Alternative Futures

LL_1_revised_07_29_2013“Alternative Futures” may sound like the premise of a science fiction tale, but in this case, it refers to a report prepared by the faculty and students of the Columbia University Urban Design Lab, who spent several months looking at planning concepts for New Rochelle.

Along with several other documents, “Alternative Futures” was circulated to potential developers as part of the City’s new master development RFQ.  The RFQ notes, however, that the report contains “a spectrum of concepts, some of which are practical and others more fanciful.”  In other words, as you read “Alternative Futures,” consider it an invitation to think imaginatively and not a statement of the City’s specific goals.

For those disappointed that this post did not concern science fiction, here’s a classic from Ray Bradbury.


Crossing The Finish Line

Noam Bramson with Owen Bramson, enjoying a well-earned post-race treat..

Noam Bramson with Owen Bramson, enjoying a well-earned post-race treat.

Jeremy, Owen, and I ran the second annual North Avenue Mile this morning.  It was a terrific event – hundreds of runners and walkers, dozens of sponsors, and lots of good causes for which money was raised.

My time was seven minutes and something.  Jeremy finished just a little behind me.  The family star, however, was Owen, who had pledged prior to the race to sprint the whole way.  “Pace yourself,” I advised him, “you’ll run out of gas before the end.”  Well, he completely ignored my advice, sped the whole way, and – wouldn’t you know it – finished a good 30 seconds ahead of me.  So much for my wisdom.

Big thanks and congratulations to the volunteers of New Ro Runners for putting it all together.  A really great day.


Ending Homelessness

HOPE LogoFor a community like New Rochelle, homelessness presents two sets of concerns.  First, and most important, is our humanitarian interest in helping people overcome difficult circumstances to have better and more secure lives.  Second, is our civic and business interest in ensuring that public spaces are attractive and inviting.

In Westchester, social services are entrusted almost entirely to the County government, with cities having few responsibilities.  But the impacts of homelessness are certainly felt locally, and that’s why the City Council is considering a new municipal program aimed at reducing and preventing homelessness in New Rochelle.

The proposal under consideration this month would have the City contract with HOPE Community Services, an experienced and highly-regarded not-for-profit, to provide personalized case management, with the goal of linking local homeless persons to permanent housing, skills development, mental health care, and substance abuse treatment.  HOPE is well-positioned to connect to the regional Continuum of Care, which follows the successful national model described in this Times opinion piece.  In addition, extended hours at both HOPE and O.A.S.I.S., the local shelter, would provide an alternative to hanging out on the street.  Finally, HOPE would be tasked with coordinating with other local service providers, including houses of worship.

Generous contributions from Montefiore, Halstead, and Hartz-Mountain (the new owners of the former Avalon buildings) would help to fund this initiative.  The City’s share would be about $65,000.  Viewed from a purely fiscal viewpoint, it seems to me that this money could be earned back quickly in the parking and sales tax revenue generated by a more inviting business district and train station.

Careful measurement of outcomes is essential, and we would extend this program only if it proved effective in reducing local homelessness.  There are no guarantees, but the national experience is encouraging, and I believe this is worth trying.  Here is the ordinance the Council will consider.



The Next Big Opportunity

Open for OpportunityThe energy and diversity of a city.  The graciousness of a historic suburb.  The natural beauty of the shore.  And very soon the best commute in metropolitan New York.  New Rochelle is the next big opportunity.

Today, the City is inviting qualified real estate development firms to join us in creating a regional and national model for smart, sustainable growth.  Hot off the presses, here is our Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for two development “clusters.”

The RFQ draws on New Rochelle’s earlier planning efforts, including our TOD study and transportation analysis.

And we are proposing a type of public-private partnership that is new for our city:  a “master” development agreement that encompasses multiple sites and permits earlier evaluation of planning concepts and market assumptions.

Despite New Rochelle’s impressive assets, and notwithstanding meaningful progress during the past twenty years, our city’s economy is still under-performing.  This new effort is a bold stroke to take charge of our future, with the potential to dramatically reshape the city’s downtown.

Success will require persistence and a willingness to confront hard choices, but I am optimistic and looking forward to the responses that are due on July 31st.

There’s more information at this site.


Downtown Farmer’s Market Opens Saturday

Grand MarketThe New Rochelle BID’s  Downtown Farmer’s Market at Library Green opens for the season this Saturday at 9am – and will continue every Saturday through November 22nd.  It’s a great opportunity to purchase farm fresh produce and other specialty foods, not to mention a terrific reason to visit our downtown.  I’ll be there at 10am for the ribbon-cutting.  Come join me!

More information follows below from the BID’s press release:

Saturday, May 31st at 9 a.m. marks the opening of the New Rochelle’s Downtown Farmers Market.  The market will be held every Saturday through November 22nd from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Library Green next to the New Rochelle Public Library on Huguenot Street between Memorial Highway and Lawton Street.
This festive neighborhood market features more than 30 weekly and guest vendors selling local farm-fresh produce, meats, cheeses, baked goods and other specialty foods. The market will also showcase artisanal products and community organizations.  Shoppers can join friends and Dine on the Green with prepared foods from an assortment of Dine Downtown restaurants. To make this a great community happening for the entire family there will be free children’s activities and live music every Saturday.
A SAMPLE of New Rochelle Farmers Market Vendors
Migliorelli Farm – Migliorelli Farm is a family-run fruit and vegetable farm located in Northern Dutchess County in the Hudson Valley Region of New York. Now in its 3rd generation, Migliorelli Farm is growing over 130 different varieties of fruits and vegetables.
Pura Vida Fisheries – Rick Lofstad is the seafarer at the helm of Pura Vida Fisheries based Hampton Bay, Long Island. Rick has been selling his fish at farmers’ markets for the past 8 years.
LeBris Bakery – Jean Yves LeBris, a French born and trained artisanal bread baker with more than 50 years of experience baking. He launched a line of artisanal breads that include authentic French Baguettes, Ficelles, Italian Paesano and Ciabatta, as well as hamburger buns that have helped define and support a new, creative menu item in high-end restaurants.
Bobolink Dairy and Bakehouse –  founded by Jonathan White, Cheesemaker and Nina Stein White, Dancemaker , in 2002, on a leased farm in Sussex County, NJ.  They began making artisanal cheeses from the milk of our twenty mixed-breed, grass-fed cows.  Today, they milk between 50-60 cows including their “Bobolink Blacks”, which are the result of crossing several common “modern” dairy breeds (Ayrshire, Guernsey, Jersey, etc.) with the ancient Kerry cattle of Ireland to make their cheese.
Sweet Things & Wild Thyme – Scrumptious honey, pollen and beeswax products.

R&R Farms – Specializing in Mexican produce such as pipiche, alache and two kinds of papalo and chiles.

Ready Set Sharp Knife Sharpening – Knife sharpening services turning dull to sharp blades.

Little Luscious Dessert Company – Fantastic fresh desserts by local entrepreneur featured in the NY Times.
…and many more!