New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson pushed through a party line 5-2 City Council vote to deny Veterans and other New Rochelle residents an opportunity to develop a performing arts center at the New Rochelle Naval Armory. Instead, Bramson awarded the rights to develop the property to a group planning to turn the facility into a combination fruit stand/restaurant. One member of the group selected by Bramson has close personal ties to the Mayor's wife, Katie Bramson.
The fruit stand/restaurant plan includes re-activating the dormant Nelstadt Concrete property as a truck depot for off-loading produce before sunrise 7 days a week, something that is sure to please residents of the neighboring Sutton Manor Association.
Ron Tocci, a veteran and former New York State Assemblyman, vowed to fight the Bramson-backed Good Profit group "tooth and nail".
The Democrats who voted for the Good Profit proposal failed to address two central legal issues: (1) how the City Council expects to get a Home Rule bill approved when every state official elected from New Rochelle came out against a Home Rule bill for the Armory proposed in 2010 including George Latimer, the State Assemblyman who sponsored the 2010 Home Rule bill in the first place; (2) how the City will withstand an expected legal challenge on the grounds that converting the property over to for-profit, private enterprise would be a clear violation of the terms of the original deed transfer under which the City acquired the former New York Militia Naval Armory in 1997.
From a marking perspective, the Good Profit company can expect its facility to be shunned by South End residents, Westchester County veterans and many others offended by the high-handed tactics employed by the Mayor.
Perhaps the most unlikely vote came from Ivar Hyden who, for years, served on the New Rochelle Municipal Arts Council and has been active in promoting the arts in New Rochelle. Hyden voted against a plan to bring a brand new $24 million performing arts center to New Rochelle, a plan supported by the New Rochelle Opera, and instead took his marching orders from Noam Bramson to approve a plan to build a fruit stand and restaurant in a community rife with both.
Hyden refused an invitation to view a presentation on Tuesday night at City Hall by a leading architectural firm engaged by the veterans.
Jared Rice, who once pledged to bring a much-needed grocery store into the area around Lincoln Avenue in the heart of District 3, instead voted to bring an organic produce market to District 2. It remains to be seen how many of Rice's constituents are prepared to get in a car and drive across town to pay $14.00 for a locally-grown, urban-organic, free-range radish.
I am going to declare here and now, for the record, that the idea of a fruit stand/restaurant where the "fun" of the dining experience is that you first go shopping for the ingredients that you then give to a kitchen worker to chop up and cook will be wildly popular among a small group of "foodies" (like Noam Bramson) for about 5 minutes. And once the fad of harvest your own salad ends, what then?
Let me be the first to pledge here and now that I will never patronize this so-called "Good Profit" facility or any other that does not have the unequivocal support of the New Rochelle residents who have fought for more than 10 years to preserve the Armory, much of that in the face of Noam Bramson's burning desire to level the building.
Let the boycott begin!