Mayor Bramson Advised: We Have Had Enough

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New Rochelle's Mayor Noam Bramson on November 22 answered residents' questions about crime, traffic, parking, taxes and overbuilding, especially in the southern part of the City. Citing City policies and City Council decisions, Bramson suggested residents call his office or use his email addresses for any further input. This "informal neighborhood meeting" was held in the offices of Cross Cultural Solutions on Clinton Place, New Rochelle.

Mayor Bramson's presentation to the crowd began with a review of the present local economic challenges, such as people who have lost their jobs, the loss of sales and mortgage tax revenue, and the increased pension costs. He cited ways to confront these economic challenges in the City Budget, including cutting expenses, scaling back the capital budget, a hotel tax, and the aggressive seeking of grants. At this time he said, the "range of options" are shrinking. The soft housing market in his view allows "time to plan", mentioning the Albanese development proposal for the Church-Division and Prospect lots. Transportation and regional planning as well as sustainability, education and other factors also impact the City's plans.

Resident Anne Almazar-Gerhard brought up concerns about traffic and parking in the downtown area. She felt that the problems on Main Street were caused by parking concerns and asked where she could park in her own neighborhood. She wanted to know where the promised cameras for the parking lots were, and added, "I feel like I'm going to be a prisoner in my home at night". She has to walk everywhere because there is "no parking for my building." Bramson answered that the zoning code parking requirements are now one parking space per apartment in downtown New Rochelle.

When Mayor Bramson was asked about the Westhab apartments on Clinton Place, he answered that "car ownership is less frequent in affordable housing." Continuing, he claimed that the problem is that many older complexes were built when parking was less rigorous and he felt the parking problem was largely associated with "older homes." The Albanese development proposal for the Church-Division Prospect area would eliminate a lot of parking, and this developer must introduce more parking at "alternative sites." Development should be beneficial for everyone in Bramson's view.

This was followed by resident Vincent Malfetano's comments that three taxing authorities in New Rochelle were not efficient. The Library Tax in his view should be eliminated and services should be privatized. He then related that men were smoking "pot" on his street and felt there was a need to change loitering laws. Malfetano continued, "I'm being driven out of my home," He also said that the building and overbuilding is occurring south of Eastchester Road so that "North End taxes can stay low."

Mayor Bramson answered that it is a "perception of crime" and residents should call the police who should respond. Adding, the "crime rate is at its lowest level in fifty years" and New Rochelle is the fourth or fifth lowest of fifty of the largest cities. With a population of 70,000 most crime is in the southern section of the City. High taxes were attributed to both School Taxes and State policies.

Accompanied by nine neighbors from Clinton Place, Patricia Zaffo spoke about the "filth" of nearby streets. In the last two months she stated 22 people have moved out of the Avalon Building. Her Board of Directors for Clinton Place had found the previous Church-Division development proposal "absurd", especially since it cut Clinton Place in half. Presently people in Westhab park their cars on the sidewalk day and night and when police are called they, the police, just tell the car owners to move and don't issue tickets. In answer Bramson said he will follow up with the police.

Addressing tax issues, Mayor Bramson felt New Rochelle had a "different tax structure" than other communities. He felt the City needed increased aid from Albany. Bramson spoke also about the proposed Main Street-Echo Bay development.

As the meeting was drawing to a close, another resident, Diane Moore, summed up the feelings of many who attended. She stressed the density of population in the southern part of New Rochelle and how this increased population has impacted our environment: garbage, noise, busing and public safety. "Our quality of life has been reduced severely by this increase in population." She added: "We are over-saturated. Build the buildings in another location. We have had enough."

[In the December 2 issue of the Westchester Guardian]

Commenting on this Blog entry is closed.

FedUpinNewRo on Mon, 12/06/2010 - 08:18
Title: Then what?

New Rochelle is a city with an identity crisis. We have a transient element in the north end paying premium taxes, merely to use our schools, and a geriatric generation pining for the days of street cars and nickelodeons.

