Mayor: Laying Foundation Important for New Rochelle's Future

Mayor Noam Bramson gave his sixth State of the City speech Thursday.

New Rochelle is in a time of "undeniable challenge."

In his sixth State of the City address, Mayor Noam Bramson laid out his vision Thursday for building on New Rochelle's assets to make "an even stronger foundation for a prosperous and vibrant city, that each of us, and our children, and our grandchildren will be proud to call home."

The speech was delivered at the Davenport Club during an event sponsored by the New Rochelle Chamber of Commerce.

Bramson said the city already has everything necessary to shape its future.

"Water and rail. Home and hearth. Knowledge and skill. Determination and faith," he said. "We need only to have confidence in ourselves."

Bramson outlined the key elements of building a strong foundation, admitting that while "[i]t may not be our place to finish the work I have described, it will be our place to begin it well.

"That's what foundations are all about," he said. "And we won't let each other down."

The first of the key elements, Bramson said, was fiscal health.

"If a community isn't solvent or if it fails to strike a reasonable balance between what citizens contribute and what they receive, then little else can be accomplished," he said. "Even in good times that's a challenge."

Bramson said every penny given to the city must be applied to the best use.

"Let's understand, doing more with less is not a passing phase," he said. "Doing more with less is the new normal."

Transit-oriented development is the basis of economic growth, Bramson said, adding that it's not a new priority.

He said the city's development team must have the tools and support to pursue all possibilities.

"And let's do it before any good opportunities pass us by," Bramson said.

Planning, he said, also drives the economy, but in a broader sense.

Unplanned growth can have an adverse effect on the city, Bramson said.

He urged the updating of the 15-year-old comprehensive plan into as "a compelling vision of our city as we want it to be.

"There's nothing that locks us in to what is, so long as we have the imagination and foresight to plan for what might be," Bramson said.

Planning at the waterfront is also vital to the city's long-term success, he said.

Appropriate development at Echo Bay, the City Yard and Davids Island are potentially areas that could "claim for a new era New Rochelle's status as the Queen City of the Sound," Bramson said.

Potholes, storm drains, snowplows, as well as parking and parks are infrastructure issues the city has not done as well as it should have, the mayor said.

Citing the current budget's 1 percent spending on infrastructure and equipment, Bramson advocated allocating at least 5 percent of the general fund to those needs beginning no later than 2016. He also said the city should do whatever it could to obtain grants for infrastructure improvements by making sure the design of projects met the challenge for competitive funds.

"The city best prepared to use funds is best positioned to get funds," he said.

The final element, Bramson said, is one in which New Rochelle was poised to "take a big leap forward."

The city's first environmental sustainability plan—GreeNR—produced by volunteer residents, experts and city staff, could be enacted as early as Tuesday, he said.

"GreeNR addresses subjects as big as renewable energy and as small as supermarket tote bags," Bramson said, "with lots in between, from a fuel-efficient municipal fleet, to household composting, to water quality and open-space preservation."

He said the sustainability plan doesn't change laws or make guarantees.

"What it does do is establish a framework for ongoing decision-making, focuses on the qualities that make a community desirable and that, yes, lay a sustainable foundation that future generations can build upon," Bramson said.

Councilman Richard St. Paul, R-District 4, said the mayor's speech fell short.

"Especially in terms of economic development," he said.

Instead of talking about large-scale development, the mayor should have put more emphasis on small businesses, St. Paul said.

"They are the backbone of the American economy and the backbone of New Rochelle," he said. "We need a plan that will grow and attract small business."

St. Paul said Bramson only talks about bipartisanship.

"It's in talk only and not in action," he said. "(Bramson) need to work in a more bipartisan fashion" with Republicans to find waste in government and to improve quality of life issues.

New Rochelle resident Katherine Lobach said she has lived more than 50 years in the Queen City.

"I think this mayor is one of the best," she said.

"He's a marvelous orator," Lobach said. "But it's not just about speechifying. It's what he has succeeded in doing in New Rochelle."

She acknowledged that the city faced challenges.

