New Rochelle Board of Education Discussion of Echo Bay Development

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New Rochelle Board of Education Discussion of Echo Bay Development

October 04, 2012 - 00:21

New Rochelle Board of Education Meeting on August 28, 2012. Discussion Item: Echo Bay Development.

In attendance, Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak, Board of Education President Chrisanne Petrone, Board of Education Vice President Deidre Polow, Board of Education Members David Lacher, Jeffrey Hastie, Valerie Orellana, Rachel Relkin, Naomi Brickell, and Mary Jane Reddington.

Unofficial Transcript

ORGANISCIAK: OK. Echo Bay. Who would have ever thought that we would be talking about Echo Bay in the educational part of this building? Echo Bay proposal…uh…we were invited...

PETRONE: Yeah, I was. Richard had reached out to me. I was invited to go to a meeting. I was obviously out of the country as was Dee so I had asked Rachel to kind of go to the meeting on behalf of me and Dee and just gather information so I am sure you can give us update but Rich if you can talk a little about that.

ORGANISCIAK: Sure. To kind of set the scene a bit. About a year and a half ago John and I John Quinn and I were invited to a meeting to discuss a proposal for the building on the I guess the parking lot downtown…I don't know what name it goes by…

PETRONE: Prospect Street.

LACHER: Prospect.

ORGANISCIAK: Prospect OK Prospect. And the conversation was that in the planning of the Prospect Street piece there was an anticipation there would be about three and a half kids or something silly in terms of the total number of students they would have and there was a discussion as to what would be the incremental value that would be ascribed to each child in terms of the district. Needless to say the conversation started at a point that was roughly about $3,500 per kid which was ridiculous. We moved from $3,500 a kid and we gave our numbers which were in the neighborhood of $20-21,000 which is what State Ed department gives us on behalf of the City and for that project from that number the resolution was thirteen five and the reason it was that low was because it was minus certain considerations which the City said we really shouldn't factor in the conversation. That's as you guys know New Rochelle about the size I don't know where the project is if it's on the boards, off the boards, where it is, but Echo Bay surfaced about three months ago you probably know that and one of the elements there was to do an impact statement, _____ an environmental impact statement. As part of that invitation we in the school district were invited to meet with representatives from the builder as well as the City. And so the meeting that we did attend and it was John Quinn, Dr. Rhonda Jones, and Rachel Relkin on the board. We were joined by the Mayor Noam Bramson, the City Manager Chuck Strome, two of the developers, the name escapes me and Michael Weymouth, I believe is the Director of...

LACHER: Freimuth.

ORGANISCIAK: I'm sorry, Freimuth, the Director of Development for the City. And the conversation was pretty much the same thing, what is it that a developer should be charged against the ______ for kids and what we got was a prospective piece that the project in Echo Bay was going to be looking at something like 258 um 285 rentals not purchases but rentals and we learned for the first time that of that number roughly two-thirds would be studio or 1 bedroom and that the remaining quarter to one-third they don't show what the exact number is were in fact going to be two bedroom and so from the prospective of the projections that was done by the developer there was thinking that we would see 22 students come out of that effort or endeavor who were school age attending public school and for those 22 students there was discussion as to what would be acceptable value to be associated

We indicated that the $13,700 500 figure from last year was not acceptable any further.

John Quinn did share with folks that the incremental cost had really been impacted by everything from foundation aid having been frozen and will continue to be frozen plus some of the overhead cost of people having received income salary what have you and our proposed number was in the range of $17,500 to $18,000. There was no decision. There was no discussion. There was surprise. Needless to say but the upshot of the whole conversation was that Mr. Quinn and representatives from the City would have an opportunity to further discuss what would in fact make for a reasonable per capita. And then John had his meeting last week with Howard Ratner and what I will say ______ that is there is no firm number but there are two two opinions. I know some one who is itching maybe jump into the argument is Mr. Lacher but out of respect for all concerned. We are being consulted because it is part of the environmental impact OK It's like being invited to the dance because I have to invite you not because I want to invite you. Needless to say, we intended in the best spirit of cooperation we believe especially with the developer and laid out some of our concerns. We did feel that 22 as a number of kids was kind of low.

RELKIN: It was a spirited conversation.

ORGANISCIAK: It was spirited. Thank you. Thank you very much.

RELKIN: It was a spirited conversation.

