New Rochelle City Finance Commissioner Howard Ratner informed the New Rochelle City Council that the State of New York has dramatically increased the pension liability funding for New Rochelle. The increase will raise the City's pension fund obligation from a little under $8mm to over $10mm. As a result, City Manager Chuck Strome told the Council, the City is looking at "large revenue increases or significant, painful service reductions" in the 2011 budget year. Strome, calling the increase "unbelievable", advised the Council that the City staff was considering an option to defer (borrow) up to $1.6mm of the cost.
Overall Ratner depicted the 2010 budget situation as "dismal" and stated that certain revenue categories were not doing well.
If you are a fan or traffic and parking issues this was the meeting for you. Many items on the agenda pertained to various parking and traffic issues although many of the items deferred until future meetings.
Ralph DiBart asked the City to partner on hiring a parking consultant. As previously noted, the BID has "discovered" that the new parking rules are not very popular especially the increased need to supply meters with quarters. DiBart also disclosed that, as some had warned, there was now more demand for parking permits than are available.
Later in the meeting, George Rainone, New Rochelle parking manager, informed Council that a number of City lots are now sold out but that the City has been able to meet demand in the downtown area by overselling parking permits at the Prospect Street lot. The City is now 41 permits over capacity at the Prospect Street lot. Rainone, asked by Council Member Barry Fertel whether the increased fees were expected to result in increased revenues, stated that the question was "unanticipated".
The Council repeatedly referenced a report by Urbitran, an engineering and planning firm acquired by AECOM in 2008, which, according to Mayor Bramson, concluded that parking is an undervalued asset in New Rochelle and the City needed to be on a "glide path" to value it properly. This is consistent with past musings by Talk of the Sound that the various proposals about parking in New Rochelle appeared to be an orchestrated attempt to slowly ratchet up parking prices in New Rochelle.
Representatives from the Albanese Development Company provided some background information on their company which was granted 90 days to prepare a proposal on developing the "Main Street Core", the area around the Church-Division garage. The developers stressed their commitment to developing buildings that met LEED certification. They provided a slide show depicting some of their higher profile developments.
DiBart also announced a proposal from the BID to create a New Rochelle Walk of Fame to be located at the walkway area on Anderson Street. The Walk of Fame would cost $35,000 for 25 plaques honoring people associated with New Rochelle. $20,000 in funding has already been lined up from private sources.
New Rochelle Development Commissioner discussed the murals removed from the New Rochelle Armory. Michael Freimuth told the Council that the murals are now stored with the company that will attempt to restore or recreate the murals but that he was not optimistic as the murals are in poor condition. Councilman Richard St. Paul requested photos of the murals be provided.
The Council accepted the new FEMA flood maps which requires homebuyers to get flood insurance only for new loans. The new map does not require renters in apartment buildings to buy insurance but they have the option to do so.
There was no support of a plan to change the traffic situation at Trinity Elementary School and even the staff which had recommended the changes backed off when Mayor Noam Bramson and Councilman Al Tarantino cited problems with the proposed changes.