WestchesterGuardian.com, March 14, 2013
With so many promises and possibilities about so many initiatives it was hard to decipher the true state of New Rochelle. Mayor Noam Bramson on February 28, 2013 at the Davenport Club rightfully praised the many accomplishments of New Rochelle residents, particularly the youth. 95% of the high school graduates went onto "post secondary" education and the schools sent "more grads to the Ivy League than any other district in Westchester." Ray Rice, a graduate, went to Super bowl fame. The High School football team this year won the state championship, and the cheerleading squad won the national championship. Yes, there is a lot to be proud of in New Rochelle and Mayor Bramson outlined his course of action for the future while the New Rochelle Police Department officers who have not had a contract for four years demonstrated outside this Chamber of Commerce dinner. The first priority was the need to improve the financial condition of the City. Blaming the recession and state mandated costs, he stated the City administrators and Council made efforts to cut "expenditures and improve efficiency." Referring to reducing energy costs and and refinancing debt, he claimed the City has saved "millions." This allowed New Rochelle to have "the lowest tax rate in the region." Further, his plans include collaboration with municipalities "to reduce unit costs."
While Bramson praised the Governor's leadership on controlling costs, he suggested the state "distribute" costs "more fairly" to give relief to taxpayers. His optimistic future plans stressed the development of Echo Bay which he stated will provide "housing and shops... consistent with the character and scale of their surroundings."
Referring to the Sun Belt as the "population engine of our country," he predicted the northeast is now built for growth "because we have water, mass transit and human and cultural energy." A few months ago Forbes said New York was the number one state to lose population. Curiously, Bramson said he was taking the lead on "land use, development preservation and climate adjustment." This was amplified with comments about the Comprehensive Plan which will be aided by the same people who worked on the Davids Island plan. It should be noted here that federal funds were used to clean up Davids Island, and when Bramson was a member of the Council they voted (with no public input) to allow the government to demolish every building on the Island.
The housing option Bramson is promoting include "accelerating efforts to encourage growth in our transit district." This is also contrary to reports of new census estimates released March 5 showing people are working closer to their homes. Commuting from Westchester to Manhattan or the Bronx increased a small amount since 2000. But commuters from Dutchess to Manhattan increased as did reverse commuting from the Bronx and Queens.
Bramson did not mention the lawsuit filed by Steve Mayo against the garbage fee. A judge the day before this address had refused to dismiss the lawsuit and asked the City to justify this refuse fee which brings in more money than is needed to collect the garbage.
Similarly the Echo Bay development proposal will enact a heavy toll on the City's finances, first because $25 million must be borrowed to move the City Yard, and second, because Forest City Residential's Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) currently under review lists significant tax breaks for the developer. The Democratic Council members, including Bramson, several months ago had given Good Profit the designation to develop the Armory, but the company after many months did not produce the needed $50,000 deposit.
Downtown high rise buildings which Bramson voted for have not resulted in increased sales tax revenue for the City. Rather these buildings have created the need for additional city services in downtown. The Police Department now has many fewer officers. Bramson delivered his State of the City address with eloquence and pride, but residents would appreciate a more balanced picture of their City.
Peggy Godfrey is a free lance writer and former educator
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