As the New Rochelle City Council ponders the fate of evening free parking in its downtown lots, Mayor Noam Bramson in his State of the City Address (3/11) claims this same downtown is no longer in decline. (The lots are presently being used at night by residents of the new high rise constructions in downtown who do not rent parking spaces in their buildings). Giving density bonuses and financial incentives in Bramson's view created a "far stronger and healthier City." But the examples he used, the previous empty lots and "a crumbling garage," were far from convincing. Wouldn't those empty lots be prized possessions today to add parking for the residents of the high rise Avalon buildings? Many would argue that the "crumbling garage" was rebuilt to satisfy the density bonuses and financial incentives for one developer at New Roc, and then later at the Trump Tower.
Bramson and most of the Council approved the proposed LeCount Square environmental report several years ago, but now Bramson claims that this project needs to be scaled back to accommodate the United States Post Office. Similarly support for a smaller Echo Bay proposal is suggested. But his development plans did not stop there because several other sites were named such as Garden Street. Then Davids Island was presented as a place ready for a "conceptual plan" incorporating sustainable design and "meaningful public access."
But there are still unanswered questions that were raised at previous environmental hearings and through public discourse including the need to clean up these development sites. How many more city services are needed and how much will they cost? How many children will go to the schools and will overcrowding create the need to build new schools? How much money will be lost on school taxes if more IDA (Industrial Development Agency) PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes) and tax abatements are given to developers? How many more police and firemen will be needed? It is too easy to express belief in New Rochelle when the hard questions about development continue to be ignored.
Mayor Bramson has acknowledged at various times that he is the sole elected official on Council who is elected city-wide. His decisions should reflect the sentiments of the majority of the citizens. In these trying economic times many residents no longer have favorable views on the way the city is being developed. Does Mayor Bramson understand that, for example, parking problems in downtown were mainly attributable to decisions he and other Council members made? Saying Avalon's recent changes were a "bipartisan initiative" is true, but the original approval was made by six Democrats and one Republican. Mayor Bramson was one of the Council members who approved the original 30 year tax abatement or PILOT for these buildings. There are many residents who never agreed with that decision by Council.
One resident, George Imburgia, felt Bramson continues to exaggerate the truth. "Bramson talks about affordable housing but how is this associated with Trump Tower and Avalon, and why did he agree to place a condition on the Legacy Grant to build affordable housing? How is he monitoring the developers, such as the recently constructed Clinton Place apartments, to establish whether they are in compliance with their agreement? Less grandiose plans for Echo Bay and LeCount Square will inevitably result in less tax revenue for the City. Bramson has been counting his chickens before they are hatched and as a result has contributed to the City's poor financial condition."
New Rochelle cannot go back and undo anything downtown that has already been built. The lesson learned is that no part of the City should be overdeveloped. Let's learn from the past and not continue to make the same mistakes in the future. New Rochelle has a rich history that needs to be acknowledged in every decision made.