Carl Sagan, astronomer and philosopher, wrote "You have to know the past to understand the present.”
The recently announced EnvisioNR planning process is intended to create a revised Comprehensive Plan for the City of New Rochelle. To put this effort in context today some history is in order. The EnvisioNR will be a successor to the Revised Comprehensive Plan which was adopted by New Rochelle City Council on July 30, 1996. That revised plan built upon the Master Plan for New Rochelle completed in 1965 which was updated in 1977.
The 1996 Comprehensive Plan was prepared by Saccardi & Schiff, Inc. which worked with a Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee and the New Rochelle Department of Development.
Members of the City Council at the time were Tim Idoni (Mayor) and Rhoda Quash, Noam Bramson, Alex Eodice, Joe Fosina, Ruth Kitchen and Chris Selin. The Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee (COMPAC) consisted of 12 people and included two council members (Kitchen, Eodice) along with a future council member (Marianne Sussman) and a future City Judge (Anthony Carbone). Also on the commitee was Lois Brechner, Jay Kreisberg, Gerard Ragone, Joseph Rossini, Sebastian·Bulfamante, Jacquetta Cole, Teresa Morales and Dr. Jason Silverman. Three of the members of the COMPAC members were members of the Planning Board (not sure which 3, little help here) and the Committee reported its findings to the full Planning Board. The Department of Development was led by Commissioner Joseph Madonna along with Alan Schuman and Ed Lynch.
The entire Revised Comprehensive Plan (adopted 1996) plus Amendments can be downloaded here.
Reading a Comprehensive Plan is an effort. It is long, detailed and filled with jargon. For those who want to be a party to the discussions on the current EnvisioNR planning, it is a must read. You are urged to download the PDF document linked above and read it with a notepad handy to capture questions and ideas for the current planning.
No matter what your interest in the current planning process, every New Rochelle resident will find at least skimming Section II: CITYWIDE CONDITIONS AND PLANNING STUDIES worthwhile. It is listed as about 50 pages but the format of the document is such that it is really more like a 20 page chapter of a book. There are many interesting historical tidbits containing in this section and, for many, sure to be some nostalgic memories of past political figures, businesses and previous land use battles. What is truly amazing is the number of issues that we are still grappling with today -- moving the City Yard, downtown development, the North Avenue corridor, parkland and much more. It's been 20 years since that plan was being developed but sections read like it could have been written today.
Do you know why there is a large traffic circle on Memorial Highway? Do you remember the Munchkin Day Parade around the Library? Did you know that the school district taxes utilities and why? Do you know what runs underneath Stephenson Boulevard? These and other nuggets are nestled in among Section II.
If this is not enough to get you interested to download and review the 1996 Comprehensive Plan, click "read more" and continue after the jump.
There is a great deal of confusion over the term Master Plan and Comprehensive Plan. The term City Comprehensive Plan replaced the former term Master Plan after a change in New York State law re-defined the terms (Section 28-a of New York State General City Law regarding City Comprehensive Plans). The 1996 Comprehensive Plan states "the change in name is based on the underlying theory that the plan encompasses all materials regarding the goals and objectives, principles, guidelines, policies, and standards that relate to either the immediate or long term growth or redevelopment of the city. For purposes of general conversation, the terms Master Plan, Comprehensive Plan, Revised Comprehensive Plan and EnvisioNR are functionally interchangeable terms.
It is worth noting here that the 1996 Comprehensive Plan states:
The new law states that all land use regulations must be in accordance with a comprehensive plan, if such plan is adopted, and further requires that plans for capital projects of any governmental agency on land included in the comprehensive plan are required to take the recommendations of that plan into consideration.
This raises two interesting questions: (1) why was the GreeNR plan adopted before the EnvisioNR plan was begun when the GreeNR plan focuses a great deal on key issues of land use; (2) are all current land use regulation in accordance with the 1996 Comprehensive Plan?
The citizen input process for the 1996 Comprehensive Plan was vastly different that what we have seen so far in 2012.
First, the meetings were run by a professional "facilitator" hired to design and orchestrate the interactive aspects of the vision process. The recent EnvisioNR public meetings were not run by experienced, professional facilitators but rather well-intentioned amateurs and the difference was readily apparent.
Second, in the recent EnvisioNR sessions, anyone could show up and toss out ideas. All opinions and ideas were treated equally regardless of professional background, experience, education, training and with no consideration to representation from various civic groups or neighborhood associations. Compare that to the effort that went into the 1996 Plan.
