In an effort to backtrack on his original claim that downtown development in New Rochelle has created a $2 million school surplus for the school district, Mayor Bramson and other New Rochelle politicians are now using the phrase "net increase" in the hopes of muddying the water. Readers will recall that when I originally challenged the Mayor on his claim during his radio show he abruptly ended the call and has not returned to his radio show or answered questions about this claim since. If his goal was to bury the issue, he has failed. Bramson rude, disrespectful behavior led me to investigate further and the Mayor is not going to like my publishing what I found.
Over the years, the accuracy of pre-development studies known as Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) has been passionately debated. There has always been an underlying presumption by critics that studies paid for by the developer may be inaccurate. In the case of New Rochelle, the company Saccardi & Schiff, Inc. has done the vast majority of environmental reports for major developments. In what is a clear conflict of interest, the Mayor has accepted political contributions from Saccardi & Schiff, including a $1,000.00 to the Bramson for Mayor Committee on August 6, 2007, New York State campaign records show. That a company hired by the City to produce independent analysis of the impact of downtown development should be a major contributor to City politicians is troubling to say the least.
In my original post I described in detail the costs of Avalon 1 to the New Rochelle taxpayers and have not received or read any factual benefits from any of the name calling pro-development Bramson shills.
The New Rochelle Board of Education has revealed that there are currently 80 students enrolled from both Avalon buildings. I decided to review the EIS for Avalon to see for myself the accuracy of the projections. The EIS was done for the Avalon Community with a total of 1,000 units (both buildings). The following is taken from the Avalon EIS study done by Saccardi & Schiff, Inc., pg. IV-195;
Proposed School Age Children to be Generated
The Avalon on the Sound apartment community will have a minor impact on the City School District of New Rochelle with approximately 58 new public school children expected to reside within the completed project.
In other words, in the first full year since the entire Avalon community has been at or above capacity (75% occupied), the two buildings are already 38% above the projected number of students enrolled in the New Rochelle public schools.
Three high-ranking employees in the Department of Development confirmed that the original projections were for 58 students and that this was for the total project 1,000 units (i.e. Avalon One and Two). All three confirmed this to be the case.
So, 58 students were projected by the study but there are already 80 enrolled which clearly shows the Avalon Environmental Impact Statement grossly underestimated the number of school children the Avalon community would generate. That’s a major discrepancy which raises doubts about the entire EIS.
The same EIS under the heading of; Police, states there are, “no significant impacts to police protection services” and under the heading of; Fire and Emergency Services; states that “no additional equipment or personnel will be needed”. I readily admit I am not a professional but if anyone believes that the New Rochelle Fire Department doesn’t require any new equipment to handle fire and emergency services in New Rochelle’s first high rise building, please contact me ASAP because I have a bridge for sale in Brooklyn! Not to mention that the most important factor in fighting a high rise fire is the number of fire personnel who are first responders.
The facts speak for themselves, the projections for new school children from the Avalon EIS are off by 38%. I realized all of this by reading two pages of this long and complex study so why is that no City or school officials have expressed concern about the discrepancies -- and their implications not just for Avalon but for all development (Trump, LeCount, Echo Bay, etc.). Does this meant the projections for sewer, traffic, parking, air quality, health and so on are also off by 38%?
These projects were originally sold to the public by our politicians on the grounds that high-rise developments in downtown would attract people with no children and disposable income. Instead what we are getting exactly the opposite -- parents with children and, at Avalon Two, college students with almost no disposable income.
This is the first year that both Avalon buildings are significantly occupied. Marketing strategies by developers have changed. Now they promote the projections as a way to access New Rochelle's "nationally recognized school district" and a district offering "free all day kindergarten". Every marketing campaign is now based on luring more families with school age children to New Rochelle. While there may be some upside to having families move to New Rochelle, the problem is these families are moving into tax-abated buildings like Avalon. The effect will be to increase the tax burden on those who are paying school tax including many hard working, blue collar middle class property owner not to mention seniors and others on fixed incomes who must pickup the property and school tax shortfall.
At the end of the day, it’s not about whether you’re for or against development or whether you have to give something to get something it’s about improving the quality of life and protecting the taxpayer with RESPONSIBLE DEVELOPMENT. Development where everybody pays their fair share to the community.
It may be too late for Avalon or Trump but it's not too late to draw the line on LeCount, Echo Bay or other planned developments. Development is fine but we need realistic projections provided by objective analysts not cheerleading by political cronies and hiring companies that donate money to the Mayor.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Mayor Bramson appears every other Tuesday at 9:00 AM on the Bob Marrone show on WVOX radio. He is scheduled to appear tomorrow morning.]