New Rochelle Police escorted Mayor Noam Bramson home tonight after an incendiary City Council meeting during which one Council Member walked out on Bramson, another accused Bramson of "water torturing" a third member of Council and a fourth accused Bramson of bullying members of Council including himself. Outside, a fifth Council Member nearly came to blows with two New Rochelle residents in the parking lot.
The meeting devolved into total, utter, bedlam in New Rochelle City Hall.
City Manager Chuck Strome called it the worst City Council meeting he had ever seen, according to one source.
The meeting ended with shouts, screams and threats. As the tension rose and police were called in the lights were suddenly turned off leaving dozens of people, including City officials, stumbling around in the dark while TV cameras rolled.
The chaos comes just a week after Noam Bramson was soundly defeated by Rob Astorino in the race for Westchester County Executive.
At issue is the Echo Bay Development Project and the move of the DPW Yard to Beechwood Avenue.
The day began with a Committee of the Whole Meeting during which Council Member Albert Tarantino brought forward a motion to table all discussion and votes on Echo Bay until January. The motion passed 4-3 with Democrats Shari Rackman and Ivar Hyden joining Republicans Al Tarantino and Lou Trangucci.
The Mayor was stunned by the vote, calling it "one of the most remarkable votes that has been ever cast at this table".
"I truly don't understand it".
Bramson insisted that Council Member needed time to reconsider their vote.
"I would like to ask that there be some additional thought devoted to this subject by Council Members over the next few minutes because maybe some Council Members did not have an opportunity to think through fully the implications of this motion."
"You win some you lose some," said Council Member Tarantino, who said that any move to reconsider the vote would be extraordinary and unwarranted.
The City Council went on dinner break, returning an hour later for Public Hearings and Citizens to be Heard.
The first speaker, a woman employed by IDA Member Greg Merchant, claimed to have a petition from leading citizens of New Rochelle with 550 names on it. Talk of the Sound has been reporting for over a week that Forest City employees have been collecting signatures on a petition supporting Echo Bay.
The remaining 27 speakers all spoke against the Echo Bay Project.
During the meeting Bramson passed a note to Council Member Shari Rackman.
After closing Citizens to be Heard, Bramson took Rackman into the Media Room just of the Committee of the Whole Meeting room and was heard screaming at her by City staff and Council Members.
Bramson hurriedly organized a continuation of the City Council meeting to force what was effectively a re-vote on Tarantino's resolution.
Council Member Tarantino strenuously objected to Bramson's maneuver with an uncharacteristic (for Tarantino) hostility towards Bramson. As Tarantino and Bramson argued, Tarantino accused Bramson of "water boarding" Rackman in the Media Room.
Louis Trangucci expressed his disgust at the proceeding and walked out of the meeting.
It will take some time watching video tape to be clear on exactly what exactly the Council was voting on but Bramson forced a vote.
Council Member Ivar Hyden, clearly enraged with Bramson's tactics, stated that the meeting was his worst moment on City Council and that he resented bullying by Bramson, before voting against the Mayor.
By this point, word had gotten around City Hall that Bramson had brought the City Council back into session. The room was filled as the roll call went to Shari Rackman.
Council Member Rackman stated that she agreed with Hyden about the bullying but was voting with the Mayor, effectively reversing her earlier vote.
The crowd erupted in angry catcalls, jeers and threats.
Police officers interposed themselves between the crowd and the City Council.
Suddenly, the lights were switched off, leading to more shouts and screaming in the dark.
With the lights turned back on, the spectators, Council Members and staff filtered out of the building into the parking lot.
As she walked towards he car, Rackman was shouted out by Ashley Ward, an opponent of the Echo Bay project.
As the shouting continued, Council Member Barry Fertel, already in his car, drove around the parking lot, ran from his car and confronted Ward, screaming at her with his face inches from hers. Peter Parente, another Echo Bay opponent, ran to defend Ward from Fertel.
"Hit me," screamed Fertel over and over again, holding his hands at his side, daring Parente to punch him in the face.
Police intervened, Fertel got back into his car while a visibly shaken Rackman was escorted to her car by a police officer.
Over the 30 minute period from when Bramson reconvened the City Council until the parking lot emptied out there were dozens of other incidents of screaming, shouting and threats.
"I've been coming to City Council meetings for 30 years," said James O'Toole. "I've never seen anything like what I saw tonight."
Committee of the Whole Vote to Table Echo Bay Discussion/Vote - Afternoon
Committee of the Whole Vote to Table Echo Bay Vote - Evening
Citizens to be Heard on Echo Bay
EDITOR'S NOTE: If you have your own stories about what happened tonight please add them in the comments.
RELATED: Who is Robin Sherman? - she was the only speaker who supported Echo Bay, she had a petition with 550 names, and she did not honestly represent herself last night.
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