When these informational meetings take place, residents want to complain about the more trivial, or quality of life issues. With expansion comes issues, but the idea going forward is sustainable growth.

Meanwhile the real issues we face are the ones in disguise. Our civil service is beyond skeletal. And being that this is an election year for mayor and concil, they once again use a bare boned budget that is effectively Russian Roulette, in hopes of political gain with another four years in office.

The city should raise taxes. They should pressure the school board to do more with less. To mention the excess in the highest percentage of our property taxes would take up to much time.

We need manpower. More police, and crime will decrease. The cited statistics are skewed, and Ms Godfrey could likely delve into the "reality" of those stats.

Fire protection is virtually non existent. Think about the studies done before the vertical comstruction. The city expanded the department to a level still shy of the reccomendation, and now due to the economy they have scaled back and threaten more cuts. Is one citizens life in a fire worth this risk? Again the big picture is incumbency preservation.

DPW is a joke. Under staffed, corrupt and inefficient. Lazy would be an operative word, but that is only half of the issue. The other half is under staffing and zero oversight.

Maybe the commissioners can be fused together. Streamline the perks. Do we need an assistant city manager, when the actual city manager is impotent because our mayor acts as a full time official? What about staff positions in city hall created when excess existed? Non essential spots that can be mothballed so that the community can be safely maintained. City Hall needs oversight, stop cutting the essentials all for selfish reasons.

Robert Cox's picture
Robert Cox on Mon, 12/06/2010 - 11:35
Title: well put

Without agreeing with one of your basic premises -- raising taxes will solve the problem -- this is as well expressed an argument as I have heard.

You know of what you speak when you say that residents use informational meetings with City officials to complain about trivial issues. That is very true and very frustrating. It is, in part, a reflection of narrow-mindedness but also a lack of good information. Very few people who live in New Rochelle pay attention to what goes on here unless it bites them in the face and then all of a sudden they "get religion" and are extremely vocal -- and once their particular issue goes away they move on. At the same time, our governments (plural) here in New Rochelle are not particularly aggressive in informing the public on issues. Of particular concern is the Board of Education which makes the least possible effort to inform the public of substantive issues and yet account for two-thirds of the taxes. If you are looking for corruption, inefficiencies and lack of oversight you need look no further than the BoE. Want a good example, come to the next BoE meeting tomorrow night at City Hall and watch as they attempt to ram through an illegal resolution to give an ex-cop a job for which he is not eligible -- just one of many such people getting such jobs.

FedUpinNewRo on Wed, 12/08/2010 - 08:31
Title: Opaque

The title of my response best describes local government. There is no transparency, and to make matters worse, the BOE meets with the lights off as well.
It is common not to be critical of schools, particularly with funding "our children.". The kids become the protective veil that educrats hide behind. They chip away at the minions, teachers and support staff, and pad administrator level salaries. The bureaucracy that exists in the BOE, particularly within the admin at city hall headquarters is unfathomable.

My tax hike is only that on the surface. The city portion is beyond lean in contrast with the school boards. If the whole city was run more efficiently them Bramson and co could raise the line, expand services or rather essential services back to a realistic and safe level, while the schools could manage within a more reasonable set of numbers. Consider that csd nr offers pre-kindergarten. Fabulous right? Yes but only for those fortunate enough to be chosen in a limited lottery. An easy example of a program to throw into the trash bin.

Elected officials on the pay roll, ie city council will not touch the issues that drain us. It would be political suicide to be branded "anti-education.". But consider the measures taken by Yonkers and NYC to improve and consolidate education into a more fiscally sound body. Can't our Harvard educated mayor, and other members of council see what really is limiting the citys ability to function?

One day we will see another flood, or a massive fire. If that day comes I hope the city forces are at more than a functioning level. Now they are depleted, skeletal and in harms way. So are all of the residents here.

admin on Wed, 12/08/2010 - 12:06

Just to be clear for all the bragging on how great the New Rochelle school system is -- bragging by self-appointed cheerleaders, self-interested real estate agents and school board employees, board members and apparatchiks.

