SHOCKER: Iona College Planning Committee Stacked with Friends of Noam

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IonaCollegeLogoThe City of New Rochelle announced this week the members of the Iona College planning committee. The announcement comes less than a month after the City announced its "planning framework" for student housing under which a committee would be selected in September but would not issue any public statements until February 2012, well after the upcoming City Council election on November 8th, 2011.

In early September, the City of New Rochelle announced its intention to create a committee consisting of 12 voting members and 3 voting members where City Manager Charles B. Strome picks 7 voting members and Iona College President Joseph E. Nyre picks 5 voting members. The 3 non-voting members including a Chairperson selected by the City Manager and City Council Members from District Three (Jared Rice-D)and Five (Barry Fertel-D).

Final recommendations of the Committee will require the approval of two-thirds (8) of its voting members.

Mayor Noam Bramson is the de facto head of the Democratic party in New Rochelle and controls the City Council. The City Manager serves at the pleasure of the City Council. Department heads serve at the pleasure of the City Manager. In other words, Noam Bramson effectively controls all three non-voting members including the Chairperson who sets the discussion agenda for all meetings and controls the two voting members who are municipal employees and the five voting members from the neighborhood associations.

The City Council consists of 4 Democrats and 3 Republicans but no Republicans from the City Council are on the committee.

President Nyre controls the 5 voting members from Iona College.

A search of public records shows that of the 5 voting members appointed by the City Manager as neighborhood representatives, the lone Republican, Robert Kelly (Beechmont Neighborhood Association), is a Bramson donor who has contributed $750 to the Mayor over the past 5 years.

The rest are Democrats or not registered with a party; the two Democrats are also Bramson donors.

Madeleine Peters (Greater Mount Joy Neighborhood Association) is a Democrat and Bramson donor who contributed $400 to the Mayor over the past 5 years.

Sara Dodds-Brown (Rochelle Heights Neighborhood Association) is a Democrat and Bramson donor who contributed $1,050 to the Mayor over the past 5 years.

Nick Williams (Halcyon Park Neighborhood Association) is not registered with a political party or listed as a Bramson donor.

Naomi Towers (Mount Joy Neighborhood Association) is not listed as a registered voter or listed as a Bramson donor in records reviewed by Talk of the Sound. If readers have information which might explain why she does not appear to be a registered voter in New Rochelle please let us know in the comments below (perhaps she uses another name?)

Noticeably absent from the Committee are two of the most vocal critics of the Iona Dorm proposal for Mayflower Avenue: Greg Varian and Bob McCaffrey. The first precondition for membership on the committee was to agree to "accept and not debate the goal or necessity of securing additional student housing."

Given that the Mayor controls a block of 7 votes on the committee and the chairperson and the 2 non-voting members and President Nyre controls a block of 5 that can prevent the Mayor from achieving the required two-thirds majority the entire exercise will likely come down to Mayor Bramson (assuming he is re-elected in November) and President Nyre negotiating a deal and instructing their block to vote for it -- once again creating the illusion of community input in New Rochelle while a few key figures engage in kitchen table negotiations to decide the fate of the City out of public view.

If Bramson and Nyre are not able to reach agreement, then Nyre will be free to simply proceed "by right" to build the dorm. This would occur after the 2011 election which suits Bramson's interest to take the issue of the table going into the November election contest.

The City's ability to threaten Iona College over its ongoing code violations diminishes with each passing day as they are tacitly accepting the higher occupancy rates in the existing three dorms. The longer the City fails to enforce the municipal code despite knowing of the violations the less likely the City will be to prevail if the matter goes to court.

The attempt to link the legal occupancy rates to New York State Dormitory Authority’s College and University Residence Hall Design Guidelines and/or relevant State building codes is a red-herring. Talk of the Sound recently confirmed there has been no communication between the New York State Dormitory Authority and Iona College since January 1, 2009. The New York State Dormitory Authority made clear in its response to a Freedom of Information request by Talk of the Sound that there is no reason for the State to have been involved in any way with any of the existing or planned Iona College dorms:

The Dormitory Authority searched its files for records that would satisfy your request and has determined that this is not a Dormitory Authority construction project. Iona is a private not-for-profit college and we would not have provided any construction services.

If Mayor Bramson, City Manager Strome, President Nyre and those involved in this committee want to keep holding up the New York State Dormitory Authority as a source of "guidance" on building codes for dormitories perhaps they should first demonstrate that they have been in communication with the New York State Dormitory Authority recently, know what the "College and University Residence Hall Design Guidelines" say, how that applies to Iona College, why it is relevant for dorms already constructed and what applying these new standards to Iona College will mean for the College of New Rochelle, Monroe College or any other post-secondary institution which may operate own or operate dorms in New Rochelle.

ADDITIONAL:

New York State Election Contribution filings for Neighborhood Representatives selected for Iona Dorm Committee.

