How Much Money Will the GreenR Plan Cost New Rochelle Residents?

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Article in the Westchester Herald, May 17 by Peggy Godfrey
Sustainability Consultant Debra Newborn explained that because New Rochelle was selected as one of the three cities to be part of the ICLEI pilot, the Draft GreenR 2010 Vision and Action for a Healthier Community Plan was created. Thirty three (33) volunteers were selected by City Manger Chuck Strome, comprised of experts and community leaders. The community workshop attracted 150 residents. She asked if this plan makes sense for the residents of New Rochelle and if there is a reasonable probability it can be accomplished. Although she felt most initiatives in the report would save money, she explained there is a need for a thorough cost analysis, especially for future allocations using grants and voluntary actions. She is looking forward to constructive suggestions. The public hearing was held on May 11 at New Rochelle City Hall.
Herbert Fox, a mechanical engineering professor on the committee, said he was involved in the conclusions of the document. He pointed out, “man can alter the consequences of climate changes”. Michael Yellin, Co-chairman of the Glenwood Lakes Neighborhood Association, supported the “modest goals” but felt the document did not go far enough. In his view Davids Island needed to be pursued as well as the reduction of non-point source pollution. This theme continued to be echoed throughout the hearing.
Some school children addressed the City Council. The student President of Ward School has been advocating for environmentally friendly lunch trays and to have frozen yogurt served at the school. Several students from Trinity School’s Green Team also supported the plan. Joan Alexander of the New Rochelle League of Women Voters promised the League would study the plan in the next few months.
Robert Cox, founder of New Rochelle Talk of the Sound blog, urged that the public be given a sufficient amount of time to read the document and that the approval date should not be June. The great number of speakers who were on the committee who spoke at the hearing was mentioned. Steve Mayo said he supports sustainability but added “the devil is in the details” because he said it was “only a vague outline at this point” and not a plan. These environmental problems took thousands of years to occur, so “what is the hurry?” The City should take the time to study the document. Joe Calisi said there is insufficient infrastructure to support the multitude of apartments proposed for downtown. The taxes are already too high.
What are some topics in the GreenR Plan? Mayor Noam Bramson viewed it as a framework, and wanted the funding to rely on “grants, private initiatives and contributions of existing staff resources.” Green building standards include the use of LEEDs standards which are not even in the state codes. Loans are projected to be paid back through energy savings and are promoted. Other initiatives include better water and wastewater management and enforcement of the idling laws.
Although the Echo Bay Development is cited, the report says this waterfront is “currently inaccessible and contaminated.” Planning for Davids Island should be for sustainable development. Workforce housing must be completed to comply with the Legacy Grant conditions.
But probably the most controversial part of the report states 95% of all new housing according to the report should be “within walking distance of mass transit and at least 65% of new housing units within one-half mile of the New Rochelle Transit Center. Criticism of this part of the plan was inevitable. The problems being experienced by residents of Clinton Place who have been unable to take morning showers between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. since the opening of the Avalon buildings was cited. It was also felt that the recent shortage of parking spaces in downtown lots, created by people who lived in these Avalon buildings and refused to pay for a parking space in their building or in a city lot, needed to be addressed by City Council before any action is taken on this sustainability plan.
After the hearing two residents had some comments. Joan Coviello said increasing the recycling is a good thing, but if any of these changes are going to cost the homeowners more money it will create a hardship for the lower income residents and make it difficult for them to keep their homes, especially senior citizens on limited incomes. Ines Candrea asked if it was ethical for official members of this GreenR Committee to come to speak at a public hearing, and to make matters worse, not to identify themselves. “Some of the speakers at this hearing were not even residents of New Rochelle. They have no right to speak. Why would City Council members be listening to people who do not live in New Rochelle?”