NEW ROCHELLE, NY — New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson has called City Council Members to concede defeat on Echo Bay Development,a highly controversial plan to develop public property on East Main Street on the New Rochelle water front. Bramson will hold a news conference this afternoon.
UPDATE: Bramson has issued a statement, below.
Mayor Bramson has informed the City Manager and Forest City/Ratner that there are not enough votes to support a required Land Disposition Agreement schedule for a vote Tuesday. The LDA would transfer City property to Forest City/Ratner and set the terms for the broader development deal.
Forest City/Ratner is reported to be extremely upset with the Mayor for failing to deliver the votes necessary to complete the deal and refused to participate in a joint statement. Instead, the developer is demanding a vote on Tuesday, November 26th, a move that could only serve to further embarrass the beleaguered Bramson who has been a staunch defender of the deal for his entire term as Mayor.
The demise of the deal marks the end of an era in New Rochelle.
Echo Bay Development has come to symbolize flawed development in New Rochelle based on massive, long-term tax subsidies for developers and massive tax increases for New Rochelle property owners.
Over the past 18 months, opposition grew until a groundswell of community opposition from all corners of the City overwhelmed attempts by the developer and New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson to defend the project.
The defeat of the plan is an unusual loss for Forest City/Ratner which has typically been able to use political connections, campaign contributions and highly questionable practices to push through projects regardless of community opposition. The U.S. Department of Justice has actively investigated other Forest City/Ratner projects in the New York Metropolitan Area leading to the arrest and conviction of political figures who supported Forest City/Ratner’s development plans in their communities.
The defeat may well be the death-knell for Mayor Noam Bramson’s political future in New Rochelle. Bramson had wagered a great deal of political capital on what became his signature project. A bet he has now lost.
The outcome is a major victory of opponents of the project, a grassroots effort that catalyzed opposition to the long-standing political establishment in New Rochelle led by the Mayor. It remains to be seen if the broad-based coalition that came together to defeat the project will have any lasting political impact in the run up the 2015 City Council and Mayoral elections.
Statement by Mayor Noam Bramson:
It is clear that a majority of the City Council is now opposed to the Forest City project at Echo Bay, and I expect that the Council will vote on Tuesday to set aside the terms of the Forest City development agreement.
As a supporter of the project, I am, naturally, disappointed. But New Rochelle remains fully committed to improving our waterfront and downtown, and it’s our job now to focus on the future.
The debate surrounding Echo Bay was often passionate and intense. Let’s now work together to harness that energy on behalf of the sustainable growth and vitality of the city we love and share.
We need to take a few weeks to consult with each other and to receive input from the community. It is still important that we increase public access to the shoreline and have an open space component.
The statement is part of an effort by the City to press Forest City to drop their demand for a vote on Tuesday, according to sources at City Hall.
Statement from Council Member Albert Tarantino:
I would think Forest City is now getting the message. It is up to them to go for a vote. Certainly, the power of persuasion of Forest City is something you never want to underestimate but the Council has come together on a bi-partisan basis to kill the project. My hope is we can now we can move forward and look towards the future. I am happy that we now have the opportunity to look at the entire 26 acre site where we can include specific direction to developers in any future RFP.
Statement from United Citizens for a Better New Rochelle:
UCBNR is pleased to hear that the Mayor recognizes he does not have the votes to move forward with Forest City’s project at Echo Bay. Should the council vote on Tuesday to set aside the terms with Forest City, it will be a decisive victory for the people of New Rochelle. As we have repeatedly stated, the city cannot afford the project as proposed. Now comes the hard part of moving forward. UCBNR stands ready to work with the council and the mayor to forge a new beginning.
New Rochelle, NY — November 26, 2013 – United Citizens for a Better New Rochelle (UCBNR) announced today that they consider tonight’s vote by the City Council to abandon Forest City’s proposed development at Echo Bay a resounding success for the residents of New Rochelle. Bradley Richmond, one of the founding members of UCBNR, remarked, “Ultimately, there was bipartisan opposition to this project, two republicans and two democrats, once again proving that smart economic development belongs to all parties.” The group acknowledged and extended their gratitude to City Council members Lou Trangucci, Al Tarantino and Ivar Hyden, who early on recognized the negative impact this proposal would have on the city. Jeffrey Hastie, one of the founding members of UCBNR also remarked, “Al, Lou, and Ivar have always supported our efforts to ask questions, analyze the numbers, and advocate for the best possible project.”
UCBNR also thanked all the City Council members who ultimately put their constituents interests above all else. “We also specifically want to recognize Councilwoman Shari Rackman’s openness to meeting with us and listening to our concerns. She was inquisitive and thoughtful in her approach, which is exactly what we’d expect from our elected officials,” remarked Dmitry Khaykin, a founding member of UCBNR. Additionally, they thanked the thousands of citizens of New Rochelle who joined together to exercise their constitutional rights and stood up for the best interests of all. Lastly, the group thanked local media blogger, Robert Cox, founder of Talk of the Sound, for his investigative reporting. Cox reported on and published several important documents that provided critical information and led to significant inroads.
“This positive result was far from our efforts alone; it never could have been accomplished without the widespread collaboration of people from every corner of New Rochelle.” said Howard Stevens, one of the founding members of the group. “We’re a city of 77,000 people, and yet for the first time since I’ve lived here, it felt more like a village.”
