In the March 6, 2014 issue of Westchester Guardian
A continuous stream of probing questions by residents were addressed by Councilman Ivar Hyden (D.) at the New Rochelle Citizens Reform Club. On February 25, 2014, the first issue Hyden discussed was the Forest City Residential project whose Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) had just expired. (Note: Forest City Residential backed out of a two million dollar lawsuit against the City the day after the meeting). Hyden expressed concern about what should be done now in the Echo Bay area. But he was insistent that the City Yard needed to be moved and he questioned how much the residents of New Rochelle were willing to pay for this move.
Almost immediately, Bob Petrucci asked what in the city's history had been the best revenue source and Hyden answered the Home Depot and Costco development. A series of complaints by residents about recent developments in the city followed. However, Hyden insisted, "If you don't do anything, taxes will go up." Petrucci wanted to know what development plans Hyden was promoting at this time. Marino Michelotti followed, adding that the city did not have money to do something, e.g. to move the City Yard. While he did not blame Hyden, Michelotti insisted many tax abatements lasting 20-25 years have been granted by the same political party (Democrats). Echo Bay, he continued, is not Main Street and there are local retail stores "hanging on for dear life." Hyden answered the city's part of the residents' real estate taxes is much smaller than the school taxes (now 67% of the total tax bill), and the lean city budget has no place to be cut. He continued City Hall is "short staffed." In his view there was nothing to cut in the city budget, but he did not think this was the case at the Board of Education and suggested looking "closer" at this group because only 2,500 people voted for the school budget.
Audience members asked to slow down any possible movement on the City Yard. Ron Tocci felt that if a decision to develop the adjacent Armory had been made five years ago the construction would have been completed by now. There is still no memorandum of agreement for the Armory. There are now four finalists with proposals for developing the Armory, Hyden answered. At this point Rosemary Spalin said "Hyden should stop listening to the Mayor." She was answered by Hyden that he had "tried to keep" his word as an independent voice on council.
Toxic waste still plagues the Echo Bay area and the new Commissioner of Development has applied for clean up funds. Turning attention to potential development near the transit center, Hyden felt this could help businesses in the downtown. In his opinion the present condition of the Armory is "a sin." His decision to run for council was influenced by his personal analysis that he could do a better job of representing the people who lived in his district. He has "pushed back" on his own party because he does not agree with them on everything. One of his best friends on the council is Republican Al Tarantino. He and Al had gone around the city to identify and report on where city services are needed. Lorraine Pierce wanted to know why commissioners were not going around checking on conditions that needed to be addressed. Hyden countered that the city only had one code enforcement officer. However, Hyden did agree that the commissioners needed to be held accountable to a higher standard of performance.
John Karl added that the proposed transit oriented apartments which Hyden supports, would not pay their fair share of taxes. Hyden agreed a new school would have to be added if more apartments are built. He also expressed concern about tax abatements, saying the city must be careful to only approve projects that produce a profitable revenue stream for the city. In his view the Montefiore Hospital take-over of the local hospital was a positive development for the city.
More recent developments, such as the Trump Tower, were not felt to be a positive influence on downtown businesses by audience members and instead were considered "a huge gamble." Hyden responded he was not an "urban planner" and recounted how the city council had considered a proposed Church-Division Street apartment project but decided not to support it because it was all residential. He concluded that council is much more aware of these development problems now.
The temporary closing of the North Avenue bridge was brought up because it was suggested the Commissioner of Development has not allowed the Traffic Committee to meet. Hyden felt all the ramifications of closing the North Avenue bridge for two years needed to be addressed.
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