Following the termination of the Rye Town parks foreman and his two employees last month, a cost-saving measure, Rye Town residents have raised questions regarding the maintenance and care of the two parks the town oversees.
Rye Town and Crawford Parks are coveted outdoor spaces for residents in Rye, and those who frequent their pathways, lawns and sand, have raised some questions. Who will change the light bulbs, empty to trash, open the gate to the beach and make sure things are running safe and smoothly?
Rye Town officials say outside contractors that cost less than half than the previous full time employees cost will tend to the parks just as well, “if not better,” than they have been tended to in the past.
“I think well be able to provide a better level of service at a lower cost,” said Rye Town Supervisor Joe Carvin.
However, following the firing of the three town parks employees (and four other Town employees) on Dec. 7, local resident and dog walker Deidra Curran has spoken out about disrepair at Rye Town Park, where she walks her dogs day and night.
Following Curran’s release of a YouTube video showing broken lights and signs, lights on in the locked bathrooms, and locked beach gate on Jan. 6, Rye city councilwoman Catherine Parker sent an email to Rye Town Parks Commission, and local press expressing concern that safety is at risk.
“You would do well to follow the example of former NYC Mayor, Rudy Guiliani, who understood that this kind of neglect becomes the tipping point for vandals to start to think no one cares about the property, and to then do further harm,” Parker wrote.
Carvin brushed off Parker’s comments as a political valence issue in an election year and added the Town is always responsive to the city. But he said he is “thrilled’ Curran brought those issues to the Town’s attention and all problems she reported are either already resolved or will be fixed by the end of this week. Curran confirmed the lights in the locked bathrooms were turned off the day after she sent her video.
Carvin explained that things may have been overlooked over the last two months because of Hurricane Sandy, the tree and debris clean up required after that, the snowstorm that followed and then the transition of terminating the three full time employees and moving to private contractor work.
“The major storm put a wrench in the works,” Carvin said.
“Lets take a look at this again in two months time and if the same kinds of complaints are occurring I would be enormously disappointed,” he said.*
Curren told Patch she will probably continue to report issues, but she wants to know what the plan is for making sure it is not the citizens’ job to look out for taxpayer funded parks.
Carvin explained that his secretary, Bishop Nowotnik is the head of facilities management now, and he needs to do more with less. The supervisor added that the town expects the Friends of Crawford Park and Rye Town Park community organizations to help out by reporting problems and keeping an eye on things too.
Laura Klein, the President of Friends of Crawford Park said she is concerned about the future of the park. “Year over year the Town has cut services to the park and our group has been adopting more and more responsibilities,” she said. “Our group has hired independent landscapers to maintain our portions of the park...we want to do more but are working with limited time and resources.”
While community groups struggle to maintain their end of things, the Town claims its plan will be more cost effective and leave the parks in better shape than they were under the former parks foreman.
The New Parks Plan
During the off-season the town “passively” manages the park, Carvin said, a decision made by the Rye Town Parks Commission which consists of Carvin and the mayors from Rye Brook, Port Chester and Rye City, as well as Rye City Councilman Joe Sack and Commissioner for the Town of Rye Benedict Salanitro.
Greenway Property Services has handled all landscaping (lawn maintenance, snow removal, etc.) for the last year and a half and their contract has been extended. For more complicated repairs or issues, Nowotnik will bid the projects out. GPS now has a contract through March, 2013 to provide one worker who works half time Monday through Friday to empty trash at the parks and one handyman on Fridays to tend to general maintenance issues. The GPS Supervisor is responsible for reporting larger issues to Nowotnik.
“We have considered this for some time,” Carvin said. “We are always looking for ways to reduce costs because we don’t want taxes to go up, so we found a way of privatizing services.”
“The total cost for the two GPS guys is about $1200 a week,” Nowotnik said. The full time employees were costing the Town about $3800 a week, he said. The cost savings will be used on larger projects necessary at the parks.
Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the park goes into full swing service. As in the past, the Town still intends to hire about 75 seasonal employees; about eight will work maintenance and the former foreman’s summer work will be split between seasonal managers in different sections of the park, Nowotnik said.
Carvin and Nowotnik point to Rye Town’s Park nearly 15 year history (under previous administrations) of losing from as much as $450,000 to $100,00 a year as an indication action had to be taken to cut costs there.
Since the Carvin administration was elected, the Town Park went from operating at a $450,142 loss in 2007 to a $130,817 loss in 2011, according to the most recent available Town documents. The Town is still finalizing the most recent Town park budget.
“This is the final step in the efficiency chain,” Nowotnik said.
What do you think of the new plan for Rye Town Parks? Tell us in the comments.
*Editor's Note: This article has been changed slightly from its original version to indicate Carvin did not speak directly with Curran. Following the original publication of this article Carvin clarified that he and town officials understand their management of the parks is under intense scrutiny and the town is responsible for complete oversight of the parks.