I want to share with you some points I intend to make on July 10 to the Council regarding planning in general and the 1996 Comprehensive Plan in particular.
Today is yet another sad and all too familiar day regarding the Hastie situation in the School Board. I bring this up only from the point of view that the greater majority of citizens have delegated their rights and responsibilities to a small number of community members and this has not turned out well for us as a rule.
It is particularly fitting as we approach Independence Day to recall the sacrifices made by so many Americans in the service of our country. It doesn't end there -- so many members of our community have more than a passing knowledge or involvement in the horrors brought about by the holocaust, the Pearl Harbor aggression, and more recently, the horrific affront caused by the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and elsewhere.
But life goes on, doesn't it. It has become more of an accelerated dialectic. The powerless seek power and if successful, abuse power. Is this relevant here in New Rochelle.... yes, of course, but in a much more benign form and if you are at all interested in seeing it, just keep your eyes and ears open and think.
In 1996 a skilled consultant team called Saccardi and Schiff led a team in the development of the 1996 Comprehensive Plan. I've done a few of these in my lifetime and have read many more and used a few in some planning and business policy workshops. The 1996 Plan is of exceptional quality and you really should make it a point to read it. Yes it is long, but sometimes bigger is better.
When I became aware of the 2012-2013 initiative, I was pleased to sign up to participate although recognizing it was half a decade or so behind the normal ten year renewal cycle.
I was not disappointed in what I experienced thereafter only somewhat saddened by an insufficient reference to the 1996 document and frankly, some "tinkering" that was not at all needed. Worse, this tinkering replaced the eloquent simplicity of the order of the previous Plan. Worse yet, the in-house team was comprised of staff who had little understanding of comprehensive planning and less of working with community members who were knowledgable, motivated, and felt aggrieved by the imperious dismissal of the facilitators who really were not up to the task. Two University students with a smattering of text book knowledge supplemented a staff that had a tad more of background and experience.
I need to tell you a few things to make the aforementioned more transparent. This report was grounded on community values and land-use. Ostensibly the City Fathers would use this as a guiding document for subsequent action as well as the fact it was required in New York State.
The focus in the 1996 Plan concentrated on specific neighborhood areas, each clearly delineated, that had impact on land usage in New Rochelle. This logic was not followed in 2012. If it were, we could expect the same areas supplemented I should think by City Park and Wards Acres. You can check the EnviroNR documentation for this year's focus areas.
I was happy to see active Council notations on the plan but confused to see that these notations; often in the form of resolutions, stopped on or about July 2005. The question must be asked, "WHY"? The sitting Council today frankly lacks in-depth knowledge of Comprehensive Plan content and I see no evidence of a periodic annual review to check into its current state and progress. Again, why?
The assigned 2012 Planning Team violated good planning design and principle by cutting off any conversation dealing with leading role players in planning.... the IDA, LDC or BID. Again, a rather curious explanation saying, "this has nothing to do with land usage." This is like saying a rim has nothing to do with basketball. It is disingenuous and outrageous and it angered a number of respondents at several sessions I am aware of and has brought various comments ranging from over control orientation to pandering citizens in the community not involved.
So, lets save some time and effort, maybe money and reputation as well. If Planning, Zoning, IDA/LDC committees and the BID have nothing to do with land use planning or community value, then disband them and let the chlps fall where they may.
The Introductory Section of the 1996 Comprehensive Plan contains the following language.... "the manner in which land is used and controlled by the City." The appropriate people in NYS reaffirm this language.... I suppose land itself, transforms itself into a decision making organism and decides how it will be used, under what terms and so forth.
But, given my low readership batting average around 250 or so, perhaps I am tilting at windmills. But, folks, this important document is set up to represent the "values and priorities of the community." That is you.. all of you and no 2 hours in an occasional community-based planning meeting or a three minute monthly rant in front of the Council on a Tuesday evening will substitute for that. Justice Roberts put it squarely to all of us on the recent Affordable Care Act ruling indicating that, and I do not quote, that it is the people's responsibility to elect those representatives that enact, control and monitor what it is their interest. Or if you prefer, the people will ge the government we deserve.
I want to talk about a specific well into this 250+ page document. It is Section III-1. I will provide a copy to the City Council on July 10 after I return from Maine.
This specific area is the downtown business district. It is the number one listed item on the implementation list and one noteworthy based on the absence of handwritten resolutions or other statements. That fact defines the situation as it stands now. Downtown is a disgrace: it is undernourished, unloved, it belies any semblance of common sense as any developer or investor would tell you in terms of the two most sought after criteria for commercial and residential investment. The other is a flourishing and vibrant school district and read the lead story today for much more on that.
We have not provided security and safety. We have allowed Monroe almost carte blanche in known and speculated occupancy. We have all forms of non-profits and no occupied space by city agencies or departments; a baci di morte, for investor confidence.
Where is a police facility to add courage to the community. Why does Habitat have to find total acceptance in Mt Vernon, Yonkers, and White Plains? Killoran is modest, but the city fathers and community leaders are lavish in their praise and the poor man cannot even get the City to accept his offer of painting that eyesore on Division and Center, etal. No we would rather compound the violence done to te 1996 Plan and to the community by looking at yet another high rise with little prospect of any revenue, much promise of resource drain and infrastructure harm.
We need to rebuild and restore. We require to make our first providers and city workers in the field feel wanted and THAT DOES NOT mean a free ride or the absence of tough negotiation. It would not hurt, though, if we took a balanced view and critically examined headcount at 515 North Avenue. We are really overpaying for top management if we interpret the City Charter by simply applying common language meaning and usage.
So there we have it. I am asking that you read the Comprehensive Plan and THINK. If you are comfortable, you are either delusional or really don't care much about these things. Well, perhaps history and community sacrifice ended in the 1970s. I suppose the title, "Mad Men" was properly chosen for that massive AMC hit.
Please bow your heads on July 4th, question what is going on with Jeff Hastie, give the Armory RFP to deserving and centered community members, and restore and rebuild New Rochelle.
Start on page III-1 of the 1996 Comprehensive Plan.