Sara Dodds / 60 The Boulevard & 11 Slocum Street
9/17/06 $500
9/30/07 250
11/14/09 300
Total $1,050

Bob Kelly (Robert H.) / 96 Pryer Terrace
9/25/06 $500
11/1/07 250
Total $750

Madeline Peters / 112 Chauncey Avenue
8/25/06 $400

Commenting on this Blog entry is closed.

letsbefair on Fri, 10/07/2011 - 03:29

It is important to watch contributions and see who is who on these boards but it is also important to realize that we are looking at people willing to dedicate a ton of time to an issue of city governance. I would expect that this would be the same demographic of people who are most likely to make political contributions to local candidates and in a heavily democratic city, those donations would most likely be to the democratic mayor.

It may be that even when you regress for these facts, the board has disproportional number of Bramson contributors but it's worth noting that you are unlikely to end up with a completely representational board in these cases.

Bob McCaffrey on Thu, 10/06/2011 - 18:22

Bob,
With regard to our association member selection for the committee, Noam did communicate with us about the role that one of our members would play on the committee. Naomi was a good choice,approved by all and is a registered voter. I chose to step back from the committee. That way I would have the flexibility to stay active in monitoring the process. I could speak up when necessary and support any viable ideas that are generated by the process. Try to keep the politics out of it. Going forward we will see what direction the committee goes. Iona College would still need to go before council with any new or revised proposals. The DEIS process would begin again from the start while possibly using some of the DEIS Data already submitted to prevent duplication of time and expense.

Once again, here is the direction we felt the council would most likely have voted if the proposal wasn’t dropped. These may not be fact but are the feedback and feeling we were getting at the time. This will give you an idea of where we think we stood during the dorm proposal process and after holding meetings with several council members.
-Mayor Noam Bramson did not attend these meetings with the district members. He did say that he saved judgment and further comment until the DEIS was complete and council had time to reviewed it.
-District#1 Councilman Lou Trangucci and District#2 Councilman Albert Taritino were both against the proposal. We spoke directly to them but did not meet.

At a meeting on November 13, 2010
-District#6 Council member Marianne Sussman was not in favor of the proposal as presented. The proposed dorm was in District#6 prior to the new districts lines being drawn.
-District#3 Council member Roxie Stowe at the time was not in favor of the proposal.
-District#3 Council member Jarred Rice running for the district seat at the time said he was concerned about the project and would wait for the results of the environmental studies. He would save judgment until the DEIS was complete.

At a meeting on December 22, 2010
- District#5 Councilman Barry Fertel said he is concerned about the project and awaits the results of the environmental studies, particularly with respect to the impacts on parking and city services. He agrees that Iona College should focus on North Avenue south of Hubert Place. However if it came between putting the dorm in district #6 at the time or in his district #5 he would vote in favor of the proposal just to keep it away from their side of North Avenue. After the district lines were re-drawn, this same area is now in the new District #5 which he is running for.
-District#4 Councilman Richard St. Paul said he is concerned about the project and awaits the results of the environmental studies, particularly with respect to the impacts on parking and city services.

We look forward to the new planning process. Hopefully it will bring everyone together and create a better relationship for all. The dorm proposal has been dropped and defeated for now. If we must, we will pick up where we left off. We will have this victory in our favor going forward and more ammo in our belt.

“Common Sense for the Common Good”

Robert Cox's picture
Robert Cox on Thu, 10/06/2011 - 22:39

Thank you providing this information. It is really quite excellent.

Warren Gross on Wed, 10/05/2011 - 19:55

I cannot fathom why this is this way. I really don't give a damn about the individuals and their qualifications. It just appears damning on the surface, something that shows a lack of either plain common sense or something much worse.

I am very troubled and need to shut the hell up and give this a lot of thought. Cox makes a compelling case for undue influence and when added to a something unacceptable project plan, magical "aha" moment by the new president on occupancy, overly controlled bail out procedures if there is dissent, and worse, a refusal to open up the city for this dormitory, I simply have to sit back and unwind.

Yes, it is legal via the Code, but it reinforces the fact that the Code is a sham, or at least, not followed. Strome did not, could not have made these choices per strict logic -- sad to reflect he indicates City representative is he or someone to be named in the future.

The non-voting council persons should vote and it will be clear enough who they are after November.

On top of my disillusionment with Obama and his latest crap about pulling his rubber plant, Susan Rice, from the China and Russia refusal to hold Syria's feet to the fire, this is the most disappointing news I have experience here in quite a while. Obama is a phony -- his reuniting with Israel and comparative loss of large American funds from people -- points out his lack of character and his nation building.

