Mariano Rivera Foundation Says its Set to Break Ground on Learning Center in New Rochelle; City Says Not So Fast

Written By: Robert Cox

NEW ROCHELLE, NY — The first Mariano Rivera Learning Center is planned for New Rochelle. The Mariano Rivera Foundation expects to break ground on the facility next month, according to a report in a Florida newspaper.

The statement appears to have come from Foundation Executive Director Lisa Vega. Phone lines on the MRF web site are no longer service. There was no reply to an email to the MRF.

MRF says it is ready to move forward with the construction of what it descended as a “state of the art” 40,000 square foot center to provide guidance and resources to underserved minority students. To put that in context, its about 2/3rd the size of the Barnard Early Childhood Center which is about 60,000 square feet.

The proposed Mariano Rivera Learning Center would be built on the site of the City Hall Parking Lot in the area behind Mariano’s church.

New Rochelle officials said there are no immediate plans to move forward with the project.

“There is no subdivision plan and no site plan,” said New Rochelle General Counsel Kathleen Gill who also serves as Assistant City Manager and Interim Development Commissioner.

The City has been talking for years about moving out of its current home at 515 North Avenue to a new location at 44 Harrison Street. If and when the City moves out of what once was Albert Leonard High School, under the reversion clause in the deed, the property ownership will instantly transfer back to the City School District of New Rochelle.

Asked whether the parking lot behind Mariano’s church was part of the school district deed, Gill said she did not know. It is not clear how the City would be in discussions to sell property without having clear title to the land.

Gill said the City conducted a parking study to gauge the impact of giving up more than 30 parking spaces in a parking lot that is often filled to capacity during the work day. She added that the City has a deal to take dozens of parking spots as part of the Illustrator apartment project a few blocks down the street from the current City Hall.

The most regular users of the parking lot behind the church are employees who work at 475 North Avenue, the home of the New Rochelle Police Department and New Rochelle City Court, as well as attorneys and people having business before the court. Walking three blocks to park at The Illustrator parking lot may not be a popular option for those people.

Selling off parking spaces may have an impact on discussions to convert 515 North Avenue back into a school as has been considered as a potential home for The Huguenot Academy (formerly “the campus school” or “alternative high school”) or an elementary school accessible to students living in the Lincoln Attendance Zone. The New York State Education Department had parking requirements per school building based on teachers and staff working in the school.

The City already ceded a dozen parking spaces to the church last October by allowing a refrigerated enclosed-cargo space from an 18-wheeler to block the spaces 24 hours a day. Initially, City officials said the truck and pallets would be in the lot until Christmas for a holiday food give away. That was 9 months ago. The parking spaces are still blocked.

Mariano Rivera confirmed to Talk of the Sound at the time he purchased the church in 2013 that he wanted to build a school next to the church. He tried to buy 465 North Avenue, the property next door to his church, Refugio de Esperanza which is located at 473 North Avenue. The owners refused to sell. The City wanted the location for a grocery store for the Lincoln Corridor area. It opened last year as New Rochelle Farms.


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