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Why Read the 1996 New Rochelle Revised Comprehensive Plan?

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Why Read the 1996 New Rochelle Revised Comprehensive Plan?

June 13, 2012 - 15:04
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CompPlan1996

Carl Sagan, astronomer and philosopher, wrote "You have to know the past to understand the present.”

The recently announced EnvisioNR planning process is intended to create a revised Comprehensive Plan for the City of New Rochelle. To put this effort in context today some history is in order. The EnvisioNR will be a successor to the Revised Comprehensive Plan which was adopted by New Rochelle City Council on July 30, 1996. That revised plan built upon the Master Plan for New Rochelle completed in 1965 which was updated in 1977.

The 1996 Comprehensive Plan was prepared by Saccardi & Schiff, Inc. which worked with a Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee and the New Rochelle Department of Development.

Members of the City Council at the time were Tim Idoni (Mayor) and Rhoda Quash, Noam Bramson, Alex Eodice, Joe Fosina, Ruth Kitchen and Chris Selin. The Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee (COMPAC) consisted of 12 people and included two council members (Kitchen, Eodice) along with a future council member (Marianne Sussman) and a future City Judge (Anthony Carbone). Also on the commitee was Lois Brechner, Jay Kreisberg, Gerard Ragone, Joseph Rossini, Sebastian·Bulfamante, Jacquetta Cole, Teresa Morales and Dr. Jason Silverman. Three of the members of the COMPAC members were members of the Planning Board (not sure which 3, little help here) and the Committee reported its findings to the full Planning Board. The Department of Development was led by Commissioner Joseph Madonna along with Alan Schuman and Ed Lynch.

The entire Revised Comprehensive Plan (adopted 1996) plus Amendments can be downloaded here.

Reading a Comprehensive Plan is an effort. It is long, detailed and filled with jargon. For those who want to be a party to the discussions on the current EnvisioNR planning, it is a must read. You are urged to download the PDF document linked above and read it with a notepad handy to capture questions and ideas for the current planning.

No matter what your interest in the current planning process, every New Rochelle resident will find at least skimming Section II: CITYWIDE CONDITIONS AND PLANNING STUDIES worthwhile. It is listed as about 50 pages but the format of the document is such that it is really more like a 20 page chapter of a book. There are many interesting historical tidbits containing in this section and, for many, sure to be some nostalgic memories of past political figures, businesses and previous land use battles. What is truly amazing is the number of issues that we are still grappling with today -- moving the City Yard, downtown development, the North Avenue corridor, parkland and much more. It's been 20 years since that plan was being developed but sections read like it could have been written today.

Do you know why there is a large traffic circle on Memorial Highway? Do you remember the Munchkin Day Parade around the Library? Did you know that the school district taxes utilities and why? Do you know what runs underneath Stephenson Boulevard? These and other nuggets are nestled in among Section II.

If this is not enough to get you interested to download and review the 1996 Comprehensive Plan, click "read more" and continue after the jump.

There is a great deal of confusion over the term Master Plan and Comprehensive Plan. The term City Comprehensive Plan replaced the former term Master Plan after a change in New York State law re-defined the terms (Section 28-a of New York State General City Law regarding City Comprehensive Plans). The 1996 Comprehensive Plan states "the change in name is based on the underlying theory that the plan encompasses all materials regarding the goals and objectives, principles, guidelines, policies, and standards that relate to either the immediate or long term growth or redevelopment of the city. For purposes of general conversation, the terms Master Plan, Comprehensive Plan, Revised Comprehensive Plan and EnvisioNR are functionally interchangeable terms.

It is worth noting here that the 1996 Comprehensive Plan states:

The new law states that all land use regulations must be in accordance with a comprehensive plan, if such plan is adopted, and further requires that plans for capital projects of any governmental agency on land included in the comprehensive plan are required to take the recommendations of that plan into consideration.

