Council and Mayor — Your Finest Hour

Written By: Warren Gross

I listened to the April 10 City Council meeting and it was a light in a dark room. There is much to do, many reasons for some to be suspicious, even angry. But every journey begins with the first step.

No one has been a more vocal critic of governance in New Rochelle than me and it has not come easy to me to come forward as I have. I will continue to come forward and I hope all people do. But, there is a need to build a community and that includes respectful debate, even strong action against the administration when and where needed. Yes, it is subjective often, but I continue to say without malice that I was close to Noam Bramson. Perhaps my disenchantment is stronger than most of yours. It was personal yet I still believe that there is a man of great intellect and substance behind this this current facade and I hope this shows up as it did somewhat tonight.

Why was this meeting so special? This will not be consistent with all of your views. While I think too much time is spent on some issues, I would rather have that than not enough time.

My scorecard begins with the community. It would not have gotten this far without your voices. Important matters came during the meeting that echoed what was a product of the blog. Keep going, even if harsh; that will moderate as you feel better and important, albeit simple matters on the surface as Lorraine Karl’s key insight that the Planning Committee lacks city-wide representation which is problematic since most of the developmental needs fall down these parts.

Jared was first rate, Ivar perhaps was the most important contributor as he saw the Armory in a light not seen by anyone else. I have proposed that the Armory serve as the lead-in to a commercial retail base that might be sea or shore oriented. He came up with the point that the Armory was more important than the Echo Bay development. Noam, I believe if you see it in that context, as the leading retai commercial hook into the commercial property, it takes on a meaning that excludes the residential. The residential occupies another niche as do the recreational and waterside community prospects.

Barry actually played a key role in arguing for seeing all of the RFPS. It may have been in the context of Echo Bay, but seeing them unscreened, maybe unscored in the context of the site and the follow-on potential of echo bay makes excellent sense.

I have to admit that Napersink was excellent. My take is that he is trying to restore reputational value for Forest City/Ratner. He made some needed concessions, especially around not cutting the wings from the Armory. I think he “guilded the lily” a little on having earlier conversations with the builder, county perhaps, on the tower, but so what.

Noam, my problem with you at this point is that you do not see the need to table echo bay. I do think it is an important project as you do, but it is tomorrow’s important project. You have to look at is as something that likely has to stand in line for city funding. As such I see it as an Intermediate priority. First is the restoration and rebuilding of the business district. you and your development team must know that this is intertwined with quality investments in our community in the near future. It also dictates quality residents, but this is a double edged sword; you are going to have to stick your oar in the school district to get people to move here. You are going to have to reduce crime and do some other things and you know what they are.

Let me simplify an earlier model put forward by Sindel at Harvard. It comes down to Market Value —differently than ever before. In sum, the entire community has to have a serious role to play in such a determination and not just governance.

Let me give an example. You want to put an extension on your home with a swimming pool. However, your accounting shares the home depreciation schedule with you and your parking lot needs to be re-asphalted. The roof is leaking badly and perhaps a cut and paste won’t do. And then there is the NYS regulation on number 6 fuel oil use. you cannot use the current boiler as it will not accept a better grade.

So what do you do? If the house is owned by the community (metaphorically) what should they do?

the answer is clear, but painful. Needs proceed wants and so the addition is put in the Intermediate plan until the rest are cared for.

But, you might live with crazy people or people who believe in the idea that hedonism and face value are important. They choose the addition.

from the viewpoint of a community that is fair game if they understand the conditional consequences of their choice. You represent the electorate. so it can happen that wants trump needs on rare occasions.

Louis is one who sees this. His continued line on DPW is not disrespectful, in fact it could be sensible. You have to be very introspective and open on this…. first satisfy him and the rest of the council that the calculations on hand are accurate and perhaps run additional modeling, maybe with a new engineer, on alternative uses for both locations such as for commercial and residential uses. don’t minimize “soft data” — community input in that part of town count.. especially at elections And there is more. you can wait, we both know you can wait until RFPS, MOUs and additional engineer and cost analysis are made.

You will get lots of points and feel better if you do this.

On a slight negative side, Chuck talks too much at these meetings. He reports to the council and is not a partner. Freimuth is letting his frustrations show but he has a lot on his plate.

Speaking of Freimuth, I would strongly recommend you convene a working citizens small action group to work with him on initially presenting and evaluating RFPS. You really should ask Ron Tocci and John D’Alos to serve. They are your best and brightest on this initiative. Put Ivar Hydin and Jared Rice on it as well. they have the most interest and input.

Let me close with the City Charter/Council. I have lived a long life and have seen this in the past elsewhere. There are parallels in industry. I faced a similar situation over 30 years ago and fired the head of the legal department.

So please adhere to the Charter/Code or get the city council to authorize responsibilities to those you are undertaking but are not explicit in the New Rochelle City Charter/Code. But, you really have to undertake a charter revenue and decide if you plan to resurrect the “strong mayor” position. If enough of your supporters read my blogs and relate to what you really are doing at City Hall, they will want to legitimize this and it will pass.

Finally the first providers. Noam, what Doug Gray reported on is the sort of thing that dooms careers. You don’t screw around with elementary aspects of what is provided for firemen or policement. Yes you do bargain aggressively on early retirements, overtime in retirement calculations, but damn, what Doug said brought tears to my eyes.

Kevin Thomas suffered burns on his face an elsewhere. Great kid, colleague when we both were in the school district. he dreamed about joining the fire department. Are you saying that we cannot tell the present people who place medical services and legal service, etc… way out of town.

Come on! No right thinking citizen wants this for Kevin, Doug or anyone else. One trip to Sound Shore will put this right. I know you know plenty of doctors, lots of lawyers. Do what a commanding officer does for Christ sake, in or out of Charter. this time i approve. and tell strome how to work a budget regarding first providers. Ride Caroll and his fire equal like hell for productivity, but build back the headcounts to the right levels. Let go of non-essential head office exempt staff.

And while you are at it, give downtown New Rochelle a police precinct. move selective other departments downtown. you want a safer, more inclusive city… that is how you do it.

you need support and help…. i and others will jump at the chance.