New Rochelle, Part Three: Do Yah Know Tom Roach?

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New Rochelle, Part Three: Do Yah Know Tom Roach?

June 11, 2014 - 21:24

One more POST for a friend Not Tom Paine with one final POST to come.


I am Not Tom Paine or even Tom Roach but you know who I am!

Now and then, even in our most ego congested government, comes a man or woman with vision; someone who understands what a community needs to do to reinvent itself or bind its wounds.

We have a good example in Ossining where the current administration has rededicated itself to a repurposed business proposition for its business district knowing that its very survival and the welfare of its citizens required some strong actions. Lacking these, it would simply drift languidly into a decaying pile of urban rot. So, they created a viable community in Ossining built largely around its distinctive advantage; a downtown area with prime real estate, good initial zoning and a population fully in support of a cultural renaissance that would support and ease two major problems; one its property tax portrait and another, a community reaching out for safe, secure sources of culture and entertainment.

No, this is not directly the work of Roach. However, they share much in common. In Roach’s case, he is The Mayor of White Plains, someone who is a strong mayor in fact and by its City Charter. He rolled up his sleeves when elected, understood that he had a diminished commercial brand for both his monolithic Pavilion site; a large retail space of 185,000 square feet as well as his decaying Mamaroneck Avenue location which is quite large in itself (roughly from Bloomingdale Avenue to Main Street). If anything, his issues were substantially more difficult than New Rochelle’s, we are much closer to New York City and Amtrak and have a potential enormous asset in our shoreline and its adjacent spaces.

White Plains prepares for another mall remake
Barbara Livingston Nackman 3:56 p.m. EDT May 23, 2014

This posting was originally meant for identifying and indicating what The New Rochelle City Charter has said about the City Manager and Administration Staff, It still is to a great extent. Yet, I believe that Chuck Strome and his staff have done an admirable job overall especially looking at the constraints they must face daily; both from a lack of respect for the roles, relationships and responsibilities explicit in The New Rochelle City Charter regarding both the role of The Ceremonial Mayor and The City Council. If you read my prior two blogs, you would have seen the language in The City Charter without any editing or omission.

You can read Part One & Two Here:


New Rochelle, Part Two: “an eagle doesn’t catch flies.”

So, why do I reference White Plains Mayor Thomas Roach? Put simply, the days and nights of our City Manager Chuck Strome and his staff would rest easier knowing and understanding the direction and priority base of our Comprehensive Plan both in the short and long term. This would especially impact our Development and Finance functions and we may yet see a City abandoning its cut and paste revenue basis built largely around fee acquisition. In fact, the installation of cameras at specified locations is more of a revenue tool for the City than an aid in fighting crime. Think of the possibilities and restrain the urge to bless this as a way to avoid property tax reassessment and general tax review and revision. Good crime prevention is more the cop on the beat than after the fact photos of dirty deeds.

The Journal News gave a pretty decent look at The City of White Plains renaissance in its May 27th issue. I will abstract out a few relevant points to support the extreme urgency for The City of New Rochelle to open up its collective elected mindset and learn a lot about what Mayor Roach can teach you and that is critical thinking following a rational business approach involving assessment and planning. In White Plains case, it was not a case of selective passage where a number of our Democratic office holders foolishly continue to throw out the baby with the bathwater. This is indefensible and no reasonable person could justify it on any assessment and planning basis. You might think that the Echo Bay solution put that to rest but once more it is returns life an unwelcome infection. It defies all logic and a number of the Council have to accept responsibility for its return based on their “explanation for voting down the Echo bay project. Again my previous blogs cover that and while most likely in most cases, it was a series of defensible positions taken, simple reasoning on the major reasons for turning down the project, it should have been clear that the current rush to Transit Center residential growth as well as proposals for similar ventures around the waterfront, should have educated Council Members to table these foolish notions to something much more appropriate to address urban decline, stagnation, tax and revenue issues, lack of congruence to our existing large residential communities needs and wants, and soon!

Perhaps there is something in the air that negates cause, condition, and effect in New Rochelle. It seems to infect all parties once in office. We have at least a quarter century of history with vacant lots, fleeing large box retailers, the disgraceful competency model followed in the Ikea example, the lamentable issues faced in the New Roc, its adjacent neighborhoods, DPW yards, and more, and a lot more.

Here it is. Ego takes many routes away from reasonable thinking and sound decision making. Do you know what planning breaks down to? Let me help here. It is little more than a condense cause, condition, and effect model.

. Where We Are -- define for yourselves the state of the city and its issues facing all of us today. For example; property taxes, downtown shopping, safety and security in the various sectors of the City, parking, financial management, school district, etc…………….then

. Where Do We Want To Be – so where do we go, what do we fix as soon as possible to address the key questions or issues from “Where We Are” So are we really working on the right issues at the right time? How do we know this?

. How Are WE going to bet there – what must go into our business plan. What will be long term and what short term? Who will handle these projects and so, develop action plans and viable milestones. How will we control and monitor all steps? What is the role of the City Council and each (perhaps it could be more than oversight and policy on several of these projects?

