Opinions about the proposed Echo Bay development at a public hearing Tuesday ran the gamut from complete support to "start over completely."
The subject of the hearing was the draft environmental impact statement compiled by developer Forest City Residential.
The proposed project, which is situated on 9.4 acres of waterfront land, would have 285 residential units—studios to two-bedrooms—and about 25, 000 square feet of retail on what is now the Department of Public Works City Yard on East Main Street. The City Yard will be moved to a location on Beechwood Avenue.
Mark Weingarten, of DelBello Donnellan Weingarten Wise, representing Forest City Residential, said 10 percent of the housing stock would be affordable, workforce housing.
The DEIS, required under the state Environmental Quality Review Act, describes potential impacts including land use and zoning, traffic, utilities, ecological factors and noise and air quality.
New Rochelle resident James O'Toole was not alone in his skepticism about the project, when fully built, yielding only 22 students.
"I don't think so," he said. "Our school district is going to suffer. We are going to have to pay more taxes to support this project."
School Board Vice President Deirdre Polow, speaking on behalf of the board, cautioned the City Council to remember that the number of students mentioned was just an estimate.
"We believe that some studios and one-bedroom units can be inhabited by single parents," she said, and that any tax payment should be structured with that variable in mind.
Polow also said the $17,000 per student cost figure used to formulate the tax payment will not remain fixed over time and that the council should keep in mind the impact of the development on Trinity Elementary School and Isaac E. Young Middle School.
"We urge the City Council to be mindful what our educational infrastructure is able to absorb," she said.
Alexi Brock has lived in New Rochelle with her native-born husband for 15 years. She said they are putting their home on the market because their taxes doubled over the past 10 years.
Brock urged the City Council to vote no on the draft environmental statement and have Forest City come back with a better plan.
"This is not what we imagined 15 years ago," she said. "Now I will be a Connecticut commuter."
Joan Schomber, who lives in the areas where the development would take place, voiced concerns about parking at the site, both during construction and afterward.
She said allowing only one parking space per residential unit was not enough.
"And where are the construction workers going to park?" Schomber said, adding that the ongoing water treatment plant construction forces workers to park in her neighborhood causing problems in the area, such as littering, erratic parking and urinating on her property.
New Rochelle resident Elizabeth Fried said she supported the proposed mixed-use development and thought the buildings as planned are suitable for the area.
"I believe the development of the Echo Bay project is just what New Rochelle needs to open up access to the water," she said.
Olivia Kaplan, a New Rochelle resident, said, as an environmental professional, the DEIS was comprehensive and well-thought out.
"Speaking on behalf of the youth of New Rochelle," she said, "this is just the sort of place I would like to live.
Kaplan said the city needs to "look to the future" and think about how people are going to live in 20, 30 or more years.
Several people mentioned the vacant and deteriorating Armory in their comments, among them Jack Lutz, past commander of the Korean War Veterans.
He said he was at the public hearing to represent the veterans show couldn't speak for themselves.
Lutz mentioned the recent rally to celebrate Baltimore Ravens running back and New Rochelle native Ray Rice.
"He won in the Super Bowl," he said. "Mr. Mayor, with this Armory you could ake this your Super Bowl.
"Run with the ball and bring it home for the veterans," Lutz said.