Iona College is committed to building more dormitory type housing for students. Last year they set forth a new plan which stressed the need for "mutually beneficial action" for both the City of New Rochelle and Iona College. This non-binding agreement was planned to benefit both parties. But, what has happened is not what was promised. A Committee was formed which was supposed to make a plan for student housing for Iona. The Committee's suggested time frame of May 15, 2012 for adoption of the report was never met.
Instead the New Rochelle City Council at their July meeting approved a resolution which will allow Iona to continue to house 850 students in their North Avenue Dormitory instead of the 700 allowed under the present New Rochelle zoning. The unanimous vote of the Council disappointed many people, especially residents living close to the Iona Campus. At the public hearing which preceded the vote of Council, residents, especially those living near Hubert and President Streets, were especially concerned about another Iona proposal to convert 15 houses on these streets to mini-dormitories, each housing 10-12 students. Occupancy rates in New Rochelle allow only three unrelated people in a dwelling according to Greg Varian, Esq., who stated overcrowding would impact the Halcyon Park neighborhood in a negative way. Under these conditions he asked why a five year extension should be granted.
Bob McCaffrey, President of the Mount Joy Neighborhood Association, cautioned that the report which was being prepared by the Committee formed last year (consisting of Iona and New Rochelle Officials and neighborhood members) is not "a Master Plan for Iona." Councilman Jared Rice who is a member of the Committee remained concerned about quality of life issues for the surrounding neighborhoods. He stated, "The vote isn't to grant Iona a five year occupancy extension. Rather it is to allow them the extension provided that a final report is adopted by the planning committee comprised of five representatives from Iona, two City personnel members, and most importantly, five neighborhood representatives....More time is needed to realize this option, hence the committee needs more time to work."
However, even with these limitations, there are some residents who do not agree that the City Council's actions are adequate to deal with their concerns. Joyce Furfero, Co-Chair of the the Confederation of Neighborhood Associations related, "As long as Iona was willing to be a sleepy little commuter college in a sleepy little suburban city, it co-existed very nicely with its surrounding neighbors in its surrounding neighborhoods. When Iona decided to expand and increased acceptance of out-of-area students, without consideration of their housing needs, the out-of -town students along with the growing number of commuter students who need parking, became a big burden on local homeowners (e.g. noise, litter, rowdiness, overcrowding of residences in violation of the New Rochelle Municipal Code)" Further she feels the current plans "are a nightmare for people living in the Mt; Joy, White Oak, Hilltop, Eastchester, Halcyon Park and Sunset View Park and some of Beechmont and Rochelle Heights neighborhoods."
Obviously, any middle ground for Iona's development will be hard for the Committee to establish. For now, many residents are waiting and hoping for a favorable outcome.
In the August l0,2012 issue of Soundview Rising