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Echo Bay Development back as line item on The City Council Agenda, Will true discussion take place?

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Echo Bay Development back as line item on The City Council Agenda, Will true discussion take place?

November 07, 2013 - 14:25
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So New Rochelle, What’s in your future?

The clocks have been set back, our mailboxes have stopped being loaded with political ads and the race for County Executive has been decided. So New Rochelle what is next, the resumption of city business which sees that Echo Bay is back on the table for discussion? Hopefully more eye and minds have been opened with fresh thoughts, ideas and outlooks prevailing.

The Echo Bay Project is on the calendar for next week see below from agenda Item 9 page 6. Unfortunately everything is (to follow) so I don't have much more on that. Go to the City of New Rochelle web site to see the entire agenda:

http://www.newrochelleny.com/Calendar.aspx?EID=1551&month=11&year=2013&d...

DEPARTMENT OF DEVELOPMENT:

ECHO BAY PROJECT
Proposed Adoption of Findings:
9.1. Communication (to follow).
9.1.1. Resolution (to follow).
Proposed Amendment to Zoning Code:
9.2. Communication (to follow).
9.2.1. Ordinance (to follow).
9.2.1.1. Resolution directing Public Hearing on (to follow).
ECHO BAY PROJECT
Proposed Amendment to Urban Renewal Plan:
9.3. Communication (to follow).
9.3.1. Resolution (to follow).
9.3.1.1. Resolution directing Public Hearing on (to follow).

Imagine this, The City Council and City Staff come to the realization that The Forest City Ratner’s Echo Bay Project has become no more than a phantom project for Forest City Ratner. The project had no meaning after all for Forest City Ratner, the developer of the Barclays Center and other multi-billion dollar projects. Its only value was as the sacrificial pawn in the real estate game of chess, no meaning other than as a strategic move to bigger things to come and for themselves as they would quickly turn around and dispose of the project for their own corporate gains. It is a means to some other end. New Rochelle deserves more and better for the residents and taxpayers. We can no longer be their pawn. We must be the king or better yet, return to being The Queen City of the Sound which melds suburban charm with urban sophistication. New Rochelle's waterfront is also abundantly blessed with both unsurpassed beauty and public accessibility. The shinning jewel, Check Mate!

So Forest City Ratner is finally denied and their proposal withdrawn, they move on to bigger and better things in other swamps. New Rochelle gets some smarts and vision, as the City Council and City Staff finally wake up and work in the interest of the citizen taxpayers of New Rochelle. By turning down the Forest City Echo Bay Project, this would free up Echo Bay, opening up an opportunity for The City of New Rochelle to develop a proper waterfront plan that integrates all of its waterfront assets into an integrative and professional plan. This would allow Development Department Staff, The City Manager, The City Council and the people of New Rochelle to come up with a long term plan; one with realistic out comes, permits a proper RFP/RFI and result in a true plan with vision for the future of New Rochelle. This plan would be formulated with such a structure that effectively contains within it, any constraints that the City of New Rochelle and the people of New Rochelle do not envision for this area like residential high rises, limited retail, limited access, limited vision, long term abatements, etc.

All the property that was purchased by New Rochelle in the Beechwood Avenue area is developed into affordable housing. Jim Misano can work a deal like The Garito Manor Senior building on Union Avenue with 25 owner-occupied townhouses next door. There is some residential for you and where it is needed. Gosh, what would New Rochelle be able to do once they sold the land? Take the profit and financial support and invest that money into cleaning up the City Yard. Naw, it can’t be done, it is impossible. No other developer would touch New Rochelle after what happened with Forest City Ratner. Wrong! It is possible and other developers would take an interest if New Rochelle Staff and The City Council showed some creative interest, used better marketing strategies and would be willing to entertain their ideas and not keep falling into the traps of the same old political and greed motivated schemes of the developers du sure, Forest City, Capellie, Monroe College and Iona College. I add the colleges because they seem to have developed more land than anyone else these days.

