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Can New Rochelle's Echo Bay Development Pass The Smell Test?

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Can New Rochelle's Echo Bay Development Pass The Smell Test?

February 28, 2012 - 23:41
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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.

MikeScullyMike 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.

There are 16 Comments

Wednesday morning I'll be at my usual post at AM1460 WVOX.

Do you have a better idea for the Armory?

Can't wait to live there?

What Armory?

We start at 10:30am and the phone lines are always open at 636-0110.

See you on the radio.

Get ready New Rochelle, A complete Giveaway of the DPW yard to Forced City Ratner! With a 25 year giveaway tax abatement.
Oh and did anyone mention the Bond for the new DPW will be exempt from the 2% Tax cap.
Congradulations New Rochelle.
We may win the dumb city award.
A special Thanks To Albert Tarentino, He could have taken cover.
Now we know he's a true Democrat!

It is very unlikely that the Democratic Party would have not put up a candidate to face Tarantino were he not a sure vote for whatever is priority for the majority party. Tarantino will cast the unimportant vote for the GOP to show the colors.

But these colors run. Glad you spotted the truth Citizen Observer. Not enough people have.

Your points are right on. This guy Bramson is hell bent on having it his way. It defies rational thought that anyone would want to own property next to a polluted stinking inlet that has more toxins than we will ever know. But Bramson has the super majority and he seems willing to pay back the Save the Armory group, Ron Tocci and anyone who would ever think of questioning his Harvardness.
To go to this level and work with a developer who is not going to build it until the tax incentives and giveaways exceed his outlay of money. Its destined to never get off the ground. NY State should revert the property back to their control and find the approapriate use. But the State employees are cowards and won't challenge the democrats. In the end they will knock it down and then build nothing. Ratner will go away with his costs covered and the Tax payers will foot the bill for DPW relocation and demolition and whatever else Bramson and Strome stick them with. Sad story of stubborness for a project with no legs.

Mike, it's always a treat to hear your take on things be it local, national or world events. This however, truly speaks to an issue that has more direct effect on the quality of life in New Rochelle than anything on the national level. The true success of our city lies in what WE do, how WE treat the issues confronting the day to day lifestyle of a community. You're spot on with this commentary and we thank you for the contribution.

Here's a few related articles

Why Would YOU Save the Armory

Have You Been to These Venues Lately?

The Armory Series-Green Building = Green for the Taxpayer

Remember - It's YOUR Armory
Use it Don't Lose it !

Thanks John, it's a pleasure to get involved and follow your lead.

I hope someone has their listening ears on.

Back on 2/23/12 I wrote of similar ideas to make the Armory a destination place of interest.” Housing won’t make New Rochelle a destination for visitors or shoppers. A proper reconstruction of the Armory just might. I don’t know why people don’t take advantage of the fact that The Armory is history.”

Speaking of history, back in 1995-1997, G&S developed a 12.3 acre former municipal incinerator site; transforming an abandoned eyesore with significant contamination problems into a Costco and Home Depot. They helped moved the transfer station down by Five Islands Park. G&S improved a run-down city park, relocated the area animal shelter and capped the site in a manner acceptable to Costco and the State of New York environmental authorities. Quoted from their web site. Weren’t they just so good to us?

I don’t know what they paid for the land. Maybe a quarter or fifty cents, I believe that was the going rate then. We charge a dollar now due to inflation. Of course they couldn’t really afford the fifty cents and we felt so bad that we gave them some really great tax abatements to help them out. Boy we are such good people to do business with. So who actually paid for all of the work? The citizens of New Rochelle did and we still are for several more years. Then a few years ago we lost the Five Islands Park location for the water treatment plant and move transfer station to Beechwood Ave. Who paid for that? You already know the answer to that. If they move the city yard where do they move the transfer station to this time? At what cost and who picks up the tab? The citizens again, either as taxes or as tax abatements no matter how you phrase it, it comes out of our pockets once again. Boy we are such good people to do business with. So sharp and have a keen business sense. We know this because we have been so successful at it over the years.

For once, let’s do something in New Rochelle that makes sense for New Rochelle and its citizen tax payers not the developers or someone’s personal agenda or political career. You know, a government of the people, by the people, for the people.

i have been gone from new rochelle since 1995 and in reading all these commentaries it feels as if i never left. luxury housing next to the mud flats and sewage treatment plant ? destroy the armory instead of putting it to use in order to attract people to new rochelle ?
i cannot believe that after all these years the lessons of the past will be repeated...and now to try to attract more residential construction during an economy which finds, empty luxury apartments, foreclosures, short sales instead of trying for more retail and commercial at that end of town and along the main shopping area.
Had more thought been given to where and how development should have been done, possibly many of the original family owned businesses and department stores could have survived and prospered rather than close or move elsewhere.

