New Rochelle Long-Term Planning: Lots of Empty Baskets, No Eggs

Written By: Anthony Galletta

eggsbasket.tiffFormer Mayor Idoni, Mayor Bramson and the New Rochelle Democrats put all their eggs in one revenue basket which was sales tax. They signed tax abated big box stores, Home Depot & Costco, proclaiming, if we build stores, people will follow. Guess what? The people didn’t follow.

After their first failure, they went back to the drawing board and embarked on a development plan of erecting towering, tax-abated edifices, Avalon 1 & 2 and Trump/Cappelli, to entice people with “disposable income” who would flock to New Rochelle and support the downtown retail. Guess what? The people with “disposable income” came but shopped elsewhere.

After 20 years of Democratic “Can’t Miss” failures New Rochelle has modest retail, declining sales tax, overburdened property tax, minuscule mortgage recording tax and no master plan. Now Bramson and Strome want to impose the lame brain quick fix of reassessment which will only divide and gentrify New Rochelle. A process of appealing over taxation presently exists for taxpayers. If a citizen wins a tax certiorari it means that they were over-taxed. Individual tax certioraris are the most basic form of reassessment. Total reassessment will not raise one extra dollar in property tax revenue while costing New Rochelle taxpayers about $2 million (a 4.4% property tax increase).

These failures compounded by the economic downturn are responsible for the bleak projections by Finance Commissioner Ratner. The bureaucratic leaders of New Rochelle should consider the following measures before asking personnel for givebacks and threatening layoffs:

Lead by example:

  • Rescind mayor, council and commissioner raises
  • Defer raises for employees earning over $75,000
  • Require all commissioners to reside in New Rochelle
  • Eliminate take-home vehicles except City Manager, Police & Fire commissioners
  • Install official insignias on city vehicles to discourage illegal use
  • Utilize GPS to track location of city employees and vehicles
  • Phase in smaller fuel efficient vehicles including hybrids and electric vehicles
  • Cut all departments by 5%
  • All overtime must be approved by City Manager
  • Impose a public safety/city services fee on all non-profit, tax exempt properties
  • Postpone all parades or move to days that are not double time rate
  • Postpone 4th of July celebration or move to a day which is not double time rate
  • Defer all non-essential projects i.e., restoration, bicycle rack, resurfacing projects
  • Expand fuel saving program with more bicycle, segway and walking posts for NRPD
  • Evaluate the true costs of cell phone services to discover possible savings
  • Institute purchase / service collaboration with New Rochelle Board of Education

I beg our illustrious officials to tread carefully with future decisions. We have two strikes against us and we are in the bottom of the ninth inning. The count is three balls; two strikes if you strike out New Rochelle will lose and may never regain her Queen City status!

Anthony Galletta

12 thoughts on “New Rochelle Long-Term Planning: Lots of Empty Baskets, No Eggs”

  1. Robin Hood Reponses to Fair Cristism (Criticism)
    “Fair Cristism,” you acknowledge in your comment on the soundness of Mr. Galletta’s list of suggestions and proposals. However, you quickly in the next instant dismiss them and focus on your real intent,reassessment. Your acknowledgement is mere lip service to genuine reform ideas. Instead of demanding and asking the city government to concentrate and implement the list of cost reductions and accountiblity measures on the Galletta list which will reduce the need for personnel layoffs and the need to use a drastic measure like reassessment, you focus solely on reassessment.A measure that will irreparably hurt property owners who least can afford the consequences and who will suffer the most from this action. City leaders always should be focused on how to reduce wasteful government spending,bureacratic inefficencies, and possible inappropriate work actions, not how to finacially crush property owners. This is the common ground that all of us in good faith can unite on,work towards, and vigorously support. Are you with us???
    Robin Hood

  2. Well said Anthony
    We’ve been told over and over about the model “if we bring the people , stores will follow” by Bramson , King , Capelli , Naperstek , et al . Even when the economy was good , it didn’t work . I heard on WVOX someone called it “edifice complex” and it fits . Noam needs SOMETHING to validate his existence and he has his followers riding his coattails (you know who they are) . Without something “bigger ” than Tim Idoni’s albatrosses he just won’t measure up for his political future .
    We all know reassessment won’t raise a dime . Enough said about that . If they get away with it , the least they should do is give the owner the option to pick the lower burden , an abatement if you will , until the house sells (maybe ?) but you can’t pile any more on the people. It may be temporary , but it WILL be years before we’re out of this hole .
    One more thing . Marked vehicles . You are soooo right. God forbid you’re business truck isn’t lettered with your bus. name and your Home Improvement Contractor # . Many working people have gotten tickets for that very thing . Every stinking vehicle in city service must be marked with the city logo and what department it serves and a vehicle number . The absolute only reason NOT to do so is that you’re hiding something , or facilitating improper usage .
    Good for you Anthony , always a pleasure to hear your side . Thanks !

  3. Either stupid or corrupt.
    I vote corrupt, Govenor Cuomo once stated if the people really knew what went on they would storm the Bastille with pitch forks. No city could possiably be so mismanaged.

