What a Difference Six Months Makes: Bramson Optimism on Stimulus Funding Evaporates

Written By: Robert Cox

Last February, New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson was talking big about bringing $98 million in federal stimulus money to New Rochelle. In his State of the City speech, Bramson claimed the Federal Stimulus Package will help the city.

Don’t bother looking on the Journal News site for the story, the Mayor’s big talk from last winter has disappeared from the JN web site — much like the Mayor’s unfounded optimism about advancing his ill-conceived pet projects on the backs of American taxpayers.

Journal News, March 1, 2009: New Rochelle seeking $98 million in stimulus money

Back then the City was looking for $25 million to fund relocating the Department of Public Works yard to a site on Beechwood Avenue in the hopes of clearing the way for the development at Echo Bay by Forest City. Since then Forest City has backed way off its plans as it struggles to cope with the impact of the recession.

Back then Bramson said, “In my judgment, the city yard project has merit in and of itself. We’ll be replacing a facility with one that is environmentally sensitive. Its linkage to Echo Bay makes it that much more valuable.”

Apparently those doling out stimulus dollars did not share the Mayor’s excitement; that money has not been forthcoming and there appears to be no chance of that happening.

“It’s not our expectation that we’ll be receiving all of this money,” said Mayor Noam Bramson. “The intent of this proposal is to lay out a wide range of our priorities for the city of New Rochelle.”

Now the Mayor is not even talking about any of this money — in fact, he is not talking about it all, at least to the press. Instead, City Manager Chuck Strome is the bearer of bad news. Strome spoke to the Journal News last week:

“So far we haven’t gotten much of a response,” City Manager Charles Strome III said. “The package we put together was more of a wish list. But we’re still looking to see if there are individual projects we can apply for.”

Good luck with that. The “wish list” is more like a “wishful thinking list” since Strome and Bramson admitted at a City Council meeting that none of the projects in the “wish list” would be “shovel-ready” within the period proscribed under the

The city has asked for about $5 million in stimulus money to repair storm drains. Other projects the city would like to use stimulus money for include about $25 million for building 228 units of affordable housing.

The person responsible for managing the “wish list”, Omar Small told JN that the City was “monitoring different types of programs as they become available.” In other words, they have no expectation of getting money and no idea how to get it.

In typically misleading fashion, JN reporter Aman Ali types up the cover story concocted by City officials:

To date, the city has received roughly $17.8 million in stimulus money, the bulk of which is for housing needs such as homeless prevention grants, homeowner tax credits and Section 8 assistance.

If you go back and watch the March 2009 City Council meeting you will hear Councilman Stowe talking about this money coming in through an entirely separate channel that has nothing to do with the City government — yes, the money went to projects that are in New Rochelle but they are not going to New Rochelle.

Readers will recall that the “shoot, aim, fire” approach to seeking federal stimulus dollars was first noted here on Talk of the Sound:

Confusion Reigns over New Rochelle’s Stimulus Wish List
City Councilman Richard St. Paul set off a chain reaction two weeks ago that has resulted in the City of New Rochelle having to withdraw millions of dollars in proposed stimulus package spending after a devastating report in Talk of the Sound found that 20% of the proposed $97.775 million in spending was ineligible or submitted improperly.

Below is a roundup for our reporting last March, we will let readers decide who had a more realistic understanding of the federal stimulus program.

Strome Blames “Talk of the Sound” for Stimulus Confusion
In a transparent attempt to shift responsibility away from staff at City Hall, City Manager Chuck Strome has resorted to blaming “the media” for any confusion over the existence of a so-called “final list” of stimulus projects as part of the City’s efforts to cash in on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. As the record clearly shows, Mr. Strome has no one to blame but himself for the confusion that has reigned over this issue for the past five weeks.

New Rochelle City Council Discusses Stimulus Process
On March 10th, New Rochelle City Councilman Richard St. Paul asks for an explanation of how the City requested stimulus funds from New York State. City Manager Chuck Strome and Mayor Noam Bramson answer.

Noam Bramson Chides City Council Members for “Unhealthy” Dialog with Constituents
Mayor Noam Bramson, reacting to our reporting on the City’s stimulus funding requests, chided council members last week for expressing their concerns publicly. Bramson does not want City Council members to relate any concerns they might have about how the government is being run “second or third hand through the media or some other avenue”. Our Mayor find this to be “unhealthy” and not the sort of dialog which “ought to exist between individuals and groups that really have to be working in partnership.”

New Rochelle Lines Up For Its Helping of Pork: $100mm for Skating Rinks, Boat Storage, Soccer Fields, Streetscapes
The 7th largest city in New York State has dusted off long dormant or unworkable plans coupled with goodies for multi-million dollar real estate developers and dumped them into a nearly $100 million grab bag of spending initiatives that will do little to stimulate the economy but a lot of keep favored contractors working on the Federal dime while delivering the goods for deep-pocketed developers who have pumped dollars into the Mayor’s campaign fund.

Mayor Bramson Vows New Rochelle will be stronger
Despite the economy, Mayor Noam Bramson of New Rochelle claimed the State of the City is “strong.” Citing a responsible city budget which cut spending $3 million this year, he added that the Federal Stimulus Package will help the city.