City of Rye, NY

City Manager

Marcus A. Serrano,
City Manager

(914) 967-7404

City Manager > Project Impact


Project Impact - City of Rye, NYProject Impact



The City of Rye was selected by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as one of the first 2 Project Impact communities in New York State in May 1998.  Project Impact is an initiative developed by former FEMA Director James Witt to encourage better natural disaster planning by communities to minimize property damage and potential loss of life due to major disasters such as hurricanes, floods, or winter storms.  An important characteristic of Project Impact, is working with Community Partners in this effort.

Rye's Community Partners include but are not limited to:

  • Con Edison of New York
  • American Red Cross
  • New York United Hospital Center
  • The Osborn at Sterling Park
  • Rye City School District
  • as well as many other business and community partners

On April 26, 1999 the City of Rye held its Project Impact signing ceremony and prepared to proceed with the work made possible through FEMA’s Project Impact Grant of $300,000.  The City of Rye and its Community Partners signed a Memorandum of Agreement. This document is the city's pledge to participate in the goals and efforts of Project Impact.

Memorandum of Agreement
Signing Ceremony


Getting Started

In preparation for becoming a Project Impact community, Rye established a steering committee of volunteers, community partners, and governmental officials to determine City goals for Project Impact.  The steering committee developed 24 goals and objectives within 6 project categories listed below:

  • Flood Mitigation and Coastal Storms
  • Business, Utilities, and Private Sector
  • Health, Shelter, and Special Needs
  • Public Information and Education
  • Emergency Services
  • Building Resilience

Additionally, the City of Rye conducted a hazard analysis to determine the probable risk exposure for different types of hazards.  Rye's natural endowments, a protected harbor along Long Island Sound, rolling landscape, tree lined streets and winding brooks enhance its attractive neighborhoods, but also add to the vulnerability of its geographic area. Storms have caused coastal and riverine flooding, as well as wind damage, throughout the community. Rye's unique topography results in possible flooding from both the Long Island Sound and our two brooks (Blind Brook and Beaver Swamp Brook) sometimes simultaneously. In addition, Rye is traversed by major transportation routes, The New England Thruway, The Cross Westchester Expressway and Metro-North Railroad.

In 1998 the New York State Emergency Management Office evaluated all possible disaster risks to the City of Rye. Rye’s top hazards were identified as (1) Floods; (2) Hazardous Materials in Transit; (3) Nor’easters; (4) Oil Spills; and (5) Hurricanes.  The risk analysis was useful in establishing the City’s project goals and a priority based schedule for implementation.  Of special concern was the recurring flooding along the City’s two major brook systems, Blind Brook and Beaver Swamp Brook, especially when combined with high tide coastal flooding from Long Island Sound. 


Giving flooding, nor’easters, and hurricanes as interrelated risks, the Project Impact steering committee, City officials, and emergency management officials determined that foundation hydrological and scientific analysis was needed before implementation of hard mitigation solutions.  As a result, the City designed a scope of work and Request for Proposal (RFP) process to attract experienced engineering firms in the field.  Montgomery Watson Harza engineering, former Harza Engineering, was hired and the City is currently in the final stages of the initial technical study that had been planned.

Click here to find out more about Montgomery Watson Harza
More information about the history of flooding in Rye can be learned at the Rye Free Reading Room or at the Rye Historical Society (914) 967-7588.  

Please contact Julie Schmitter, Assistant to the City Manager and the city's Project Impact Coordinator for more Project Impact information at 914-967-7404.


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Project Impact & G.I.S.


In 1996, the city launched its Geographic Information System initiative.Commonly known as "GIS," the system is envisioned to become the standard platform used by the city and its residents for the exchange and dissemination of information.GIS is a computer technology that combines geological data (man - made and natural features of the earth's surface) and other types of information such as addresses and names to generate visual maps and reports.

On December 15, 1999, the City of Rye was awarded a grant from the FEMA and the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) to become a model community using G.I.S.Bowne Management Systems, the city's GIS consultants, helped in the initial development of the city's GIS system.Specifically, Bowne developed the city's GIS viewer, steered the city towards web sites for resources and data, coordinated the gathering and building of the city's layers and underlying databases, and helped the city select the components of the GIS system.

