Small numbers of residents have attended the City of New Rochelle's series of meetings on EnvisioNR which is projected as a new comprehensive plan to update the 1995 plan. But the few that did attend had a lot to say and some of it was critical of past and projected new development.
The New Rochelle Department of Planning's Director, Eleanor Sharpe, led the series of workshops, two of which were held on Friday June 1 and 8 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and four on June 4, 5, 6 and 7 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.. But even the timing of these workshops was questioned by certain participants who felt they excluded many working residents. Sharpe maintained throughout the dialogue that the City needed to revise the previous plan and stated that a "rule of thumb" suggests that in five years a comprehensive plan needs adjustments, and that the City needed a revision to keep their "competitive advantage."
Assuring the group this plan would be completed "in house", Sharpe said there was no city budget for this project. Resident Adam Engelberg suggested at the June 4 meeting that instead of doing a new plan, the City should request an update of the previous plan, especially since the City does not have money to spend on it. The six areas selected for the new plan were: (1) economic development; (2) housing and neighborhoods; (3) open space and community resources; (4) urban design and historic preservation; (5) mobility and infrastructure; and (6) land use and environment; were then brainstormed by the 12 or so residents at that meeting.
A questionnaire was used for input by the residents was given to people attending the workshop. Three key questions were used to guide the discussion in the six key areas cited. The questions asked: (1) what are the strengths of the City and which should be maintained; (2) challenges and weaknesses in the city that needed changing; and (3) opportunities and ways to make the City's future better. Anyone who wishes to submit answers to the questions or to submit other questions can do so at the [email protected].
Zoning changes were made after the previous Comprehensive Plan was passed. Sharpe had explained that under New York State law the zoning must comply with the Comprehensive plan. One member of the previous Comprehensive Plan committee who did not want to be named felt this Plan was left on the shelf to collect dust.
Common complaints voiced in this planning process included comments that the City does not maintain its historic buildings such as the Armory and that more time should be given for the request for proposals on this building, and that developers run the City. Sharpe reminded the group to stay on task, and as an example, asked where the City should put new businesses. After the meeting on June 8 Bob McCaffrey said: " I just returned from the Comprehensive Plan ( EnvisioNR ) Workshop. It was facilitated very well by Eleanor Sharpe and the Interns. The process was kept on point and well done. There are definitely more opportunities if this group remains non-political and focused on point of the New Rochelle Comprehensive Plan. There was a very useful sharing of information, especially the challenges the committee and the city face moving forward."
Elaine Waltz, President of the South End Civic League, asked why the New Year's Eve First Night celebration couldn't be reinstated because it brought the community together. Joyce Furfero, Co-Chair of the Confederation of Neighborhood Associations summed up the feelings of many that had attended:
“I was very disappointed to learn that neighborhoods are not being given what I consider to be fair and adequate representation on the “advisory/steering” committee for EnvisioNR. Almost 50% of the committee members live north of Eastchester and 75% live north of Lincoln Ave. East, South, and West Ends combined have very little representation (less than 10%). East End has NO citizen representation and West End has only 2 reps and one of these is the niece of someone from north of Lincoln Avenue. A few neighborhoods have a “neighborhood representative” on the committee, but most do not. Moreover, no one knows why these particular reps were selected and others not. Finally, I see that a husband and wife from Weaver Street are on the Committee. This is not right when New Rochelle has so many talented people from the East, South, and West Ends, who are also talented and have said that they are willing to serve on the committee. The City needs to rethink the composition of this committee.”
In ths July 6, 2012 issue of Soundview Rising