Just because New Rochelle would turn down the proposal for Echo Bay by Forest City Ratner does not mean no other developers would come to New Rochelle. It shows the citizens do care about their city and want to have a say and want it done right. They want the waterfront developed in a manner that is beneficial to the taxpayers and the city as a whole. Not any one developer or some politicians who don’t have the insight or vision that is in the interest of all of New Rochelle. I think the messages sent in the past by the crooked back room deals and political single mindedness is what scares the other developers away. New Rochelle must show other developers The City of New Rochelle is serious about what it wants for its future. Show them we have a plan as in the 1996 Comprehensive Plan or an updated version. If we do finally turn down the Forest City Echo Bay Proposal as presented and it is done right, the move would show other developer that the city is willing to listen to the people and entertain new ideas. Ideas that have vision and thought behind them, Ideas in the interest of The City of New Rochelle and its taxpayer. First we need the right people in place to creatively market and sell New Rochelle for its attributes of the waterfront, location close to New York City, Its schools, its community, its history and the most appealing characteristic, the diversity of The City of New Rochelle. We can’t just post it on the City of New Rochelle web site and call it a day as in the past. That just doesn’t work in the year 2013; we need to update our plans and methods to real time and the real world. We have been out paced by all the towns, villages and communities around us. Time to wake up New Rochelle, the world is leaving us behind and doesn’t care.

So The City of New Rochelle wakes up and shows that they have leaders with ideas and a willingness to support other creative ideas and developers. There is a joint effort to build a State of the Art City Yard where it currently stands. With some creative thinking the new developer works together with the city and community. The yard can be covered by the development of green space while integrating the area into a sports and entertainment community next to where The Armory is developed, becoming the cultural center of a multi-purpose hub with a theme based on the waterfront, the naval history of the Armory, the history and diversity of The City of New Rochelle. Be creative and secure funding and grants where ever possible. It has been shown that it is possible if the right people get involved at a city, county, state and federal levels.

Opening up our eyes, minds and vision would make this project attractive and perhaps be a contrast to what is surely to come from the Rye Beach Playland Project. Some partnering with the County and state could include some efforts along the Long Island Sound to eventually tie in Glen Island, and on a long shot, even David’s Island for the distant future. It is possible because it is done all the time.

It becomes frustrating when we open up the newspapers reading about what the cities and towns around us are doing. They are energized and community driven. I just read in The City Review/New Rochelle about how the Emelin Theater has a new lobby. This new lobby was made possible by New Rochelle-based architecture firm Stoll and Stoll who donated their time and services because they saw the importance of the Emelin Theater to the Sound Shore Community. New Rochelle is a sound shore community that needs help, yet many New Rochelle based companies and community groups donate their time and services other places outside of this city. I am sure they would be and are willing to help their own community succeed. The current administration fails to have foresight and vision to improve New Rochelle for the community rather than the big money developers like Forest City Ratner.

The City Review New Rochelle:
Emelin Theater sees lobby rejuvenation
By ASHLEY HELMS October 25 2013
http://hometwn.com/emelin-theater-sees-lobby-rejuvenation/

Back on 4/3/12 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 Chris 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.

From Talk of the Sound:
New Rochelle Brothers Apply Green Building Techniques to Transform Dilapidated Train Station into Spectacular Adaptive Reuse Facility in Mamaroneck
By Robert Cox on Thu, 03/29/2012
http://www.newrochelletalk.com/content/new-rochelle-brothers-apply-green...

From Larchmont Gazette:
Verni Brothers Start Rehab of Mamaroneck Train Station
Judy Silberstein, posted on April 22, 2010
http://www.larchmontgazette.com/news/verni-brothers-start-rehab-of-mamar...

Soundshore Lohud/Journal news:
Restaurant, offices coming to Mamaroneck train station
By Aman Ali April 20, 2010
http://soundshore.lohudblogs.com/2010/04/20/restaurant-offices-coming-to...

The Verni brother’s adaptive reuse of the Mamaroneck Train Station was featured back then in Green Roundup on Preservation Nation, the Official Blog of the National Trust for Historic Preservation http://blog.preservationnation.org/2012/04/16/green-round-up-old-is-the-.... 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.

John Verni, who lives in New Rochelle, said in an article from The Larchmont Gazette back on April 22, 2010, “We are excited to begin the rebirth of this important community asset,”

“The Verni brothers are partners in Verco Properties, LLC, renovated the old Mamaroneck Train Station after the MTA ceased operating and maintaining facilities in the building and the building had falling into disrepair – both inside and out”. Sound familiar?

Why do we keep getting stuck in the mud and missing the boat? With the right people in charge and if an effort were shown, these companies and groups would help turn around the once Queen City of the Sound. Use these resources for the taxpayer of New Rochelle, not some selfish money mongering developer like Forest City Ratner who could care less about the future of New Rochelle. Who would build something that people from New Rochelle have shown they don’t want, after they complete the project only to flip it to someone else for a grand old profit for themselves. All while sticking New Rochelle taxpayers with the tab and leaving them with a subpar development of stick style construction that obscures the views of the waterfront that they promised to enhance and open up.

