NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- If Luiz Aragon wanted a PR nightmare on his hands, he went about it the right way.
By picking up the phone to call and complain that a New Rochelle homeowner and taxpayer had posted an anodyne observation on Facebook suggesting the City pay more attention to existing residents than developers has set off a chain-reaction that began right here on Talk of the Sound.
In an editorial broadcast earlier today on his radio station, WVOX President William O’Shaughnessy took on RDRXR and New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson over the issue of downtown development citing the reaction of the developer to a social media comment by Denise Ward, a politically-active resident.
O’Shaughnessy pivoted off the incident to accuse RDRXR, the government-appointed master developer for the downtown area, of “running a ‘stealth’ campaign with the eager acquiescence and encouragement of Mayor Bramson” as part of an effort to avoid dialogue with certain members of the New Rochelle community.
O’Shaughnessy called into question the role played by Greg Merchant who he labeled “the self-important commercial realtor who ‘thinks who he is’. He said that Merchant represents himself as exclusive spokesman for RDRXR’s Scott Rechler and Donald Monti and is supported in this by Bramson who tells anyone interested in downtown development that they have got to go through Mr. Merchant.
This is a very serious allegation, suggesting a quid-pro-quo, given Merchant’s past financial support for Bramson’s political campaigns.
O’Shaughnessy has generally shied away from openly criticizing RDRXR and Bramson over downtown development but today’s editorial was not merely a shot across the bow but a cannon blast into the Mayor’s wheelhouse.
The bon vivant media figure saved his most biting criticizing for Merchant.
He said, “there are lots of questions floating around the community. Exactly what is Greg Merchant’s deal in all this? Is he getting paid by Scott Rechler and Donald Monti as their front man? Or is he merely running their stealth campaign to gain the inside track on big commissions and a leg up on future development.”
The trigger for O’Shaughnessy’s explosion of derisive commentary, dripping with disdain and sarcasm, was an Op-Ed by Denise Ward published here on Talk of the Sound in which she made public a phone call with New Rochelle Development Commissioner Luiz Aragon who took issue with a comment Ward had made on the NRFuture.com Facebook page. operated as part of RDRXR’s so-called “crowd-sourced placemaking” efforts. Ward expressed the view that the City should spend more time working to help current residents and linked a CBS2News article on pothole repair issues in New Rochelle.
Ward’s Op-Ed and the NRFuture reaction to it was picked up by Journal News columnist and WVOX radio host Phil Reisman in a recent column which O’Shaughnessy cited in his editorial.
Reisman characterized NRFuture as “a public relations arm of Big Development” and an “ally of the city’s elected leaders who are sworn to uphold the principles of the Constitution.”
At issue was a new policy, apparently put in place in response to Ward’s comment, that no questioning, doubt or criticism would be permitted on the Facebook page.
The Facebook page is administered by Ashley Aldrich, hired by Greg Merchant, according to O’Shaughnessy, who he described as “a well-intentioned young woman” who is a “front for RDRXR”.
In a policy change made shortly after Ward’s Op-Ed was published on Talk of the Sound, Aldrich announced that NRFuture wanted only conversation that “constructively supports the future of downtown New Rochelle”, threatening to “remove posts that create an ‘unpleasant’ or ‘hostile’ environment and ban ‘uninvited’ and ‘negative’ verbal conduct.
O’Shaughnessy denounced “RDRXR and their deputies who are discouraging anyone who would disagree with them” and accused RDRXR of avoiding dialogue in forums they cannot control (like WVOX).
Read the entire Editorial here.