Calls to revamp Rye Town Park fruitless; deadline extended

According to town officials, the cost to re-purpose aspects of the Rye Town Park administrative building, pictured, would be about $5 million.  The two-story Spanish Mission style stucco structure was built in 1909 and currently houses the park’s administrative offices. File photo

According to town officials, the cost to re-purpose aspects of the Rye Town Park administrative building, pictured, would be about $5 million. The two-story Spanish Mission style stucco structure was built in 1909 and currently houses the park’s administrative offices. File photo

By LIZ BUTTON
Time and weather has taken its toll on Rye Town Park and the beachfront area residents have used for 100 years, but the cross-jurisdictional commission that runs the park has not yet received any takers on a call to refurbish it.

The request for proposals is also to re-purpose the park’s “crown jewel,”—the deteriorating main administration building originally designed as a bathing pavilion—  which is now home to administrative offices for the park.

At its last meeting on July 16, the Rye Town Park Commission extended the proposal deadline to Nov. 8 for a project that takes on the “development and operation of Rye Town Park.” The commission is made up of representatives from the villages of Port Chester, Rye Brook and the Rye Neck section of the Village of Mamaroneck, as well as from Rye Town and Rye City.

The call for bids, which was first put out back in March, requires $12 million in capital repairs to the entire park with the cost to renovate and re-purpose aspects of the administrative building currently estimated at around $5 million.

The organization the city chooses would assume management of all or some aspects of the park’s day-to-day operations, which include overseeing buildings, food service and facilities, the park, parking lots and Oakland Beach on Long Island Sound that lies adjacent to the park’s green space, trees, marshy areas and duck pond. Those functions are currently carried out by the town.

The main building, which is a two-story Spanish Mission style stucco building with a red tile roof and two towers, was built in 1909. The entirety of Rye Town Park, which abuts Playland Amusement Park, was placed on the New York State Register of Historic Places and the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.

“Historic buildings are not simply relics; their future lies in having them actively used and staying relevant to the community,” according to the commission’s request for proposals document. The commission is also looking to find a way to ensure yearround occupancy of the 4,100 square-foot administration building to help preserve building infrastructure and utility systems, as it was originally designed to be used seasonally.

The connection to the beachfront and the building is an important planning issue, according to the document, as is residential access to the park, which is bordered on three sides by residential properties, both private homes and the Waters Edge condominium complex.

Currently, parking is allowed on paved or gravel lots or lawn areas on the premises devoted to parking. The park is also home to Seaside Johnnie’s, a restaurant, and two snack bars at the beach.

According to the request for proposals, the main administrative building was designed to be the focal point of the park, and the commission’s request asks that all companies have “the intention that all proposals acknowledge the original design, intent and purpose of Rye Town Park.”

The 28-acre park, which is home to 17 structures, seven of which are historically significant, was created in 1907 by an act of the state Legislature, which also created the six-member governing commission that supervises staff, sets policy and controls the operating budget. The parkland is located within the City of Rye but is owned by the Town of Rye.

The financial cost of net operating shortfall, capital improvements and capital repairs of the park are currently divided among the communities according to a
predetermined formula.

In April, the capital committee, which is made up of citizens from each functional area represented in the cross-jurisdictional commission, suggested that the commission authorize funds to hire a planning firm to help solicit bids for companies that would be best able to design their vision.

The capital committee “is looking at the types of entities we would like in the building,” according to Rye City Mayor Douglas French, a Republican. “We asked them to ‘use your imagination.’”
French compared the commission’s approach to this endeavor to the county’s approach to going out for bids to reinvent Playland.
Possible uses cited in the commission’s request for proposals are a museum, a sports facility or cultural facility, a retail store, a nature preserve or a restaurant.

Bishop Nowotnik, secretary to the Rye Town supervisor said, “They basically realized that, if they were going to do anything successful, they were going to have to hire some professional.”

The board authorized $20,000 in June to hire a company, and the bids have since been narrowed to two finalists.
French said the commission is also in preliminary discussions about fundraising with a public-private or governmental partnership to make the changes to the park. The main pavilion building needs a lot of work, but it has not been uninvested in, he said.

In 2011, the commission undertook a $1.3 million project paid for in part by a grant from the State Historic Preservation Office to fix the roof, which needed to be stabilized due to storm damage accrued over the years.

The capital committee will give the Rye Town Park Commission a recommendation of which planning firm they want to work with by Aug. 15, and the commission will approve the recommendation at its Aug. 20 meeting.

After this, the commission will rebid the job, and after all bids come in by Nov. 8,  decide on a development firm to actually take on the project at its  meeting on Nov. 19.
email: liz@hometwn.com

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About Liz Button

Liz Button is a staff reporter for Hometown Media Group’s The Rye Sound Shore Review. Previously, she covered Bedford and Mount Kisco for The Daily Voice, an Internet-based, hyperlocal publication. She’s also written for Patch in her hometown of Trumbull, Conn., as a freelance reporter and fill-in editor. Preceding her time there, she worked in publishing in New York City. She is a 2008 graduate of Bowdoin College with a degree in English. Reach Liz at 914-653-1000 x20 or liz@hometwn.com; follow her on Twitter @ryesoundshore.