NEW ROCHELLE, NY — That popping sound you heard over at 515 North Avenue this morning was New Rochelle’s Democratic Mayor Noam Bramson uncorking champagne at City Hall.
The Mayor can be be forgiven for an early victory lap after his putative Republican opponent demonstrated unequivocally that he was totally unqualified and unprepared to even run for Mayor let alone serve if elected.
Many Republicans were left scratching their heads as to how their party ended up with the standard-bearer they heard on the radio this morning.
Brendan Conroy, the Republican candidate for Mayor and grandson of Governor Malcolm Wilson, went on the air with Bob Marrone of WVOX1460-AM, and belly-flopped in spectacular fashion.
In what Marrone said was Conroy’s first-ever media interview, the Republican could not answer even the most rudimentary, easily anticipated, questions. Marrone had to carry him across the finish line in what became a cringe-inducing death march.
Asked about his goals for New Rochelle, Conroy proposed to slow downtown development.
Slowing real estate development seems an odd position for a Republican who makes a living selling real estate.
Conroy mentioned infrastructure then talked about potholes. The Mayor of New Rochelle has no role in fixing potholes within the City Manager form of government like the one in New Rochelle.
When asked about the biggest issue facing New Rochelle he said “infrastructure” but even after several minutes to think about his answer during a commercial break, Conroy could not explain just why infrastructure was an issue in New Rochelle, apparently unaware of the Con Edison gas moratorium or overcrowded classrooms in the public schools.
When asked about the New Rochelle school district, an unmitigated disaster, run by a school board almost entirely hand-picked by Bramson, Conroy could only offer that he was satisfied with his children’s education at Ward and Albert Leonard Middle School and that communication between the City and School District could be improved.
Asked why he wants to run for Mayor, Conroy said “New Rochelle has given me a lot” and offered that he “wants to give back”. He did not specify what New Rochelle had given him or explain why his being elected to a six-figure, part-time job was some sort of sacrifice. He insisted he had something to offer but did not say what that something was.
As a real estate agent he said he “hoped” he knew something about real estate, adding that “real estate is the bedrock of the community, the backbone of the community”.
Apparently, the people he seeks to represent, and the community’s schools, churches and temples, and civic groups are all less important than real estate.
Asked about his family, he said his mother, former City Council Member Kathy Conroy, had done a lot of good for New Rochelle but did not provide any examples of what she had done. She did lose to Noam Bramson in 1995, paving the way for Bramson to become Mayor. To that extent, Bramson might well agree she had done a lot of good for the City. Republicans not so much.
Asked what he wanted to accomplish if elected Mayor, Conroy proposed absolutely nothing.
He said his biggest concern was the speed of development, the rate at which it is occurring, and infrastructure, in particular roads.
“I drove the length of New Rochelle the other night and not one of the roads I was on didn’t have a pothole in it, believe it or not,” said Conroy.
As this happens every winter in every municipality in the Northeast United States, Marrone did believe it, as did, presumably, all of the hundreds of listeners on the 500-watt radio station.
Conroy did not explain the connection between potholes in the North End of New Rochelle and downtown development in the South End, 10 miles away.
“I want to improve our City,” Conroy said. “I want to make it the best City it can be”.
Asked what impact downtown development has on real estate values and quality of life, Conroy offered his only criticism of his opponent.
“If done correctly it will have nothing but benefits for New Rochelle but if done incorrectly it will cause all kinds of issues that I’m not sure the present administration has really taken a hard look at.”
Marrone eagerly asked for details.
“You could have an oversupply of rental housing in downtown New Rochelle and that means that the projected income you were going to get for downtown New Rochelle would not come to fruition,” said Conroy. “You’re talking about 6,000 plus rental units that to me appear to be going up as fast as they can be approved.”
Conroy did not explain why the rapid construction of approved development projects was a bad thing and seemed to have no knowledge of the Downtown Overlay Zone, approved unanimously by both Democrats and Republicans on City Council, which allowed for a streamlined approval process under which most development is now occurring.
Asked again about infrastructure issues, Conroy mentioned water supply and sewer lines. He expressed concerns over bringing thousands of additional residents to downtown New Rochelle.
“All of that stuff has to be carefully looked at,” he said.
Having raised the issue of infrastructure as his biggest concern, when Marrone asked for solutions Conroy had none.
“That is an excellent question Bob, one that I can tell you right now I am not going to be able to resolve this morning,” said Conroy.
Apropos to nothing, Conroy invoked his grandfather with an oxymoron.
“I have to be honest as a politician, I hope to emulate my grandfather in being able to work across party lines to get what needs to be done done in a way that can make everyone if not happy at least content.”
Sounds like the makings of a potential campaign slogan, “New Rochelle, not happy, but content!”
“The tenor of politics today is such that you’re either one side or the other and for me local politics New Rochelle is our community it’s where we live, it’s where all of us live. We may not have exactly the same beliefs but I think at the core all of us want a great place to live, to raise our kids, and to enjoy life. And you know that is what I’m hoping to bring to New Rochelle.”
Apparently, Conroy does not think New Rochelle is a great place to live now but might be if he is elected.
Asked to define his candidacy, Conroy said, in the understatement of the 2019 campaign so far, “that is a message that has not been perfected yet”. No kidding.
Asked the same question a different way, Marrone tossed the perennial softball, why should people vote for you?
Conroy, channeling Frank Sinatra, said he was concerned with listening to people’s problems and solving problems.
“That has always been me.”
Conroy did not provide any examples of having solved any problems.
He did say several times he wanted to improve the quality of life in New Rochelle.
Marrone mercifully ended the interview with a question he asks every candidate on his show, “what sticks in your craw?”
Not surprisingly, Conroy had no answer to a question he was guaranteed to get from Marrone.
“I can’t say there’s one specific thing that motivated me to do this…” Conroy said. He might want to mull that over before he sits for another media interview.
He did add that he wanted to improve the quality of life in New Rochelle.
Bramson’s only worry at this point is to make sure to save some of that champagne for November 5th.
He’s going to need it.