The currently developed GIS viewer assists City Staff in answering simple questions in planning and policy making such as those listed below.

  • Where are all the city's fire stations?
  • Which is the best way to send the recycling truck, given these pick - up points?
  • Which emergency vehicle is closest to the accident?
  • What would be the economic impact if development were restricted 1,000 yards from the city's watersheds?

The GIS viewer can also assist City Residents in obtaining information about property location when purchasing a house such as those listed below:

  • Is the house located on a floodplain? 
  • What are the taxes for this particular house? 
  • What is the proximity of the house to businesses or major roadways?

Most importantly, the GIS viewer can be utilized in disaster response situations, assisting the City in identifying potential residential areas that may have to be evacuated due to a hazardous waste spill, or flooding event.The GIS viewer allows the city's Emergency Response Officials, such as Fire and Police, to efficiently and effectively respond to potentially dangerous situations with accuracy and precision.

Because GIS seamed naturally with disaster preparedness, as a result the City of Rye utilized Project Impact funds to enhance the GIS system by developing reliable base mapping for the City of Rye, especially the flood prone areas of the Blind Brook and Beaver Swamp Brook Watersheds.The mapping data gathered from the aerial flyover performed by Montgomery Watson Harza is currently being integrated into the city's already existing GIS system.To date, the data received from the flyover provides the city's planning and engineering departments with key visual instruments to implement improvements along the city's watersheds and identify potential flooding hazards.

Click Here to View the City of Rye GIS Viewer

and visit these sites for further information on GIS

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Project Rye Technical Study

The following represent a number of tasks completed under the Project Impact initiative.Provided below is a brief description of each task and its deliverables.


Task Order 1 – Project Impact Technical Study
To date various tasks under the Project Impact grant have been met.Aerial photography of the Blind Brook and Beaver Swamp watersheds has been conducted as well as Digital Elevation Maps, the Benchmark Grid Survey, Lowest Member Survey, and SPDES Outfall Survey under Task Order 1.On March 9, 2001, Montgomery Watson Harza demonstrated the uses of the aerial mapping data to City Staff and City Council.In an impressive presentation, Montgomery Watson Harza demonstrated how the base mapping and field information studies developed under the Project Impact grant could support the development of flood mitigation and water quality management plans as well as aid in development of capital improvement projects.Montgomery Watson Harza delivered the mapping products on CD’s for the city to incorporate into their already established GIS system and to be utilized by the City Engineer/Planning/Building Department.


Task Order 2 – Site Evaluations
Site evaluations of two particular sites, Blind Brook Watershed and the Bowman Dam Site have been completed, allowing the city to consider short-term actions related to acquisition, protection, and restoration on key sites within the Blind Brook watershed.The site evaluations provided the city with subsurface investigations to determine historic wetland areas on the Nursery Site and potential costs and benefits of excavating behind the Bowman Ave Dam to diminish flood impacts to the City.  Montgomery Watson Harza provided the city with several hard copies of the site evaluations applicable to these two areas available for review in the City Manager’s office.

Most recently, Montgomery Watson Harza performed a wetland delineation study on the Rye Nursery Site for the impending land acquisition, identifying existing and filled wetlands.  Montgomery Watson Harza concluded that a significant portion (up to 2 acres) of the Rye Nursery site likely could be restored through proper fill removal and planting.Montgomery Watson Harza also assessed the possibility of a recreational field at the site.They concluded that a recreational field was a viable option.On July 19, 2001, Montgomery Watson Harza met with the city’s planner, engineer, and the recreation superintendent to discuss the development of a medium size recreation field on the site.A final report on the Rye Nursery Site was submitted to the City of Rye on October 10, 2001.


Task Order 3 - Beaver Swamp Brook
The technical analysis of the Beaver Swamp Brook made possible through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) grant for the City of Rye and the Town of Harrison evaluated the floodplain of the Beaver Swamp Brook.  The grant provided useful mapping, survey data, and planning recommendations to both municipalities.These results will support permit approvals for implementation of flood control projects, sediment removal in the brook, and wetland restoration efforts.The hydrologic and hydraulic model of the BSB have provided the City and Town with baseline data to move ahead with the 2nd phase of the Beaver Swamp Brook study that includes designing a wetland restoration area and developing a sediment management plan for the brook.The second grant amount from NRCS is for $250,000.


