For several years, New Rochelle has worked with developers Forest City Residential to improve the Echo Bay waterfront. The potential of our shoreline is significant — the right kind of development could enhance recreational opportunities, strengthen neighborhoods, and improve our economy. But achieving these goals means surmounting significant environmental and financial hurdles. The complexities of the site, together with the weakness of the national economy, have forced us to delay the project and to reevaluate many of its components.
The public-private agreement that describes a project’s components and defines the responsibilities of involved parties is called a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). When the City Council last extended Forest City’s MOU one year ago, we simultaneously launched analyses of: (1) the public costs and benefits associated with waterfront development; (2) options for the modernization of the City’s public works yard; and (3) the adaptive re-use potential of the former Armory on East Main Street. These studies were funded by Forest City Residential, but conducted independently by the City, without any influence from the developer.
Now that these studies have been completed, the City Council, City staff, and the developers need a little time to digest the information and consider the prospects and terms for moving forward. With this in mind, the City Council voted last night to extend Forest City’s MOU by 60 days. The vote should not be seen as a judgment on the merits of the project, but rather as a brief interim step intended to ensure that decision-making is guided by a complete understanding of our choices.
When the 60-day extension expires in the late winter/early spring, we’ll have a much bigger debate about whether and how to renew our partnership with Forest City. I remain fully committed to the goal of revitalizing New Rochelle’s waterfront and will keep that objective foremost in mind as we evaluate next steps.