I watched the most recent Council meeting on Channel 75 today. It was revealing, perhaps even indicative of both Council past and Council present. I saw some progress; Louis was tenacious, Al upped his game, Ivar gave a real sense that he understood the main street corridor, Jared was strong in his inquiries on both Albanese and Beechwood, and Shari was assertive on certain issues including the NYS upcoming North Avenue project. Barry, of course, was Barry while Noam showed some improvements in managing dialogue. Unfortunately, his summary statements lacked a sense of real expected outcomes.
I am saying this because there may be some reason for optimism. Perhaps not, but I encourage each of you to view the tape and draw your own conclusions. Let me give my perceptions (there is that damn word again) and hope they make some sense and I will try to be fair and stick to the themes I stated in my "Confessions" blog.
Two major issues were discussed: (1) the Albanese project and (2) the City Yards. The City Yard project seems to be something that is at the decision point. The site selection alternatives, etc. were established a while back and I cannot comment on how the 4 or 5 sites were chosen and why Beechwood was chosen. I can say that I have seen the breakout of costs, the evaluation summary of each site, but I cannot attest to whether the Engineer firm selected was the proper choice given what I believe is the presence of a senior ex New Rochelle in the cadre of the Engineer firm. I just don't know if that had any effect; what I did not like was a lack of explicit information on what constituted each line of comparative expense. It likely exists; if not, it should exist.
Noam did the right thing by having Tergis explain what happens in the City Yard and to what degree garbage may accumulate. That was helpful. However there are still some concerns on the part of residents and others from the area or representative of the area and that is both understandable and natural. It really doesn't matter how often these are raised if they are felt; that is part of the political process. It may be less than effective communication, "noblesse oblige" or even a feeling that people down these parts are unreasonable. They are not!
Given the history of what has transpired with the DPW project, I probably would reluctantly agree that it is at the point where little more will be done. However, it should be a "teaching moment" as President Obama would tell us; this is a community who view a divide between north and south and feel the presence of some potential insidious series of environmental or quality of life issues that emerge from this feeling. It is insensitive and foolish to wash one's hands of this and adopt the current philosophy in City Hall that these parts are inundated by naysayers; that is bunk! These are people no different in sum and substance than those who risk very little in having a City Yard placed in their backyard.
City Hall needs an attitude adjustment. Do the will of the Council but do other things as well; communicate until you become hoarse, or you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome. Do not do what I observed at the Council Meeting.
First Noam's lecture on land having no meaning in the sense of value until it is identifed as what its usage will be is correct. However why lecture Councilman Tragucci on this? He likely knows this as well as you. What he might want to discover is putting the value of each site up to still another use; for example, residential. What would the value of each be if homes or apartments, etc. were built? Although a theoretical exercise on the surface, in a business policy environment, it is quite traditional and seen in Harvard Business School Case Studies. Of course, that could have and perhaps should have been done a lot earlier. In any case it does not affirm or deny the broader question of WHY can't the settlement work until the MOU comes in as that may add something to the equation. Of course, the yard needs to be upgraded or moved. Louis knows that, Shari knows that, well Barry is another issue and here is what I mean.
Louis Trangucci did something that every council member should do actually must do, in terms of representing his district. In fact he must do this in terms of establishing a record in the event he runs for re-election a few years out. It is called establishing a record. Surely Noam knows this, but Barry actually impugned Louis Trangucci's motives or reasons for asking for a vote. It is on tape and you can hear it for yourself. Noam fumbled a bit on the dreaded "Roberts Rules of Order" but said the right thing about the call for a vote going forward.
It is uncalled for and I am asking every reader of this post to be charitable; perhaps Fertel doesnt' realize what he did. But what I would like is for every citizen to insist that all key issues are put up for a vote so we can have a record per office holder and make informed judgments in the future.
Here is something else that troubles me greatly, no actually two things. The first is why the Council or at least some members equate any expense change or potential loss of revenue as requiring a reduction in our fire or police cadre. That is sheer inexcusable horse spit. We have many, many other alternatives that never get raised. Any sensible business goes after fat and not bone. Our fat would certainly be at 515 North Avenue. Supervisors, Administrators, Managers, staff people, and consultants must come before first providers. Good Lord why is this even up for discussion!
I will try to give you a perspective that does carry over from highly control oriented private industry and alas, it is true here. Executive management like to have lots of direct reports and one and two level down reports. They are immune to the realities of street life, first provider morale, quality of life crime, etc.... this happens often in financial industries who are heavily invested in fee income. Guess who else is heavily invested in fee income?
