Dear Mr. Bramson,
1) When will the City conduct and complete an expert analysis of the financial and operational assumptions within the Echo Bay proposals? Such an analysis must be conducted by experienced professionals who are independent of the teams that have submitted proposals and should include, at a minimum, a detailed examination of business terms, financing sources, attendance assumptions at the parkland, capital costs, and other factors that impact public expenses, benefits and risks. The Forest City FEIS was prepared by Forest City itself and accordingly does not meet this exacting standard. It is remarkable that no such comprehensive analysis has occurred to date, a failure that compromises the integrity of the review process and creates needless and unfair delay for the citizens of New Rochelle. Such independent analysis should also evaluate, for comparative purposes, enhanced administration of the entire Echo Bay project, and particularly the proposed public area which will remain under continued public management once the proposed project is complete. When considering major development in various other adjoining municipalities, we have found that those communities we have generally required developers to place funds in escrow, so that the City can retain consulting assistance. The City should consider a similar model for Echo Bay, so that outside, professional, expert assistance can be secured at no cost to taxpayers. At the time of execution of the MOU on Echo Bay, Forest City deposited an escrow of $75,000. This sum is modest at best and inadequate at worst. Additionally, exclusive rights granted to developers such as the Echo Bay developer include annual fees in exchange for the continuing exclusivity period. Please describe the fees paid by Forest City to the City of New Rochelle during the exclusivity period. Further, in most adjoining communities, the norm is for the developer to give back to the community in providing enhancements, such as development of public areas, public meeting rooms, renovation of existing public spaces, creation and/or renovation of transit, parking, walkways, dredging, and satisfaction and embellishment of other existing and anticipated community needs. Please demonstrate in detail how and where this is done in New Rochelle in the Echo Bay project.
2) By what date do you project that Echo Bay will become financially self-sustaining and no longer dependent upon assistance from taxpayers? You have repeatedly stated that ending public subsidies for New Rochelle developers is among your primary goals in the redevelopment process. If an end to public subsidies is no longer your goal and standard, then you should say so forthrightly. If it is, then you should indicate how and when the goal will be achieved under the terms of the Echo Bay project which was staunchly defended by you last week at the close of the public hearing on July 23, 2013.
3) What is the optimal number of annual visits to the Echo Bay public space that the City aims to achieve? The City has yet to establish a clear attendance target for the Echo Bay public space. It is vital to define this fundamental standard of success in order to evaluate the merit of any “open space” proposal, judge the adequacy of parking facilities during both average and peak attendance periods, and test financial projections and marketing plans. Attendance goals should have been among the first items defined by your administration at the outset of this process, and it is past time for a target to be set.
I look forward to your public response.
Denise P. Ward
New Rochelle Resident