New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson gives his take on developments throughout the city.
Q: What in general, is in the works for New Rochelle for the Fall?
"We are pursuing our economic development objectives. We have selected a developer for Church/Division in the area south of Main St. We expect to launch a planning analysis for Davids Island, which is going to be guided in large measure by the volunteer taskforce. In addition, we expect to receive revised plans from Forest City Residential for the Echo Bay waterfront area. "
Q: Will there be any changes coming to North Avenue?
"We will see the next phase of North Ave. corridor improvements—and we will be expanding streetscape improvements south to Lockwood Ave. This will bring new sidewalks, crosswalks and maintenance to the trees in the area. "
Q: What challenges do you face for this year's budget?
"All of us are wrestling with the challenges of this very difficult economy. I expect the upcoming budget season will be very challenging, just as the last two have been. The council will have to wrestle with some very tough choices. The city manager will release a draft in early-to-mid November and the council will adopt it by the end of the calendar year."
Q: We've heard a lot about GreeNR, a sustainability plan for New Rochelle. What's the status of the plan?
"We are in the midst of evaluating the sustainability plan. We are hopeful that following possible council amendments a final plan can be adopted. GreeNR will serve as a basis for building environmental and economic action over a 20 year period of time."
Q: What can people expect for the renovation in City Park?
"This is the most significant investment in our active playing fields in at least a generation. We will greatly expand the park's capacity while improving the play experience for those who use it. Soccer and baseball fields will be re-done. There will be a network of trails and a splash pad. There will be a footprint reserved for a possible future ice skating rink. That is not paid for by the city. We are issuing a request for proposals in the hope that we can fiannce this through a public/private partnership."
Q: Who is paying for the $10 million renovations to City Park?
"The project is paid for by a county legacy grant and money from FEMA. A portion of it is paid for by Monroe College. This will allow us to make dramatic improvements to our recreational facilities without placing any burdens on New Rochelle taxpayers."
Q: There is a lot of controversy about what should happen to the Armory. Where do you stand?
"I'm open-minded about options that might preserve the Armory and integrate it into a revitalized Echo Bay waterfront. I'm pleased that an analysis of physical, financial and planning challenges is now underway. Forest City Residential, Monroe College and the local veterans will come back to us with the results of their feasibility analysis and that will provide a basis for informed decision-making moving forward. I think opening the waterfront will be a benefit to the people of the city for many years to come. Actions at the waterfront need to flow from that central purpose."
Q: What is your ideal development strategy for Davids Island?
"We have assembled a task force that will work with our planning officials to recommend the components of a master plan, which could then be approved by the city council and serve as the basis for development of the island for years to come. The history of the island suggests that this will be a challenging undertaking. There is a need to balance economic and environmental objectives. I am hopeful that forward-looking, innovative, sustainable design can resolve some of the traditional tensions between economic and environmental interests. We are at the very beginning of the process. It would be a mistake to rush through a planning exercise on such a sensitive subject, rather than insuring that our plans are fully informed by public input and by the advice of experts and key stakeholders."
Q: What is your long-term vision for downtown New Rochelle?
"The downtown is a transformation aimed at creating a vital mixed-use environment with an appropriate balance of services and recreation. We've experienced over a billion dollars in private investment and that's made a huge positive difference. But we still have a long way to go. The city intends to use it's various planning tools — including zoning, when appropriate — incentives, and comprehensive planning standards and the objectives within our sustainability plan to pursue a model of transit-oriented development. We think it will be very beneficial to New Rochelle. It's also consistent with regional and national planning objectives. At the same time, we will continue working to protect our neighborhoods, preserve our open space assets and enhance the quality of life."
Q: Is there any one community that New Rochelle should try to model its developments after? Perhaps White Plains?
I don't think there is any one community that represents the model we want for New Rochelle. Certainly the size and diversity of White Plains is impressive, some of Yonkers' waterfront developments have been quite successful, but New Rochelle has its own distinct personality. Any changes have to respect our history. We have to work to keep our charming architecture as opposed to a strategy of demolition and new construction."