.

Move the Sewage plant to Davids Island....fill in the mud flats with landfill....move the DPW yard to the landfilled area....keep the Armory as a anchor for a high end discount mall like the one up in Monroe.

You're hired! I would only modify the plan by leaving city yard where it is and use the land where the sewage plant & filled-in mud flats are for the development.

The only problem with this is that the sewage plant is being re-built/renovated now and we'd have to scrap that completely and lose the many millions that have already been spent there. But with the sewage plant on Davids Island, no one would object to the mayor's solar farm proposal for the island.

There are a lot of great and positive ideas out there, a sample of which we see right here from many long time citizens. However, most of the members of City Council don't have any creative energy nor do they listen to the creative ideas of the inspired people in the City of New Rochelle. They lack that vision that leads into success. Heck, there is still no master plan for New Rochelle. So there is nothing to modify and nothing for them to envision. The only plans and visions they see are those of the select few developers they deal with. They’re too busy raising money for elections. If there is no goal or targeted plan, then there is no failure. No component to be measured by. They have done their jobs. They can’t even come up with ideas or even a plan to remove silt from Beechmont Lake and you want them to try to fill mud flats.

I believe there is hope in some of the members of council, we may stand a chance. They just need to step up and stand on their own. It will be a long hard fight. We have to try. Filling-in the mud flats is a great idea. It could work. That’s how many developments in this area were formed, Co-Op City, The Meadowlands, and several other locations. It took years of plans for the dredging of the city's marina several years ago. I can’t say it enough, there needs to be a plan. If you have the right people and the right plan anything is possible.The light needs to go on and we need to start somewhere.Just Start!

We can succeed. New Rochelle can be a city we could all be proud of.

Where's the cement plant or did that close when it was auctioned off last year?

If the cement plant closed, what's there now?

Why isn't the McDonald's next to the Armory part of the overall project?

Isn't the sewage plant under-going major renovations? Maybe that'll tamp down those smells when its finished. If you want to check out the current smell conditions, head on over the 5 Islands Park at low tide.

1 last thought, can't the mudflats be dredged?

"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...."

Its actually called the Torpedo Factory Art Center... and as an artist on the third floor I can assure you there are indeed 3 floors, not just 2, the third floor housing a majority of the artists. And thank you for recognizing that the art center turned this town around, esp since the city of Alexandria really wants nothing more than to turn us out. Parking? Welcome to the DC Metro area....

And thanks for the clarifaction, Min. (Sorry I missed a floor..nothing personal) I've spent hours shopping for gifts there. Spent my last visit trying to justify an outlay for one of Nickey Pickett's beautiful oil paintings.

As "Arnold" said, "I'll be baaaaack."

Wish we could duplicate that Alexandria transformation here. We have an outstanding opportunity with this Armory space, and the great spirit of the people of New Rochelle, who are way past due.

So, your city officials have that same problem with the "vision thing" as these city officials. Hmm?

Maybe it's because they don't like it when they discover it's the creative energy of inspired people, not a government, that makes commerce hum. Funny though, how they're always around for that photo-op after the blood, sweat, and tears turns that vision into success.

Good luck to you Min, and thanks for what you and all your fellow artists have done in Old Town. It is inspiring.

Looking forward to my next visit.

"Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead."

You have some great ideas for the Armory and surrounding area. If only the citizens involved with saving this building were given the same consideration as Forest City. This could be the cause that will bring our city together and a destination for our citizens, as well as, neighboring communities. If New Rochelle is to have a rebirth let it start with culture and the arts. What a great place to take advantage of the quality of life we are all longing for in New Rochelle.

Having lived here for a long long time, I have to say that having watched project after project fail I have no faith in what is proposed for the Armory.
A large scale residential project there with lots of cars and traffic? Not sure. That said, until downtown is addressed, we are going no where.Main Street is an embarrassment and North Ave., from Main Street to Lincoln Avenue is even worse. With a BID seemingly unable to attract any credible retail, Yonkers of all places now has LL Bean, Whole Foods, Stew Leonards, we have dollar stores, nail salons and fruit stands. The Armory? Maybe an exhibition hall makes sense, but a developer will come in, get a hat full of tax breaks and leave richer. We don't have a clue.

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