Rye Mayor Under Investigation for Building Violations

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The property owned by Douglas and Carrie French on 13 Richard Place in Rye.
The property owned by Douglas and Carrie French on 13 Richard Place in Rye. Photo Credit: Luke Lavoie
Photo Credit: Douglas French via facebook.

RYE, NY - Rye City Mayor Douglas French is currently being investigating for "building without a permit" by the Rye City Manger's Office. A violation was issued in July to the owners of 13 Richard Place in Rye which, according to Rye City Assessment Rolls, is registered to Douglas and Carrie French.

According to Summary Record Card of the property, the violation filed over the summer categorizes the unreported action taken as "possible finished attic". Both pictures and descriptions provided by a recent MLS listing of the property clearly show a finished attic.

However, recent information reveals the attic as one of many potential violations. The Assessment roll and multiple other city documents identify the home as a two-family residence with "no recorded improvements of any kind since 1949".

According to the MLS listing, the property is now a single family residence and features new skylights, a new eat in kitchen, as well as upgraded roofing and heating systems.

An indepedent examination of the mortgage records conducted by Ray Tartaglione, a local activist, indicated the couple never disclosed to lenders that the property was a two family residence. Rather, the couple attested the property as “improved by a one family residence only".

The MLS lisiting also confirmed that French has been renting the home for over a decade, and that the alleged "untaxed" and "un-inspected" renovations that converted the property into a single family home allowed French to increase the rent by an estimated 50%.

According to Tartaglione, Executive Director of HealtheHarbor.com, French promised to "enforce local environmental and building laws long completely ignored out on Rye's offshore cottage community known as Hen Island" when he ran for office in 2009. Tartaglione feels that French has yet to make good on this promise.

Tartaglione cites French's own alleged building violations as reasons for neglecting the alleged illegal building operations on Hen Island.

Tartaglione also added that the City of Rye has written hundreds of violations for illegal construction activity and doled out thousands of dollars in penalties and permit fees to Rye residents since French purchased the home in 1992.

Rye City Manager Scott Pickup categorized the case as "not unusual", and confirmed that Mayor French has fully cooperated with the ongoing investigation. Pickup also acknowledged that due to the passing of Building Inspector Vincenzo Tamburro, the investigation has progressed slower than anticipated.

"The City is handling the case like we would any other," Pickup said over the phone, "and Mayor French is entitled to all the rights of any other homeowner".

Mayor French, who is reportedly out of town until Tuesday, could not be reached for comment.

To view the public records of the Richard Place home please visit Healtheharbor.com.

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Comments (3)

Rye City code
68-18 Penanties for offenses.
It shall be unlawful for any person, firm or corporation to construct,
alter, repair, move, remove, demolish, equip, use or maintain any building
or structure or portion thereof in violation of any provision of this
chapter or to fail, in any manner, to comply with a notice, directive or
order of the Building Inspector or to construct, alter or use and occupy any
building or structure or part thereof in a manner not permitted by an
approved building permit or certificate of occupancy.
Any person who shall fail to comply with a written order of the Building
Department, within the time fixed for compliance therewith, and any owner,
builder, architect, tenant, contractor, subcontractor, construction
superintendent or their agents or any other person taking part or assisting
in the construction or use of any building who shall knowingly violate any
of the applicable provisions of this chapter or any lawful order, notice,
directive, permit or certificate of the Building Department made thereunder
shall incur a penalty of not more than $250 or 15 days imprisonment, or
both. Each day that a violation continues shall be deemed a separate

If you calulate $250/day from the day the violation was served... 111 days x
$250 = $27,700

Now that Pickup has confirmed that French is under investigation, for what appears to be at the very least serious breaches of violating the very City of Rye laws he is supposed to oversee, shouldn't French take a leave of absence until the investigation is completed?

What little ability and credibility French had left to lead and manage Rye, has been monumentally compromised by these allegations and investigation.

Now that French's hand picked Deputy Mayor Gamache got crushed in the last election, it is time for French to pick a new Deputy Mayor. French should pick Councilman Sack. He is the most tenured member of the City Council, he won in overwhelming fashion in the last election and he has a reputation for an unbiased yet tough approach to representing all of Rye.

It is apparent to me that French is unethically using his position as Mayor and Chair of the Council meetings to thwart any discussion on these allegations. French should not be violating someone's First Amendment rights for his own personal or political gain.

By not stepping aside, at least temporarily, what message is French sending to the employees and residents of the City of Rye? Is it do as I say, not as I do?

On another note, how can Pickup conduct a credible investigation of French who holds Pickup's job in his hands? I do not believe he can. This should be handed off to the Attorney General for an unbiased investigation.

I believe that Pickup and French should not try to capitalize on Mr. Tamburro's untimely passing. Mr. Tamburro was a dedicated, hardworking, decent man who and always looked out for the residents. In my opinion Pickup and French leave a lot to be desired in these categories.

Below is a comment from the Mayor issued in last week’s Rye Record. He is correct about one thing, " the standards of public discourse in Rye have changed." We now have a Mayor lying to the public in print! Who is really sending the wrong message?

"Sending the Wrong Message

Dear Editor,

As Mayor, I normally do not write letters to the editor, but given the full-page “Send a Message” paid advertisement run in the last issue of this paper attacking Rye’s representatives with innuendo and false claims, the standards of public discourse in Rye have changed – albeit hitting a new low.

In a quest to develop the island off the coast of Greenhaven — against the wishes of the Hen Island property owners association — a Purchase resident continues to make unsubstantiated environmental complaints against its owners under a banner called Heal the Harbor. The Westchester County Health Department regularly tests the Long Island Sound in and around Hen Island and those tests continue to show that water quality meets the County’s health standards and there are no violations of any regulations. The County and the Courts have ruled that no action is required with respect to mosquito control. Finally, the seasonal cottages on Hen Island are not considered permanent dwellings under the New York State Building Code, and are therefore compliant with potable water requirements.

However, the Purchase resident continues his assault on Rye – four years running now — in hopes of developing the Island by exercising an easement for an underground sewer line from the coast of Greenhaven to the Island. To do this, he has tried to pressure and embarrass representatives of the Rye City Council and particularly the women – by publishing and displaying rude, mocked-up photos. While that is his right, it is not reflective of the values of our community and the examples we seek to set for our children. He has tried to intimidate my family and neighbors by towing and leaving his distastefully decorated van in front of my home at all hours of the day and night. He has shown great disrespect to our community as his van and crude costumed-character parade in our downtown, in front of our businesses, churches, the Square House, and City Hall.

His latest approach is to again seek to propel his personal agenda against Rye’s mayor — whoever is serving, by making false claims and broadly spreading misinformation — this time about home improvements done on my rental property, some of which took place prior to my purchase of the home in 1992. Anyone who sells a home goes through the process of updating the building department files where necessary.

The most important message is: the City Council is all about representing Rye, and will continue to do its work focusing on the issues that are important to and in the best interests of you, the residents of Rye.

Mayor Doug French"