This raises two interesting questions: (1) why was the GreeNR plan adopted before the EnvisioNR plan was begun when the GreeNR plan focuses a great deal on key issues of land use; (2) are all current land use regulation in accordance with the 1996 Comprehensive Plan?

EnvisioNR 247

The citizen input process for the 1996 Comprehensive Plan was vastly different that what we have seen so far in 2012.

First, the meetings were run by a professional "facilitator" hired to design and orchestrate the interactive aspects of the vision process. The recent EnvisioNR public meetings were not run by experienced, professional facilitators but rather well-intentioned amateurs and the difference was readily apparent.

Second, in the recent EnvisioNR sessions, anyone could show up and toss out ideas. All opinions and ideas were treated equally regardless of professional background, experience, education, training and with no consideration to representation from various civic groups or neighborhood associations. Compare that to the effort that went into the 1996 Plan.

The Development Vision process focused on six issue areas: (1) institutional impacts; (2) the waterfront; (3) commercial and industrial development and infrastructure; (4) neighborhoods and affordable housing; (5) North Avenue Corridor (renamed Center City); and (6) the downtown.

To provide broad-based citizen input in the process, six "Community Stakeholder Input Sessions" were convened in December, 1993 and January, 1994. Each session addressed one of the above focus topics.

"Stakeholders" are people who, either personally or as representatives of an organization, association, or group:

• are professionally involved in the topic;
• will be affected by ultimate decisions relating to the topics; or
• are simply interested in or concerned about the topic.

The City invited 50+ stakeholders to participate in each of the input sessions, selecting such persons from existing organizations, and neighborhoods with input from the Future Visions Advisory Committee. Each input session was chaired by two or more members of the Future Visions Advisory Committee. Under the direction of the Department ofDevelopment, the facilitator designed the agenda and orchestrated the discussions to encourage open and creative input from all participants. Approximately 200 individuals attended the six sessions, generating more than 420 ideas.

To solicit additional community input from those unable to attend the stakeholder sessions, the City released several press notices inviting written comments from the public. A summary report on the stakeholder sessions is included in the Appendix.

For each of the six issue areas, Department of Development staff assembled an informational package to supplement the Future Visions
concepts developed in the brainstorming sessions. This material provided a technical and historical base for evaluating and supporting some of the ideas that were generated.

The document begins with a Preface:

The City of New Rochelle Comprehensive Plan was developed through a 10-month planning process which built upon a prior nine month community visions process. The planning consultants, Saccardi & Schiff, Inc. worked closely with the Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee and the City's Department of Development to develop the plan.

The Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee assumed a major role in development of the plan. This responsibility included attending periodic meetings with City staff and consultants to discuss a variety of planning proposals and conducting public meetings to review plan proposals.

The plan encompasses a set of planning proposals and potential implementation programs designed to shape the physical environment of this basically built up city within the context of redevelopment, revitalization and limited new development opportunities. The initial step of the process was a study of existing conditions on a citywide basis. This included the traditional documentation and analysis of demographics, economic conditions, housing, transportation, infrastructure and community services and facilities. Next, attention was turned to the areas of the city most in need of alternative planning concepts to either coordinate and update existing or ongoing plans or present new planning proposals. These focus areas include the downtown and are the subject of specific proposals. In other areas of the city, preservation is emphasized within the context of a changing community profile; land use proposals are formulated within the context of contemporary economic and demographic issues.

Implementation techniques include public sector initiatives necessary to attract private redevelopment; zoning changes to guide proper development; and identification of programs available to fund required development.

The Comprehensive Plan provides an overall guide for the city's growth over the next 15 or so years. It is intended to be a flexible tool that can respond to changing economic and market conditions and to the availability and allocation of resources needed to implement the various recommendations.

The numerous plans and programs which exist and are ongoing even as this plan has evolved have and will continue to shape the City of New Rochelle. This Comprehensive Plan seeks to weave these plans into a coherent framework establishing an overall planning context that will aid the city in making critical land use decisions as it moves into the 21st century.

