This is a time of both challenge and renewal for our nation and for our community.
Americans are wrestling with the most serious financial crisis in generations, a deep and lengthening recession, a broken health care system that leaves tens of millions uninsured, and flawed energy policies that rely heavily on foreign oil imports while failing to confront global climate change. Yet in the face of these tremendous obstacles, we have once again demonstrated our capacity to embrace new ideas and fresh leadership, and to approach the future in a spirit of confident determination.
We can and will confront our local challenges in the same fashion. Here in New Rochelle, the economic slowdown is impacting our municipal budget by eroding sales, property, and mortgage tax revenues, and by raising costs for energy, health insurance, and other basic expenses. Conservative fiscal practices over a period of years have enabled us to amass a healthy fund balance, which we can now use judiciously, but have also produced a lean government, with little or no fat to cut.
We must balance several critical priorities: (1) respect for the burdens placed on taxpayers, especially at a time when so many families are confronting financial uncertainty; (2) investment in the essential services and infrastructure that support a high quality of life; and (3) responsible stewardship of the City’s fiscal health and stability, based on an understanding that short-term budgetary actions can have long-term consequences.
These priorities are, to some degree, in tension with one another, so at a time of economic distress, difficult choices are inevitable. We serve ourselves best by being forthright and candid about the circumstances confronting our community, by addressing these conditions head-on, and by avoiding the dangerous temptation to defer painful action until we reach a moment of crisis.
Let’s be clear: New Rochelle retains exceptional strengths and assets, from its talented population, to its rich history, to its nine-mile shoreline, brimming with potential. I am as excited as ever about our future, and have no doubt whatsoever that we will emerge from the challenges of the moment, poised for continued success.
Despite tightening credit markets, we will continue New Rochelle’s dramatic progress in the areas of transit-oriented development and economic growth. In partnership with the Business Improvement District, we have intensified our business recruitment and retention efforts. And with strong support from planners and private sector partners, we are working to position downtown New Rochelle for continued resurgence.
At the waterfront, we are commencing the environmental review of the Echo Bay project, which will transform twenty-six acres of contaminated, inaccessible land into a vibrant, mixed-use development with housing, shops, almost six acres of parkland and a nearly mile-long public waterfront promenade.
And we are redoubling our efforts to promote environmental sustainability, with new initiatives to improve air and water quality, reduce energy consumption, prevent overdevelopment in our neighborhoods, and encourage green building design.
In fact, just recently, Business Week magazine named New Rochelle the best place in New York State to raise children, and one of the best in the entire nation. That designation, based on objective, outside analysis, highlights the excellence of our schools, the quality of our parks and recreational opportunities, the range of our housing stock, and, above all, the remarkable human diversity that exposes each of us to varied traditions and circumstances.
As we enter the holiday season and look ahead to the New Year, Catie and I extend our warmest wishes to the entire community of New Rochelle. We feel very fortunate to raise our boys in such a wonderful city, and we offer thanks to the countless residents who contribute to the common good by lending their energy, time, and ideas.