You know my issues around our inability or unwillingness to follow the dictates of our own City Code. Again, read Articles X-XII. Unless I am not aware of subsquent changes, I know what I am reading and so do a number of attorneys that I asked to go to the library and read the same information. My question is why? It is also an issue that consumes me as I cannot understand why men and women of high intellect, strong ethical values, and even bloodthirsty political leanings, let this happen without a shout or even a whisper. But people do...it is paradigmatically expressive of who we are and how we are managed.
It rubs off on Council Meetings. Let me be explicit here. The ruling authority in this City is seven elected officials. Six represent districts, the seventh is a "ceremonial mayor" who by fact is actually the head of the council and in practice, has created the additional fact he is a "strong mayor." I would love someone to forward me a copy of the 10 year + referendum on "strong mayor" that the voters turned down.
So we have a fact, now how to we prevent this fact from doing unwarranted damage to the democratic process? We begin by acknowledging the power of the Council and insist they exercise this power for the greater good of the community. The City Manager reports to the Council and you would never in business see he occupy the seat to the city council head that he does at his right hand. he belongs elsehere either down the table or against the wall and the same for the City Attorney. It is not symbolic; it is a practical matter of proper exercise of roles, relationships and responsibilities. We have not elected either, they serve at the pleasure of the Council and frankly, the City Manager is too often argumentative or clearly majority biased.
The Albanese project should, by simple common sense, be tabled. How could we in good conscience even consider putting this into play? It is pure folly.
The priorities should be clear. We need to concentrate on current state; on the building of a revenue stream and managing the cost curve and not by picking the wrong fruit from low hanging branches meaning first providers. We need to know more about the growing power and influence of Jerome at Monroe. He has the BID chair, occupies as much empty space as possible, has damaged any chance we have (slim or otherwise) by occupying the prime portion of New Roc Center. How and why? I am sure some of you will speak eloquently on this point if I can ever wrap up my blog.
I congratulate Ivar for a most impressive and impassioned defense of defining and building our main street corridor. He understands the priorities. The Council has been negligent for too many years in proactivity management. They let things happen, they have never managed the change delta. How could they not? Al Tarantino was very effective at this meeting but he still avoids substance on this area. Jared Rice has a grip on it, but the shining light today was the one councilmember most impacted, that is Ivar Hydin.
Noam has trouble with discussions and disagreements on high end residential initiatives. Echo Bay is a prime example, and now, Albanese's proposal. It allegedly is a 60%/40% in terms of income levels via occupy and there is some comfort in eschewing any 3 bedroom apartments. But it is 100% wrong at this time. Noam gave a summary on its value which was well off the mark. He compared it to the Avalon development years earlier citing the library development and other works. However, the logic is flawed. The library was not part of the Avalon construction; it came about for other reasons. Avalon actually contributed nothing of substance to downtown main or its proximate locations. That was not their job; that was ours as a City. Albanese will not construct new commercial businesses or provide any migration of police and other services to the area. That will be our job again.
In Avalon is in dire straits. The management changes, the increases in rental fees, the growth of section 8 and occupancy of college students from Iona and likely Monroe, tell us a tale of a city in distress with a growing negative reputation throughout the real estate community based on crime growth, lack of viable tax and budget structures, deteriorating value of our education system and more. In fact this enormous deficiency in viable assets in our downtown community is palpately detrimental to the rush to comparing us to Mt Vernon and Yonkers. Make no mistake about it, this is a fact.
So, what value is the construction of Albanese? Is it a memorial to the diffusion of Avalon? Is it a commitment to the unwillingness to respond to the needs mentioned so often here and elsewhere to build the downtown business district, gain some meaningful control over the school district, and firm up how we are governed. We cannot afford both a full time ceremonial mayor and a city manager. One or the other.
I want this all to work. I want Noam to understand his legacy, like Reverand Hudson's, is in restoration and renewal. I want Bob Marrone not to be concerned with negative input about the state of the city. Infections require strong medicine.
we have to be calm and carry on. Blame doesn't get us far. We need to be one community. If a small group of small business owners express needs and conerns, why label them as "negative." They are anything but. Nor am I!
We can come back. Let me invite every reader, every correpondent to come down these parts and meet, even join Mario at Retrofit. Go to Avalon and have some great artisinal wine and meet the wonderful couple who own this treasure of a shop.Go next store for your auto and other insurance at meet Charles Brown. He is a great gentleman and a fine citizen. Then reward yourself by dropping in for coffee and tea at the R Patisserie on Huguenot close by.
These are our new heroes. People who come here to invest in our community. People of character, courage, commitment. Come on down from the north end and up from the south. you will be glad you did.
And I am more optimistic about New Rochelle's ability to be calm and carry on. I think there is a reasonable chance that our newer council members, coupled with one or two of our veterans, can get the job done.
Are we a community or not. Shout it out and live it.