NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- The New Rochelle City Council will discuss conflicts of interest and transparency of elected and appointed board members in the government of the City of New Rochelle at a board meeting Tuesday, shortly before a public hearing on amendments to the Downtown Overlay Zone where a conflict of interest involving the New Rochelle Planning Board and RDRXR, the City's master developer has arisen.
On March 22, 2016, the New Rochelle Planning Board voted unanimously 7-0 to approve two resolutions pertaining to the Downtown Overlay Zone. Both resolutions directly impact RDRXR. Among those voting for the resolution was board Chairman Doug Hocking.
As previously reported by Talk of the Sound, Hocking failed to disclose in 2015 that Kohn Pedersen Fox, the firm where he is a Principal had an existing business relationship with RXR Realty, the RXR in RDRXR. Hocking also failed to disclose that he was part of a KPF team that did work in New Rochelle at no charge, for RDRXR, in 2015.
Hocking recused himself during a presentation pertaining to RDRXR at a Planning Board meeting in September 2015, his first public disclosure of a conflict of interest involving RDRXR.
Hocking filed a Financial Disclosure form with the New Rochelle Board of Ethics in March 2016 where he disclosed the conflict with RXR Realty but not RDRXR.
Hocking previously told Talk of the Sound that he will recuse himself from any business before the Planning Board that involves RDRXR directly but saw no reason to recuse himself from applications from other developers seeking to building in the Downtown Overlay Zone or that impact the DOZ as a whole.
Resolution 22-2016 was a proposed zoning amendment regarding referrals to architects to evaluate site plans for development applications put before the Planning Board and the schedule of associated fees. The architect is paid by the developer to recommend approval, approval with conditions, or disapproval of any complete site plan or major subdivision application referred to it by the Planning Board with respect to building elevations, facade design, and urban design elements.
Hocking has a potential conflict in that referrals may be made to architects and architectural firms with whom he has a personal and/or professional relationship and an actual conflict in that RDRXR will be required to pay the fees established by the resolution.
Resolution 23-2016 was a proposed zoning amendment regarding affordable housing and payments in lieu of providing affordable housing as part of any planned housing development.
Hocking has an actual conflict of interest here as RDRXR, as the biggest developer in the DOZ, stands to benefit the most from having the option to pay a fee rather than provide affordable housing units in its residential buildings.
Hlocking has a different take on the matter.
"In my view both of these referrals protect the City's interests, helping to ensure that the New Rochelle gets projects that are consistent with the City's values and aspirations," said Hocking. "So as it relates to my conflict of interest with RXR I felt that neither of these referrals triggered the need for my recusal."
The proposed amendments to the Downtown Overlay Zone will be the subject of a Public Hearing on Tuesday, April 12 at 7 p.m. at New Rochelle City Hall.
An agenda item for the New Rochelle City Council Committee of the Whole that immediately preceding the Public Hearing is "Board Transparency", as requested by Council Members Louis Trangucci, Albert Tarantino, and Ivar Hyden.