ORGANISCIAK: We got spirited and one of the concerns we had was that this projection of 22. I don't pretend to know urban planning. I don't pretend to know the Rutgers scale in determining how many kids. I will defer if your telling me there is such a thing. I just don't think it works. I think our experience is that it just doesn't...

GROUP: Avalon…Avalon…Avalon (crosstalk)

BRICKELL: Yeah, what was the reality with projections and actualities with Avalon?

PETRONE: Way over.

POLOW: …way over.

PETRONE: I think they projected like 3 kids for Avalon or some ridiculous number.

POLOW: It wasn't three.

LACHER: I think it was 56 I think it was 56 for the entire Avalon of 800 residential units and the real number is around a hundred...

PETRONE: …a hundred and something...

LACHER: a hundred and twenty.

POLOW: 110 or 120.

PETRONE: so just double the number.

LACHER: Both buildings.

ORGANISCIAK: The number was about 118.

LACHER: and the projection I think was 56.

POLOW: Right.

ORGANISCIAK: As Ms. Relkin and Dr. Jones will tell you they were very quick to dismiss the Avalon comparison because quote this is high end…

RELKIN: They made the argument...(crosstalk)

LACHER: Poor people have more babies, is that what the developer said?

RELKIN: They made the argument that because there were not going to be three bedroom apartments they would be less likely to be families in there…

PETRONE: You know in this economy it doesn't matter.

RELKIN: (crosstalk) that's what they said the research showed but I had a hard time accepting that…problem...

PETRONE: This is why I wanted to make sure someone was around to go to this meeting to here this first hand because you know I am one of I am very skeptical about the numbers that are coming out this is another yet another project another project that's gone hit impact Trinity and Isaac directly so whether your talking 22, 44, 50 we have a problem. This is a problem so I am glad it is on the agenda now we have to really look at.

RELKIN: There was a discussion about that specifically…I just want to be clear…there were strong concerns about the impact to Trinity. It was very very clear what…(crosstalk)

PETRONE: Wait guys, let Rachel finish because I have a follow up question for Rachel. With regard to that though Rachel did was there any discussion I know you are talking about rezoning or things like that going back to your not only talking about Echo we are talking about the future of Prospect, so we're not we can't, kind of like branch out besides Echo Bay look at what is the other development project on the hill.

RELKIN: One of the issues that came up…you recall from the discussions they want to use a number they would they decided to use for Echo Bay were under development, they want to use, they decide, they decide its seventeen five. If...We don't. We told them what we want. They do not have to accept our number, they can decide whatever.

PETRONE: And let's just go back. Make sure everybody on the board is aware what we are talking about is these are projects that get PILOTs so they wouldn't being pay taxes. So we're trying. They're trying to negotiate...

LACHER: You have to put it in context….

PETRONE: …Right…that's where I'm trying to go. What we're talking about we would A not receive taxes under a PILOT but there trying to put in there now where we've basically said we cannot continue to have his burden of having all these people educating in this area you have to not to stop doing this to the school district and I think that's what we're talking about. We are now talking about any new development coming in you have to make sure you cover the schools for these additional students coming so when we're talking about 17,000 going these numbers I want everyone here aware that we are going from zero in past PILOTs to basically saying we need our student's educations to be funded. If they're coming they have to be funded. Right? Just to kind of bring it back into context. Go ahead. Rache?

RELKIN: Just for a little bit more context. We're an interested party but they're the lead agency…

PETRONE: Exactly.


HASTIE: Who is they?

RELKIN: I'm sorry. The City is.

PETRONE: The City is, right.

RELKIN: So, we can make recommendations…

PETRONE: We have no control over it...

RELKIN: …and they have asked us but ultimately it's their decision.

BRICKELL: So they can decide they do not have to pay school taxes?

PETRONE: Correct. The City can just basically say hey we're going to…crosstalk…So it is very important that I think for any development I'm glad that I know that they have to invite us to the table but I would like them to willingly invite us to the table each time but…

ORGANISCIAK: And value us.

PETRONE: And value us…but what we're saying is but this everyone has to understand is a lot of this kind of issue is really beyond our control. We can only make recommendations and really you know go to bat but when it comes to these things the buck does not stop with us we have the buck stops with us educating these students we don't have a choice we have to educate all students regardless of cost but the issue does fall back down to you know the development and the agreements and so how do we stay involved that and the community stay involved in those discussions but they realize the burden just doesn't get shifted from one it's important that the development covers the educational cost and that they have accurate projections and we don't have these you know you don't want to compare it to Avalon but that is the only actual thing I have a comparison to where it doubled the amount of kids and we did have some stress on our system. Jeffrey?

