In Westchester Guardian, July 11, 2013
Is the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for Echo Bay in New Rochelle complete? Residents will soon have the opportunity to comment on this document proposed by Forest City Residential. But there was no doubt at the City Council meeting of July 9, 2013 that questions that have been raised by residents, Council members, the New Rochelle Planning Board and the County Department of Planning about this project were not answered in this Final Report.
When the discussion about the completeness of this FEIS for Echo Bay was raised, it was made very clear that there was no obligation to hold another hearing. However, Development Commissioner Luiz Aragon said it was a past practice in the city to hold one. It was suggested that the final hearing could be held in July or September. City Manager Chuck Strome felt August was not appropriate since Council does not meet that month.
When Mayor Bramson asked which Council members were not available on July 30 several council members indicated they were not available. That left July 23 or September open, and Bramson insisted on a vote for July 23 or September after the Council meeting break. The resulting vote was for July 23 with five Democrats in favor and two Republicans against that date. This now gives the public two weeks to examine the completed report. As of July ll a copy of the FEIS had not been received by the New Rochelle Public Library. On July l2 the FEIS was in the New Rochelle Public Library. Remember the Library is closed on Sundays during the summer. However it was stated that residents will have up to ten days after July 23 to further submit any comments on this FEIS. Bramson made particular note that the Land Disposition agreement must follow approval of this FEIS.
Questions raised by the New Rochelle City Council members before the vote was taken were far ranging. Councilman Lou Trangucci wanted to know about the sales tax projections in the proposed development, characterizing them as inflated. He also disputed the amount of sales tax that could be accomplished in such a small area. He was particularly concerned because sales tax was one source of income for the city. He suggested to Abe Naperstak, Forest City Residential's representative, that since they were asking for tax abatements, his company should guarantee the sales tax. Naperstak, referring to the risk involved, said he could not guarantee the sales tax.
Wanting to know if Forest City Residential had decided that each apartment's rent would include a parking space, Councilman Ivar Hyden asked Naperstak about this. The answer was sometimes this does happen at their developments and Naperstak acknowledged that otherwise cars may park in the neighborhood. Then Hyden asked about a Public Art Fund and how much would be expended in this area. Naperstak said this had never been discussed.
When Naperstak suggested the company would like to start construction he was told the new City Yard has to be built. Councilwoman Shari Rackman then expressed concern that the New Rochelle Planning Board comments (from last March) had not been answered, she was told all their comments were addressed in the FEIS. She continued that the building plan was "heavy to the left" and asked if it could be moved and was told this is not a final document.
Councilman Al Tarantino also wanted to know if the questions raised by the Planning Board had been answered. He was referred to comment 15 in the FEIS. Bramson added it was in section 3. Tarantino persisted asking where the answers were and inststed that he did not find the answer to his question in the FEIS. No specific answer was given to him and there was nothing in this final document that could be cited. Tarantino felt more retail was appropriate at the site, citing nearby successful shopping areas, especially across the street. Naperstak replied that putting more retail in this Echo Bay area would harm downtown retail.
After extended discussions separate votes for four hearings, three on zoning, on the Echo Bay area, and one on this FEIS were approved by Council members, along party lines, five Democrats in favor and 2 Republicans opposed. The hearings will be on the Final Environmental Impact Statement for Forest City Residential, the waterfront relating to the Echo Bay Center Project and zoning amendments. It was also learned that the New Rochelle Planning Board had posted a public hearing on July 23 on the alternatives to the proposed Main Echo Urban Renewal Plan. It seems strange that both public bodies can hold hearings on the same topic on the same evening.