In the March 28, 2014 issue of Soundview Rising
The City of New Rochelle has struggled with development proposals in recent years, especially when necessary tax abatements for up to 30 years are considered. Certainly, the plans presented by Forest City Residential for Echo Bay are pertinent examples of a proposal and changes made over time that caused an increasing number of residents to understand how his plan would be costly for the taxpayers. All New Rochelle council members with the exception of Mayor Bramson did not support Forest City Residential's downsized plan.
The opposition by a group called the United Citizens for a Better New Rochelle was the final straw that broke the camel's back. Following the refusal last month by council to support the Forest City Residential plan, at this month's meeting of city council when Development Commissioner Luiz Aragon urged the council to quickly pass a proposal in the hopes that an $1.5 million waterfront grant could be lost, many residents were skeptical about this rushed plan.
This $1.5 million grant from the Empire State Development Corporation in 2012 would according to Aragon, expedite clean-up efforts, especially at the city yard site.
So council's vote at the March 18, 2014 meeting to allow a developer who had submitted a plan before the original RFP (request for proposals) for Echo Bay was approved for Forest City Residential's plan was viewed with curiosity by residents. The previous runner-up when the RFP was offered was the Twining Company \
So this proposal and the four Armory competition winners will be eligible to resubmit a proposal. But is the New Rochelle city council beginning to sound like a broken record when the Echo Bay development is discussed?
Aragon also wanted to limit the new proposals for Echo Bay to New Rochelle's municipally owned properties: city yard, Mancuso Marina, Nelstad, armory, and former Con Edison substation. How did council members react?
Councilman Barry Fertel commented he felt in the past developers had been given carte blanche. City Manager Chuck Strome felt any proposed developments should not be limited but agreed to this two month resubmission process. Councilman Al Tarantino expressed concern over the "large drop off" from several of the designated properties because the lower properties presented a "challenge." Councilman Jared Rice questioned the feasibility of this procedure and wanted to know how the armory finalists and Twining had been checked previously.
Aragon suggested that all the proposals need changes but only minor changes would be allowed unless a new RFP was approved. Rice wanted the process to "start off on the right foot, and not to be a repeat of the previous unsuccessful process. He did not want to city to look desperate.
Strome replied there are "options," one is starting over and the other is within two months to try to preserve the $1.5 million grant.
However, Rice persisted he did not want to "waste people's time." The approval vote was taken following all this discussion,