The Development Vision process focused on six issue areas: (1) institutional impacts; (2) the waterfront; (3) commercial and industrial development and infrastructure; (4) neighborhoods and affordable housing; (5) North Avenue Corridor (renamed Center City); and (6) the downtown.
To provide broad-based citizen input in the process, six "Community Stakeholder Input Sessions" were convened in December, 1993 and January, 1994. Each session addressed one of the above focus topics.
"Stakeholders" are people who, either personally or as representatives of an organization, association, or group:
• are professionally involved in the topic;
• will be affected by ultimate decisions relating to the topics; or
• are simply interested in or concerned about the topic.
The City invited 50+ stakeholders to participate in each of the input sessions, selecting such persons from existing organizations, and neighborhoods with input from the Future Visions Advisory Committee. Each input session was chaired by two or more members of the Future Visions Advisory Committee. Under the direction of the Department ofDevelopment, the facilitator designed the agenda and orchestrated the discussions to encourage open and creative input from all participants. Approximately 200 individuals attended the six sessions, generating more than 420 ideas.
To solicit additional community input from those unable to attend the stakeholder sessions, the City released several press notices inviting written comments from the public. A summary report on the stakeholder sessions is included in the Appendix.
For each of the six issue areas, Department of Development staff assembled an informational package to supplement the Future Visions
concepts developed in the brainstorming sessions. This material provided a technical and historical base for evaluating and supporting some of the ideas that were generated.
The document begins with a Preface:
The City of New Rochelle Comprehensive Plan was developed through a 10-month planning process which built upon a prior nine month community visions process. The planning consultants, Saccardi & Schiff, Inc. worked closely with the Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee and the City's Department of Development to develop the plan.
The Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee assumed a major role in development of the plan. This responsibility included attending periodic meetings with City staff and consultants to discuss a variety of planning proposals and conducting public meetings to review plan proposals.
The plan encompasses a set of planning proposals and potential implementation programs designed to shape the physical environment of this basically built up city within the context of redevelopment, revitalization and limited new development opportunities. The initial step of the process was a study of existing conditions on a citywide basis. This included the traditional documentation and analysis of demographics, economic conditions, housing, transportation, infrastructure and community services and facilities. Next, attention was turned to the areas of the city most in need of alternative planning concepts to either coordinate and update existing or ongoing plans or present new planning proposals. These focus areas include the downtown and are the subject of specific proposals. In other areas of the city, preservation is emphasized within the context of a changing community profile; land use proposals are formulated within the context of contemporary economic and demographic issues.
Implementation techniques include public sector initiatives necessary to attract private redevelopment; zoning changes to guide proper development; and identification of programs available to fund required development.
The Comprehensive Plan provides an overall guide for the city's growth over the next 15 or so years. It is intended to be a flexible tool that can respond to changing economic and market conditions and to the availability and allocation of resources needed to implement the various recommendations.
The numerous plans and programs which exist and are ongoing even as this plan has evolved have and will continue to shape the City of New Rochelle. This Comprehensive Plan seeks to weave these plans into a coherent framework establishing an overall planning context that will aid the city in making critical land use decisions as it moves into the 21st century.
We here a great deal about North-South issues, that Eastchester Road is the dividing line. While perhaps not the first mention of this so-called "Mason-Dixon line" for New Rochelle, the 1996 plan formally codified the notion of the "North End" and "South End" divided along Eastchester Road.
The north end of the city, beginning north of Eastchester Road, is characterized largely by single-family homes on minimum quarter acre lots.
The core of the 1996 Comprehensive Plan was to preserve existing residential, commercial, open space and recreation areas while development and redevelopment efforts would focus on six areas: Downtown, Waterfront/Pelham Road, East Main Street/Echo Avenue, West Main Street/Weyman Avenue, West New Rochelle, Fifth Avenue and Center City where the term "Center City" referred to the North Avenue corridor from from Eastchester Road to the Downtown area and including the New Rochelle Hospital Medical Center (i.e., Sound Shore Medical Center).
A complete copy of the plan is here: Revised Comprehensive Plan (adopted 1996) plus Amendments.
EDITOR'S NOTE: If a reader were so inclined, we would love to publish a list of all the goals contained in the plan and a measure of the City's progress against those goals. If you are interested to conduct this analysys please contact Robert Cox.