We here a great deal about North-South issues, that Eastchester Road is the dividing line. While perhaps not the first mention of this so-called "Mason-Dixon line" for New Rochelle, the 1996 plan formally codified the notion of the "North End" and "South End" divided along Eastchester Road.

The north end of the city, beginning north of Eastchester Road, is characterized largely by single-family homes on minimum quarter acre lots.

The core of the 1996 Comprehensive Plan was to preserve existing residential, commercial, open space and recreation areas while development and redevelopment efforts would focus on six areas: Downtown, Waterfront/Pelham Road, East Main Street/Echo Avenue, West Main Street/Weyman Avenue, West New Rochelle, Fifth Avenue and Center City where the term "Center City" referred to the North Avenue corridor from from Eastchester Road to the Downtown area and including the New Rochelle Hospital Medical Center (i.e., Sound Shore Medical Center).

A complete copy of the plan is here: Revised Comprehensive Plan (adopted 1996) plus Amendments.

EDITOR'S NOTE: If a reader were so inclined, we would love to publish a list of all the goals contained in the plan and a measure of the City's progress against those goals. If you are interested to conduct this analysys please contact Robert Cox.

There are 8 Comments

I absolutely agree that this is a must-read document. I have worked on many like this in my life and Saccardi & Schiff have prepared a solid record, a very complete Comprehensive Plan, that should be kept on file in your hard drive and certainly every Council Members file records.

I don't think this is particularly full of jargon; actually it is very straighforward and as long as it needed to be. Several things interested me as well as the roundabout traffic circle, and munchkins and they were interesting indeed. Other things were somewhat disturbing.

I can see that the current Administration is aware of the contents but aside from Noam, I don't think any other Council Member could pass a paper and pencil test on this plan. But should they? I think not, they need to ensure that the Comprehensive Plan is kept updated, reviewed and guided by New York State Law, updated as appropriate. It is correctly called often a Vision/Land Use Document and should serve as an on-going basis for subsequent and prior operating planning and budget reviews and well as critically assessing land use zoning chnage as part of a coherent and consistent planning process to support where we are and where we want to be in terms of those visions and land use expectations cited in the Plan.

In the case of the Comprehensive Plan, if you are a careful reader or unless this copy of an heavily annotated Plan is not current, you will see the hand of the current administration at play.

Let me be specific. For one (sorry USED) the man who kept it somewhat up to date was Tim Idoni. The last council action noted to change or clarify the Plan was in the summer of 2005. I cannot find any instance of any notated change during the Bramson administration. This leads me to believe that the City Council is largely unaware of the purpose, scope and content of the current plan (at least before getting assignments as part of EnviroNR).

I am also troubled by changing the clear focused set of vision development areas established by Saccardi and Schiff and the City participants in 1996. They were (a) Institutional Projects (b) Waterfront, (c) Commercial and Industrial Development and Infrastructure, (d) Neighborhoods and Affordable Housing, (e) North End Corridor (or City Center, and (f) Downtown.

Compare this with the listing shown in the EnviroNR literature and plan. Now we are really talking jargon and literally a poor decisiion to change from the 1996 unambiguous and clear vision development topics.

In addition, we have a nice woman from the Planning Group and two interns from Pratt heading up the focus groups. They did alright but their inexperience and lack of proper linking to the vision topics was evident. Their rigidity showed in the absolute unwillingness to allow discussion about the IDA or the BID which are, of course, essential to planning and in operations. That was foolish and I cannot help to wonder if the shift to the 2012 vision and land use criteria did not lead to this eventuality. I will not speculate, but I have an opinion based on the 1996 dcoument, subsequent Council activity and what seemed to be total dormancy since 2005.

Bob Cox is correct; this is a document that cries out for community members, especially those who participated in EnviroNR to read and read carefully.

What hasn't changed is the assignment of a limited, likely supportive and contributing part of the population. The names have changed but the song remains the same in 2012.

