Kicking Residents to the Curb

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Kicking Residents to the Curb

July 30, 2013 - 19:44

In Westchester Guardian, July 25, 2013

Despite a full agenda at the New Rochelle City Council meeting, on July 9, 2013 the Council had rushed to approve four more hearings. The hearings date was set for July 23, 2013 for Forest City Residential's Echo Bay plan. This vote along party lines, five Democrats approving these new hearings and two Republicans opposing, were addressed immediately during the Citizens to Be Heard Section of their meeting that evening. Robert McCaffrey urged the City Council to take more time to evaluate the Final Environmental Impact Statement and the zoning changes needed. Brian Sten said the Council should continue using the present City Yard where Forest City Residential wants to build instead of moving it to Beechwood Avenue because this alternate site is too small.
But it turned out there is more to this attempted rush to development. A resident who lives near the Echo Bay site also objected. Laraine Karl felt scheduling hearings for the Echo Bay rezoning for both the New Rochelle Planning Board and the City Council hearing on the same night denied the citizens of New Rochelle their democratic rights to speak at both public hearings. Both the City Council and Planning Board are public bodies so why should citizens have to choose one or the other?.
At this same public meeting of the City Council, new hearings were held on the granting of cabaret licenses. One was for a restaurant that was in the same location at 414 Pelham Road with a name change from Siete Ocho Siete to Capriccio Latino. A number of residents living in the area reminisced about how the previous restaurant had created problems in the neighborhood, especially "noise pollution" late at night waking people up. The residences as well as the commercial establishments, such as the nursing home across the street, were effected. Among the complaints was a charge that cabarets would have "exotic dancers." Mayor Noam Bramson replied the permit would not allow exotic dancing in New Rochelle.
Thomas Lange gave a very comprehensive view of the process and previous council actions. Relaying how after a thorough review of the previously illegally operating cabaret, he felt that the City Council had rejected the application. There was a need for more parking and security. Worse, noise and liter created by patrons of this establishment extended to a radius of at least 500 feet. The parking plan was, and still is, insufficient.
A retired New York City law enforcement officer suggested that police officers can be assigned to come to the cabaret a half hour before closing to make sure there are no problems.
However, the need for parking spaces was a key problem in the plan. Bill Mullins, Vice President of the Residence Park Neighborhood Association, said the restaurant's application had "fatal defects" because it had less than forty parking spaces. Earlier that evening, a resident of Shady Glen had opposed the application saying that 130 parking spaces were needed. More troubling were the restaurants' valets who had been seen speeding across Pelham Road, creating a danger to the neighborhood.
While praise was expressed for the new manager of this restaurant by his friends and a few patrons, the majority of speakers, even those residents from other parts of the city, opposed the permit.
The last speaker was Vincent Rippa, attorney and former Mayor of New Rochelle, who reminded the Council that in two years renewal for an approved license would be necessary, and a license renewal could be denied at that time. Two other cabaret licenses were also being considered, A Place 2 Go on 273 North Avenue and Modern Restaurant Lounge on 310 Huguenot Street.
The City Council has scheduled four hearings on the Forest City Residential Final Environmental Impact Statement for Echo Bay on July 23, 2013. On July 17 at a "Call to Action" meeting organized by Ron Tocci, the crowd assembled objected to the New Rochelle City Council and New Rochelle Planning Board holding their hearings about the Echo Bay proposal at the same time and on the same night.