Initiatives Will Enhance Recreational Assets & Improve Environment

As the City works to promote economic growth and development in our central business district, we are simultaneously committed to protecting a suburban quality of life in our neighborhoods. An important part of this commitment is investment in our parks and protection of valuable open space. In recent weeks, we have taken several steps related to these priorities.

Funding Secured for Colonial Greenway: The Colonial Greenway is a fifteen-mile inter-municipal trail system that will link several parks and neighborhoods in our region through two interlocking loops. As an avid hiker, I have been privileged to work personally on this project for several years. While most of the Greenway’s components are already accessible and well-used, several connections require expensive capital improvements. In December, we were able to secure agreement from the County government to fund more than $500,000 of trail upgrades in New Rochelle. The County’s financial assistance should permit a formal opening of the Greenway later this year. A press release with additional details is HERE. Our agreement with the County will also preserve as open space a half-acre property on Flandreau Avenue and incorporate it formally into the Greenway. The future of the Flandreau parklet had been the subject of some dispute and this agreement is welcome news for the surrounding neighborhood and for our community as a whole.

Open Space Zoning Considered for Additional Properties: The most protective zoning classification available to the City is Recreation and Open Space (ROS), which can preserve properties from development in perpetuity. On March 13th, the Council will hold a public hearing on the remapping of some 23 acres at 8 locations to ROS. In each case, these properties are publicly-owned.

Ambitious Plans Unveiled for City Park: City Park is New Rochelle’s primary active recreational facility, with a variety of fields for football, soccer, and baseball. The City recently unveiled exciting plans to add additional fields to the park, in order to accommodate the growing demands of various leagues. A preliminary site plan can be viewed HERE. The new City Park is the subject of a grant application to the County’s legacy program, and implementation of improvements will depend upon receipt of financial assistance.

Park Rules Adopted for Ward Acres: Following more than a year of occasionally heated debate, the City Council has unanimously adopted rules for dog-walking at Ward Acres park. Beginning April 1st, the new rules will permit dogs to be unleashed in the park on weekdays from dawn to 10:00am and again from 5:00pm to dusk, and from dawn to 10:00am on weekends and holidays. During winter months, afternoon off-leash hours will commence at 4:00pm and be available also on weekends and holidays. Those wishing to walk dogs in the park will be required to obtain a permit from the Department of Parks and Recreation and to pay a permit fee. The City has struggled to adopt a fair policy that balances the interests of dog owners with those intimated by the presence of unleashed animals. Like most compromises, the new rules have left many of both sides of the issue dissatisfied, but I hope that the rules will prove successful in practice. At the same time, the City is proceeding with a substantial investment in Ward Acres’ environmental health, beginning with a multi-year program to remove invasive vines and restore the park’s ecology.

Moratorium On Field Development Approved: The Council voted unanimously this week to adopt a ninety-day moratorium on the development of privately-owned athletic fields. This brief moratorium will permit City staff to consider the various planning issues raised by athletic fields, such as the new softball field proposed by Iona College for the Beechmont/Rice Oval, and to consider the merits of possible changes in our zoning or building code that might balance the recreational and institutional value of new fields with neighborhood concerns about quality of life. I expect that our staff will seek input from community and college leaders during the weeks ahead, so that all interests and perspectives can be fully understood. Should the Council elect to make permanent changes in our code, such revisions will have to be well-grounded in the law, property rights, and established land use practices.