The announcement yesterday that the Save Our Armory Committee and ShoP Architects were allowed back into the Waterfront Gateway Design Competition came as a pleasant surprise to many in New Rochelle who have long supported the Veterans and their Plan to re-purpose the Armory for a Veterans Memorial and Performing arts community center .
After News 12 covered Wednesdays meeting at the American Legion and ran the story that the vets had been eliminated in the first phase, Ronald Tocci of the Save Our Armory Committee received a phone call the next day from development Commissioner Luiz Aragon notifying them that a contestant had dropped out and they had been moved up into the number 12 slot to move on to phase 2. Since Wednesday night News 12 has done three reports on the Veterans and their fight to save the Armory.
I spoke with Mr. Tocci to ask him why he thinks the city and the competition jury is reconsidering their proposal, he said “I have no doubt that this decision was in result of the intense public outcry and pressure that was placed on the city by citizens and the media.” The news that they had been eliminated prompted many citizens including myself to investigate what many viewed as a veiled and secretive process that raised many questions on how transparently the competition was being conducted.
Also worth noting is that the initial News 12 report had featured Mayor Noam Bramson who is currently running for County Executive. However, Bramson was not available for comment at the time of that report. When asked how he felt about the decision Mr. Tocci said that they were very pleased by it and that “ We look forward to working with Commissioner Aragon and the jury and hope that they and the City Council will see that ours is the only viable plan on the table.”
Mr. Tocci and a Member of the ShoP Architect team were given a tour of the Armory site this afternoon with their fellow competitors and Commissioner Aragon. When I asked Ron if he got to meet the other participants he said yes but they were not able to ask who they were in order to keep in line with the blind selection process. When I asked him how many fellow contestants showed up out of the 12 teams selected he said about 4 and he mentioned that they all looked to be college age probably varying from early to late 20’s.
Mr. Tocci also noted that the Armory was in even worse condition than the last time he had seen it a couple of years back. He mentioned that there were several new holes in the roof and that water was everywhere. It appears as though hurricane Irene and most recently Sandy has further worsened the condition of the Armory’s interior and its roof. He believes that there will be major problems if the city allows the Armory to go another winter without doing something to fix some of these conditions.
This turn of events is rather fortunate for the Save Our Armory Committee. Ron expressed that the veterans were grateful to the citizens of New Rochelle that have supported them throughout this journey that spans over a decade. Citizens would not be wrong to still have questions about the competition and how it has been conducted. Below is a timeline of major events that clearly indicates that something smells fishy and it’s not the Echo Bay mudflats
June 20th – The City of New Rochelle Publicly announces the opening of the Waterfront Gateway Redesign Competition in conjunction with ArchPaper.
August 5th - Submission Deadline.
August 9th- Announcement date passes without a public announcement of Phase 1 Winners as indicated on Competition Website.
August 22nd – SOA Committee is notified that they had been placed back in the competition.