Measure things carefully and figure out what works for New Rochelle and the community and let that and the comprehensive plan be the guide. We can’t push the costs off to the future and have it still supported on the backs of the residents of New Rochelle and their tax dollars. Let’s have less bonding and tax abatements and more thinking.

Create a vision of the New Rochelle Waterfront for all the people of New Rochelle which includes saving the Armory in some way shape and form. What about the Vets people will ask, we should never forget our veterans. There should be an emphasis on The Armory being used as a Performing Arts Center possibly anchored by The New Rochelle Opera (The Veterans Center for the Performing Arts) with a community center honoring and serving the post-service needs of veterans for New Rochelle and all the Veterans. Let’s see what the Waterfront Gateway Design Competitions final phase selections four semi-finalists have to offer to re-imagine New Rochelle’s Echo Bay waterfront area. Then be creative and design a mixed use area above the city yard which would be an ice rink facility and sports complex similar to a small Chelsea Piers in New York City. New Rochelle hockey teams won’t have to go to other cities to play; The New Rochelle Opera and Symphony would have a home and not have to use other auditoriums like they currently do. Create a concert venue with restaurants and places of interest with shops and boutiques, a destination place for people from outside of the city as well as the citizens of New Rochelle. Give people a reason to want to visit New Rochelle.

Reminder!

Take some time out of your hectic days and go down to New Rochelle City Hall and view the Waterfront Gateway Design Competitions four semi-finalists. I will not give my opinion at this time. However, I urge as many people as possible to get down to city hall to review them, judge them and finally make you opinions known by filling out the comment cards and submitting them in the Suggestion Box because the city welcomes your input. If you don’t do or say something, than you can’t do or say anything if the plan doesn’t go the way you think it should.

The innovative design competition to re-imagine New Rochelle’s Echo Bay waterfront area has entered its final phase with the selection of four semi-finalists. The architectural designs (see list below) will be on display on the first floor at City Hall beginning on October 24th and will be available for viewing through November 15th during business hours, 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM.

http://www.newrochelletalk.com/content/new-rochelle-announces-design-com...

http://newrochelle.dailyvoice.com/news/new-rochelle-competition-seeks-de...

The competition seeks architectural design ideas and a workable development program for a historic military armory, its 2.92 acre site and potentially three adjacent land parcels in the City of New Rochelle, New York on Long Island Sound's Echo Bay.

http://www.newrochellecompetition.archpaper.com/index.php/competition/ab...

I have been down to City Hall and there are some very interesting designs and concepts submitted by the four finalists. The finalist project teams proceeding to Phase two of the design competition must include at least one licensed architect and a developer partner.

Back to The Forest City Echo Bay Project Proposal for the City Yard Area, Think of what was proposed in the RFI for The Waterfront Gateway Design Competitions and use this process to open up to new ideas with different developers and their creative imagination.

Housing and two restaurants won’t make New Rochelle a destination for visitors or shoppers. A proper reconstruction of Echo Bay and the Armory just might. I don’t know why people don’t take advantage of the fact that The Armory is history. History does sell. Use the Armory as the catalyst for the waterfront area. It could become a contributor to the community in the way of taxes, services, amenities or social enrichment. This could be the first step in the right direction for the area and New Rochelle. I repeat, by using the Armory as a catalyst for the area, not the other way around. Use The Armory/Echo Bay Project as the first true effort for bringing the Citizens of New Rochelle and The City Government of New Rochelle together towards one goal, a better, brighter, thriving and community minded New Rochelle. Everyone wins especially the veterans that need our help. Put the petty games behind us. This is part of what I have said before. Go back and read it in more detail.

What ever happened to United We Stand, We need another stint in boot camp!
By Bob McCaffrey on Fri, 05/03/2013

http://www.newrochelletalk.com/content/what-ever-happened-united-we-stan...

Just a short piece of the article:
I have said so many times, we are not the only ones with a struggling downtown and Armory. New York City has proven several times it can be done. They are looking to start yet another project at The Kingsbridge Armory in The Bronx. What happens next is that the areas and communities around these developments begin to thrive and grow achieving smart and lasting growth.

You will read about an empty armory that is set to become what’s being billed as the world’s largest indoor ice skating center, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced this back on Tuesday April 23, 2013.
See the article from The Wall Street Journal and the Journal News:

The Wall Street Journal April 23, 2013:

Celebs join project for giant NYC skating center:

http://online.wsj.com/article/AP9e666e135467493bb7cd5f644e3efb93.html

The Journal News April 23, 2013:

Planned ice skating complex gives Bronx 'hope,' called world's biggest.
Mayor: $275M ice complex to be world’s biggest.
By Jennifer Peltz

http://www.lohud.com/viewart/20130423/NEWS/304230109/Planned-ice-skating...

