It’s April, Federal taxes are hopefully done and now it is time to drop off or mail the April tax bill for the New Rochelle Tax Collector, more money going out without seeing any noticeable return. Every time I write out the check, I want to cry. It is just a painful reminder of what poor shape New Rochelle is in. Over taxed, over staffed except for police and fire and just very poorly managed. We cannot continue to do things here the same way. Someone needs to step up to the plate and lead and clean the slate and start with a fresh mind and fresh ideas on how to correct all the wrongs of the past and present. This is not Charles Dickens; there are no ghosts of governments past to send a message to The City Council and Mayor. They had their own demons to deal with back then. The massage needs to come from the living breathing citizens of New Rochelle before it is too late!
Forget the ghosts and the cop-outs of mayors past. Which Mayor did this and which Mayor did that, City Manager run, Strong Mayor, Democrat or Republican. Except for some pet projects that don’t seem to have gone anywhere we still have a city with no plan and no noticeable change, except for higher taxes? We have a Costco, Home Depot, New Roc, Avalon One and Two and the life saver of them all Trump Towers. At what cost to The City of New Rochelle Tax Payers, a city and downtown area that is crumbling right before our eyes, Empty apartments in new buildings and empty store fronts on Main Street. We have our dysfunctional form of government that doesn’t know what it is. Strong Mayor or City Manager run, Which ever excuse works best at the time. It is time to put the brakes on all sides and review what the City Charter says. Correct what is wrong and bring the City Council and Manager back to the task of following the City Charter in the manner it was written. Follow the rules and governing laws it puts forth. Once that is accomplished then and only then can the task of figuring out which form of government is best for New Rochelle and can be addressed.
It is sad that so many administrations in the past have yielded so much power to non-elected officials. Cases in point are Kissinger and Korn. Their understanding of governing a growing city leads much to be desired but echoes, no more voices from these past governments. Yet we still continue to do business in New Rochelle the same way. Enough is Enough, we will never have a city that works until we have governance that works, is guided by our Constitution, the New Rochelle Charter. New Rochelle citizens must demand that our elected officials live up to this rule of law. Create a consistent standard so that all members of council and city staff can be held accountable. No more passing the buck.
The other day we read about some great community work and effort that was being done in Yonkers by New Rochelle students from Blessed Sacrament, Iona Prep, Salesian and Ursuline. These groups did do some work here in New Rochelle. Imagine the things that could be done with an effort that included members of The City Council and staff from The City of New Rochelle. We see cooperative efforts like this around us all the time. It is what shapes a community and fosters true working relationships.
It kills me to read time and again that local New Rochelle groups, charities and companies are doing great work outside of New Rochelle. Back on 4/5/12 I wrote about the work being done by a company from New Rochelle that just upgraded the Mamaroneck Train Station. What a great example of working with the village, community and state leaders and others such as Jim Killorian from Habitat for Humanity. Such a novel approach! Jim works with communities all over this country. Why hasn’t the city elders reached out to Jim? He has reached out to them with little or no response. John and Christ Verni from New Rochelle bought the Mamaroneck Train Station from the MTA. Vernco, the brother's company, utilized several "green building" techniques and incorporated them into the building.
The Verni brother’s adaptive reuse of the Mamaroneck Train Station was featured in a recent Green Roundup on Preservation Nation, the Official Blog of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Just imagine the effect this would have if work like this was done on the New Rochelle train station, The Armory and Downtown New Rochelle. Who has more history than The City of New Rochelle? We need to change the image of New Rochelle and it needs to be done quick or no other developers will deal with the city except the likes of Cappili and Forest City (Whoever). Below is my latest letter to The City Council:
Mayor Bramson and City Council Members,
I would like to believe that the vote the other night was a show of good faith, cooperation and communication on behalf of all members of council. Coming to a joint decision that will address all the issues related to the project is a good first step towards successful planning.
Going forward for the process to succeed The City Council is going to have to listen, be fair and they must open up the conversation during those nine months and listen to the people. The extension will give The City Council a chance to hopefully hear more from the citizens and work towards a plan of some sort for the area. Michael Freimuth and Alex Tergis need to be able to do their jobs with no interference. They have good back grounds and experience. Let them do their jobs, go out and meet with the people of New Rochelle. There is a nine month window for Forest City and The City of New Rochelle. The Mayor, The Council Members and most importantly the Citizens of New Rochelle need to use those nine months wisely. No Democrats or Republicans. We need to be New Rochelians.
Approval of the MOU triggers an obligation on Forest City’s part. The City Council also approved the key elements of a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the former Naval Armory on East Main Street. Mr. Mayor you said, “These are the first steps toward realizing New Rochelle’s waterfront goals, but these are not the final steps”. We need to be careful how and where the city walks during this process. It would be truly beneficial to the community to have some of the involved members of The Citizens Armory Committee, such as John D'alois and Ron Tocci as some of the members of any group reviewing RFP’s. If preferred, open up to the armory group two slots and let them choose who they prefer. We have a wealth of knowledge and experience here in New Rochelle. Put these people’s backgrounds and experience to good use. Remember, put all politics aside or anything that is done will fail.
Before you can walk, you need to know where you are going. All of the conversation should not be glued to the Echo Bay area. We need a plan, a picture, a vision and most importantly, A PLAN! We should not continue to chase after retail and housing when we have a city full of empty retail and housing. If you want to go green, then rejuvenate what you have before you consume money and resources on any new projects. That is what any smart responsible person would do for their home or business.
We haven’t heard one word at council meetings about restoring and rebuilding our downtown business district. It is the most serious omission in our planning process. We cannot afford to continue to do spot development as the city has done for as long as I can remember. It doesn’t matter who was mayor and when. The history of New Rochelle development shows poor planning at every level. We need to take politics and egos out of this and get to work on a master plan that covers rebuilding our downtown business district, a vision for the adaptive reuse of the Armory building, the City Yard then the Echo Bay area. The priorities of New Rochelle need to be put in line first and foremost.
It is very clear that The City of New Rochelle is being left behind. Look at the surrounding communities and how they are prospering. Look at the turnaround taking place in Port Chester, Mamaroneck, Pelham Manor and Mount Vernon. Peekskill moves their city police down town and Glen Cove get video security for their downtown. They show great improvement in their downtown areas. You are not driving a car. It is alright to ask for help and direction. You can learn from others success. Work with these people and members of the New Rochelle community.
I look forward to seeing and hearing more from all of the City Council Members going forward. Perhaps a Town Hall style meeting would be good right around now. No one said this is going to be easy. But I truly believe if everyone pulls together we will develop a stronger City of New Rochelle and form stronger community relations.
Thank You for your time,
Robert McCaffrey President
The Mount Joy Place
In closing, it is never too late so long as there is a heartbeat. All the citizens of New Rochelle must begin to speak up, not just on this site but to our Mayor and City Council Members. Put it on the record that they are no long out of sight. In order for us to affect change here in New Rochelle and with the City Council, there must be an overall attitude change. This city needs organization and quick responses going forward. No more games of posturing and politics. If you have nothing good or constructive to say, don’t say it at all! Negative information or even conversation shows a lack of good judgment. Whether it comes from you or those that surround you it should not be used. It is a sign of weakness. Step up; stick up for yourselves and for the sake of The City of New Rochelle.
“Common Sense for the Common Good”