Gravel Instead of Grass

At Wednesday night’s City Council Meeting, I asked why the southern corner of Central Ave and Boston Post Road is now a gravel parking lot.  You can see the meeting cablecast, Item 14, minutes 16:10-26:30 (includes Doug Carey’s comment).  There isn’t enough space here to detail the misrepresentations and contradictions made by Scott Pickup.

According to Rye City maps, this quarter acre is Property I.D. 146-11-1-72, owned by the City of Rye, with a designated land use of “Parks”.  Prior to the bridge construction, it was a green space.  During construction it was, understandably, a mess.  At the end of construction, it was leveled and graveled, making it a parking lot, complete with an entrance from Boston Post Road. 

When I noticed the graded entrance and gravel, I contacted the Planning Dept.  I was told the lot would be used for vehicles and equipment during construction at 2 Central Ave (the old Black Bass).  Once construction is done, the lot will be seeded and made back into a green space.

Why would the City make a graded entrance and gravel over public park space to accommodate a private property owner?  Why wouldn’t turning a park into a parking lot go through the City Council?  I recalled the City using the 2 Central Ave lot during construction of the bridge.  There appears to be mutual consideration here.  Is this a lease between the 2 parties? 

It also made my stomach turn as I recalled hearing several years ago about a deal between the City and 2 Central Ave involving land-use during construction and, later, food permits.  I’m not implicating any board or commission and I realize the City Manager can’t guarantee a food permit.  But he can do a lot to help an applicant, like providing much-needed parking which would be leased from the City. 

I spoke with City Planner Christian Miller yesterday.  I believe him when he tells me he doesn’t know about any deal between the City and 2 Central Ave.  Mr. Miller said the City “exploited an opportunity” when, at the end of bridge construction, the contractor asked if the lot should be seeded.  The City asked for gravel instead of grass.  Mr. Miller described parking challenges in the area, specifically the upcoming construction at 2 Central Ave and constraints at Blind Brook Lodge.  It sounded to me like the City had a new parking lot with which to bargain.  It didn’t sound like there was an intention to reseed (why would there be since there isn’t a deal?).  

Mr. Miller and I spoke at some length about the park-turned-lot situation.  It was a healthy-ish exchange about balancing community needs and land-use challenges.  He talked about existing constraints.  I talked about graveling over green space not being a sensible or sustainable answer to parking challenges.  It’s the type of discussion that should have taken place in a public forum. 

Lastly, I asked Mr. Miller how we go about turning the lot back into a park.  Obviously, reseeding will have to wait until spring (and the City will now bear that cost).  His response was “that question is above my pay grade”.  I’d like to know how City Manager Scott Pickup was able to make a unilateral decision to convert City-designated park space into a parking lot, without ever discussing it with the City Council.       


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