  4. Excellent ideas
    I agree 100% with your suggestions for leading by example. Please continue sharing your ideas!

  5. Fair Cristism
    I would urge everyone to take a fair look at current spending. While there is always room for improvement, New Rochelle has maintained a realitively conservite budget especially compared to other neighboring Westchester cities. (Even though that might say more about those cities than about New Rochelle)

    Mayor Bramson and City Manager Strome don’t come to the decision to attempt to reassess lightly. (Indeed I’m sure both realize the political risk) and almost all of the above considerations are quite smart suggestions. However, the truth is that most houses are underassessed and the reason that many tax payers win tax certiorari is not because they are overassessed but because everyone else is underassessed.

    Reassessment would be a bold political step that would ensure fair taxation. It is a divisive issue but nevertheless one that I feel is of massive importance. Reassessment should not be used solely as a mechanism to gain more in property tax dollars. And as I said above many of the suggestions above are smart and quite honestly common-sense. But the sensitive issue of reassessment is one that needs to be addressed boldly without the partisan politics.

    1. Absolutely WRONG!
      You state, “Reassessment should not be used solely as a mechanism to gain more in property tax dollars”, this is a falsehood, reassessment redistributes taxes but the total tax revenue collected remains the same. A third of properties go up these are the older properties mainly owned by lower middle class including seniors on fixed income, a third of properties go down these are the newer properties which have greater value and mainly owned by the upper classes who can best afford the taxes and a third of the properties remain the same these are the middle class who has been strangled from the get-go. So in reality reassessment would be the most unfair practice as the people who could least afford the increase would be hurt the most while the more affluent who can best afford it would get relief while the folks in the middle who have been squeezed continue to be squeezed.

      1. Don’t Criticize Me, I’m Senstitive
        1st of all I am not on the City’s payroll but I do try my best to be fair. I think blogs like “Talk of the Sound” provide great critical ananysis on local government but that often times the only people paying attention are those in office and those who are completely against every action taken on a local level. When the opinion is such steadfast opposition, it is easy for public officals to look at their last electoral victiory, charecterize the commentary as coming from the fringe and then ignore what are often fair and common-sense solutions (such as those isted in the article).

        There is much more wasteful spending in other nieghboring cities. (Not that we can ignore our own) While considerable time and money is placed in the constant drive to “develop” I don’t think it changes that fact. I think that many of our public officials see nieghboring cities develop (i.e. White Plains) and don’t take the time to think of the structual differences between the two cities. Instead they are attracted by the shiny buildings and a somewhat naive vision of New Rochelle just rising to a giant metroplis after one more development plan. While I disagree that all of our money is just going to development plans, I think substancial time is spent: planing, reaserching and debating plan after plan and then new plans that are basicly admissions that the old ones were a failure. At times it seems like City Hall is just functioning as a branch of the Office of Development.

        As for the fact that tax revenue would not rise at all, I apoligize. I sould mention that I think that any move to reasses would likely be coupled with measures to collect more tax revenue and not just rearrange the division of taxes.

        The fairness of reassesment however is a discussion of the idealist view of tax fairness and a pragmatic one. “Absolutely WRONG!” makes a great argument regarding the current state of home assessment values even though their are many exceptions in all categories. But I don’t believe that maintaining inaccurate assessment values because they end up creating a fair division of tax dollars is fair or sustainable in the long run. Measures should be taken to lessen the burden on the elderly and lower-middle class from new assessment values. (Even though I don’t know how effective our current local council can be in instituting such measures when we can barely get though debates on garbage collection) But keeping inaccurate assessment values is something that is going to hurt us in the long run and instead of just delaying the process we should take the time to start a fair analysis of how we can accurately judge property values with out ignoring the current division of assement values and not kill the lower-middle class.

      2. Criticism is valid if facts are wrong regardless of sensitivity
        If tax assessments are inaccurate whose fault is it? The current and past administrations. New Rochelle put its future in sales tax and now it’s biting them in the A$$. Pelham has performed reassessment and no one is happy. Sellers have settled for hundreds of thousands less when selling and the creative real estate barons are separating land and building sales to skirt the regulations. Should they force reassessment it should be done at the time of sale so current owners will not be forced to vacate their homes. As far as development, New Rochelle looked at neighboring communities but took it to extremes by giving multi-decade tax abatements which no other community did. Additionally White Plains developed from the bottom up starting with infrastructure and New Rochelle plopped edifices on top of out-dated, over burdened infrastructure (roads, sewers etc.) not to mention the creation of impervious surfaces which add to the century old flooding problems in New Rochelle. When times are tough New Rochelle always threatens layoffs as opposed to spending cuts.

    2. Hey “Fair Cristism”
      first of all it’s “criticism”. Anyhow they have to be conservative because there’s NO MONEY . All the money has been given to developers in the form of PILOT programs and abatements , thank you very much .
      If you look at all of the data , you’ll see that in reassessment , 1/3 of the properties will go up , 1/3 of the properties go down and the rest stay even . There is no net increase in the “gain” in property tax dollars .
      It’s your kind of thinking that got us into this mess . Do you work for city hall ? Come back when you have a coherent thought .

    3. Nonsense
      If most houses are underassessed why are there so many certiorais? The economy has devalued homes lower the the assessors “market value” ask former city manager Peter Korn who had his taxes reduced TWICE, once while he was city manager!

  6. How much hope for sanity is really left?
    I think there is almost no hope left. The people are too apathetic when it comes to approving big development. It won’t stop. North Avenue is next.

    1. I’d love to see the
      I’d love to see the assessments and taxes paid by city officials.

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