Give me some slack posters, as corny as it sounds to you, I need to prayerfully reflect on what has happened here. Maybe there is an explanation,but if you know me, I don't accept rationalizations. I need to find out whether I misplaced my trust. Nothing I posted in terms of defenses or ideas was on its face wrong in terms of intellectual or actual positions..... this is much much worse, it is transparently stupid and violates the trust of a lot of decent people

Sorry if I am crying in my beer (opened one or two), this one hurts a lot.

NRinfo on Wed, 10/05/2011 - 19:38

Tax, spend & borrow that is the democrats track record for the last twenty years. Oh and let's not forget hand out tax abatements to wealthy developers like handing out candy to children for campaign contributions while NR taxpayers foot the bill. Noam has gotten so desperate and the democratic council candidates are so weak they compiled a strategy to put Noam's name on every campaign sign above the district candidate's name. This should prove to the voting public that all Democratic candidates are Bramson puppets. So if you want the failed development policies of the past to continue vote Democratic but if you believe change and a new direction is absolutely necessary consider other candidates. Thought I would say vote Republican didn't you? There is no way every candidate from one party can be the best choice so review the incumbents record and reach out to new candidates before making your decision who will have New Rochelle's best interest at heart and avoid candidates looking to build a political resume on Noam's coattails.

Robert Cox's picture
Robert Cox on Wed, 10/05/2011 - 21:31

What if you do not like political parties? What if you are registered and want to cross party lines for this election to send a message to our current administration?

Is there any alternative to voting for the two main parties?

Political Forechecker's picture
Political Forec... on Wed, 10/05/2011 - 16:23

All of this while acting the Ceremonial Mayor part whenever the coruption rises above Chuck Stromes Rug and goes direct to the Westchester DA and Full time Mayor when it comes to stacking every deal.
Nothing is a suprise however this is the game when your voting population will vote democratic no matter how bad it is for them you really can not affect change. Bleak outlook how else could someone with such a poor track record continue to control the game. Its Boss Tweed Running the Show.

John Imburgia on Wed, 10/05/2011 - 15:09

Let's recap:

The council districts are rigged to get a democratic majority that favors Noam.

The Iona College committee consists of Noam supporters.

The IDA has Marrianne Sussman--a rubber stamp for Noam.

Attempts are made to silence Bob Cox on WVOX and through the trhreats of lawsuits and violence.

Richard St Paul is attacked and disgraced by the Journal News.

Mmmm.....

Perhaps we should call it Noam Rochelle.

This man obviously wants to comtrol the City the way HE thinks it ought to function. No one has an opinion that matters but him.

Inman on Wed, 10/05/2011 - 22:01

Excellent points John.

However, you might be missing the real endgame here, and then again, maybe not.

Nita Lowey must be a hundred years old by now, I think she started her political life when Disco was king.

How long must Noam hold her handbag for that 18th district seat in D.C.?

Just as long as it takes to put an A+ resume together.

Development, development, development.

John Imburgia on Thu, 10/06/2011 - 00:25

That is it exactly! I love the way you say it--holding Nita's handbag. BTW, I think Nita Lowey is only 95.

Fifth Ave Guy on Wed, 10/05/2011 - 16:18

Does Noam have the votes to override the tax cap? Next years city budget has to comply with the tax cap.

My math says its 4-3 Democrats to Republicans on the city council or 57% to 43% and thereby Noam does not have the magical 60% needed to override the tax cap.

After the state denied Noam a utility tax and knowing the city used it's money from the sale of Avalon (a 1 shot infusion) along with borrowing from the state to pay its pension obligations to balance last years budget, 1 has to wonder how is the 2012 budget going to get balanced and have the tax increase stay under 2.0%? I certainly hope Trangucci, Tarantino & St. Paul stick together on this. It’s our only hope.

Maybe Noam’s hoping to get the council back to a 5-2 Democratic advantage & push the budget into next year when he’s got a more favorable city council? Or will he pull an Idoni, bitch like hell at the process of not being able to raise taxes at will and claim the cuts aren’t his problem but then take credit for staying within the tax cap?

And I certainly hope he's not planning to borrow Noam Rochelle out of its quagmire like he did last year.

John Imburgia on Fri, 10/07/2011 - 02:18

During his debate with Richard St Paul, our wonderful Mayor tried to down play the Avalon abatement. Fact is, Noam supported this project which was a financial nightmare and an architectual disgrace. This was not a small mistake that someone can just make disappear, but one that has had a significant impact on residents for the last 13 years. The lack of revenue generated by these buildings has cost city workers their jobs and led to higher taxes and reduced services for residents.

Echo Bay is well on the way of becoming the next Avalon, with talks of land giveaways, abatements, and a bonded city yard. Since Noam will likely get re-elected now that he trashed St Paul, be prepared for 4 more years of tax increases, service reductions, and lies.

BTW, does Bramson think everyome is stupid? The Fevang case was not isolated--he forgot to mention Procopio and the fired building inspector.