An interview with Peter Parente, co-chair of the Save Our Armory Committee. Parente has a long personal history with the New Rochelle Naval Armory which, in part, explains his deep passion for his leadership role in the effort to preserve the Armory from the predations of real estate developers and short-sighted politicians.
1. Q.Why did you decide take on the job of Co-chair of the Save Our Armory (SOA) Committee?
A. I am personally connected to it. When I was 6, 7 and 8 years old I was a sea cadet there. I also feel very strongly about my service in the military and serving the country. Most veterans feel that way when speaking about serving in the military. I was in this Armory for 8 years in the Marine Corps Reserve and left for Desert Storm from this Armory in l990. The Armory means a lot to me personally. The Armory could be used as a memorial for the 300 who have given the ultimate sacrifice of their life for our country.
2. Q. What are some of the major accomplishments of the Save Our Armory Committee?
A. The committee has brought attention to how much the building means to the veterans and all the citizens of New Rochelle. Alternate uses have been shown which can be incorporated into city functions. The City has not come up with any ideas to utilize the building for the community. We also brought it to the attention of citizens that according to the signed city contract the Armory was obtained for $1 with the promise that the city maintain it, which they haven’t done. It appears it has been neglected intentionally.
3. Q. Has the City Council listened to the concerns of the residents when they decided to allow Forest City Residential to tear down the Armory?
A. I don’t think they have listened to the concerns of the residents or put these concerns as a priority. For some reason the city is lobbying for Forest City Residential when they should be advocating for the citizens to get the most from the developer.
4. Q. Why does the Save Our Armory Committee feel the building should be saved?
A. There are only a handful of Naval Armories in the country and our research so far has shown that there has never been an Armory torn down. The Armory can always be used as a community center for senior citizens or a civic center.
5. Q. There are people in the community that feel the Armory building is in such bad condition that it should be torn down. What do you have to say to these people?
A. We have had an architectural engineer perform inspections and surveys on the infrastructure. The building is extremely strong. If the maintenance and upkeep had not been neglected the building would be in the same shape our Marine Corps Unit left it. We used to scrub the walls.
6. Q. If you are able to preserve the Armory, what would you consider the optimum development in the Echo Bay area?
A. We have an idea of what we want the Armory to be used for. We’d like to use the Armory as a mini-Westchester County Center. We’d like to have a memorial, a military museum, or a New Rochelle historical museum. With all the rich history of New Rochelle a Norman Rockwell Museum is a possibility. The drill floor could be rented out to flea markets, computer expos, sporting or musical events. There are hundreds of uses. Ron Tocci and I are personally putting the final touches on an alternate plan for Echo Bay.
7. Q. When is the next Save Our Armory Committee meeting?
A. The next meeting is on Monday April 27 at 7:30 p.m. at the American Legion Post 8, 112 North Avenue, New Rochelle. Contact telephone number: 557-5556)