The group recognizes that the hard part begins now. “It’s easy to say no to something. It’s much harder to say yes. Our goal is to work with the City Council to promote sound development in our city,” said Adam Egelberg, one of the founding members of the group. Using the collective talents of its members, UCBNR plans to actively engage in sourcing and assessing positive revenue streams for the city.
“This is a win not just because we’ve stopped this project from financially crippling our City and impeding our long-term prospects for growth, but because we’ve catalyzed an unprecedented number of citizens from all walks of life and every corner of the city to take an active interest in the economic development and welfare of New Rochelle. This victory doesn’t mark the end of our efforts, only the first chapter,” said Andrew Newman, a founding member of the group.
UCBNR is a non-partisan organization whose mission is to educate and engage the community in order to foster economic growth and prosperity, ensure transparency and accountability of our government and improve the general welfare and standard of living of our City’s residents.
Statement from Hon. Ron Tocci:
I am pleased that Council is convinced that this project was an ill-conceived idea that did not make sense environmentally and economically. Now we have an opportunity to do it right, go back to the drawing board and re-think any RFP and viable development. The next step is to put a hold on moving the City yard to revaluate the costs of that project. The only viable project left from this is the result of the Armory Design Competition. Any RFP should encompass the adaptive reuse of the Armory.
State from Cause of Action:
Cause of Action, a government accountability group, found that Forest City Residential Group and its Echo Bay project consultants used political contributions and lobbyists to try to get a sweetheart deal from the taxpayers of New Rochelle. Now Forest City’s Echo Bay project has been rejected by the citizens and elected officials in New Rochelle. Citizens of New Rochelle have delivered a stunning rebuke to cronyism that benefits the politically connected at the expense of the taxpayers.
Statement from Peter Parente, President UVMPA-NR:
Hearing the news of Mayor Bramson’s concession of The Echo Bay Development Project and his relationship with Forest City Ratner, makes me a PROUD AMERICAN.
This is truly a great day for New Rochelle and the people of our great City. The people have taken back what was is theirs. Rogue politicians have no place in a democracy. Bullying the people, their government counterparts and bending arms are no way to run a government, local, state or federal.
The citizens of New Rochelle have fought a tough and long fight, but patients and persistence prevails. Way to go New Ro!!
The United Veterans would like to thank all who stood shoulder to shoulder with us during this battle.
The battle we won, but the war wages on. Still a lot to do to straighten New Rochelle out. Keep up the great work.
Statement from End Civic Association Statement:
The East End Civic Association applauds the recent City Council decision to reject the Land Disposition Agreement (LDA) regarding the proposed Forest City development at Echo Bay. This action effectively ends the nearly seven year battle over the contested waterfront development.
It can be considered a milestone to have such bipartisan agreement among council on such an important aspect of the well being of this fine City. We welcome this new beginning for the future of New Rochelle. We recognize the diligence and effort of our district 2 Councilman Al Tarantino as he worked hand in hand with Lou Trangucci, Ivar Hyden and Ms Rackman to step back and look at the big picture. Their ability to put partisanship aside to reach a conclusion that transcends political differences is worthy of everyone’s appreciation.
Since the projects inception, the majority of East End residents have been concerned about the details of the development and it’s resulting impact on the community where we raise our children, grow our families and celebrate the community we hold so dear. Serving as the “gateway” to Echo Bay, we believe that no other community faces the challenges that would result from any development that would include this property. Early and continued concerns have been routinely dismissed much to our dismay, however, as the facts became evident, more and more citizens became involved and council members began to hear the voice of the residents.
Although this decision marks an end to the current plan, we join others as we embark on a new path to prosperity and growth for the next generation. We believe increased participation by the electorate and a more responsive council coupled with a new spirit of cooperation will be the cornerstone upon which we build a better New Rochelle for everyone.
We wish to thank our friends at United Citizens for a Better New Rochelle for their tireless efforts, the various associations that took the time to listen, and New Rochelle’s own local news site – Talk of the Sound – for offering a platform for the issues. While the power of groups can not be underestimated, in the end, it is the citizen, you, your friends, your neighbors who took the time to get involved and share their views. It is from this gathering that we now have the foundation for a better New Rochelle and we thank you all for being part of it.
Continued success is assured when we work together to tend to the business of our city, New Rochelle. Stay involved, stay informed and support New Rochelle
Mayor Noam Bramson, who championed the project for years, conceded today that the majority of City Council members were opposed to the development. Without the council’s support, the project cannot go forward.
“Naturally I’m disappointed,” Bramson said. “It’s our job now to focus on the future.”
Mayor Noam Bramson said he fully expects the New Rochelle City Council to stop the Echo Bay development process at a special meeting Tuesday, November 26.
Bramson told The Daily Voice on Friday that, given conversations he has had with individual council members, he is ready to draw this conclusion. The council is due to make the decision at their meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 26.
After heated debate surrounding the development, which culminated in a confrontational Nov. 12 City Council meeting, the mayor said he was looking to put the issue behind him and confident he and his colleagues would continue to work together amicably.
“We all have a responsibility to focus on the future,” he [Bramson] said.