A second postponement of the continued public hearing on the proposed 4-rink, 140-square-foot hockey facility at Reckson Executive Park on Upper King Street now puts it on the agenda for the Aug. 19 Rye Brook Board of Trustees meeting. It was originally scheduled for June 25 and adjourned to July 9.
"We hereby agree to an extension on the adoption of any environmental determination as we continue our review of certain questions so that we can return to the Board with responses," wrote William Null, attorney for Reckson Operating Partnership, in a July 2 letter to the Board of Trustees, which was delivered by e-mail.
The postponements have led to speculation that the project may be dead.
A Tuesday call to Eli Williams, president of QMC Group, LLC, which is proposing to construct and operate the hockey facility, to discuss the status of the project
went unanswered. That was before Null's letter was posted on the Village of Rye Brook website.
At the May 28 hearing on the project, traffic was the big issue. Both John Collins on behalf of the applicant and Michael Galante of Frederick P. Clark Associates on behalf of the village made presentations using the same numbers.
"We do add traffic to the system," concluded Collins. "I disagree that it is a significant impact. When I look at significance, I compare the currently proposed project to the currently approved project."
A 280,000-square-foot office building has been approved for the site.
"We're proposing the retiming of the traffic lights," Collins said.
"We have taken existing conditions where you have 200 cars (per hour) currently, and because we have assumed a different mix, that 200 goes up to almost 700," said Collins. "I'm not sure that volume will actually occur."
"It's somewhat startling to see the existing conditions of 200 cars compared to 751 with a typical condition at the recreation facility," said Mayor Paul Rosenberg.
Rosenberg also pointed out the "sizable increase" on Saturdays, moving from 377 cars as typical to 539 on weekends when the facility is running a tournament.
"This new application has impacts regardless of the fact that they may be similar to an office building," said Galante. "I believe the village has the right to ask for mitigation if you feel it has significant impacts."
"Six thousand trips throughout the day on Saturday is what caught our eye," said Galante. "There is concern that the roads will continue to have this traffic throughout the day."
"Under today's conditions the roads work fairly well," continued Galante. "You start seeing significant delays with the 280,000 square feet which is approved. On an event or typical day for the recreation center you see similar delays. On event days you see significant delays. The village has the right to ask for mitigation based on the results of the studies."
He said the applicant should look at types of mitigation such as signalization or adding a turn lane. The timing changes suggested as mitigation at the Anderson Hill Road intersection "we think it could operate a little better," said Galante. He also recommended additional modification at the Reckson Executive Park driveway.
"Because there were questions about certain issues-traffic, noise, visual impacts- the village asked for more information," said the village's consultant, Marilyn Timpone Mohammed from Frederick P. Clark Associates. "The next step the trustees must make is to determine if it will have significant impact."
"If there is the potential for one of the areas to have a significant impact, you would give a positive declaration and the applicant would have to provide an EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) of some sort, either a supplemental or a full one," said Timpone Mohammed. So far they have provided a long form Environmental Assessment Form.
"The amount of traffic that is being added to the road concerns me," said Mayor Rosenberg. "When I look at 4700 cars for the day and when there is not even a tournament event adding 1,000 cars per day. When you look at a tournament day, you are bringing Friday conditions to Saturday." He said adjusting the timing of two traffic lights, one of which is in Connecticut, which is recommended, may not be enough. "You are still talking about impact to the Hutch and Merritt intersection. It seems to me there needs to be adjustment to that intersection as well."
Trustee Jeff Rednick had a concern about different uses of the facility and the impacts. "Do you plan on using it as a concert venue, a Disney on Ice venue? I think we need to narrow it down as to possible uses of the facility."
"There are no proposed concerts, Disney on Ice or any such events at the facility," responded Null. "The idea of using some of the ice rinks was just sort of thrown out there. We could explore further what it might mean but are not looking at changing as a general nature how it might be used."
"What is called for is greater creativity on your part as far as traffic," said Rye Brook Trustee David Heiser.
"I would like to see some analysis on capacities of any of these intersections," said Trustee Jason Klein.
"At the next session we need to be able to respond" to the negative (E and F) impacts given certain scenarios under event conditions, responded Null to the mayor. "There will be plenty of thought on that."
"I'd be the first guy to trade the rink for reconfiguration of the King Street-Hutch intersection," said former Rye Brook Trustee and Blind Brook Board of Education member Rick Buzin.
"How many hours during the day are we going to have these E and F (worst case) conditions which will make the quality of life in Rye Brook unacceptable?" asked Jeff Penn of 47 High Point Cir.
"The applicant would like you to believe that the cost to the community is a small price to pay compared to the economic impact it will provide," he continued. "I discovered multiple flaws in their analysis."
"The ice rink needs to at least be put on hold if not overturned at this point," said Laura Schacter of 19 Doral Greens Dr. N. "We have not been told any positives. I think we need to do an environmental impact study."
"The piece of King Street in Greenwich is a local road," said Diane Fox, head of the Planning & Zoning Department for the Town of Greenwich. "Changing the timing of the signal in Greenwich is presumptuous at best."
"I grew up 1/10 of a mile from here and have traveled the roads and over the years these roads have become more congested," said Greenwich First Selectman Peter Tesei. "On each side we have tried to seek a balance. What materialized was very modified and suitable development. I'm here tonight to affirm that I hope you would take a careful look at the intensification of size and traffic and particularly the impact on life safety services. Let's look to come to a decision that protects residents on both sides of the line."
"I've been here 12 years and the traffic has gotten significantly worse," said former Rye Brook Trustee Carol Goodman of 6 Legendary Cir. "On a Monday morning at 8:00 it's 4 miles to the Port Chester train station. I could run there in 32 minutes and get there faster than I could drive there sometimes. One added vehicle is a significant impact."
"This is a significant problem that will greatly affect the residents of BelleFair, I assume Doral," she added, and noted that "our experts found a significant impact on seven different intersections."
Adam Sohn of 10 Old Oak Rd. spoke in favor of the hockey facility.
"You have a lot of kids in town who play hockey," he said, adding that "I think you will actually bring people into this town and that will only be a good thing."
"The consideration is whether or not this is a compatible use," said attorney Nat Parish of Parish and Weiner in White Plains. "I haven't seen why the Village of Rye Brook thinks there is any virtue in this. Where's the beef?"
He asked what alternative uses the board and community could accept in this area. "They could have lesser impacts and produce revenue."
"Given your current rate of occupancy, the likelihood of building 280,000 square feet (of office space) is very close to nil," said Heiser.
Parish said it would therefore be constructive to produce such a list for Reckson to look at.
Impact of Tax-Free NY
Penn broached Governor Cuomo's idea of creating tax-free zones to spur particularly startup businesses on and near college campuses, which has since been passed by the state legislature on June 21 as Tax-Free NY or START-UP NY. He wondered whether it would apply to Reckson Executive Park.
"There are many questions of implementation that have not been solved by the passing of the law," said State Senator George Latimer last week. "What it means to Rye Brook is yet unclear." He said he intended for Rye Brook and Harrison to be part of the process. "I intend to have them at the table for what is going to happen on the SUNY campus."
How it's going to be implemented, who's going to implement it and the review process "all have to be available for Rye Brook and Harrison to know and to protect their interests because they are outside the campus," added the state senator. "My goal is to find out how it is to be implemented and stay on top of it."
"I voted for the bill because upstate needed any creative idea we could come up with," he concluded.