A neighborhood meeting was held in the East End of New Rochelle on Wednesday. Over 100 residents representing a true cross section of the city's diverse population filled the hall to get the latest news affecting their neighborhood. The main focus of the meeting was to shed some light on the truth surrounding the locally unpopular, watered down iteration of the Mayors latest idea of development, or as one resident called it Echo Bay Lite. The meeting began with some neighborhood news followed by the first guest speakers from the Library Board. Trustees Greg Varian, Haina Just-Michael and director Tom Geoffino gave the latest updates on the upcoming budget, recent events and how the library is handling it all.
The main event was kicked off by School Board candidate Robert Cox who carefully explained the challenges facing the school district and the effect development has on schools, your taxes and most importantly, the children of this city. Although the news wasn't particularly good, he was clear and concise about the potential that lay ahead and the improvements he would work towards if given the opportunity to serve. An unofficial straw poll showed strong support for this candidate by people from the East End, Sunhaven and Sutton Manor sections of the city. You can learn more about Bob and his campaign by clicking HERE
The next speaker was County Legislator Jim Maisano. Jim was able to speak on the latest evaluation of Echo Bay by the County Planning Board. It was clearly pointed out that although the Mayor wasn't pleased with the outcome of the report, the report was completed and issued as required by law. This independent review wasn't called for by some partisan political agenda. It was required by law. Having said that, a stark contrast was drawn between the original Echo Bay plan and it's now anemic version of "development". In an day to read chart, the scaled down version paled in comparison in its value to the city. With retail at a meager 25000 square feet, it was noted that Derek Jeter's house in Tampa is 30,000 square feet, and he pays a full tax assessment. After describing the faults that the County found with the plan, Mr Maisano said it's time to "scrap this plan and start over….the economics stink" You can find out more from Jim by visiting him at www.JimMaisano.wordpress.com
Counicilman Al Tarrantino, who's district envelops the whole of the waterfront of New Rochelle, spoke well of the lack of benefit to New Rochelle of the Forest City plan. At one time this had potential for growth, but not in its current configuration. Calling on residents to speak up and join together, he noted the power in numbers. Especially the voices of the people most affected by any development in the Echo Bay area. This crowd heard him and the crowd was very vocal in lashing out against the raw deal the city is getting. "The overall impact to the East End is devestating" said one resident. "THe only one who makes out is the developer….shame on this mayor."
By this time, the crowd had become quite upset as they learned more and more about the truth behind the plan. In a surprising step of independence, Councilman Ivar Hyden voiced his concerns about the benefit, or lack of it, to the city in going forward with the current version. Supportive of the Armory, doubtful of the benefit to the city on a whole and to this community, the Councilman was convincing in his opposition to Echo Bay lite The audience was very thankful to see this Councilman taking a second look at the facts.
Assemblyman Ron Tocci took the stage and reinforced the facts surrounding the Armory. Always eloquent, he brought the crowd up to date regarding the mayors refusal to entertain, even for a moment, a review of the Veterans Plan for the Armory. How, in step after step, this mayor has seen fit to turn his back on anything the Veterans would propose to help improve the City. Even when it came with no cost to the City. Follow the history of events and you can come to only one conclusion about the mayor's poor behavior. As far as Mr Tocci is concerned, the Veterans Plan is alive and accessible for anyone who would be interested. Top notch dining facility, coupled with performing arts and sports, what more could you want?
Councilman Lou Trangucci spelled out the numbers in terms we can all understand. Your tax percent hikes for the next 20 years. The scheme to keep tax increases artificially low by using the city's fund balances to make up for lack of revenue. Using fee based assessments so it doesn't appear as an percentage point on your taxes. Over bonding and spending money we just don't have. If you haven't heard Mr Trangucci's evaluation of the state of the city, you're missing a key piece of information you need on elsction day.
The evening topped off with two speakers from the group over at Echo Bay Facts. This City is lucky to have an amazing pool of talent within its borders and these guys are no exception. Representing the group tonight were Adam Eagleberg and Andrew Newman, both New Rochelle residents. Working with other in the field of finance and development, they have painstakingly reviewed the mayors and Forest City's numbers and found no basis for the claims made by either. In fact, if you take a look at their Facebook page at Citizens for a Better New Rochelle you will see the extremes the mayor will go to spin his fantasy. The mayor is quoted in a Newsday and Journal News story as saying "The project has been significantly mischaracterized, and in that sense many of the people signing the petition are not reacting to the project as it's currently proposed, but to a distorted picture of the project.", however, the mayor counts on none following up on his soundbite. Well, a Better New Rochelle responded with "Mayor Bramson, please substantiate your claims. The Citizens for a Better New Rochelle have out forth detailed numbers referred directly from the DEIS that the city council approved for public comment… We invite you to put forth numbers that detail "the current proposal" as you see it—and reference them by citing public documents that actually substantiate your numbers. Until then, please stop saying that we are mischaracterizing the project or distorting the picture as it is simply not true." These guys are good. They are exactly what's needed in the city of perpetual give aways. Someone who can cut through the smoke and mirrors and provide a fair analysis of the ongoings up at city hall.
It is with great appreciation and deepest thanks to all who took the time to make this night monumental. From each and every speaker to every one of my neighbors and friends from the surrounding area who invested their time to participate in one of the oldest forms of governance. To Beth and Frank who put these things together and to Holy Name for the use of the hall. Someone once said that things will get better but perhaps it will have more to do with what WE rather than what the politicians do. After a night like tonight, I wouldn't disagree with that.
Oh, and if you're wondering about the angry mayor. Well it seems he wasn't too keen on Beth (the co-president of a duly sanctioned civic association) actually having a neighborhood meeting about Echo Bay. In fact, he actually called her to vehemently complain and try to set her straight. His behavior was so rude, he felt compelled to send an e-mail apology to her. Imagine, a mayor telling residents they aren't smart enough to have a meeting to discuss the events around their community. Imagine a mayor trying to control what the citizens of a city talk about. Maybe we can get Forest City's owners to give him even more campaign money to send him on a vacation, he sounds like he needs one.