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Mount Kisco Rec Commission Rejects Leonard Park Staging Area

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The material and equipment being stored at Leonard Park for the Byram Lake Road water main replacement project. A fence has been erected to make sure park visitors cannot gain access to the area. Martin Wilbur photo

The Mount Kisco Recreation Commission plans to write a letter to the Village Board strenuously objecting to the use of a parking lot at Leonard Park as a staging area for a nearby water main replacement project.

Commission Chair Kathy Feeney said village officials have repeatedly bypassed the group and the Leonard Park Committee on issues related to the park, including the latest episode where large equipment and materials for the year-long work for the Byram Lake Road main project is being stored.

Feeney said she was most upset at the decision by village officials because it presented a safety issue. Until recently, there was no fencing around the staging area to prevent a curious child or other park visitors from entering that portion of the parking area and potentially getting injured.

It remained in that state for about two months until shortly after the July 11 Village Board meeting when resident Theresa Flora raised the issue to Village Manager Ed Brancati and the board, she said.

“This whole thing has been so upsetting, I can’t for the life of me understand how this was allowed to happen and why it took so long to get Mr. Brancati to take the situation seriously,” Feeney said. “My correspondence with him started back in May. We as a commission are currently working on a formal letter to the (board) regarding this issue.”

Tensions have frayed between the board and the commission and some other village residents who have urged officials to abandon efforts to possibly site a cell tower on a roughly 5,000-square-foot area of the park on part of the disc golf course.

Another commission member, Kim Terlizzi, said she and her fellow members take seriously the deed that intends to protect the park and make sure it can be used by residents without it being degraded. She doesn’t believe the Village Board has the same sentiment.

“Storing all of these things there is obviously not what it’s intended for,” Terlizzi said. “It is not a dumping ground. It’s for the enjoyment of the residents, and this clearly, to me, violates the deed.”

Mayor Gina Picinich pushed back last week on any notion that the board doesn’t want to protect and improve Leonard Park, stating it has appropriated significant money on various projects there, including new volleyball courts, construction of a bocce court with new lighting and seating and new playground equipment that will be installed.

Her administration and the board are also seeking grants and other funding to refurbish the park’s baseball fields.
“There continues to be and we’ll always have substantial investment in Leonard Park, and so if we’re gauging the value of the park and the feeling of the board’s opinion about the park, that’s clearly demonstrated by the focus and the investment that we have made and continue to make in it,” Picinich said.

Replacement of the 100-year-old main is critical to ensuring that Mount Kisco residents and some customers outside the village receive uninterrupted water service, Picinich added. Using a portion of one of the parking lots at the park was the most effective and expedient way to complete the project.

What irked commission members, according to Feeney and Terlizzi, was Brancati’s response to Flora’s concerns about safety at the July 11 board meeting. While he said that the village would put something substantial around the equipment, his initial response was to “just stay away from it.”

Terlizzi said it doesn’t appear that other sites were considered for the staging area, such as the Highway Department grounds, the back part of the parking lot at Village Hall or a piece of the Shoppers Park lot.

In an e-mail response from Brancati in May that Feeney shared, he stated that the contractor needed an area closer to the Main Street end of the Byram Lake Road project. The village’s options were limited and officials agreed to provide the contractor with space that was believed to have the least impact to Leonard Park.

Terlizzi said she understands the water main replacement is for the benefit of the village, but so is the park, and the commission has been displeased with the way the board is treating the more than 100-acre facility.

“I feel like they just think it’s an extension of some place that they can use without question, that they just feel like it’s their go-to place, and it really shouldn’t be because that’s the residents’ park,” Terlizzi said.

Picinich said once the safety issue was brought to the board’s attention, the village reacted promptly. The reason why there had been no fencing is that officials didn’t perceive there to be a threat.

“Folks raised a concern, and to that point, there were no accidents, problems, issues or concerns,” the mayor said.

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