Hen Island advocate goads Rye
APRIL 29, 2009

RYE – He can easily be mistaken for a giant peanut or an alien creature, but the real identity of “Mr. Floatie” is much more shocking.

“He’s an 8-foot turd and he gets your attention – not in a way you want to, but he gets your attention and does the job,” said Ray Tartaglione, who regularly attends Rye City Council meetings with the mascot.

Mr. Floatie, who wears a sailor hat, bow tie and pasted-on grin, and “Jack A.,” a blazer-wearing donkey, represent safety and environmental issues on Hen Island, a 26-acre private island off Rye’s shore.

Tartaglione, 54, a resident of Purchase who has a cottage on the island, has claimed for years that some summer residents allow sewage to seep into Long Island Sound and garbage to collect along the beach. He launched a Web site named www.HealTheHarbor.com that documents his claims with photos and videos.

Videos with whimsical tunes star Mr. Floatie hugging and high-fiving Rye residents and driving a motorboat. Supporters Justin Flick of Yonkers and Phil Buttaci of Tuckahoe dress in the costumes, but declined to be interviewed.

Tartaglione has had mixed success in his battle. Last year, a state judge ruled that the island’s trash and septic systems were adequate, but it has not stopped Tartaglione from pressing the city to do its own inspections, instead of relying on the county Department of Health. His fight was given a boost this month when city inspectors found some cottages had fire- and building-safety violations.

He thinks the mascots have helped his case. Jack A., the donkey that represents the “stubborn” position of officials, was recently retired in a dramatic presentation in front of the City Council that ended with him leaving an olive branch.

“I think they want to get Mr. Floatie and Jack A. out of the meetings because it’s a circus,” Tartaglione said. “They are uncomfortable with them there.”

The characters have been controversial. Two Rye police officers had to order that they change their seats at a recent meeting when Tartaglione refused to move them from blocking a camera that tapes the proceeding.

Still, few people seem fazed by the bizarre figures when they amble into City Hall and participate in the Pledge of Allegiance before meetings.

“Everyone has a right to express themselves,” Councilman Joe Sack said. “They are there to provoke a reaction, so if you react a certain way, you are fueling the fire.”

Mayor Steve Otis calls them “counterproductive,” but said he wants to maintain civil interactions.

“I don’t have control over what people say and how they present themselves,” Otis said. “I care that we maintain a level of decorum that is appropriate to our community.”

Councilman Andy Ball believes the characters have been damaging, writing in an e-mail that “the community has to come to feel that their presence seriously demeans the public discourse.”

Resident Ashley Craig says the characters are distracting when citizens stand at the podium to address the Council, and the characters are in the background of the TV broadcast.

Tartaglione has accused city officials of removing chairs so the mascots cannot sit near the podium; Otis has denied the claim.

“They don’t want (residents) to see an 8-foot turd and a jackass on TV at home,” Tartaglione said. “They tried to suppress it.”

Tartaglione plans to address the City Council at 8 p.m. today.


Post Navigation