HASTIE: So now I think it should not only cover the actual cost to educate the kids but since we're pretty much at capacity withthese buildings we should be looking at a number even higher ________
So it is even higher. I think 21,000 which _________ a bare minimum ______ it should be more than that to cover the cost of expanding the buildings.

MERCHANT: And if you did not do that you would have to do some kind of lottery. Having just kids ________

PETRONE: A lot of things are going to come into play.

RELKIN: That issue did come up. We did discuss it.

LACHER: First of all just to go back on the on the structure and the context 'cos I don't think it's as clear what I am really taking a step back to what the whole thing is about on these projects. The assumption is that there will be major property tax abatements of which we know two-thirds is the school district's money that's uh we have the most skin in that game so two-thirds would be school district money so what we are talking back is an add-back right? I'm just trying…

PETRONE: We're talking about capturing our, capturing the cost of the, well we wouldn't get the two-thirds we would normally get but covering the cost of any and all students that are coming out of the development, that's what it sounds like to me.

LACHER: Oh, that's two different things.

PETRONE: That's an add-on.

LACHER: That's actually an important, that's an important distinction because because if they…

PETRONE: Also they are making us whole for the cost of students but not all the extras, not even whole, they are not even making us whole.

LACHER: (crossalk) well first of all because state law requires, the state law because the state law requires and it was changed after Avalon I don't think because of Avalon it was changed up in Albany but the law at the time the Avalon project was done allowed the City or the municipality again it wasn't about New Rochelle it was the state law at the time allowed the municipality to keep all of the PILOT or almost all of it that was collected so we know and we can't go back but just that was the law at that time so that we know that the school district gets there are people in this room that pay more school tax for their own single family homes than the entire Avalon pays in school tax for the entire two buildings and the project but that was the law then and we are not going back to why or how at that time the municipality could keep all of the PILOT money the law was changed after that so that each taxing jurisdiction has to get its proportionate share of the PILOTs whatever they are so that if the school tax is two roughly two-thirds of the total then the school district has to get two-thirds of the total PILOT payment.

PETRONE: So, we're still getting something.

HASTIE: Was that retroactive or was that just to go forward?

LACHER: Well, from when the law changed so it doesn't apply to Avalon, it never went back to Avalon...

PETRONE: It would apply to these two.

LACHER: It would apply to any new projects butI am not clear about and maybe nobody is yet because it is still early and they haven't talked about the PILOT yet is whether this recapture like would we we would still get our two-thirds I mean if they let's say they give a, make up a number if they gave a 60% property tax abatement for 10 years or something you know so then there'd be so two-thirds of that would be ours so it sounds like a recapture it would be like an offset or a carve out from the PILOT maybe would we still get the two-thirds or whatever it is plus more that we don't know…

PETRONE: That's a question we gotta ask.

LACHER: Well that's why I wanted to mention it because it should be something that doesn't sort of gets forgotten and slip through the cracks we start with our two-thirds the law requires to get and then we're going to add back whatever this number is...

PETRONE: Or are they only guaranteeing (crosstalk)…

LACHER: Or are we only going to get this against the two-thirds or whatever is greater.


LACHER: Or whatever…so, that is something we would need.

POLOW: It's 22 kids.

LACHER: Well, so then then there would have to be it seems to me another thing to actually go on actual numbers and that whatever PILOT arrangement they make and we don't know how they will do the PILOT arrangement will it be through the will the City give it directly will they put it over to the IDA and give it or now we have a Local Development Corporation that can give PILOTs that the IDA used to give that doesn't give any more so there are lots of ways for that to be structured.

POLOW: It should be based on the actual number of kids coming out because you can't take a risk again.

PETRONE: Right Jeff.

LACHER: Because if we have to really learn from the experience that we've had and you know I think the being at the meeting being invited to the meeting was a good step. I think Rachel's participation and Rich and Dr. Jones and I think that John I'm sorry that participation at the meeting was you know very important but we have to make sure that we ask all the questions because if we don't ask them I promise you they won't volunteer.

POLOW: I also have another question. How firm are they in terms of studios one bedroom and two bedrooms could that change?