It has supported my sense that we have a convuluted, incoherent planning system and scheme one that should be our number one institutional management concern. Let me ask the readers why we have a Planning Commitee in place that is clearly the arm of the majority party and which, and this I
must highlight, is not directly in tune with the City Council. The same would hold for the IDA.

Of course it is becoming increasingly clear that we are having both problems with City Charter adherence as well as expecting too much from a part time city council who serve at low pay, have other jobs, and yet, are the constitutional (charter) heads of both the city manager and all ancillary committees and consultants assigned to comprehensive plan areas.

Given the last signed off council resolution in 2005, it is reasonable to speculate that the City Council does not perform an annual critical review of the Comprehensive Plan or conduct on-going control and monitoring. I must conclude it is either not done or is left to the City Manager.

Let me discuss something that jumps out at you if you carefully read the Plan. If you go to page III-11, you will see a Section called Community Based Future visions. "The community based future visions process" formulated a concept for New Rochelle that would return it to its previous stature and vitality not by recreating the past", but by revitalizing those areas that have suffered the most severe disinvestment.

I have talked about this here and elsewhere until my need for the comforts of my medications and friends trebled. This was said in 1996. This is 2012. Does this resonate?

This is even better. Under the major vision area, Downtown and the first impact statement made in this report we see, "the downtown should be planned and redeveloped along a specific theme." So is that theme part Monroe College unchecked growth, the profusion of non-profits, store front churches, or dollar stores? I don't want to hear any crap about the proper exercise of Constitutional rights by the city government at this point as they are not violated by following your own Comprehensive Plan.

Do I negatively speculate that failure to do this has led to masking this key area from the EnviroNR? Is this protective coloration for the Jerome family to run amok, to protect favored realtors, to avoid any recommendation to bring down police and City Hall departments. Add this to the lack of signed resolutions since 2005 and my antennae go up.

Let me end. These are the things I do best and explains why I am a theme or large issue oriented guy with a background to work as I do on what i do.

I don't think Noam Bramson or the current crop in City Hall are bad people, people who do wrong thins and the like. I just think they are insulated and isolated people, some with the incorrectly placed passions and vanity of youth, others with a need to keep the status quo.

It comes down to you and I. We can support and insist on having that responsibility.

Thanks Bob

New Rochelle residents are leaving The Avalon and The Lofts because monroe college students who "live" there are bringing in bedbugs and infesting the premises. They're moving to White Plains and new rochelle is losing taxpayers. Marc Jerome pretends to promote success in downtown new rochelle, but secretly he wants failure, meaning cheap rent so he doesn't have to pay anything for his phony college students. He wants businesses to fail here. Jerome could care less about new rochelle.

Old Timer is correct and what he says reinforces my sense that the original construction of the 1996 Comprehensive Plan was superior to current version and not properly managed for at least the last 7 or 8 years.

We are losing citizens in droves. The causes and conditiional consequences are well known to all of you.

Simply stated and as it and other high rise downtown buildings are concerned, we should put aside for now how and why they came into existence.

We need to concentrate on matters such as Old Timer raised and simply for one..... are we comfortable with these buildings serving as dormitories for what were original conceived as sources of both high net worth individuals who would build up our sales tax base, etal by spending cash.

Well, not the case... we squandered an opporunity, did real violence to any defense of a 30 year abatement, increased the potental for crime, much more.

Two observations -- the first deficit listed in the 1996 Comprehensive Plan, or put otherwise, the primary opportunity is to restore, not directly replace as it was our business district. See page III-1 for how it is put. I repeat my call for a coaltion of downtown based or adjacent council members to form a first priority development group to press forward and make this number i on the hit parade. The prefix should contain the language, it is not just the economy stupid it is more the allocation of scarce resources and the settinig of non evasive, vague goals. And, Barry you have an office in the Chase Building? If you are sincerely committed to this goal, you should join the gfoup.

then we have to consider Monroe and the Jerome family. This rape of the taxpayer's equity through checkbook diplomacy, smooth integrating into the BID, and being basically a publically non-offensive citizen must stop and stop now.

