Joyce Kilmer Had It Right

Overdressed Noam plants a linden with pre-schoolers.  (Photo credit: Floriane Boudelier, our intern from La Rochelle.)

Overdressed Noam plants a linden with pre-schoolers. (Photo credit: Floriane Boudelier, our intern from La Rochelle.)

“I think that I shall never see . . . a poem lovely as a tree.”

There’s a lot that can be said for trees.  They reduce the urban heat island effect, help with flood mitigation, serve as carbon sinks, and enhance property values.  But no list of virtues quite compares with Joyce Kilmer’s simple tribute.

Today, as part of New Rochelle’s annual Arbor Day commemoration, I joined preschoolers from the New Rochelle Day Nursery and a few older students from the High School’s environmental studies class to plant three linden trees along the north side of City Hall.

Of course, these plantings are mainly symbolic — our municipal forestry efforts are much broader.  The City’s Sustainability Plan calls for 10,000 new trees by 2030, and to help ensure that annual plantings are done strategically, the City recently completed a comprehensive “vacancy analysis” to identify areas suitable for new saplings.

I’m told that the lindens we planted today will eventually grow to be 100 feet tall with a 60 foot wide canopy.  It’s nice to imagine people enjoying their shade over the course of generations.  One of the pre-schoolers informed me that she planned to be that tall, too, when she grows up.  I hope I live to see that!


Walk of Fame Induction this Saturday

Joseph Campbell is one of the notables along the Walk of Fame.

Joseph Campbell is one of the notables along the Walk of Fame.

Over the years, quite a few New Rochelleans have received national or international acclaim for their accomplishments.  To celebrate this interesting history of achievement, the City and the Business Improvement District established a Walk of Fame at Library Green back in 2011.  Made possible through the initiative and philanthropy of former resident Roderick Kennedy and the invaluable guidance of City Historian Barbara Davis, the Walk of Fame features interpretative signage celebrating our city’s notable luminaries.

This year, fifteen new members will be inducted, including composers J. Fred Coots & Robert Allen, mathematicians Richard Courant & Kurt Friedrichs, “father of talk radio” Barry Gray, “Let’s Make a Deal” host Monty Hall, baseball legend Willie Mays, musician Don Mclean, composer Alan Menken, actor Richard Roundtree, playwright Robert Sherwood, transportation magnate and Glen Island Resort developer John Starin, actress Frances Sternhagen, and film pioneers Edwin & Gertrude Thanhauser.

The induction will occur on Library Green this Saturday, April 26th from 1pm to 2pm.  Come on by.

You can read more in this press release.


Watch This Interview

I recently sat down with Ina Aronow of the League of Women Voters for a really good half-hour discussion.  Our talk focused mainly on future development plans, but also looked back at last year’s campaign and at the Echo Bay project.  Please watch.


Competing for Younger Residents

Housing helps us compete for the future.

Housing helps us compete for the future.

This article in the Times highlights both a challenge and an opportunity for our region.  Like other suburban counties, Westchester has been losing population in the 25-44 age range.  That’s a problem for all of us, because younger professionals are vital to attracting jobs, supporting our housing market, and encouraging cultural vitality.

The good news is that some suburban communities, including New Rochelle, already have qualities that are attractive to prospective younger residents, such as demographic diversity and easy access to New York City.  The even better news is that we can take specific steps to be more attractive – by broadening our housing choices, improving transportation options, emphasizing the arts, and promoting environmental sustainability.

There’s often debate in town about the value of transit-oriented development, particularly rental housing, and I certainly wouldn’t argue that every housing initiative deserves support.  But the pros and cons of any specific project should be viewed in the context of regional competition for a vital cohort of residents and workers that are important to our future.


May 1st Opening at Mahlstedt Gallery

The Mahlstedt Gallery at 415 Huguenot.

The Mahlstedt Gallery at 415 Huguenot.

The Mahlstedt Gallery at 415 Huguenot Street is among the most interesting and exciting display spaces in our region – a historic building that’s been beautifully restored as both a business and showcase for the work of internationally prominent visual artists.

On Thursday, May 1st from 6pm to 9pm, you can attend the opening reception for the Gallery’s next exhibition, “Shadow Odyssey.”  The exhibition will run from May 1st through May 24th.  There’s more information in this press release or you can get in touch with the Gallery Director, Dave Major.


To Mulch or Not to Mulch – Part II

Mulch or bag these.

Mulch or bag these.

Last night, the City Council approved a significant change in New Rochelle’s leaf collection policy.  Beginning this fall, loose piles of leaves at curbside will no longer be picked up.  Instead, homeowners (and professional landscapers) will have several options.  The contestants are . . .

1)  Bagging:  Placing leaves in biodegradable yard waste bags that will be picked up at least once a week.

2)  Containerizing:  Placing leaves in standard garbage receptacles (not mixed with trash, however.)

3)  Carting:  Delivering leaves directly to the City’s yard waste transfer site.

4)  Mulching:  Mulching leaves on site, using mulching mowers or standard mowers equipped with mulching blades.

And the winner is . . . mulching!

It is by far the best choice from every perspective.  Mulching is cheaper, involves less labor, and produces healthier lawns that don’t need to be fertilized as much.  And there are many landscapers who offer mulching services at no additional charge.  So feel free to bag your leaves if you like, but you may as well stuff some dollar bills into the yard waste bags, too, because you’ll be throwing away money.

Taxpayers will save about $250,000 to $300,000 per year as a result of this change.  Plus, our local roads and storm drains won’t be clogged with leaves each fall.  Everybody is better off.

A new policy like this does require a change in habits and perspectives, however, and that makes public information especially important.  To ensure that this transition occurs smoothly, the City will devote a portion of the first year’s budget savings to a professional public information campaign, involving mailings, robo-calls, lawn signs, and educational demonstrations for homeowners and gardeners.  We want to be sure that everybody understands their options, especially mulching, before the leaves start to turn.

Here’s some more information, including facts and tips about mulching, a good case study from Greenburgh, and my prior comments on this issue.

And many thanks to the Citizens Panel on Sustainable Budgets, which recommended this policy in their 2012 report.