POLOW: Was any discussion made of that.

RELKIN: They just told us what….

POLOW: It's not in final form to City Council. Am I correct?

RELKIN: I don't know.

LACHER: There not at final yet…(crosstalk)…it depends on what the environmental impact statement says.

ORGANISCIAK: Yes. That has come back it has to be analyzed I think.

POLOW: Right. Because my sense is there has been a lot of discussion in the community about the number of studio apartments and what they would eventually used for. If you are talking high-end or are you aiming it at young people. Who are you aiming at? What is it going to be finally used as? What is it going to be finally used at? Know the final project. So I do think we have to very vigilant and very vocal.

REDDINGTON: How far away from are they from presenting his whole thing? Are there any _________ date? Whatever? I mean it's just talk, talk, talk, talk…

PETRONE: Since we now have since we now opened the door to communication on this and hopefully we will continue to be involved in you know the conversation Rich and John as well as myself or another member if I'm not able to attend or Dee in order to keep us keep us all abreast of what's happening because it's very important. Because I know we have our meetings here they have simultaneous meetings happenings downstairs we all have other lives so the board we can't be at every meeting in the community butjust making sure we have the information that we need going forward.

ORGANISCIAK: Let me say I think the developer's eager to get this the developer is eager to this done.


RELKIN: I left pressure.

PETRONE: That's all I hope is that its not lip service.

POLOW: You did a good job of resisting the pressure.


REDDINGTON: The only good thing I can think about is it will improve the beauty of…there was no beauty…so it will change it.

HASTIE: It will get the rich people back in here (laughter).

PETRONE: You know what I need a (inaudible)….you guys are out of control. We're moving on.

REDDINGTON: I didn't finish. I didn't finish.

PETRONE: Wait. Mary Jane's finishing.

REDDINGTON: You think that all these years we have been using that as a kind of dumping place for trucks and all that sort of thing and I really feel that this is going to be a great improvement use that lovely waterfront.

PETRONE: I don't think. I don't think anybody around this table is against development. I think it's a matter of everyone kind of looking at that any development that goes on that we don't have the same experience that we have had in the past whereas we lose 100% of our tax base, we get increased students in our schools and then we're shuffling for money, services and whatever we really have to stay on top of any future _________. I think that is all I'm saying…

RELKIN: meeting, I don't think anybody saying in here that suggests that…anybody would….

POLOW: Just protect our interests.

PETRONE: And it's preliminary, very more item…

There are 9 Comments

Kudos to Ms. Petrone, Ms. Relkin, Superintendent Organisciak, and Asst. Superintendent Quinn for stepping up and defending our schools. This was the Admin and BOE at their finest.

Robert Cox's picture


Having attended this meeting (as you did) and then watched the video about 20 times in order to make the full transcript I am very familiar with who said what.

I am going to have to disagree that there is any indication of Mr. Quinn or Ms. Relkin "stepping up". Quinn had no part in the discussion and Relkin's role was basically to recount what took place at the BoE meeting with Forest City/Ratner.

This is not to dismiss their roles but in my view it lessens the more vital role played by Chrisanne Petrone who was the strongest voice in the room on demanding an end to "unfunded students" coming from the Bramson-Idoni development scheme and in a far quieter way Deidre Polow.

Polow did not say much but she chose her words carefully and delivered them forcefully. She made the most important point -- any future tax abatements should have a PILOT that adjusts "based on the actual number of kids coming out because you can't take a risk again."

The risk she is referring to is a PILOT based on a developer's absurdly low projections. The fact is, New Rochelle should never rely on a developer for anything. Our elected leaders have to commission their own analysis and projections based on reality not some Bramson-induced developer fantasy.

My kudos go to Petrone and Polow on this one but all board members save Orellana and Reddington contributed in a meaningful way.

I might add that Orellana's silence during this discussion was surprising considering that she is the BoE's person on the NRIDA (she replaced Lacher after he was on for about 10 years). It would have been nice to know where she stands on what the rest of the board was discussing considering she was the only person on the school board who also has a role in the municipal government and she may well have a meaningful vote on the matter.

