Forest City Performs Latest Trick, Saws Armory in Half, Stacks Cars to the Sky

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Tuesday's City Council meeting was the stage as Forest City performed act three of its production of "The Echo Bay Chronicles". The unveiling of the most recent iteration of the once grand development project appeared to produce more questions rather than answers. In and of itself, this assembly of housing (250 -300 one bedroom mixed with 2 bedroom and studio apartments) along with 25,000 square feet of retail would fit nicely in many places. Questions raised by a noticeably more animated city council would suggest, to some, that perhaps this latest performance might not fit in this place. The scaled down version seeks to capitalize on the ability to control city-owned property only, with no conversation concerning any of the other property that would have made up the original Echo Bay development. Just as last time before council, there was no commitment to "phase 2" or "phase 3". In fact, Forest City's commitment to anything more than the city yard/armory property was noticeably absent.

The meeting began with a re-cap of Forest City's greatness followed by the often repeated reference to the company's "DNA" structure that doesn't allow them to give up or quit. (We didn't get a chance to ask, if the city prohibited any PILOT or tax abatement programs would the DNA structure keep its double helix intact?)
ImagesMoving forward, the plan calls for an array of housing and shops shaped like the letter "P" when viewed from the air. The leg of the P running from Main St towards the water parallel to the Armory driveway. Housing of 250 to 300 studio, one and two bedroom apartments would line the shape of the P with 25,000 square feet of retail along the ground floor level on Main St. An imposing, four story edifice right up on Main Street .Inside the P, would be the parking facility for the residents and some retail. Parking, this is an issue in just about every neighborhood in the city. To her credit, and thank you Ms Rackman, the question of how many spaces will there be for the residents. The single level of below street parking will accommodate approx 290 spaces, or as a rep from Forest City claimed - one space per bedroom. This area would also expect to support to some degree the retail. There will be additional parking lots more towards the water (presumably for visitors to the "open area" and retail with 105 spaces. You can see that there just isn't parking to support the project without spillover into the East End and Sutton Manor. Unless, of course you start to stack cars on top of each other.

The greatest feat of all will be the when they run a saw through the Armory. Kinda like the old magician trick of sawing through a box with a lady inside. The lady won't make it this time. To think that lopping off an integral part of the architecture is in some way a method of preserving the facility is bizarre to say the least. Their plan steals the property behind the Armory for their parking (removing any possibility of Armory parking), then they bastardize the building to "open up view corridors" and smile as they essentially tell us after we're done, you can do whatever you want with the building, use your imagination. Taking all the good and offering us the scraps. We don't want scraps. This has been a reoccurring theme with this project. We subsidize the required 8% return on their investment with tax payer money, then we assume the burden of increased services in the form of police and fire, the school system (we're on the verge of needing a new school built) sewage overcapacity and, on top of that, we have the Armory landlocked, reducing the potential for community use. Councilman Hyden asked a very revealing question(we thank you also), what would you (FC) have to do to compensate if the Armory wasn't chopped up? (for example, would they have to add an extra floor of housing or build out more ). The answer was basically nothing, we're just removing it to open up the view. Why don't we just build a moat around the Armory and fill it with piranhas? It would have the same effect. Getting to the heart of the matter, Councilman Trangucci asked the simple, but all telling question "what's the revenue benefit to the city considering the reduction of retail from 150,000 sq ft to 25,000 sq ft ?" The answer came encrypted in a way that would make Alan Greenspan proud. To paraphrase the answer, the introduction of 300 residents with income and the importance of growing the community. I would warn citizens to hang onto their wallet if Forest City or the mayor starts using the term"net benefit". IDA discussions have "just started" so hopefully we'll get a glimpse into the sweetener that's added to the deal. Councilmember Tarrantino reinforced the concern when he pointed out the decline in the percentage of retail to housing and it's effect on the economics. Councilman Rice brought up the current Annabi trial in Yonkers that hangs over Forest City ,concerned that there may be "distractions" to which Mr Naperstek replied there would be no distractions. The question might have had more context if the Karl Kruger Guilty Plea was included in the framing of the question.

All in all, the questions asked were a credit to the council on whole. The problem is, will the project be evaluated in full context of the ancillary effects. The effect of forcing the move of the DPW yard to a questionable site. 20 million dollar tax increase to wind up with a sub par facility. The impact of fulfilling the Forest City publicly stated requirement of an 8% return to their investors on whatever they do. The impact on school taxes when actual, not projected enrollment of students is considered. Albanese, Forest City, we will need another school while their tax abatements are in place. There's another 20 million. Parking impact solely compounded by the City not requiring enough space being built into the models. The death by denial of the Armory as it becomes so encroached upon, the city and its partners will effectively strangle it to death. All of New Rochelle will suffer from this bback roommanipulation.

