Former Mayor Paduano Asks the Questions for Bramson

Written By: Peggy Godfrey

In the August 8, 2013 iaaue of the Westchester Guardian

1. When will the City of New Rochelle conduct and complete an expert analysis of the financial and operational assumptions of the Echo Bay proposal and new city yard?

New Rochelle hired experienced consultants to evaluate development but it was only a short time ago. Bramson has been on the Council since 1994. Now Bramson has spoken of “delays” with Playland updating but says nothing about the excessive number of delays on proposed construction in New Rochelle. For example, the tax agreements to help Target and Kohl’s come to New Roc never materialized. Le Count Square is now in worse condition than before it was given l8 memorandums of understanding and final approvals by a Democratic majority on Council. Escrow accounts did nothing to move these projects along to completion.

Former Mayor Len Paduano when asked this question about Echo Bay answered the first thing the city should do when it considers any development is to develop a break-even chart which will clearly show when the City will make a profit on a project. This was always done when he was mayor. Present city projects going 20-30 years with tax abatement (Avalon and New Roc) should have broken down real expenses and real revenue over the time period. Presently this is never done. Bramson never talks about the debt service required or what the taxpayers will be required to pay over the years for the entire debt service. Paduano said he never approved tax abatements when he was mayor. The only concessions made by the City Council at that time was for senior citizen housing, never for a developer.

2. By what date will Echo Bay and the new city yard become financially self sustaining and no longer dependent upon assistance from the taxpayers of New Rochelle?

The extensive hearings on the FEIS (Final Environmental Impact Statement) and previous reports on the Echo Bay proposal did nothing to allay taxpayer fears that Echo Bay and the new city yard will become an albatross on taxpayers for many years.

Former Mayor Len Paduano says this project will cost the city $40 million or more. Presently the debt service for city taxes is about $2 million per year. This will add another one million yearly to the debt service and could increase property taxes 4%. This project adds no value for the citizens of New Rochelle. He believes that the present City debt at $80 million and the prospect of added debt from this project could impact the city’s financial rating and it will have a good chance of being lowered by Standard and Poors and Moodys when they look at this debt. This will effect interest rates on bonds. When he was mayor, in contrast, these rating agencies complimented New Rochelle on reducing long term debt service.
When he was mayor the fund balance met the requirements to maintain city financial ratings. The present council and Mayor Bramson keep raiding the fund balance to reduce tax increases. Paduano asked: When will these developers’ projects become an economic plus to the city? Right now we don’t have the answers to so many problems such as the cost of environmental cleanup of the old city yard site, actual cost of development at Echo Bay, and for the new city yard. There will be all kinds of unanticipated problems. This could turn into a bottomless pit for the taxpayers of New Rochelle.

The decline in assessments since 1992 bears this out. Bramson cannot blame all the drop over the economy. Paduano asserted that It is not true that New Rochelle is better off now than it was under the Republicans. Statistics bear this out.

3. What is the optimum number of visits to the Armory that will be achieved by the proposal for its redevelopment and in what year will this number be achieved?

If the Armory is properly developed into a community facility, an inordinate number of citizens could be visiting the site, according to Paduano; The opera company could be one mainstay using the facility. The Armory could be rented for such events as art and antique shows. With proper management the city could have performances every week. Right now there is no place for art exhibits, antique shows and other entities. With proper management according to Paduano the city could have live performances every week. “Right now we have no place for art exhibits such as stained glass exhibits.that could make other communities envious.” Not only New Rochelle but also neighboring communities would use this facility. Paduano mentioned entertainment groups, shows, and music events with different groups performing. These types of events were not problems when the beach clubs had them. Right now there is no place in New Rochelle licensed to have that type of name entertainment. In the history of New Rochelle, Glen Island was a mecca in the 30’s and 40’s . Glen Miller got his start here. The Armory could really generate a lot of money for the City if it is handled properly. People would love to come to be there on the waterfront. Therefore, Paduano feels we should not turn the Armory parking lot over to any developer. A part time manager could be hired for the Armory to produce a yearly calendar that could promote these activities. That way the Armory could be used year round.