Click here to find out more information on NRCS.


Flood Mitigation Plan
In addition to the above technical studies, the City of Rye contracted with Laura Tessier Environmental Consultant to develop a Flood Mitigation Plan.  The Rye Draft Flood Mitigation Plan is a compilation of many existing documents such as the 1985 City of Rye Development Plan that reflect City of Rye policy and technical materials including Project Impact studies of the city’s waterways.The plan is primarily a technical document, based upon a FEMA recommended outline, that brings together a community's existing and emerging flood related planning policies. The adoption of a Flood Mitigation Plan is an important part of the city’s participation in FEMA's Project Impact Program.  The FMA was most recently reviewed by the city's boards and commissions and awaits final approval from the City of Rye Council.


The approval of this plan by the City Council will assist the City in obtaining additional funding for flood mitigation projects and potentially lowering resident flood insurance rates.More specifically, the Flood Mitigation Plan is a requirement to participate in FEMA's Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) program that provides funding to States and communities to assist in their efforts to reduce or eliminate the risk of repetitive loss damage.


Click here to find out more information on FMA

Go to Project Impact Technical Study for further information


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Beaver Swamp Brook Grant & Our Partnership With Harrison

As a major part of the Project Impact Grant Program, the City of Rye will be working with the Town/Village of Harrison to improve the Beaver Swamp Brook. A number of projects are underway to control flooding, clean up contaminated lots and restore natural wetlands. The Project Impact Technical Study will help identify more projects.

The goal of the joint project is to restore a section of Beaver Swamp Brook, address flooding problems through wetlands restoration and other measures, and create a passive nature area to serve both communities. The nature area would be located between Osborn Road and Park Avenue where both municipalities already own most of the land needed for the park.

The inter-municipal project has received tremendous support from Congresswoman Nita Lowey who has secured two grants through the Natural Resources Conservation Service in the amount of $250,000 each, a federal agency that works on water quality and wetlands issues.

The City of Rye is conducting a comprehensive hydrology study of the entire Beaver Swamp Brook system. A full technical study is necessary in order to properly design wetland restoration and flood control measures. Changes in a brook cannot be approved without the proper scientific backup. Poorly planned actions could actually make flooding worse.

The information from the hydrological study will be a permanent resource for the planning departments of both communities. The information will be incorporated into the GIS computer modeling programs that all municipalities are moving to. Rye is conducting a similar study of Blind Brook, the results of which will also be shared with Harrison and the Village of Rye Brook. Rye's participation in Project Impact has been an important guide to the Beaver Swamp Brook effort. Project Impact is the Federal Emergency Management Agency's program to encourage communities to become more disaster resistant.

Currently underway is an environmental assessment of the Town of Harrison owned land along the brook. This study will determine what steps must be taken to clean up parts of the site where there has been a history of illegal dumping. This review is made possible through a NYS Department of Environmental Conservation "Brownfields" grant which Harrison was awarded. The grant pays 75% of the study costs. The study will enable Harrison to proceed with clean up of any areas requiring it and apply for clean up grants if necessary.

The Town of Harrison has also acquired an additional, un-developable parcel, in the area targeted for the nature area.

Both communities are eager to implement the restoration plan when the required studies are complete. The project is based upon the goals established in the Westchester County Watershed Advisory Committee 3 plan and the Westchester County Nonpoint Source Prevention program. The County Planning Department is going to begin a wetland vegetation replacement project along part of the brook. The goal of this project will be to plant vegetation along the brook that do a better job of improving water quality than the non-native species that currently exist in some locations.

Beaver Swamp Brook was ignored for decades. Harrison and Rye are moving ahead with their plan to restore this environmental resource, control flooding problems, and improve water quality flowing to Long IslandSound. Both communities appreciate the support of Congresswoman Lowey, FEMA, NRCS, NYS DEC, and Westchester County for all of their help in making this progress possible.