Robert Cox's picture

I am going to leave it Anthony Galletta to explain to readers in detail and with historical context why this 21 minute discussion about the failed Bramson-Idion development scheme is among the most significant political developments in New Rochelle in the past twenty years. Mr. Galletta was the earliest and often only voice making the points made by BoE members at this meeting. To a large extent these board members were channeling Mr. Galletta and he deserves immense credit for providing the intellectual underpinning for the discussion which took place at this board meeting.

For now, I just wanted to let readers digest the video. It can be hard to hear at time and the words are so important that I took the extraordinary step of spending many hours creating a full transcript of the discussion.

In short, what you are watching at this August 28th BoE meeting is a wholesale repudiation of the Bramson-Idoni development scheme predicated on the idea that giving tens of millions of dollars worth of public property to developers and then exempting them from decades worth of taxes worth tens of millions would create massive new tax revenues which would offset the massive costs of the Bramson-Idoni developer giveaways to their cronies.

As the Mayor's citizen budget committee has revealed, the Bramson-Idoni legacy has been to devastate municipal finances, draining our entire reserve fund, causing a credit downgrade to the lowest level in many years and now a $30 million hole in the City's budget over the next three years.

And now we have the school board -- compromised almost entirely of North End Democrats and Bramson Donors -- admitting publicly for the first time that the Bramson-Idoni legacy for our schools has been, to cite Board President Petrone, eliminate 100% of our tax base on the developments while increasing the number of students in our schools and forcing the district to shuffle for money and services.

For those parents who have finally woken up to the reality of severe school over-crowding at schools like Davis, Trinity and Isaac, you need look no further than Mayor Noam Bramson -- 17 years on City Council championing everyone of these developer giveaways.

Few of these victims of the Bramson-Idoni developer boondoggles -- parents facing overcrowded classrooms and cuts in staff and services -- follow what has been going on under the New Rochelle Democrats who have had complete control not just of City Council but of every single sub-division of government including the Development office, the Industrial Development Agency, the Planning Board and Zoning Appeals Board and every ad hoc committee including the recent citizens budget advisory group. The Mayor points to the skyline at the shiny buildings downtown and they marvel at the wonder of it all oblivious to the fact that while the developers have pocketed tens of millions in profits projects like Avalon 1 and Avalon 2 pay not a single penny into the school system while costing the district millions of dollars.

There has been one member of City Council, Louis Trangucci, who consistently opposed sweetheart deals for developers based on funneling hundreds of unfunded students into our public school system. And for those taxpayers out there -- just consider that all those millions in costs with little or no offset in revenue has to be made up somewhere which is why Mayor Bramson has already pushed through double-digit increases in taxes and fees and has created a citizens committee to provide political cover for several years more worth of massive increases in taxes and fees.

now let's see them and everyone else in New Rochelle do something, and throw the bums in City Hall out.

You're right, Bob, 'watch this space' has led to some very nice space to watch indeed. I haven't seen this much truth telling in, well, since forever.

Any chance of getting rid of the Garbage Nazi's sidebar?

Robert Cox's picture

While I appreciate the compliment about truth telling, I have to apply that evenly. I take issue with your Nazi reference. There is a basic rule of online debate -- the first person to make a Hitler/Nazi reference loses.

There is a good reason for that.

If you disagree with someone use the comment section to explain why in a reasoned manner or risk being dismissed. Nazi referenced are the quickest path to not being taken seriously.

to the poster who invented the moniker many, many posts back. It was not mine.

If the posts here are the truth, and I have not seen her dispute them with any further arguments, then I have to assume she is harassing the kids. Therefore, I take issue with the puff piece on the sidebar making her out to be 'saving the world'.

Give me and the other readers some credit.

Robert Cox's picture

You are confusing an Op-Ed by a New Rochelle resident with an article by Talk of the Sound. The article clearly indicates that it is an opinion piece. In any case, if you have comments about her column then post them there and I will respond there. Let's leave these comments to the Echo Bay discussion which is the subject of the above article.

That's laughable, considering your ToraToraTora article had Noam Bramson's face next to a japanese army general of war.

Robert Cox's picture

Not remotely the same thing.

The Tora Tora Tora headline fit with the subject -- an attempt by the Mayor and George Latimer to sneak a home rule bill through the state legislature after lying to Suzi Oppenheimer, Amy Paulin and Jeff Klein that the veterans supported the home rule request regarding the Naval Armory.

A sneak attack? On a naval installation?

In that case, if the shoe fits...

That is not anywhere in the ball park of a "reducto ad hitlerum" arguement.