Sometimes things just don't fit. Try as we might to want it, we sometimes just can't afford it, it's just not appropriate for the conditions or both. It's time to stop and re-evaluate the whole plan. On reflection, perhaps buying the Beechwood property was a mistake, an overpriced, insider transaction, but you're better off taking a loss on that if it means going forward with the right plan to serve the city for the next 50 years. Move the city yard to Lefevre Lane and put it under one roof. Who would want to live next to a sewer plant anyway. Make the Armory the centerpiece of Echo Bay. Build this, this one facility, and people will come and at the end of the day , they will go home. We won't have to support them through subsidy.

So, as we look back at how Echo Bay "coulda been a contenduh" and compare it to now, all washed up on the mud flats as a former shell of itself, you can't help but think "The Thrill is Gone"

(note, the links to the Echo Bay presentation , and the Council meeting were not online as of this story's writing, the city assures me they will be up shortly, if not today.)

Commenting on this Blog entry is closed.

John Imburgia on Sun, 03/18/2012 - 16:06

Can anyone tell me if Forest City starting bribing council members for their votes yet?

Warren Gross on Sun, 03/18/2012 - 14:11

I envy your talent. You have produced a flawless work, logical, fair and informativve. If we ever produced an award for "most underutilized talent in New Rochelle, my vote would be for you hands down.
But, of course, we would not have an open ballot.

Kurt Colucci recently was upset that a meaningful blog received a reasonable number of reads and no comments.

Kurt is correct. Too often pieces of quality or even controversy are ignored by the citizens despite the high number of "reads."

This is a piece that should be read and commented upon.

John, once more, it is stunning in its content and importance.

warren gross

CommonCents's picture
CommonCents on Sun, 03/18/2012 - 13:53

does anyone have an image of the architectual drawings or site plans that they can post?

Mike Scully on Fri, 03/16/2012 - 00:07

Great job, John.

Nobody pulls it apart and puts it back together quite like you. They used to call what you've just done here, common sense.

Hey. Great name for a pamphlet.

John Imburgia on Thu, 03/15/2012 - 23:39

Anyone could see through the magic act put on by Forest City. They did not specify ANY use for the Armory or provide ANY indication that they would invest any money into preserving it. They were only interested in hacking off parts of it for their own benefit. Once they put they wrecking ball to parts of it, there will be more to follow until the whole thing is converted to rubble.

Of course Forest City wants to move forward in NR. They have suckers on the hook--the city council and the mayor. Forest City is seeking the maximum in IDA benefits, perhaps a 15 year tax abatement. In addition, they get the land for free. In exchange, NR residents get a catlyst. We will have the added tax burden of paying for the bonded debt for the new city yard and no hope for new revenue until the Forest City project is completed and occupied. Another Avalon that has yet to produce the sales and property tax revenue this city needs.

I don't know who is doing the math in city hall but they need to go back to school.

NRVET on Thu, 03/15/2012 - 14:20

Great job John D, telling it the way it is. If Mayor Bramson and his side kick Forest City, think this is the new way to go, my God, what the hell are they thinking? These new plans makes even less sense than those before it.
Forest City claimed that the new plan was "Saving" the Armory! They want to take down the building on the left (looking from Main St) and leave the "Drill Deck" Which is the domed gym.
Little does FC know, they building they wish to remove is the ARMORY!! The weapons were stored in the Armory,which is in the basement of that building. Let's face it, it doen't make a differance, the whole building is the ARMORY and
the whole building MUST STAY! Also, the heart of the complex is all it the building they want to remove. FC calls it the Annex. The annex contains the electrical and heating systems for the entire building. FC must not know what they are doing.
Lastly, the Veterans of NR and the SOA group has requested a MOU from the City,so they might show how and what can be done with this HISTORICAL piece of New Rochelle. The city has given eveything WE own away to outsiders, Mr Rivera,Capelli,Trump,The Avelon and for the most part,none could care less about our city, with the exception of Mr Rivera.I just think he could afford to pay for the property he needs for his church. Let the people of NR have what belongs to them OUR ARMORY for OUR COMMUNITY!!To be continued