"But so has every city and county and state," Lobach said. "We are pretty well-positioned to overcome them."

newrochellesouth March 11, 2011 at 01:33 PM
I think the spending of any city money on GreenNR when we are in such a dire fiscal situation is not only irresponsible, it is foolish. Surely the New Rochelle City Government can single handidly save the Earth when we have a better fiscal situation. There is no money for tilting at windmills.
Billy March 11, 2011 at 05:24 PM
He has only himself to blame for not funding our infastructure. We'd all like an ice rink too, but there never seems to be enough money and the budget's aren't even balanced. We're in for a rocky road and this guy does nothing to show the leadership we need to pull ourselves out. This is his 6th State of the City address so he's just realizing people care about our crumbling roads? What a joke. We need change the city council and mayor's office in November.
Stephen I. Mayo March 12, 2011 at 07:18 AM
More airy chatter from the bloviator-in-chief. Who can argue with the need for development, comprehensive plans, bipartisanship, conservation, more snowplows/better parks/more storm drains/more parking/more bike lanes ... have I left anything out? But how do you pay for all this "stuff" and where to start, and when to end? The "Boy Wonder" has had some six years of a compliant city council majority of bobble-headed confederates, six state-of-the-city addresses, six budgets: with nothing of lasting consequence to show for it. He may, however, have found the path to everlasting local electoral success. It is this narrow objective which seems to most concern the mayor. It is certainly the prime focus of his published writing and speechifying, which, incidentally, he works at most assiduously in part-time/full-time employment (precisely which it is, he has not been clear about) as an aide to Congresswoman Lowey; Exhibit 1 being the unadulterated pile of cliches and platitudes with which the subject article begins. Those who take seriously the sad state of New Rochelle's economy and the collapse of infrastructure, for starters, await serious leadership. They will not be humored (or bought off) by the richly-orchestrated "testimony" by teachers, PTA-niks and prize students favoring more "green" regulation at this week's city council gala. Civic boosterism is no substitute for action on the genuine structural and fiscal threats to our local way of life. It's that simple.
Robert McCaffrey March 14, 2011 at 01:19 PM
Planning drives the economy. Poor planning with the wrong developers drives us backwards. Sometimes we would be better with less or none at all. We need smarter and creative development to right this ship. Stop letting our neighboring cities protests stop us from moving in the right direction only to see them develop and prosper. Years ago Macy’s Held us back because our council gave them a sweet deal that let them have control of development downtown. This continued even after they went out of business for 25 years. Pelham squashed and fought all of our proposals for development. Now look at the two business districts they have that are flourishing. I am not saying that we need this for New Rochelle. Just, Stop letting others decide our fate. Do what is right for The City of New Rochelle and its citizens. Not Cappelli, not Forest City and not Iona College. Treat the city just like you would your own home. Let’s have a little extreme make over and curb appeal. Spruce up The City of New Rochelle so people want to travel down North Avenue to Down Town. Re-think all the current and future development and get out of the Tax Abatement Business. It takes a village. We are a city and need to start thinking that way. We need the City Council to start to think about what the next steps will be for The City of New Rochelle and not their political careers. But we also need more of our citizens to speak up and get involved. We need “Common Sence ForThe Common Good”.
Stephen I. Mayo March 15, 2011 at 06:54 AM
A new Master Plan is a good start. The pols have been promising one for a few years, but claim poverty when the opportunity for actually commissioning one becomes too close for their comfort. The cost is only a couple hundred thousand dollars, at most. Not that much when you realize that a misbegotten IDA package of benefits can cost city taxpayers many times more than that, and for 10 or 15 years! And of course, the permanent political class, hates informed, long-term planning because it gets in the way of ad-hoc deal-making; which we have learned through unfortunate experience is the chief engine of political campaign giving. Perhaps even more significant, the bureaucracy is provided with a legitimate reason to say "no" to a developer when the blueprint does not comport with the master plan; which is, after all, the most legitimate expression of the community's vision of its own destiny. And most of us know that politicians hate to say "no" to anyone. They love to promise gifts, member items, earmarks, and other pork barrel. The award of benefits to one interest group or another is often the only evidence anywhere that the politico is doing anything with the money we pay him or otherwise spend on governmental operations.


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