Barry Fertel Says Farewell After 29 Years of Public Service in New Rochelle

Written By: Robert Cox

Council Member Fertel submitted the following statement for the record which was read at the conclusion of the December 16, 2019 City Council meeting:

“This is my last meeting as an elected public official in New Rochelle. I have served almost 29 years in public office – 14 1⁄2 years on the Board of Education and 14 years on City Council. I’ve attended almost 640 public meetings, and this is my last. So bear with me as I express my thoughts about these past years.

“I have truly enjoyed my public service during these years. I hope that I have helped improve the lives of our residents during my tenure of public service. When I started in 2006, the future appeared bright and the economy was strong; then in 2008, the economy went south and we were faced with bitter choices. Services were cut; staffing was reduced. We did what we had to do, but it was not the public service experience I had hoped to enjoy.

“Fortunately, the economy improved and New Rochelle has since risen far beyond any of my expectations when I first joined the Council. I am confident that New Rochelle is a far better place than when I first joined the City Council. The downtown renaissance is well under way; services have improved; our crime rate is at an historic low; the financial picture is upbeat. New Rochelle’s future is bright and its residents have a great deal to which they can look forward.

“It was a difficult decision for me not to run for re-election this year, but I believe that fresh vision is in order for the City, and I am excited about the new Councilwomen who will be sitting up here come January. They have the energy, the enthusiasm, the perspective, and the imagination which will put our Council and City in good stead.

“As you know, I try to add a little levity to our deliberations–maybe a bit much at times–because I believe we should not take ourselves too seriously. My Bronx neighborhood upbringing has probably left me rough around the edges, but I have always tried to do what I believe is best for our City and I hope I will be remembered as an advocate for our residents and their quality of life.

“I want to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to my colleagues both on the City staff and the City Council. First, Mary Lou, you are the den mother of the City Council. I probably gained about ten pounds from the cookies and dinners we’ve had, but it’s been well worth it. You have been fantastic, although I wish you had adopted my suggestion and speeded up the timer for hearings and Citizens To Be Heard, so three minutes would have actually been only two minutes, but I forgive you.

“Michelle, we’ve only worked together a very short time, but I wanted to thank you and wish you well.

“Bill Zimmerman, for whom I have an affectionate nickname–named after a famous constellation which I will not repeat in public–is the only Commissioner who was here when I started. You have been a spectacular leader of parks and rec, given the limited resources you have. Thanks for the parks and rec polo shirt which is two sizes too big. I guess you were trying to get rid of surplus.

“Luiz Aragon has been a whirlwind of a Commissioner who has been a key factor in our downtown renaissance. Thanks for the work you have done and will continue to do for our City. I also really want to thank you for the construction hats. My grandchildren love them.

“Scott Pickup has always been responsive and helpful as DPW Commissioner, and I appreciate the efforts of the DPW employees who are not underappreciated by this Council Member. I’m glad there haven’t been any major snow storms in December, as my comments might have been a little different.

“Kathy Gilwit has been a great friend and always available to help with any questions and issues I may have. My wife Valerie and I had the pleasure of spending six hours in a car with Kathy and her husband, Roy, during our recent visit to La Rochelle, and I believe we have bonded.

“Joe Schaller has been a welcome addition as Police Commissioner, although I regret not seeing him lunching at Posto 22 every day for two hours. He’s also a fellow attorney so how can I not think the world of him?

“ I also want to thank the other staff members with whom I have worked with more recently. Michelle Oliveros, our City Clerk; Mark Zulli, the Finance Commissioner; Fire Commissioner, Andy Sandor, who shows me more respect than my fellow Council Members. It has been a pleasure and I wish you all well.

“Now I will address those on the dais in order. Lou Trangucci – you are quite a guy and I particularly relate to you because you and I have something in common if you look down upon our heads from above. We both love the Yankees, but there we part ways – you are an avid golfer and I am an avid non-golfer. I would hope that after you leave, they decide to christen the new armored Police vehicle which you single-handedly requisitioned – “the Lou Trangucci” similar to a new aircraft carrier or destroyer. Thanks, Lou, and good luck.

“Al Tarantino – Al is special and a rarity; a Republican who gets elected and re- elected in New Rochelle. But that is a testament to what a remarkable public servant you have become. I still have no idea why your store is named ‘Talners’ when I think ‘Tarantino’s’ would have a much nicer ring to it. Good luck on the next four years on Council. I’m sure we’ll see each other again.

“Jared – or should I say ‘Your Honor, mazel tov on your appointment as a Judge. When I heard the news, I was totally shocked. I couldn’t believe that the Mayor would appoint another Rice to the bench. You have been a spectacular Councilman – the best in New Rochelle’s history. We’ve enjoyed a wonderful relationship and you’ll make a great Judge – the best ever; and, if I ever appear before you, I hope that you remember that I just said that.

“Ivar – first, I finally learned how to pronounce your name correctly after all of these years. Evar, Ivar, Youvar, I give up.. you have been a steadying influence on the City Council and were able to get elected after three incredibly difficult election campaigns. I brought for you, a parting gift and here it is – a tie.

“Liz – you were the first District Leader to support my candidacy for City Council, and I will not forget it; but I have one complaint about you. You talk too much at City Council meetings; please stop it and shut up. Seriously, you’ve been a wonderful colleague and I wish you the best.

“Kathleen – except for the short period when we were in the legal wasteland when you were at Iona, it has been my distinct pleasure to sit by your side during our COW meetings and try to get you to laugh during some of the more tedious parts of our meetings. You have been a wonderful legal counsel and I’m sure the new Council Members will appreciate your sage advice.

“Chuck – quite frankly, Chuck, you have been an incredible City Manager, having led this City for God knows how long, and you look it. I’m surprised Noam hasn’t grabbed your ‘phone and stomped on it. Your flaws, as an Eagles’ and Mets’ fan, have been long forgiven and you have only acted in the best interest of our beloved City. Thanks for having been such a wonderful steward of our City.

“Finally – Noam, you know one would think that just looking at our age differential you would be fooled. But I see you as my mentor, having helped and guided me during these years on the City Council. I remember when we first met and you were a youngster foolishly running against a popular incumbent, but you won and the rest is history.

“ I do have some bones to pick with you, however. Within a month of my joining City Council, you said to me, ‘There’s a Master Plan for WardAacres and how would I like to be involved in its implementation?’ Thanks a lot. As you may recall that was when the dog owners came out in droves and barked at me for what I was doing to their beloved private 82 acre dog park. You were never mentioned.

“Noam – you’ve been a wonderful leader, still enthusiastic and imaginative about what can be done to improve our City. You never fail to share the credit with your fellow Council Members. You don’t grandstand. I can tick off a laundry list of accomplishments for which you unselfishly shared the credit with fellow Council Members – Rice Oval, the Iona dormitory citizens committee, and many others. In your honor I have ordered a book for you from Amazon – “How to Speak in Two Syllable Words for Dummies.” I hope you read it.

“I also want to express my gratitude to the residents of District 5. It has been such an honor to be your representative, and I hope that I’ve served you well. I’ve always said that ‘what’s good for District 5 is good for the entire City,” and the reverse is also true, “What’s good for the City is good for the residents of District 5”.

“It’s been a great ride. Now it’s time to move on. Before I do, I want to above all thank my most important constituent, my wife, Valerie. She has been so supportive all of these years, maybe because it gets me out of the house. She’s been great and I really appreciate it. She’s worried that I’ll turn into a vegetable. Perhaps, but she likes vegetables.

“It’s been a long speech, but I had to say it. Thank you all and best wishes and a wonderful holiday to everyone.”

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