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Mayor Steve Otis On Project Impact

This is an opportunity to share with you our appreciation for the opportunity that Project Impact gives us to do creative things to make our community more resilient in the face of disaster.

We are proud to be one of only three municipalities in New York State, and 118 throughout the nation, to have been selected as a Project Impact community.

We have embraced the philosophy of Project Impact in a way that we hope will be a guide to other communities.

We have taken the approach that we want to use Project Impact to address disaster preparedness in a comprehensive way. Through the work of our Steering Committee we identified a wide range of disaster preparedness issues and developed projects, goals, and objectives to address them.

Our most serious risk hazard is flooding. Many of our projects are focused on flood mitigation. But we have also focused on our health and shelter needs in an emergency, on different aspects of our emergency response capability, on the needs of small businesses, and on building practices and standards to make our structures more invulnerable.

Another approach we have taken is to acknowledge the link between flood mitigation and environmental goals such as sediment control, wetland restoration, and water retention. Where we can we are going to bring together environmental programs and flood mitigation programs to accomplish shared goals.

We are also making these initiatives intermunicipal efforts because that kind of cooperation is essential if we are to succeed. Natural disasters to not follow municipal boundaries.

The last point I would like to make is that we do not view Project Impact as a temporary program. Making our community more disaster resistant has to become a permanent part of all of our planning efforts. Every community needs to think about their own disaster risks and ways to minimize them in everything they do. We have embraced this approach here in Rye.

Project Impact has helped Rye focus on what we can do. Now, thanks to the help of the FEMA, New York State, Westchester County, our Co-Sponsor Con Edison, and all of our Project Impact partners, we are on the road to accomplishing these goals and better protecting our community.


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Project Rye Public Education Resources

Being a Project Impact Community, also involves providing the Rye community with the necessary information to protect themselves and families from disaster situations.Thus, educational resources become very important.Below are some ways in which the City of Rye has reached out to the community to assist them in preparing for disasters.The goal is to continue this effort and enhance its ability to make a difference in the lives of Rye residents.   City Collaborates with the Rye Merchants Association
to assist Businesses in developing a Business Continuity Program

The City collaborated with the Rye Merchants Association and the Project Impact Business Sub – Committee to present a business continuity plan for Rye Businesses.Roseann McSorley, Director of Business Continuity at Deutsche Bank USA presented on the steps local businesses can take to become disaster resistant.The event took place on February 6, 2001 at the Rye Bar and Grill.Project Impact Partner attendees were present from SEMO, FEMA, Con - Ed, and the American Red Cross to answer questions and respond to comments from the presentation.Business owners were encouraged to develop business interruption plans and provided with a sample business continuity plan to guide them in developing a plan for their businesses in the event of a disaster.The city continues to work with the merchant's association to assist in various issues related to disaster preparedness.  


Project Impact Resource Center
Also, a Project Impact Resource Center is located at the Rye Free Reading Room to provide community members with various information about disaster preparedness and prevention information.Residents are encouraged to visit the area to gather useful information on methods to protect themselves and families in the event of a major disaster.Useful brochures and handouts are available.


Coming Soon - January 1, 2002
City of Rye Disaster Preparedness and Injury Prevention Guide
The guide is a comprehensive tool that covers prevention tips for natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and fires and provides updated information on the country's current threat of terrorism.The information on terrorism was added after the events of September 11.Additionally, planning checklists, important emergency contacts, emergency shelter and evacuation information, and resource websites are provided.As a complement to disaster preparedness, included is an injury prevention section for children and parents based on a program developed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). This guide is a compilation of various disaster preparedness resources obtained through the Federal Emergency Management Office (FEMA), the American Red Cross, and NFPA.It also highlights Rye's Project Impact achievements and steps the City has taking to become disaster resistant.

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(To Be Signed By Community Partners at the Signing Ceremony)

AGREEMENT is made this 26th day of April 1999, by these parties: the City of Rye ("CITY"), Westchester County ("COUNTY"), the State of New York ("STATE"), the Federal Emergency Management Agency and its national level partners (referred to collectively as "FEMA"), and local corporate and nonprofit partners.


