THE VILLAGE OF RYE BROOK – A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
Written by: Jules Harris
The story of the Village of Rye Brook is the most recent chapter in the continuing development of the Town of Rye. It is the shared heritage of four communities.
Town history began in 1640 when land was purchased from Native American inhabitants. The first colonists to move into the area were settlers from Greenwich, Connecticut. In 1660 they negotiated a treaty with Shenarockwell, a Mohican chief, for all the land along Long Island Sound between the Mamaroneck and Byram Rivers. It is supposed that the town was named after Rye, in Sussex, England, the former home of some of the settlers.
Communities within the Town eventually established themselves as four separate municipalities. Port Chester was the first of the areas to incorporate as a village. Its charter is dated 1868. In 1895, Mamaroneck officially became a village with its western section in the Town of Mamaroneck and its eastern section, east of the Mamaroneck River known as “Rye Neck” in the Town of Rye. In 1904 Rye Village was incorporated but, in 1942, it seceded to become a city and is no longer part of the Town. Rye Brook remained the last unincorporated area in the Town until it became a Village on July 7, 1982.
In 1940, the unincorporated area (now the Village of Rye Brook) had a population of less than two thousand residents. It had large estates, farmland, and open space. The area relied on the Town government for services and administration. The number of residents grew to 2, 661 by the 1950 census. In 1960 the count exceeded 6,000 and by 1980 it had grown to 8,000. Nevertheless, the unincorporated area had only a small voice in the Town Council as it represented only a fifth of the Town’s voting block.
The concept of becoming self-governing began with an 1981 Pace University examination and study, commissioned by the Village of Port Chester, for alternative forms of government for the future of Port Chester.
A group of residents in the unincorporated area began to discuss, even before the Pace Study was published, what the Pace Study could bring out and what effect it would have on their neighborhood. They concluded that the only safe and certain way of achieving independence, self-determination, and protection of its tax base would be to form their own village. The group, later known as The Independent Civic Association or ICA, met over a period of about eighteen months. This led to a petition process followed by a referendum which was approved by a substantial majority of the voters.
The ICA established two principles concerning future governance that have proven their durability. One is that candidates for public office would seek election on a non-partisan basis without the label or support of any major political party. The other is that our elected public officials would serve without compensation thus helping to instill a cost saving ethic in government.
Rye Brook residents continue to enjoy the outstanding shared facilities of the Town of Rye such as Crawford Park, Rye Town Park, and Oakland Beach. Crawford Park is the site of the Annual Rye Brook Birthday Party thrown by and for its residents with the help of corporate sponsors. This wholesome celebration fosters our villagers’ community spirit.