After listening to the Bramsom/St Paul debate, I thought it would be worthwhile to introduce some of the facts and possibilities the candidates didn’t touch on. Instead, Mayor Bramson, rather than dealing with truths and the issues, seemed more interested in settling a personal score with Richard St Paul. Hence, I thought I would touch on the issues. Here goes:
Tim Idoni claimed that corporate development was difficult for NR because it lacks access from major highways and because corporations want “park-like settings.” First, NR has had office development in the downtown for years. The Raddison, which started out as the Ramada Inn, was nothing but a vacant lot. In fact, there multiple vacant lots that were brought and built on by developers in that same area–including the area where Bel-Aqua now sits. Likewise, White Plains put up many office buildings right in its downtown which generated the need for housing and retail. NR has only once attempted to secure corporate development for the City when it attempted to attract Unicef to the lot where the Trump Tower now sits.
What sites were ripe for development? The area around Industrial Place where Home Depot now sits was easily accessible from both the Hutch and I-95. Rather than using this property to build mid or highrise offices with retail components, NR sought to construct a handful of one story retail outlets that have a minimal effect on the local economy. These outlets, for the most part, attract transients who have no reason or desire to travel north on Main Street. Nor do they employ people who have the incomes to relocate to NR. If instead, corporate office buildings were constructed on this site, it would have employed people of varying incomes who might have very well chosen to shop and live in NR. Once again however, the rush to bring something to NR led to a poor choice which we must endore for years to come.
Mayor Bramson claims the old Mall was vacant and crumbling and needed to be demolished. This is false. The Mall was only about 25 years old when it was torn down. In the 30 years I worked in the construction business, I have yet to see such a young, commercial building destroyed. If the Mayor looked around, he would see that other aging malls were not torn down, but revitalized. In Spring Valley, NY, that mall was as old as the one in NR, but instead of destroying it, developers enlarged it and remodeled it to keep pace with current times. In Yonkers, the Cross County shopping center is currently on the tail end of its revitalization, and Portchester, just a few years ago, revitalized the Kohls Plaza.
What did NR do? It took a mall that had a more pleasing facade on Main Street and was capable of housing much needed retail and replaced with a giant game room. This facility hardly attracts people with disposable income to NR who might shop at other quality, retail establishments. We now have a huge windowless wall facing Main Street which turns it into a dark, unattractive corridor. Moreover, if residents remember, we were led to believe that New Roc was going to be comprised of retail stores. Instead, it was changed, after contruction started and council aopproved it, into an entertainment center.
Noam Bramson claims we need people with disposable income in the downtown to attract retail. Meanwhile, on Sanford Boulevard, Mount Vernon managed to attract Target, Best Buy, DSW and Bed, Bath and Beyond. These are hardly the types of stores that cater solely to the rich and famous. Similarily, Portchester brought in Kohls and a DSW shopping center to its downtown. Again, an area that is hardly surrounded by people with disposable income, or for that matter, accessable by a multitude of major arteries like White Plains.
Mayor Bramson fails to aggressively pursue the type of development that would put NR back on its feet and make it “sustainable.” We need to set priorities. I cannot remember ANY RFPs being extended to developers who sought to bring in corporate development to NR. This type of development would create better paying jobs for current NR residents, it would attract others to move to the City, and it would spur the need for other supportive retail establishments. The property where Avalon sits could have easily accomodated corporate development but no effort was made to pursue it. Instead, valuable land space close to the train station was wasted on buildings that fail to produce any significant economic benefit to the City.
Mayor Bramson fails to address traffic and parking problems in the downtown. He claims the lack of accessibilty to NR discourages development. Then, from the getgo, he and former Mayor Idoni should have first discussed the City’s plans with traffic engineers and came up with a better plan for facilitating traffic into the downtown and off I-95. What could have been studied? Contructing a series of wider, multi-laned, one way streets from Garden Street to Burling Lane and on parts of North Avenue and Memorial Highway. No effort was made to address traffic flow or congestion.
Once the proper infrastructure was in place, incentives could have been given to responsible, corporate developers. Then, retail, then housing. For 16 years, we have been putting the cart before the horse. It is time to get our ducks in a row and turn NR into an attractive, economically secure City. Think about this: a City with 3 college campuses does not have a single bookstore or major clothing outlet like the GAP. In the words of Dr. Henry Lee, “something is wrong.”
Personally, I don’t care who is elected provided the council and the Mayor focus on the Cities problems rather than launching personal attacks and using the office of Mayor as a venue for higher office. The City comes first–personal goals should enter the picture.