WHEREAS, the parties:

Understand that the City of Rye is located such that it is subject to a wide variety of potential natural and man-made risks;

Take note of the fact that Rye, bordered by Long Island Sound and traversed by Blind Brook and Beaver Swamp Brook, has been the past victim of flooding, storm damage, hurricanes, and nor'easters;

Recognize that Rye, whose boundaries are crossed Interstate 95, Interstate 287, and the Metro-North Railroad, is vulnerable to risks associated with proximity to major means of transportation;

Seek to mitigate the impacts of hazards which may occur in Rye and enhance the ability to sustain itself against threats to safety and property;

Understand that the City of Rye is eager to take the initiative in undertaking a cooperative effort to make the community less vulnerable to disaster;

Strive to create sustainable communities that are resistant to the human and economic costs of disasters;

Recognize that loss-reduction efforts undertaken before the onset of natural or man-made hazard events are the foundation of emergency management and strongly impact public safety and economic security;

Recognize that critical relationships exist between governments, nonprofit institutions, and the private sector;

Recognize that measures taken in advance of disasters are effective in reducing losses; that partnerships among government agencies, private companies, community organizations, educational institutions, nonprofit relief organizations, etc., are essential for the success of these efforts;

Recognize that the entire City of Rye, our public and private buildings, our businesses and homes, our schools and houses of worship, our infrastructure and utilities are all vulnerable to disasters and the associated escalating costs;

Agree that the City, County, State, FEMA and other partners will participate in FEMA’s PROJECT IMPACT national disaster mitigation initiative;

NOW, THEREFORE, it is mutually agreed that the parties voluntarily enter into this non-binding Agreement to establish the City of Rye Project Impact Partnership (the Partnership). Membership in the Partnership is open and can be expanded to include new (additional) partners in the future. The Partnership will work together to advise the City in the oversight of the City of Rye Project Impact Pilot Grant Program, to participate in the implementation of any Project Impact Action Items, and to further mutual loss-reduction and mitigation goals subject to the terms and conditions recited below.


The respective duties, responsibilities, and commitments of the parties hereto shall commence on the date this Agreement is signed by the parties and may be periodically renewed or revised at the option of the parties.


The Partnership, in consultation and conjunction with other public and private entities shall meet regularly in order to consult on:

Identification and delineation of natural and man-made hazards within the City;

Assessment of risk and vulnerability of buildings, facilities, utilities, communication, transportation systems, infrastructure, and natural resources owned or operated by public or private sector entities;

Techniques to identify, mitigate against, or manage expected losses; and

Technical and financial assistance and incentives to facilitate loss-reduction and mitigation projects.

The Partnership shall make their representatives and representatives of their local partners available to consult with the City of Rye, as lead agency, and with the public, as needed, and in conjunction with other jurisdictions so that these methods can be properly applied to other communities.


The Partnership shall annually review the actions and plans taken as apart of this Agreement. The Partnership will prepare an Annual Report describing accomplishments resulting from the City of Rye Project Impact Pilot Grant Program as well as update all Project Impact Action Items associated therein. The Partnership shall also make recommendations for improving this Agreement, the City of Rye Project Impact Partnership, or Project Impact Action Items at that time.


The Partnership will consider committing human, technical, and financial resources towards the goals of this Agreement. The Partnership shall coordinate with current and future partners and carry out the fundamental actions of this voluntary, non-binding Agreement.


This Agreement includes an Appendix. This Appendix offers an overview of those Action Items which the City of Rye, in cooperation with the community, have identified as objectives of the City of Rye Project Impact Pilot Grant Program. This list shall be modified as objectives and goals are discussed by the Partnership. The Partnership shall commence operation upon the signing of this Agreement and the period of time for completing the Action Items will be set and reported by the Partnership.


The principal intent of this Agreement is to further develop private, volunteer, and public-sector capabilities—people, policies, resources, plans, schedules, accomplishments, relationships, and projects—needed to reduce vulnerability to hazards and mitigate against losses.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, each party has caused this Agreement to be executed by its duly authorized representative on the date mentioned above.

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