Like Tojo before him, Mayor Bramson's sneak attack on a (former) Naval installation offered the illusion of victory but served instead to galvanize opposition as New Rochelle veterans organized a counteroffensive, returned fire and drove Bramson and his allies from the field.
New Rochelle veterans "accepted" the Mayor's unconditional surrender on the deck of the New Rochelle American Legion Post 8 where Ron Tocci, former New York State Commissioner of Veterans Affairs and co-Chair of the Save Our Armory Committee broke the news to a room packed with veterans and their supporters.
NOTE: this video will be replaced by a more comprehensive report once I have the time to edit the video.
Democratic lawmakers distanced themselves from the measure and George Latimer, the bill's sponsor in the New York State Assembly, announced via email last night that he had withdrawn his name from the bill and that it was "dead for 2010".
All four area lawmakers -- Latimer, State Senator Jeff Klein, State Senator Suzi Oppenheimer and Assemblywoman Amy Paulin -- told representatives from the veterans groups that they were acting on what they believed to be a "home rule" request on the disposition of the Armory that reflected the will of the community. Some indicated surprise to learn that the veterans groups had not been informed or consulted with regard to the home rule request.
George Latimer issued the following statement last night:
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Assemblyman George Latimer
Date: Mon, 28 Jun 2010 20:58:37 -0400
Subject: New Rochelle Armory
We have just finished a long day's session in the Assembly dealing with the State budget (and bringing it near to conclusion), so this is my first chance to respond to earlier e-mails received on the NR Armory. Let me give you a few facts that may be lost in all the advocacy:
* Mayor Noam Bramson sent myself and my 3 state legislative colleagues a letter on June 22nd, requesting drafting and submission of Home Rule legislation allowing the City of New Rochelle full power of ownership over the Armory site. It is routine whenever an elected Mayor, Supervisor, City/Village/Town administrator requests drafting Home Rule legislation that such a bill is prepared and submitted. I have done this on dozens of occasions at the request of other electeds in my 6 years here, including other controversial issues in Rye City, Rye Brook, Port Chester - each with vocal proponents and opponents. I spoke with Senator Klein and Oppenheimer, and Assemblywoman Paulin, and as a matter of courtesy to the City, we all agreed to file the bill.
* I/we did not, at any point in time, assert that I/we are in favor of demolishing the Armory, or endorse the development plan for Echo Bay. It has always been my position that this is a decision to be made by New Rochelle residents and elected officials. It is the same position I hold for all such local disputes - the future of United Hospital in Port Chester, the governance of the Port Chester-Rye Brook Library, etc. If I received no "ask" from the City, there would be no state bill.
* The bill itself was written to describe the meets and bounds of the parcel. I have heard people assert it was a way to hide the fact of the Armory on the site. The draft came from the Legislative Bill Drafting Committee, working off of the Mayor's request. Such bills require the meets and bounds description as the core substance of the bill.
* The bill was filed in the Senate on June 22, and in the Assembly on June 24. I met with Jim Brennan, the Chairman of the Assembly Cities Committee in the afternoon of the 24th, who reviewed the Home Rule bill and raised a series of policy questions. Over the next three working days, including today, committee staff identified the problems they felt were inherent in the request and spoke with City staff. As of midday today, Monday, June 28, the Assembly staff indicated to the City that the bill would not advance in this legislative session..i.e. it is "dead" for 2010. There was no effort whatsoever on my part to "rush it through", "keep it hidden from the public", etc. all of the other assertions some have made. I spoke with the Mayor and my state legislative colleagues and/or their staffs to let them know the result.
* Home Rule bills, once filed, must first be approved by the local government - in this case, the New Rochelle City Council, in open public meeting, with legal public notice. Since the bill could not advance with Assembly staff opposition, that meeting did not occur; but such a meeting would have happened had the bill become a "live" option for passage. In that Council forum at City Hall there would be the extended public debate over the policy of the Armory, the Echo Bay development, and anything else pertinent. The City Council would be required to vote on the resolution and every Council member would have their say.
* I have no policy interest in advancing this bill, or any other local bill, per se. It is done only at the request of the local official. If the Mayor requests it, but the Council does not vote for it, the resolution dies. As I have said many, many times before, I will submit any local bill as requested by any local government on matters that directly affect them; not to do so would be to set myself up as the final decision-maker on such issues, over and above their role as elected local officials. This is the position I have firmly followed on issues in Larchmont, Mamaroneck Town, Mamaroneck Village, Rye City, Rye Town, Port Chester and Rye Brook - and it is the same policy I employ for New Rochelle. I served as a City Councilman in Rye and as a Westchester County Legislator and I sorely resented those times when a State Legislator dictated to me as a local official what I could or could not advocate for in my community, when I was duly been elected to represent my community on the Council or in the County Legislature. Home Rule as a principle far exceeds the issue of the Armory - it applies to every other policy area. While you may disagree with the City Council on any issue, you have control over them at the ballot box. When Home Rule rights are ignored in Albany, you may find yourself supporting a position by your local government, which will fall on deaf ears in Albany.
The battle over policy on the Armory is in the arena of New Rochelle City Hall - that is where hearts and minds, and advocacy must be directed.
The bill is dead for the 2010 State legislative session. But the controversy is still alive: should New Rochelle advance the Echo Bay project, or should it retain the Armory? I understand clearly how you feel, from your e-mail. For all the many reasons many of you have offered, I take no issue with your position...but that is a discussion to be had within New Rochelle, between you who favor the Armory with those who favor the development project.
New York State Assemblyman
91st Assembly District
Larchmont, Mamaroneck Town, Mamaroneck Village, New Rochelle, Port Chester, Rye Brook, Rye City, Rye Town
UPDATE: Photos from Robert Pierce taken at SOA Emergency Meeting.
|Save Our Armory Emegency Meeting June 2010|