New Rochelle has one of the lowest on-time graduation rates in Westchester County (37th out of 39).

New Rochelle has, by far, the most unsanitary school cafeterias in Westchester County (39th out of 39)

New Rochelle has two schools which, if the true data was reported, has two of the most dangerous schools in Westchester County (NRHS, IEYMS).

As far as transparency, things have become slightly better since 2008 when I first began to regularly attend Board of Education meetings -- most of the changes brought about either by my prodding (digitally recording the audio of all meetings in mp3 format to create easily FOILable accounts of the meetings, video taping of every meeting, putting more information on the web site and others). But this is a matter of moving the district from the Stone Age to the Bronze Age.

The district continues to violate the Open Meeting Law -- as they clearly did last night. They went into Executive Session last night at 6 PM to discuss an appeal by a student but came out of the meeting at 7 PM with a decision to pull a controversial resolution (11-183) to seek a 211 waiver for Rolk Koehler. How did that happen? Obviously, they used the executive session to discuss Resolution 11-183.

The BoE always has some excuse and they would likely argue that since 11-183 is about seeking a waiver for a particular employee then it is a "personnel matter" and thus can be discussed in executive session. The discussion was about a PUBLIC resolution to seek a PUBLIC 211 waiver form the PUBLIC NYS Civil Service Commission for a PUBLICLY posted job opening so this is all baloney.

What is not in dispute is that they made a motion to go into executive session to discuss a student appeal. The law states that the body must state the reason for going into executive session and then can only discuss that topic and nothing else. This is standard operating procedure for the BoE -- to go into executive session under some pretext as a way to have a closed-door meeting on a PUBLIC topic that they did not want to discuss in public.

What should happen is that board members should object and insist that the BoE come out of executive session before moving onto topics not disclosed when the board when into executive session. I have never seen that happen.

The main person filing FOIL requests with them is me and they have routinely, illegally withheld public records from me and for the past 18 months will not fulfill any FOIL requests from me. This because for six month prior to that they ignored my requests then illegally lumped them all together after I appealed and cc'd Albany and then made up an invoice attempting to charge me for hundreds of dollars for records that were required to be provided at no charge. Since I refuse to pay the money they have argued that they are not obligated to every fulfill a FOIL request from me until I pay the roughly $300. When I asked for them to provide an itemized breakdown of the cost they declined.

For this reason along -- violating the Open Meeting Law and FOIL -- I can say that the school district is a criminal enterprise with an educational mission. Of course, anyone who reads this site can tell you that the criminality in the district runs far deeper.

southside man on Wed, 12/08/2010 - 13:59

Sure let's keep raising taxes so the land lords keep raising comm and residental rents, to keep up with the taxes. They have almost trippled in the last 12 years . How much can you charge for 2-3-4 bedrooms .

How much per square foot can you charge.
Keep raising your taxes and watch New Rochelle main street turn into a graveyard... AGAIN!

We need development to off set taxes for us .

Yea, Yea, I know it is a double edge sword.

We need to attract developers to this town ,but at the same time be smart about how and where we develope first,

FedUpinNewRo on Wed, 12/08/2010 - 18:45

The mayor and council are ALWAYS blamed for high taxes in the city. And although they play the political game, and govern from self interest, they have maintained an affordable and limited budget. This looks good when they seek reelection, but the reality is that we the people are under-served.

When the library was cut loose years ago this was the reason. The city could keep their bill minimal by creating a bogus entity with tax levying ability.

The out of control monster, that operates at a significantly inflated budget, that makes poor decisions in all facets of it's administration is the board of Ed.

My proposal was just a reproportioning of the proverbial pie. Keep the schools in check so that the city can get the funds they, no WE need to maintain a safe and productive city. Clearly the services that the city provides are tremendous. The schools take advantage of many of them as well. But reality is the city is underfunded, understaffed (over staffed as well but this is a separate issue), and egregiously mismanaged.

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