Webster School Ceiling Collapse Raises Wider Concerns About New Rochelle

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Webster School Ceiling Collapse Raises Wider Concerns About New Rochelle

September 12, 2015 - 17:31
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I attended the New Rochelle Public school system from Elementary school through High School where I gradated in 2001. I look back fondly on my years attending public school in New Rochelle. The diversity in the schools was a major positive and big influence on my life today. I was in classes with children of all races, backgrounds, and religions. I was able to learn from others about the various cultures of my fellow classmates. Being First-generation son of Italian immigrants, I quickly adapted and always felt comfortable with my classmates. We did not see color, we did not see religion, we were all united and learned as a whole.

In Elementary school who could forget the great DARE Program (Drug Abuse Resistance Education). Everyone can remember Detective Danielle visiting classrooms and educating us about the danger of drugs. Who can forget the K-9 brought in we were all aloud to pet. Unfortunately, due to budget constraints this program is no longer offered. This is hard to believe when 65 to 70 percent of our property taxes goes directly to the schools. What bothers me most is the low voter turn out in school board elections. This is our money being used to properly educate these children and prepare them for the real world. We must elect those who have the best interests of our children in mind and not outside or selfish interests.

I was prompted to write this article after the recent ceiling collapse at Webster school.

I ask myself "Who is responsible and how can such a catastrophe happen?”

Our taxes are very high and the money used is not spent wisely. In this city your either "In the Network" or you are not. The few elite and affluent political contributors or, as I say, ”Noam's Money Squad" have controlled this city for ten years now. We have been in the hole the past two decades which is the same amount of time the Mayor, going back to the city council days, has been involved in City decision making. 

With little to no retail we have lost out to other neighboring cities such as Pelham Manor, Yonkers, Port Chester, White Plains, and others. This has cost us millions in lucrative sales tax revenue we so desperately need. How were the other neighboring cities able to survive and brave the recession but New Rochelle could not? The tax abatements at the Avalons and Trump buildings provided minimal retail. A coffee shop and wine store to be exact.  However, the residential skyscrapers not only increased population, it flooded our already over burdened school system with more children. The result was a significant increase in classroom size. Now, I am no Harvard alumnus but even I know the close proximity to the train station would have been valuable land for mega-retail. Drawing in thousands of people a week to take the Metro North to some shopping and walk around downtown and support our local struggling merchants. It would have been a win-win situation. How we needed three residential skyscrapers is beyond absurd, in my opinion.

Suddenly there is an election-year ploy. We are entering an agreement with RDRXR to turn city-owned parking lots into retail space. This sounds very good, on paper.  However,what do these developers ask for in return? Free property and more tax abatements. The developers do not have the best interest of the residents, they are in it for the almighty dollar. The threat of eminent domain was already almost used to move the City Yard to private property off 5th Avenue. How many residents will become displaced and relocated?  If homes are bought out for redevelopment will they get fair market value? The place to build retail would have been at the current site of Avalons and Trump. Just get off the train and shop. 

As most New Rochelleans are aware of the Echo Bay fiasco. When one council member disagreed to move forward, she was scolded in a back room and coerced into changing her vote. This council woman, Shari Rackman, who voted to end the Echo Bay project, has faced retaliation from Mayor Bramson, as Phil Reisman described in his Journal News article. A very popular Democrat in District 6 was challenged and defeated in a Democratic Party primary for daring to think independently from the Mayor. Revenge politics at its peak.

If we ask ourselves as a community who is best fit to handle the biggest transformation in New Rochelle history it cannot be the current Mayor.  Based on the past experience do we really need more council members being persuaded to go along with the Bramson Agenda or face a political whiplashing. 

If anyone is to thank for the great bond rating it is none other than the great work of city manager Chuck Strome. The Mayor on the other hand continues to diminish services such as leaf collection while continuing to raise taxes. The threat of firefighter layoffs, lowest police department staffing in decades, a city that couldn't keep up with the potholes, robo-calls due to not ordering enough salt are all examples of fiscal irresponsibility by the Mayor.

I would like to see 6 Mayoral debates. One in each district, to be videotaped and televised on public access and archived on the city website so residents can view at a time and place of their choosing.