In the August 23 issue of the Westchester Herald by Peggy Godfrey
Forest City Residential still holds a Memorandum of Understanding until January 15, 2011 for development in the Echo Bay area of New Rochelle, which includes the New Rochelle Naval Armory Building. During this timeframe, the Save Our Armory Committee (SOA) has been developing their own plan to save the building. Ron Tocci, co-chair of the SOA Executive Committee, told members and supporters gathered at the special August 16 SOA meeting, that he and three other SOA executive members met with Forest City Residential in private session last week to try to develop plans to incorporate the Armory with Forest City's plans. Tocci said that Forest City seemed to have "no problem " proceeding with such a plan to save the Armory Building
The only question that had recently arisen related to Monroe College's interest in developing a collegiate basketball court in the Armory Building was whether there was enough seating room to meet NCCA standards. Tocci had an architect check the building and said the report came back that there was more than enough space available to meet standards. The Save Our Armory members and supporters now have plans to go to the New Rochelle City Council in September or October. Tocci urged everyone present to "keep the pressure on the City Council" by going on WVOX Radio, writing to the newspapers, and contributing to the blog, i.e., "New Rochelle Talk of the Sound".
To give the Armory a theme, a Norman Rockwell Museum, or possibly a waterfront restaurant, was suggested. The SOA group unanimously voted to designate Jim Killoran, Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity, as the chairman of this committee. Killoran felt a trolley could be used to transport people from the Armory Building to other places of interest in New Rochelle. John D'Alois added a positive note that he was impressed with Monroe College's enthusiasm. The momentum in his view was building now and "not giving up is finally paying off." Mitch Spalin cautiously asked if there would be any need to "pay back" Forest City Residential for their assistance in preserving the murals. The proposed location of "The Bell" was discussed and the possible restoration of the pistol range in the basement.
There will be a feasibility study next week and Tocci hoped the roof of the Armory would be repaired before the winter set in. The possibility that the American Legion Post 8 Building would be used for equity was discussed. Tom O'Keefe, Post 8 Commander, suggested that it was all right to negotiate before a final membership vote was taken by Post 8 in September since a vast majority of the Post members have already expressed they are in favor of the proposal.
Frank Vernuccio, who is running for New York State Senator in District 34, addressed the group and told the crowd that there is a lease to the City of New Rochelle and he congratulated the committee for standing up for what is right. Lorraine Pierce summed up by saying that "we have fought for more than 12 years to open the Armory Building as a community center for all the people to enjoy". The City of New Rochelle let the property rot, but "now we want it back." She lamented there is nothing much left for the people of New Rochelle and no sense of history. Many important historical landmarks have already been bulldozed.
The 9/11 Memorial and Candlelight Vigil is being planned again this year in front of the Armory Building, the permits having already been submitted to the City. Volunteers and suggestions are welcome, contact Peter Parente if interested at (914) 557-5556.
Summing up the feelings of the group about Saving the Armory, D'Alois said, "Yes, We Can."