In the Westchester Guardian, February 7, 2013 issue
The New Rochelle Planning Board stamped their approval to a five-year-old proposal for a Monroe College dormitory on January 29, 2013. They ignored questions raised over the lack of sufficient parking provided by Monroe College for their students in downtown New Rochelle and how it effects both the abutting neighborhoods and the downtown business district. Among the most serious concerns is the need for parking for restaurants presently in the planning stages that will open in the downtown.
On the day the Planning Board approved the six-story dormitory with a cafeteria on the ground floor of 354 Main Street, it was apparent the fix was in. The previously approved, five-year-old plan was approved with no mitigating accommodation made for the neighborhood, which must absorb any cars that cannot fit into the allotted parking spaces. Marc Jerome, vice president of Monroe College, and president of the New Rochelle Business Improvement District (BID) claimed the college had 467 parking spaces during the day and 524 spaces for students during night hours. The difference in the number of spaces was achieved by purchasing l00 permits for Monroe College faculty at the New Roc garage facility. Walter Lipow brought up the concern common to college areas, that of students eyeing an empty parking spot on the street and parking there, similar to the problems encountered at Iona College.
Mr Jerome explained why this formerly approved dormitory was not completed over the past five years. In 2008 there were many bankruptcies, including that of Lehman Brothers.
The college chose to hold back on the project in deference to the financial situation. Mr Jerome believes this dormitory is fiscally sound and will replace present downtown and nearby housing sites presently used by Monroe College students. He advised Monroe College presently has 30 buildings, 20 of which are residential. The new dormitory will consolidate the living quarters and allow students to live closer to Main Street. Monroe College, Jerome added, is in a commercial district and contributing to the tax base. He stated most of the student population are urban students and do not have cars. He asserted they use mass transportation, such as busses and Metro North.
Planning Board Chairman Douglas Hocking wanted to know if the courtyard defined in the plans would be open at night. He was told it would be, but that a gate would secure the space. Building Commissioner Paul Vacca claimed parking spaces may be added on Harrison Street in the future. It was also brought up that Stop and Shop will tow cars that don't belong there. Hocking made a motion to designate the Planning Board to be the lead agency for the environmental Impact and for the site plan approval. With no discussion, the motion was within a few minutes unanimously approved.
The plan for a new diner on Weyman Avenue and Main Street was again discussed. Changes in the previous plan spoke to the utility, landscaping, among other concerns regarding a mountable curb on Weyman Avenue. The entrance was changed to be in and out on Main Street but Nardozzi Place was proposed for a left turn out. The right turn on Main Street was not considered an issue, but the left turn would require hundreds of additional feet. John Harter of Atlantic Traffic and Design Engineers spoke of issues raised by Traffic Engineer Michael Briska, including New Rochelle Fire Department specifically about the deterrence a raised island posed. Hocking told Developer DeRaffele Mfg. he looked forward to an amended plan.
Ralph DiBart, Executive Director of the New Rochelle Downtown Business Improvement District, has expressed concern about parking in the downtown area in the past.
DiBart was among the leading advocates to eliminate free parking in the municipal lots in the downtown area. At a public meeting to discuss the parking, he described watching as people parked their cars in the Library lots and then walked to the New Roc theaters.
Asked about the situation today, DiBart said there was no problem with parking at night in the downtown area.
There have been some complaints about parking in the restaurant district of New Rochelle over the years with some restaurants employing valet parking services who often use on-street parking spots in or near the restaurant district.
DiBart was asked about parking problems in the restaurant district.
DiBart said there was no parking problem at night in the downtown area or any particular problems in the restaurant district. He did not attribute parking as a problem for any restaurant that had closed in downtown.