However, in a mature Strategic Planning System we need an Assessment Approach to get at the questions involved with Condition. A good normative model to follow is the SWOT analysis which forces planners to look at Strengths and Weaknesses of the organization (in this case the City itself) and a similar critical look at the Opportunities and Threats facing the City externally – business climate, economy, political climate, social order, and many more. Once identified and discussed in detail, it usually indicates the rational path to follow in developing the Cause and Effect and thus, the actual Strategic Long Range and Short Term Plan.

Thomas Roach did this in The City of White Plains. He had to; his outcomes were too rational, too explicit pointing at his Residential proposition (see Pavilion in the Journal New Article) and his commercial business proposition (see Mamaroneck Avenue in the same article). Perhaps he followed a different but complimentary approach. What is most likely though is that he did not surrender to checkbook diplomacy, her rejected having a solution in search of a problem, he understood his community, and likely threw out a few rogue agents posing as Consultants?

Sometimes you need to be a follower to be a leader. Ask questions about the successes of the towns, villages and cities that surround New Rochelle. Many of them show growth and promise headed into the future which New Rochelle has failed to do for so long. You can see the change and growth is done for the cities and their citizenry, not personal gain and self-promotion.

Last evening, June 10th, a number of proposals were given to us concerning mostly our Waterfront Development with some indications how their proposals would migrate toward building our sadly depleted commercial business district. They were professionally presented and contained a number of useful ideas that illustrate proper waterfront development and not that nonsense submitted by Forest City Ratner concerning Echo Bay.

As your friend and a member of the community we love, each had merits although one stood out as being the one that most understood our community and its needs. This proposal may lack some of the advances in using sustainability preservation technique to preserve what some of us have been saying for a long time. We do not have in parts of our waterfront a pure, clean waterfront suitable for broad recreation. We have a marshland, well worth preserving and similar to our neighbors in Rye and elsewhere. So it is more than fair to criticize those in the Administration who were trying to sell us a bill of goods which suggested something else.

All in all, I prefer the Twining Plan more than the others for some very relevant reasons. They understand mixed use better than the others. A waterfront village idea is most appealing. I do believe that Twining is the one developer that Tocci found to be most open and probably understands that the agreement with New York State as it stands now protects the entire Armory and includes the Annex. The City Attorney should be able to confirm that with little difficulty.

What I really like is that Twining is “community sensitive” as well as treating residents as part of the overall planning process. The development of a waterfront village with a mixed used concept and a potential follow up planning approach to migrate commercial development up to the Main Street corridor, will reify the best of what assessment and planning means. They understand community planning and development from its most basic, elemental and stakeholder use. I think BID and the Chamber of Commerce will have no difficulty in playing a continual role as will Ron Tocci and his people regarding the Armory. Remember, this group has worked with community members, talked to them, took input and advice from them and I am sure will continue that going forward.

Concerning the Armory, Ron Tocci should be giving the approval to move forward as a subsidiary of the lead developer. However, there is one fundamental weakness in their proposal and I would recommend that it be changed immediately before the Veterans Groups receive approval.

There is absolutely no defensible reason to support the movement of the actual Legion facility over to the Armory. That goes against the grain of every supporter of doing much, much more to address the needs of our young men and women who suffer from multiple tours, a lack of VA and government support, and only recently has the government “acknowledged” the enormity of the problem, the lack of commitment, and there is no defensible moral reason to not provide the necessary commitment to doing our part as a community to play a role in this effort. The paid up Legion Hall should support this in a heartbeat. They can contact, for example, the transitional work being done now by VFW 1 in Denver who are taking a proper look at what they need to do beyond parades, parties, and ceremonies.

At last count, at least 25 youngsters a day are taking their lives because they have not and are not receiving services. Many others are homeless, lacking work, and training, medical and psychological services. Even our Governor recognized this by providing Counties with funding for a position called Peer Specialist who would be trained to direct veterans at services which we are blessed to have available in our City and County. The Armory simply should provide ample space for this Peer Specialist and possibly training rooms. However we can partner that need for space with others such as Post 8, Monroe, even Iona. We have Montefiore, Guidance Center, Monroe locally and many others in the County, foremost the Burke Center for partnering. By the way, the Peer Specialist would be a combat veteran, man or woman, from these areas and there are organizations that would stand by and provide training and other facilitations for the Peer Specialist.

I am positive this would receive overwhelming support from the community as well as from legislators such as Jim Maisano and Amy Paulin. I have little doubt of their commitment. Assemblyman Benedetti who heads up the Veterans Committee who is from the Bronx would bless this.

Habitat for Humanity is another key resource and Jim Killoran has done brilliantly mirroring an approach taking by an important national group called Mission Continues that seeks to stress the idea of continuing to be a citizen that builds a community rather than suffering the terrors of war. Keep in mind 1% of our population served; the rest of us did not this time around. Given these facts, I am certain that Ron Tocci would gladly accept a revised proposal and use additional Armory space for celebrating the history of this valued asset perhaps look at a chapel and museum.

My final blog as Not Tom Paine will give more information on how Mr. Roach and his counterpart in Ossining have turned around their communities. It will say more about Assessment and Planning as well as the lost opportunity of easing this transition by applying the common sense arrangement of doing preliminary work on our Charter, Codes, and the like to make the selected development plan go into stage 1 which is likely a year away at for most, but not the Armory.

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