The New Rochelle City Council is scheduled to vote tonight on a proposed Land Disposition Agreement with Forest City Residential Group, Inc. for the disposition and redevelopment of the City Yard parcel and a portion of the Armory Parcel.
A Special Meeting to review the 2014 Budget is scheduled for 5:00 PM November 26th. The vote will come towards the end of the meeting.
The measure is fully expected to fail thus ending seven years of Forest City's involvement with the City of New Rochelle.
Council Members Al Tarantino, Ivar Hyden, Louis Trangucci and Shari Rackman all indicated last Tuesday they intend to vote nay, enough votes to defeat the resolution 4-3 and effectively kill the deal.
With Forest City representatives demanding a vote on the LDA, according to City Hall sources, Mayor Bramson issued a statement Friday acknowledging there was not enough support for the project on City Council in the hope that Forest City would relent and join the City in issuing a joint statement agreeing to part ways. That has not happened and so the vote will proceed.
With the outcome now determined, it will be interesting to see how the final vote goes down and what sort of statements Council Members will make.
Expect brief statements from each Council Member, all aware of the litigious nature of Forest City and the likelihood that Forest City will initiate a lawsuit against the City of New Rochelle and Council Members, individually. This is certainly a case where "anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law".
The dynamics of the vote are hard to predict but Council Member Jared Rice did join with the Gang of Four last February in voting to kill a maneuver to create a new civilian leadership position in the New Rochelle Police Department. The vote against converting police captains to Assistant Police Commissioners was 2-5, against.
Rice likewise joined the Gang of Four, in voting to put Civil Service Commission meetings on TV and the Internet, with Noam Bramson also voting aye, for a 6-1 vote.
Rice has shown a willingness to part with the Mayor on occasion but only as a fifth vote, hardly what one would call a profile in courage.
I expect Rice will again join the Gang of Four on the LDA.
If he does it will raise questions on how Rice will vote on measures related to moving the City Yard to a proposed site on Beechwood Avenue. If Jared votes against the LDA, he can be expected to change his position on moving the City Yard as well. If moving the City Yard requires any further bonding to pay for it, Rice may wind up denying a needed fifth vote to the Mayor on that issue. With the projected cost now exceeding $30 million and no offset from Forest City additional bonding may well be necessary. With no development imminent for the current City Yard site, the impetus for the taking on such costs may fall apart.
I expect Barry Fertel and Noam Bramson will vote in lockstep but its hard to say how the pair will vote.
On the one hand, Bramson has been such an aggressive proponent of the Echo Bay Project, and Forest City in particular, it would be wildly inconsistent for him to vote against the project now. Nothing about the deal has changed, only the votes on Council. If the Mayor believed it was a good deal two weeks ago he can hardly argue it is a bad deal now. There may also be a loyalty factor -- large sums of money involving people connected to Forest City were donated to Noam Bramson over the years, most during his recent failed campaign for Westchester County Executive.
On the other hand, Bramson may be displeased with Forest City for making him take a vote on Council knowing the vote will fail. He also may feel that it for legal, political and civic reasons that it is important that a the deal end on a unanimous vote. He might also feel that for his future political viability it might be wise to have ultimately voted to kill the deal. He may also see an opportunity to cool tensions both on Council and across the City among residents.
It is a coin toss.
I am going to come down on the side that Noam Bramson will place a desire to put closure on the deal above all else and vote to create a unanimous decision, bringing Barry with him so the measure fails 0-7.
We will know before Noam gives his statement and votes based on how Barry Fertel votes because it is hard to imagine Barry voting differently then Noam. If Barry votes against the LDA then Noam is already planning to vote against the LDA.
I recognize that a 7-0 vote may seem unlikely to some but I wanted to be on record with some analysis and a prediction.
If anyone else wants to get on record with a prediction, now is the time.