Don't blame Jerome, blame the absence of a logical, cohesive plan and strategy. YOu likely know that Monroe is crossing the street to occupy considerable square footage of office space on Main Street. I can live with that for the time if the Council stops this unplanned expansion.

I cannot live with Jerome if there is any activity directed at the Armory which seems to be logical if you are in his shoes. I will fight that tooth and nail and if nothing else, I am both boring, tough,
and resourceful.

Yet, I am crowing like Murphy's rooster. Let me end
by a process fail --- simply the BID whose name rarely if ever crops up on TOTS. I will bring it up now. Were I in the Council I would demand an immediate report from Ralph De Bart on Avalon and our other high rises. I want to know occupancy rates, I want to know -- with timing trend lines, how much is turned over to Iona and or Monroe, I want to know vacancy rates, I want to know via focus group or poll what the surviving lessees are saying and thinking.

Oh yeah, I can do that despite any horse patootie on on owners rights, etc. I simply remind them of past accommodatations we have made to ease their way as well as on-going failures to meet commercial or other terms of good busienss and citizenship. I will remiind them of the power to re-zone or more basic, how skilled our staff is on violations, etc.

Don't worry about any party or individual donor listing. I am sure there are people on this blog who have that information and can educate the community as to a probable cause for inaction.

I want to see New Rochelle succeed and not morph into a lesser community. I want to see the current administratiion succeed and I mostly want a community up north that does not hastening its moving out and if any do, can get a reasonable return on their housing investment.

And I want folks downt these parts, sons and daughters of earlier settlers and upward mobility ancestors to stay and be more secure in this staying.

North and other -- wake the hell up. You have common cause, just different options based on material circumstances.

Yuu can keep it positive and do no harm to anyone in office or otherwise by speaking to your neighbors, councik members, associatiion or club colleagues, PTA and school district members, church and synagogue co-worshippers that the one thing we all can agree to is to work as a community in situ for the greater good.

As I recall when they built the first Avalon, the developer was precluded from binging in Section 8. Iona has had kids there for years and now Monroe. The rents are high and lets face it, the area is nothing short of disgusting. Who in their right mind would live there and pay rent when they could go somewhere else. I have lost total faith in those that run this city some years ago. Bike lanes, thats what is on the agenda, bike lanes.

Eastchester Road has been the dividing line of South/North Ends since the 1930’s, if not earlier. East of North Avenue, that same dividing line has always been Beechmont Drive and Forest Avenue. So, the 1996 Development plan merely restated what everyone had recognized for many decades previously.

The large Circle at Memorial Highway was built on the former right-of-way of the Boston & Westchester Railroad. The Circle was built because the intention was to extend the Cross County Parkway from the Mt Vernon / Pelham Border, to connect to I-95 at the Memorial Highway Circle.

The North Avenue Overpass that begins at the circle, was built where there used to be the main Station of the Boston & Westchester Railroad.

Much of the rest of the Boston & Westchester RR right-of way still exists in backyards of people living about a block from Lincoln Avenue.

Memorial Highway, itself was built as part of the intended connection to the Circle. Unfortunately, the NR City government butchered Mechanic Street and much commerce there, and two thirds of the old City Hall on the corner of Main Street, in the process of unnecessarily building Memorial Highway. Interestingly enough, it was not clearly declared as to what or whom it was in Memorial of. About 15 years ago, I spoke of this at Citizen’s-to-be-Heard, explaining it was actually in memory of Mechanic Street and of the great commerce New Rochelle had until commerce began its long, continuing decline in the late 1960’s.

You need to look at NR’s official 1967 (or was it 1966) plan for redevelopment, as it goes into depth on the plan to connect the Cross County Pkwy to the NE Thruway at the Circle, and of the North Ave Overpass, and of the Cedar Street commercial development.

