This question was first posed by Herod Agrippa and concerned a carpenter from Nazareth that changed the world for all time. On a considerably more modest level, the question remains relevant as it concerns the City Council. The answer is a resounding YES!
It is tempting to discount this as possible given the many divisions that exist in New Rochelle. However, it is necessary to step back and accept that we stand on a narrow strip of land amidst the turbulance swamping our nation and world. It has reached epidemic proportions and has traveled down to our City, our leaders, and even ourselves and our neighbors.
But, either Providence or happenstance has given us an opportunity to extend this narrow strip of land. The proposed development we call the Albanese Project is this opportunity. It is a rare moment in time to come together as a community, a confederation of "one"; not restricted by ideology, self interest, or expected gain.
To succeed, it needs a unified voice. Albanese is that point in time; perhaps an effort for future state. it cannot occupy current state; there is no room for it in any rationale priority scheme. It is at best, what the French call a divertissement. It is not in any critical path and the time is at hand to look at it from the focus of what is important for the entire community overall.
Councilman Hydin has a clear insight into the Albanese situatiom and expressed this durng the January Council Meeting. It seems that based on Bob Cox's report, that he continued to laser into the real issues of restoring a downtown business district. He apparently would not approve the Albanese Project. I believe it is clear that Councilman Trangucci would share this view. Their reasons may differ, but the end result would be the same. Both are small businessmen and have that unique point of view.
Councilman Tarantino is also a small buinessman but it is not clear where he stands on Albanese. Counclman Rice is not a small businessman. He is an attorney. However he shares legislative ownership of segments of the business district and likely sees the necessity of shoring up and restoring this critical part of our City. I hope, no actually pray that these men will resist all attempts to bend to party pressure of any form, resist all verbal rationalizations and do the necessary and right thing. That is simply to table Albanese. I also reach out to our other councilmembers to see this without the typical ideological or party blinders that affect too many decisions. Shari, you showed the ability to frame a very thoughtful set of inquiries about the Cabaret license project and I think you have the right stuff to look at restore and revitalization of our downtown business district.
Once a project is "tabled" voice come out of the woodwork to influence and twist good reason. It has always been this way and it remains on our narrow little isthmus of land we call New Rochelle. But bear in mind that these voices have missed somethings vital in transition. They no longer speak about the needs we face in current state. However, they still infect the process of preserving and consolidating scarce assets while diminishing cost overrides.
For every Sheldon Silver there is a Newt Gingrich. The infection knows no party, no income level, no other demographic. Every citizen is affected, and runs the risk of being infected. If you reside up north a ways, you got to be concerned about property values, resale values, school district issues. Down these parts, you have more visceral immediate concerns of crime, deterioration, being marginalized, even ignored. It is more than endemic; it qualifies as pandemic.
So who will step up and support a man with no axe to grind. That man appears to be Ivar Hyden. Will he stand on the isthmus alone? Will he see further draining of city scarce resources off of the main line of current state need? Where will Al, Jared, and Shari stand? The thing is every right thinking, strong willed and compassionate member of this community knows the answer to that question. This is a community test and I do expect you to stand and be counted and inform your councilmember of where you stand and why and not through some three minute exercise lumped together with ruminants and other matters of lesser importance.
Form is not substance. When you sit around the dining room table with your spouse, do you incur more credit card debt by making operating expense payments? Likely not if this is avoidable. Simpler yet, will you plan a vacation to wherever if your children lack primary needs, or the refrigerator is on the blink, or the mortgage payment is due. Maybe this is compounded by the Refuse Tax payment. No you do not!
But you don't seem too troubled about the growing crime rate, quality of life issues downtown like panhandlers and graffiti. You turn away from the incessant creep and crawl of non profits or the tentacles of Monroe grabbling up any and all available space. You seem apathetic to the lack of sound zoning laws, deaf and dumb to the failing fortunes of Avalon, Trump and others. You can see these for yourselves. You will find all sorts of internal and external issues if you care to look.
And, down these parts, how much better citizens are we? We talk, write, accept the anomoly of a city government totally running against City Code. Let me tell you what the famed humorist Sam Levinson said concerning the pedagogic infrastructure many years ago. He cites those courageous teachers, the equivalent of front line infantrymen, who challenged the educational infrastructure on prescribed ways and means to teach the 3 R's. He goes on to share the sad fact that the best and brightest, those exposed to risk, were soon weighed down by the forces of bureaucracy and forced to conform. Levinson instructs us that these brave souls had to abandon the critical 4th R which is really the crux of the matter. That is R e s p o n s i b i l i t y. How could they exercise that without support.
