New Rochelle's future is filled with possibility and promise and has the tools necessary to succeed, according to Mayor Noam Bramson.
"It is within our power, through the choices we make together, to build a New Rochelle that is fiscally sound, economically strong and culturally vibrant," he said, "a New Rochelle in which everyone is respected, everyone is welcomed and everyone has a chance to thrive."
The mayor spoke Thursday at the annual State of the City address, hosted by the Chamber of Commerce of New Rochelle at the Davenport Club.
Bramson began the speech by listing a number of things happening in the city that are good, including a low tax rate, new restaurants opening in the downtown, the 325th anniversary festivities and Ray Rice's victory at the Super Bowl.
He then jokingly said, "Ladies and gentlemen, thank you and good night."
Bramson then laid out a series of partnerships that will be important to maintaining fiscal responsibility: sharing public services with other communities in the region, providing municipal employees with compensation mindful of challenging times and getting property and other tax relief with the state's cooperation.
"Through these partnerships and through our ongoing commitment to efficiency, our city can and will demonstrate fiscal responsibility and uphold the interests of taxpayers," Bramson said.
But, he said, those factors by themselves will not grow the city's economy, create jobs or enhance the tax base.
The Citizens' Panel on Sustainable Budgets, Bramson said, urged the city to invest in infrastructure, marketing and creative talent. He said the 2013 adopted budget incorporated many of the suggestions "and will beef up our ability to seize economic opportunities."
Bramson said maximizing the potential of the waterfront—in particular the proposed Echo Bay development—will be a "winner" for the city by creating jobs in both services and construction.
He said teaming up with businesses and the city's three colleges will make New Rochelle more attractive to development and commercial entities.
"It's our responsibility to help risks pay off," Bramson said, "so that an investor tomorrow, or next week, or a year from now will know that New Rochelle is open for business."
Thinking of the future and not solely concentrating on the present will allow the city to position itself to offer residents and entrepreneurs, who may be thinking of New Rochelle as a place to live or do business, diverse housing options, cultural vitality, good schools, skilled labor, fine restaurants and a close proximity to New York City.
"New Rochelle lays claim to every one of these virtues," Bramson said, "and by making the most of our assets, we will also lay claim to our own bright future."
As people were arriving for the cocktail hour and dinner, a demonstration by about 30 members of the New Rochelle Police Department took place, said Ray Andolina, president of the Police Association of New Rochelle, NY, Inc. The demonstration had ended by the time many members of the media arrived for the announced start of the address.
Andolina said he was concerned with the 20 percent reduction in the police force over the last three years.
"It's a safety issue," he said, adding that there have been "close calls" recently with a number of police officers attributed to the staffing level.
A press release he was handing out said the association was at the State of the City address to listen to Mayor Bramson and "to express our growing concern over manpower issues and continued cuts to the New Rochelle Police Department budget."
"These safety issues, along with the fact that our members are working without a contract for an unprecendented fourth year, have negatively affected moral and have caused significant 'badge drain' with further exacerbate these problems," the release said.