That plan also referred to building a minor highway down Centre Ave to Pelham Rd, across Titus Millpond and Davenport Neck over to David’s Island, which back then was still referred locally as Ft Slocum.

That plan also referred to building a minor highway from near where Cross County Pkwy merges with the Hutch, through Ursuline School, thru Quaker Ridge Rd to Weaver Street.

The bridge to David’s Island was a bad idea that fortunately never occurred.

But the rest of the plan, had it occurred, would have caused downtown New Rochelle to thrive, and would have cut a lot of noisy traffic congestion that continues to pass through Pelham and New Rochelle on Lincoln Ave, Washington Ave, North Ave, Webster Ave and Pinebrook Blvd, instead.

The plan would have made it possible to get from/to anywhere in New Rochelle in under 15 minutes. The plan would have made it possible to get from/to downtown New Rochelle, by highway from the rest of Westchester.

NR’s official 1967 (or was it 1966) plan for redevelopment, used to be available for reading in the offices of the NR Corporate Counsel (where I read it) and in NR Library, where I had seen it. I read it and last saw in the early 1980’s. It probably still exists and should be read.

The reason New Rochelle has been in a commercial coma for the last 40 years, has nothing to do with needing to increase downtown population density, nor with building a bus depot, nor with bringing in outside developers of tall buildings, or of building Malls.

New Rochelle commerce doesn’t thrive because it is hard to get downtown from elsewhere (except along I-95 from the Bronx to Connecticut. And it commerce is greatly reduced because of NR’s just reputation as being a difficult and expensive place to find parking, and a likely place to get an expensive parking ticket. Why shop here, when Coop City’s large shopping area, Cross County Center, and Central Avenue offer free and plentiful parking?

The connection between the Cross County Pkwy and I-95 was defeated by the influence of people living near Glenwood Lake and Lincoln Ave, who didn’t want a highway nearby. Instead they have the same traffic, except its slower, and more polluting and on Lincoln and Webster Avenues. These people were small-minded and their influence greatly damaged NR commerce, and probably ended up increasing their own taxes. The various NR City Council members and Pelham Town Council members of the 1970-2000’s are all complicit in allowing, if not encouraging, the old B&WRR right-of-way to be built on, so to preempt the extension of the Cross County Parkway to I-95 in NR.

Interestingly, this was the second failure to bring the Cross County Pkwy, to New Rochelle as it was originally designed in the 1920’s to continue from is present terminus along where I-95 now exists, and connecting to Playland Parkway. Playland Pkwy was originally built to be part of the Cross County Pkwy, and otherwise, to this day, has no apparent reason to exist.

As you can imagine, I have been thinking about all of this for the last 50 years.

There is a fair solution to all of this, and I will discuss this sometime in the future. What I have in mind is quick and logical fix, that will cost a few million dollars to be paid by the Federal government, and will instantly turn around the commerce of New Rochelle and Pelham, as well as other communities along the Cross County and Hutchison Parkways.

Robert Cox's picture

If I can get my hands on them and run them through a scanner. I would convert to PDF and upload here.

I have made a request from the City in this regard.

It would help Bob. My interests are pretty focused now on several key points. More another day.

Now I would like to see whether they are close to the quality of the 1996 S&S version and how often the Council may have addressed specific visions or land use issues raised.

Thanks

Let me say this and I am done. I went to Ridge Hill for the first time yesterday, went to the LL Bean store. To say I was amazed by Ridge Hill would be an understatement. Stores of every kind, Lord& Taylor, Whole Food, Bean, hundreds of great retail stores, restaurants, all in a very attractive city scape environment. Clean, well built and generating sales tax revenue and jobs. That said, we have New Roc. As a resident of this city for 35 years, a homeowner and a tax payer I came away from Ridge Hill with several feelings: jealousy that Yonkers (of all places) was able to pull this off and nothing short of outrage over the condition of New Rochelle. Downtown is nothing short of a disgrace. What does this city gov't do?

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