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A Close Look at New Rochelle's Finances by Councilman Trangucci

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A Close Look at New Rochelle's Finances by Councilman Trangucci

March 11, 2013 - 00:18

In the March 7 issue of Westchester Guardian.com

There are usually two sides to any issue. On February 19, 2013 the New Rochelle Citizens Reform Club heard Councilman Lou Trangucci present his concerns about New Rochelle's plan for Echo Bay and the City's finances. Trangucci voted against holding the March 12 hearing on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement of Forest City Residential because he had serious concerns with the report.
His first objection was the need to move the City Yard to Beechwood Avenue because it would cost the City $25 million plus interest, a total $35 million debt which would break down to $1.7 million bond payments per year in the budget. Forest City Residential wants to build 285 housing units on the New Rochelle City Yard on Main Street with tax breaks of 60%-70% per year over a twenty year period. Further, the company only wants to pay $13,500 per student with a two and a half percent increase per year for the maximum of 22 students regardless of how many students live in these 285 apartments. This cost per student was supplied by the Board of Education. There is no provision for funds for needed police and fire protection for the 600 residents who will live here. Trangucci labeled this a "false premise." Although the project will create a walkway to the shore line, there are no plans to dredge the mud flats present there.
Parking is also a concern because the plan uses part of the adjacent Armory land, and this may not legally comply with deed restrictions for the Armory. The developer is looking for a twenty year tax abatement from the New Rochelle Industrial Development Corporation (IDA), a body whose members are approved by a majority of the City Council. Forest City assumed the New Rochelle IDA which is presently only granting a 15 year abatement, will grant the additional abatements.
In the north end of the City people are concerned about the schools and particularly, the high school and class sizes. (In contrast to the figures given per student in this report, in Westchester Magazine's March 2013 issue, using figures supplied by the schools, New Rochelle High School is listed with a per student cost of $22,488 and an average class size of 27).
The bond rating was put on a financial watch a few years ago because the the City's fund balance of $13.2 million by the end of 2011 had dropped to a negative $400,000. This included the extra $9 million payment to the City from Avalon.
At this juncture Trangucci felt a complete change was needed in the City. An example was the previous development commissioner who felt the shunting of the Armory proposal by by the city "broke the camel's back."
The City Manager, Chuck Strome, has been trying to convince everyone that the City Yard has not been maintained. But it is Forest City who is really dictating whether the City Yard will be moved. They want substantial tax breaks with no benefits for the City. The police have had no contract for four years. Police Commissioner Patrick Carroll sought to change promotions for assistant police commissioners to non civil service positions. Trangucci felt people are oblivious to all these problems and asked, "How can we get the word out?"
Beechwood, the site for a proposed new City Yard, is being used now for a leaf transfer station. The leaves are taken to Goshen at a cost of $450,000 per year. Good Profit wanted to incorporate a fruit and vegetable market in the Armory. (Several days after the meeting it was reported that Good Profits was no longer being considered since they failed to make the necessary payment in a timely manner to comply with the agreement).

Addendum
It was just learned that the lawsuit challenging the refuse fee in New Rochelle has been sent back to the City for more details. The City of New Rochelle has three weeks to explain the reasons for the refuse fee. According to Steve Mayo, Plaintiff, the City cannot use false premises to collect revenue.