summer weather. Will it be like Hurricane Sandy again this year?

And while none of us can change the weather, we can and must prepare for the worst. Preparations are needed in each home, but more broadly citywide. And that is where the City Council comes in. It is up to the council to make sure we are ready for another Sandy or anything worse. I urge people to take a close look at how New Canaan, Conn., does it.

Every city employee should have a duty station and an assigned job during emergencies. Private citizen volunteers should also be organized and ready to spring into action when needed. The chain of emergency command must be clearly established and understood in order for Rye’s response to be most effective. Emergency shelters must be established and equipped, with their locations made known.



Column: The unshaven look

As a boy, I was familiar with only one living leader who had a beard. That was the Chief Justice of the United States, Charles Evans Hughes. Of course, one was bound to have seen photos of President Lincoln in his later years with a beard. And there was always Santa Claus. But by and large, public male figures were clean shaven.

I do not recall that any of my parents’ male friends were not clean shaven. When we boys were old enough to sprout stubble on our chins, we were proud to boast about how frequently we needed to shave. New hair elsewhere on the young male body was supposedly visible only in the home or mens’ locker room.

Soon after turning 21, I was in the Pacific on a U.S. anti-submarine ship, waiting for our assignment during the planned invasion of Japan. There seemed to be plenty of time to grow at least a goatee. Mine was just getting started when I received an urgent message: my stepfather, a World War I British Army veteran, had died suddenly. This followed soon after the death from war wounds of my older brother. Off came the goatee as I left for emergency home leave.

In 1946, after being released from active duty, I returned to Yale University to finish qualifying for a B.A. degree. That done, I went on to law school at Harvard without a break and studied year-round. Everyone was very serious, and growing a beard would have marked its owner as frivolous. Our greatest need was to land a job upon graduating. An unshaven look was not considered wise.

Some years later, a partner in my law firm moved from the Paris office to the New York office. He was admired, among other things, for having climbed Mont Blanc, one of the tallest peaks in the Alps, which looms to a height of more than 15,000 feet. This man had had a beard for a long time, probably the only one among 100 or more male lawyers. We found each other congenial, and I agreed to help him take a death row appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. I even emulated his hirsuted-ness, sporting a full black beard in both the law office and the Rye mayor’s seat.

The other day, a visiting 12-year-old grandson expressed the view that, “Boppa [his name for me] should shave every day.” I think I’ll follow that advice, unless, ten years from now, he himself has strayed from daily shaving.



Column: Dealing with police use of force in Philly

My first assignment as an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia, a city of two million, was to control the use of force by homicide squad detectives when questioning suspects. The squad was commanded by Capt. James Kelly, whose private office I was to sit in when not out on a case. I don’t imagine this arrangement was very congenial to my host, but he accepted it without comment, at least in my hearing.

Capt. Kelly set out to soften me up with kindness, despite the fact that my presence deprived him of any privacy. We became at least friends of convenience, and there were no complaints of excessive police force during my time with the homicide squad. After several months, I was called up to join the group of assistant DAs assigned to try criminal cases in court full time, a fantastic opportunity for a lawyer to hone trial techniques.

Homicides were then occurring in Philadelphia at a rate of about one per day or about three a week if you didn’t count traffic fatalities. So there were three cases a week for Kelly’s detectives to investigate. And of course there were frequent cases of attempted homicide where the victim was still alive. They were the most agonizing to investigate because it was necessary sometimes to question a person who was near to an intentionally inflicted death.

At one point I was informed that the head of one of the local political parties had been shot in the head while sitting beside a streetside window in a small hotel. He was hospitalized and was in no condition to be questioned. So we went to the scene and found the window shattered, presumably by a bullet. If the bullet came from outside, there were any number of possible suspects; from inside, there were few suspects, except for one person who had been sitting in the room with the victim.

There seemed to be no one in the city who could tell from examining multiple shards of glass which direction the impact that tore them apart had come from. While there were some who were willing to express an opinion, too much was riding on the outcome for any determination to be made locally. We had to get an opinion beyond reproach. The obvious answer was the FBI.

I don’t remember whether the FBI agreed in advance to examine the evidence and give an opinion, or whether we simply decided to turn the evidence over to them and see what happened. In any event, I was soon sitting in the back seat of an unmarked official vehicle, close to the carefully-packed evidence, with two detectives up front. We delivered the broken glass to FBI headquarters and went home.

We waited what seemed like a long time for word from Washington. When it finally came, it was, if I recall correctly, capable of various interpretations. We wondered whether to ask more questions, but in the meantime, the shooting victim had miraculously recovered, and no further evidence had been found, so we let the matter rest—not the way Sherlock Holmes would have left it, but well enough alone.



Column: Rye over 50 years ago

Fifty-plus years ago there was no Rye City Hall, only a gas station on that side of the Village Green. Most city departments except police and fire were run out of the Square House. To say that our venerable 18th century treasure was under strain would be a huge understatement.

The city council also met at the Square House in those days. Seated at the council table with the mayor and six members was Rye’s elected supervisor, a member of the County Board of Supervisors. There were no county legis-lators then.

In those days, there were more small or medium-sized homes in Rye than there are today; so many of them have been torn down to make room for much larger homes. One house to be built is supposed to have at least 10 family bedrooms, according to its drawings.

Where there is now a short street called Forest Cove, there used to be vacant land known as the Ford Estate. Marble Hall, a ladies’ spa, stood behind the high brick wall that still bars passers-by from peering into the homes that replaced the hall. There was no Martin Butler Court then, since Marty was still living.

Marty Butler’s brother Tom and I were the first people elected to the city council on the Democratic ticket. The only problem I recall us having was when the mayor declared that some of our cost-saving proposals were nothing but “cheese-paring.” Since then, other Democrats have been elected to the council and to the mayor’s office.

The office of city manager has gone through many twists and turns in the past 50-plus years. Continuity has been provided as needed by the presence in town of former City Manager Frank Culross. We hope the newly installed manager will have a productive and satisfying experi-ence here.

Fifty-plus years ago, there was no Rye Marina, only an island called Sedge, added to over many decades by silt flowing down Blind Brook from points upstream. The island had to be dredged out to make way for the present floats and piles. On the shore where Milton Harbor House now stands, there was the William Edgar John Shipyard, where craft for the Navy had been built during World War II.

Fifty-plus years ago, there was no official observance of the Fourth of July like there is today. Labor Day was well-observed with the traditional William H. Ball Memorial Field Day, held from the 1920s until the late 1970s. Now there is Summerfest, run by Leaders of Tomorrow, to provide “fun for kids of all ages.”