So how can Ivar and his council mates come together on this little isthmus of land and begin the journey towards restoration and renewal. It requires support..... all of you out there must support and reward doing the right thing; actually the only thing. That is to go beyond "tabling" Albanese to putting in off into the future. We have 7 Council Members -- the fact is we do not have a strong mayor, we have a ceremonial mayor, so call him what he really is, a councilman at large; one who leads the city council. His job is extremely difficult, but with this recognition comes responsibility. This becomes our fourth R, roles, relationships, restoration and renewal. Not to put aside personal ambitions or liking structure is a lack of duty to perform.
I contend that some things, critical path things; matters that do not need one of our incessant committees, or in camera work groups, must be done and done in daylight. You must be aware of these and hold our elected officials responsible.
I want you to think about what we have in the context of the City Code. While doing so, you might elevate your consciousness to ask a simple question. Why do all your elected County and State officials ignore the realities of New Rochelle? The "home room" argument is not compelling at all. Yet, it can be said that many of you do not hold them accountable for their lack of service to the community. Remember that the next time you are confronted with the effects and consequences of a decison made by a Sheldon Silver. If you are not willing to be part of the solution, you are the problem!
What are the minimum immediate needs to build or rebuild a commercial downtown business district base? Here are some:
1. Immediately step in and take responsibility for the zoning codes, fee based actions and activities, police protection, and lack of decentralization of city functions downtown. You are the City Council and as such, you serve analogous to an organization's board of directors. Read about yourselves in the City Code. Start with Article X. Task your City Manager to address each of the above and put a time line on each. Have the City Attorney help. Waht you want in a timely way are (1) recommendations to change the zoning laws, (2) way to incent landlords to lighten up on their lease renewal demands, (3) identify a property on Main Street and move in a uniformed 24 hour administration, technical, clerical function with bold signage and have Carroll adjust patrol car drop ins to reinforce this sight line in the eyes of residents, (4) have Strome develop a plan to move several departments from 515 North again with appropriate signage... (5) move BID from the desert of Westchester Place to the bright lights of Main or North, and while you are at it, (6) have the School District open up an office as well, (7) have a contigency tactical plan to reduce head office exmept management and supervisory, longer term dedicated, or consultant staff instead of the excessive threats to further pare down first providers from police or fire. Tell Strome to move away from the right hand of the City Council Head over to a seat in the back of the table area or against the wall. That is how you set up a visible connection of authority and responsibility for viewers. City Council, you bear the ultimate responsibility and it is in the hands of the current ceremonial mayor because you have generationally in council, allowed that to be the case.
Of course there is more. Activate the BID in a different fashion. Bring them into the sunlight. Di Bart does pretty well, but this is a multi hundred member organization. Put them to work. Get Iona and Monroe interested in internships.... you use them to critically examine current issues with your residential high rises and determine what you can do to help. BID should also establish and on-going call program a calendar that determines who is to be visited and for what purpose.
The community is concerned about the failing reputation of our City in the market place; residential and commercial. An immediate step is to come up with adult financial management methods. You dont manage the affairs of a small city through fee income and hopes and prayers for grants, federal, state, or county member items or whatever is the soup de jour of the day. It is time for meaningful fiscal responsibility.
There is more, but this is enough for openers. Pencil in placing some formal arrangement over the school district in the year to come.
My summary involves going back to the risk and consequence of "tabled" Albanese. You need to, you must, demand that your Council do the right thing in the right way. Albanese like Echo Bay is future state, not current state. Surely you can see that as well as the linkage between the restoration and renewal of New Rochelle to your equity, well being and even social connection.
I think Ivar is right when he also said he was comfortable in leaving matters in the hands of the Council. I will buy into that if you will. That means giving your best, your active participation and your non-negotiable position that the City Council has an interest and responsibiility above any other in the governance of New Rochelle.
Something extraordinary came out of Nazareth. I hope His spirit is in these words to a degree. Something of real value can come from the next council meeting. Let it happen on this little isthmus of land among the turbulant times.
God Bless you all and guide this City of ours.