The Kingsbridge Armory, a block-long brick castle of a building in a working-class Bronx neighborhood, would become a $275 million suite of nine ice rinks under a plan backed by former New York Rangers star Mark Messier and figure skating Olympic gold medalist Sarah Hughes.

As you can see anything is possible if you try. The proper use of the property with creativity as we see is possible would/could work towards an integration of the use of The Armory as an extension of the logic of the 1996 Comprehensive Plan. All that would bring with it some cultural and mini commercial support shops like a nautical themed teahouses, art studios or boutiques. The cultural part could be a dinner theater. All this is possible while leaving proper space for The Armory to develop a proper approach to the needs of veteran’s real issues. Many of those veterans who are returning from the current and past conflicts are facing real problem of finding jobs, training, medical and behavioral assistance. There are many resources in and around New Rochelle that opens up opportunity for peer specialists that are local service men and women to serve as advocates and referral sources. Use the vast community assets such as Sound Shore/Montefiore, Burke Rehabilitation, Habitat for Humanity and other job employment resources available through the county and state.

New Rochelle has missed several prime opportunities to get back on track. How? Why? Because the same lack of identity, vision, knowledge, insight, imagination, team work, community, planning, and the failure to follow the 1996 comprehensive plan have led to poor projects that fail to produce what was promised, IKEA, Court House/Police Station, Huguenot Street development, Avalon, New Roc, Trump, Cappelli. If the people with the right vision and ideas were in charge, maybe the courthouse would have been built downtown. We need people with energy and willingness to market New Rochelle and its attributes, maybe the land from the failed Ikea deal could have been used for the city yard. These are a lot of maybes, but if New Rochelle had people in office that had a true vision, knowledge, insight, imagination, a team work mentality, community mindedness and planning in the best interest of all of New Rochelle, maybe New Rochelle would be in a better place today.

A funny thing happened on the way to the send key as I prepared this post, what to my wandering eyes should appear but an e-mail from the city for a posting for Marketing and Branding Suite for The City of New Rochelle. I get these messages from The City because I am subscribed to Current Bids & RFPs on www.newrochelleny.com. It is a start. Now take it a step further and go beyond the city web site. We need to create a vision and a new image and mind set for all of New Rochelle, North, South, East and West. Here is the information for the New Bid Posting:

Subject: New Bid Posting RFP-NR-5004 Marketing and Branding Suite For www.newrochelleny.com.

The City of New Rochelle, New York is hereby requesting proposals from qualified marketing, branding and graphic design professionals to develop a marketing/communications/branding package that would primarily serve as an introduction of the City to businesses and developers and would function as a positive economic development and promotional tool for the City.

http://www.newrochelleny.com/Bids.aspx?bidID=196

To me it remains a no-brainer; take an approach that serves all the useful purposes of building a community resource base, reducing property taxes via the drawing power it provides for increased business in the waterfront area and downtown. The City Council, City Staff and the community of New Rochelle must take charge of this effort. Begin to restore the Armory under Sustainability guidelines and follow a plan it develops and controls to bring about its restoration, its connection to the refocused Echo Bay plan and as important, the development of downtown commercial New Rochelle. Then we consider linking it in specifically to a planned downtown commercial development and not to some bogus identification to the overall waterfront potential enrichment of New Rochelle, it would have meaning. We don't need Forest City for that; we need a solid team in the community under the direction of the Development Department, with oversight by The City Council. This would further strengthen proper planning on a Waterfront Project, will assuredly lead to funding by government and private investors. Think of all of the opportunities for employment with a design such as this. Not just a few construction jobs, real jobs with a future. It is not as easy as it sounds but it is possible, New Rochelle could have a future after all.

“Common Sense for the Common Good”.

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The City Council will discuss, but not vote on any of the Echo Bay issues on Tuesday. The good news is that you still have time to present your case for or against Echo Bay at the Citizens to be Heard session on Tuesday night, November 12, 2013 @ 7:30 pm.

I know there are a lot of POSTS floating around on this but Phil Reisman had a good piece today in the Journal News about how Noam Bramson returns his focus this week to his job as mayor of New Rochelle, and things don’t look pretty.

Phil Reisman: Defeated Bramson faces new Echo Bay fights.

http://www.lohud.com/article/20131109/COLUMNIST08/311090066/Phil-Reisman...

Hope to see you on Tuesday night!

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