The New Rochelle City Council received a presentation by David Kooris of the Regional Planning Association on April 20. The entire video is 33 minutes so it has been broken up into 4 parts to comply with YouTube requirement that no video exceed 10 minutes in length.
A few points to consider as you watch the video clips below:
1. Although the delivery of this plan has been on the Green R agenda for a year, the report was not delivered to Council members until just minutes before the meeting so, as noted in the video, the council had no time to prepare any questions for Mr. Kooris.
2. The “Sustainability Advisory Board” met secretly every six weeks over the past year and has had, so far, just one meeting where public input was permitted, back in September 2009. There has been no public input into whether or not the City of New Rochelle should have sought a partnership with ICLEI, the group behind the Green R plan and no explanation of who they are and what their broader long-term policy goals are for New Rochelle and other communities around the world.
3. In May there will be a public comment period, the only opportunity for the public to question the premise of the report, the findings and the implications and get answers. However, members of the public will be allowed just 3 minutes to comment and will do so in a setting where the City Council does not respond to questions and there will be no opportunity to directly question the people who wrote the plan.
4. Despite the report’s finding that 10% of New Rochelle residents do not speak English, the report is only available in English.
5. The City had made absolutely no meaningful effort to address the “digital divide” in New Rochelle in distributing this report. Even many of the roughly 60% of residents with high-speed broadband Internet have had great difficulty in downloading the unnecessarily massive 110 MB file (I was able to reduce the file to 8.3 MB in a matter of 2 minutes using Adobe Acrobat Professional). For the 40% who use dial-up or do not have Internet access at all, the Green R plan is not available for delivery to their home or work place. These people, many of them poor or elderly, are being required to share a single copy made available at the New Rochelle Public Library or another copy available at City Hall. It took me several hours to read through the entire 100+ pages of the report. If it takes the average person 2 hours to read it, the library is open for 61 hours a week and there are two weeks until the hearing it means that 61 people can read the report at the library. Just 61 residents out of the 40% of the 75,000 people who cannot download the report (less because only 67,500 can read English) can read the report at the library. City Hall is not open on weekends so even fewer residents can read it there during the next weeks. So, while large parts of our community cannot read the document, those affluent enough to own powerful computers and can pay $600 a year to have high-speed broadband Internet to their home get free home delivery of their own copy of the report.
The Mayor has said the Green R plan is intended to provide a framework for all future decisions for the City of New Rochelle for the next two decades. Proponents and critics may not agree on much but all sides can agree that the Green R Plan calls for sweeping changes to building codes, development, municipal finance, code enforcement, law enforcement, garbage pick, parks, water, sewage and much more. The plan calls for all decisions made by the Council, IDA, Planning and Zoning Boards to be filtered through the prism of the Green NR Plan, with “Green” projects being fast-tracked for approval.
The Green R Plan was only released last week. Few residents have even heard of the report let along read it and even those wish to read it have encountered difficulties obtaining a copy. A large segment of our community cannot even understand the document because they do not speak English and many others will find reading a “public” hard copy at the library or City Hall difficult if not impossible.
Is this sort of transparent process and community involvement the Mayor had in mind when he talks about “welcoming” public comment? Does the Mayor believe that elderly residents feel welcome? How about Latino residents? How about low-income residents, predominantly black and Latino residents? When told last week about problems downloading the report, the Mayor’s answer was “I have just tested the City website, and it seems to be functioning”. Apparently, in the Mayor’s mind, if he is able to download the file from his computer no one else has a legitimate issue.
A final thought, ask yourself just who is David Kooris talking about when he says “we” and “our city”? Mr. Kooris works for an organization based in Manhattan with satellite offices in Princeton, NJ and Stamford, CT. He lives in Bridgeport, CT. He was educated in Canada and works closely with ICLEI a UN-backed organization run out of Belgium with offices in Montreal. To borrow a line from a Dirty Harry movie…”whose WE sucka?”.
GreenNR Presentation to New Rochelle City Council (1/4)
GreenNR Presentation to New Rochelle City Council (2/4)
GreenNR Presentation to New Rochelle City Council (3/4)
GreenNR Presentation to New Rochelle City Council (4/4)