More than 70 Rye Brook residents packed the village hall Tuesday night to discuss the Reckson proposal to build a 140,000 square foot ice facility at 1100 King St.
More than 20 people spoke on the proposal after Reckson representatives gave a detailed description of their traffic studies, design and noise studies and an overview on how ice time will be allocated (see summary below).
Of the speakers, most were from the two communities that surround Reckson's site - Doral Greens and BelleFair - and only three spoke favorably of the project. A few hockey fans admitted they had first thought it was a great idea but no longer support it because of the size and the potential impact it would have on King Street corridor traffic.
“You move to a place like Rye Brook because it is a small quaint community,” said Rob Striar, a BelleFair resident and men’s league hockey player who moved to the village one year ago. “As a guy who has just bought a house here…I can guarantee you that I would not have bought this house had I known this rink would be so near it.”
Striar felt there would regularly be a massive amount of traffic from a large volume of people visiting; people who would have no real interest in the community. He also noted that police and EMT are often needed on site for high school hockey games and that adult players drink in the parking lot after games.
Another BelleFair resident, who was concerned mostly with traffic, spoke after Striar.
“I don’t need a traffic survey. I know that there is a disaster at 3’oclock,” he said of potential games letting out at the same time that school traffic backs up on King Street. The resident also expressed concern over the 48 teams that would participate in tournaments and questioned the length of the tournaments.
Every other speaker opposed to the project also cited traffic as a major concern. Mayor Joan Feinstein agreed.
“Traffic is the paramount issue,” Feinstein said at the end of the meeting, adding that all other concerns were also important and needed to be addressed. “We still have a long way to go.”
Other issues raised were concerns about hockey players and fans partying and drinking on site, noise, space for emergency vehicles and preserving the current quality of life in Rye.
Attorney Cliff Davis dubbed the project a “commercial mega ice center,” brought a petition and gave a lengthy presentation about how he feels the building inspector and planning board are misinterpreting the zoning law. Davis, representing two Doral Greens residents, says that the zoning does not allow for this type of recreational use in the first place and has sent an appeal to the Zoning Board of Appeals. Read more on that here.
Homeowner’s association representatives from Doral Greens, BelleFair, Greenwich and the Director of Planning and Zoning for the Town of Greenwich Planning, Diane Fox, also spoke against the project. Fox said Greenwich engineers believe traffic has picked up over the last year and the town wants more information on what might happen if the facility expands in the future.
Two of the few in favor of the project were two representatives of the Wheelchair Sports Federation, who asked that the facility be handicap accessible for teams like their New York Rangers Sled Hockey team. The speaker noted how scarce ice time is in this area and how beneficial it would be for his team and others.
Another speaker who supported the idea was a hockey fan and hockey dad who acknowledged traffic might be an issue, but who felt it would be a boon to the economy.
“I reject the characterization of tailgating,” said Eli Chalfin. “Without food an alcohol it is a manageable situation,” he said. Chalfin added that it would have a positive effect on shopping and commerce in the Port Chester and Rye Brook area.
Another supporter agreed that the potential economic boost could be transformative for Rye Brook, and acknowledged that maybe some are opposed to that type of transformation.
A point that none of the speakers mentioned, but Feinstein addressed was that of taxes. Feinstein noted that rumors had been spreading that Reckson would have a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreement instead of having to pay regular taxes. She and Null clarified that Reckson would be paying about $241,000 in taxes per year, based on a vacant land assessment of $12.5 million; about 65 % of that, $160,000, would go to the Blind Brook school district.
To start off the public hearing, Reckson representatives gave a detailed, hour-long presentation, to which the crowd listened attentively, even straining their necks to get a good look at some of the photo simulations they presented.
“We have been forthright and candid in everything we are proposing,” said Reckson attorney, William S. Null of the law firm Cuddy & Feder, LLP.
He pointed out that the planning consultant has confirmed traffic counts but that it they understand that more studies will need to be done.
Eli Williams, president of QMC Group, looking to operate the facility, explained that 55 percent of the ice time would be for programs geared towards youth and families, including free skate. About 6 percent would be for tournaments and the rest would be for sports groups to use.
Reckson’s Planning and Engineer consultant explained there would be 244 parking spots on the 6.5 acre site and 300 shared with the office development. Storm drainage would flow directly into the storm drainage management basins to Blind Brook and nothing will flow into Greenwich or the Bynam River, he said.
They repeatedly compared the ice facility to the 240,000 square foot office building Reckson had already received approval for, stating that the ice rink will have a smaller environmental impact. Members of the public said the traffic will be worse than with a nine to five office building, even if it was going to be larger.
Reckson representatives also pointed out that they would provide more screening for Doral Green and BelleFair residents if necessary.
The facility would have one section of stadium seating with 1230 seats with room for 342 movable seating, all which would look out over one of the rinks.
This was a point of contention the crowd and mayor.
Feinstein asked how many fans are expected at the larger high school and college games and Null told her about 500 to 800.
“Then why do you need seating for 1,200,” she asked. “We need to know what traffic will be generated (for those larger games),” she said. Null said they would get a better answer for the village.
In regards to traffic, Reckson representatives explained they analyzed the Ice Works Skating Complex in Aston, Pennsylvania because that was most comparable, but that rink also has restaurants. They also conducted studies that would show traffic numbers if the Reckson park was fully occupied and if it was not occupied and took into account existing buildings in the area.
After the night’s discussion, Null said they would perform more traffic studies.
Another point that the public was strongly opposed to was the potential future sale of liquor on site.
“I would never approve this plan for liquor,” Feinstein said, after noting she first heard Reckson would consider serving liquor at the facility last week. Null clarified that when asked about it at a homeowners association meeting he said it was still being considered, possibly at a later date if they ever decided to add a full service restaurant.
Village Trustee Paul Rosenberg emphasized his opposition to liquor at the end of the meeting, agreeing with the mayor that he would never want it to be served on the site.
Members of the public pointed out that players often have beers in the parking lot after games, and might be going to nearby stores to buy some. Null said that Reckon would be dedicated to strictly enforcing no drinking rules on site.
“With a special permit, you can attach conditions,” Null said.
Rye Brook Village planning and engineering consultants were present at the meeting, but after the one-hour long Reckson presentation and two hours of public comment, Feinstein said they would wait to have their own consultants comment at the next meeting.
The next Rye Brook Village meeting will be on Feb. 12 at 7:30 p.m.