This ongoing debate concerning New Rochelle's "wonderful" opportunity to build luxury condos on prime waterfront property, where the city now houses it's D.P.W., brings this thought to mind: Could we all please get a little more real about this so called "prime waterfront" down there? I mean, are you kidding? From the satellite image below you can see the acres of prime mud flats at low-tide, which happens like clockwork twice a day. You couldn't get a rowboat out to the harbor from the end of the city's property. However, as you can see, you could easily walk from a parked city garbage truck to the dock at the end of Sutton Manor Rd. without getting your feet wet.
It's a tidal marsh lapping up against the rear of the city yard, if it's anything.
Ah yes, it's true. At high tide and from the proper angle looking exactly straight out past Tank Island, past Sedge Island, scanning over the masts and boats in the New Rochelle Harbor, one's eyes do come to rest on the horizon line of the Sound with Long Island in the distance.
Thar' she blows... the "waterfront."
As you can see, this potentially luxurious condo development on city property, is actually snuggled up to, and only separated by, a row of trees from it's fragrant neighbor, the local sewage treatment plant. Yes, those eight round discs in the satellite image are loaded up with what these days seems to flow out quite freely from City Hall, in more ways than one. And it's being chemically treated while you read this in an effort to keep down the stench.
Honestly, is there anyone out there looking forward to that joyous day in the future, when you too could drop anchor and hundreds of thousands of dollars on a brand new condo, less than a football field from open vats of your neighbors liquified waste?
"Cocktails on the veranda tonight dear, or shall we wait till the wind shifts a bit?"
Yet another New Rochelle residential development fiasco in the offing, and one that won't change a thing for what ails this city.
The real issue today isn't more places for people to live in New Rochelle, but a reason to draw people to come here and spend their time and money, from wherever they live. And when you take a good look around this city, that's not happening.
Yet, right next door to the city's DPW yard is the abandoned New York State Naval Armory, which could be revitalized and restored, as almost every other armory in America has been. (Not a single armory in this country has ever been demolished, which by the way, was the original idea from City Hall just five years ago, when the New York State Armory building and its adjoining property, combined with the City yard, were to be razed and become the next and newest residential development bonanza, and with it, the high hopes of polishing this Queen City's tarnished crown.)
But a rehabilitated Naval Armory could become a 20,000 square ft. version, albeit smaller, of The Westchester County Center. And now why in the world would New Rochelle want something like that, and for what? Well, just how far can your imagination take you?
Where else on this affluent and sophisticated Sound Shore of Westchester, is that much indoor space available and unused? For community sporting events, education, art and design exhibitions. How about renting that huge floor space for The County Flower and Garden Show in the spring? Might a few landscape businesses, garden centers and local nurseries be interested in showcasing their products under one roof, to some of the wealthiest homeowners in America? Or perhaps rental space for catering large events, music concerts, film or studio production facilities, theatrical rehearsal space (and just 45 minutes from Broadway without that N.Y.C. rent). A community youth center in a safe and modern facility, I.T. offices or laboratory facilities, etc.
The possibilities are limited only by imagination, to create a true state of the art, Sound Shore Center, out of this Armory.
Yes, this historic Naval Armory through whose doors Marines and Naval forces once mustered, on their way to the Pacific War. Past the thousand local citizens who lined the route that day to see them off at the New Rochelle train station, and who collectively received in battle, six Medals of Honor, a Presidential Unit citation, The Navy Cross over a hundred times, and the Bronze and Silver Star by the dozens. In places with the names like Iwo Jima, Saipan, Tarawa, Bougainville and Okinawa. Surprisingly, that history in and of itself hasn't carried enough weight for todays politicians in New Rochelle to have cared all that much about this Armory. At least not enough to insure that the roof wouldn't have massive holes in it, which it does right now.
And you know the sad thing about that? That there was a time in this country when that would have mattered to a city.
Outside of Washington D.C. the former War Department Torpedo Factory on the Potomac River in Alexandria, now houses two spacious floors of working artists and their studios, where they sell their many creations to the public. Today it's just called The Torpedo Factory, and good luck trying to get a parking space near it on the weekends. It's changed the neighborhood around it from a drab industrial zone on the river, to one of outdoor cafes, restaurants, clothing stores and everything else in between, drawing crowds of people and their pocketbooks every week.
Could New Rochelle use a little commerce like that? In fact isn't this, or some version of it, exactly what it desperately needs? Please tell me how one more nautically themed high priced condo settlement, on yet another tidal marsh, is an answer for anything facing this city?
"Aroma Acres" at Bramson Place would surely benefit the resume for one man's political future, but it wouldn't do much more for anyone else living in New Rochelle, today or tomorrow. And the historic Huguenot City on the Sound deserves much better.
Mike Scully is the host of The Mike Scully Show on 1460WVOX, Wednesday mornings at 10:30. A Larchmont resident with strong family ties to New Rochelle, Scully's family came to New Rochelle in the 1920s.