MAYOR OF NEW ROCHELLE
Leadership That’s Working… For All Of Us.
New Rochelle is on a roll, with the lowest crime rate in generations, the best bond rating in 80 years, major new investments in roads, parks
Unveiled just last night, here’s the new vision for the New Rochelle waterfront at Echo Bay, as proposed by the City’s designated developers, Twining Properties.
Called “Pratt Landing,” the project would include a blend of retail, office, hotel, and residential space, view corridors to the water from East Main Street, a modern architectural sensibility, and a continuous public promenade and park at the shoreline. Here’s the full power point presented by the development team.
Compared to the last proposal for the site, which was turned down by the City Council in 2013, this vision is more active, with an urban street grid intended to bring New Rochelle’s downtown to the water’s edge. It reminds me a little of Battery Park City – but, of course, at a much lower scale.
Last month, the Council voted unanimously to relocate our Public Works Yard, which clears away the biggest obstacle to waterfront improvements. But many steps must still be taken before this new vision can be achieved (or even approved) and lots of changes are possible as we move through the environmental review process and receive public input. In other words, please view these images and plans as preliminary, not final.
The next decision point comes early next year, when we consider a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Twining Properties. There’s more information about the process in this press release.
An open, vibrant, clean, active waterfront would benefit our entire city enormously, so I am very excited about the possibilities. But even under the most ambitious timetable, infrastructure work could not commence until late 2018, with above-ground construction beginning in early 2020, so patience and careful deliberation are still required.
Last night, after many years of intense debate, the New Rochelle City Council came together on a unanimous, bipartisan basis to approve a location and to dedicate funding for a new Public Works Operations Center (or “City Yard.”)
Through a public-private partnership, the City Yard will be situated in the ground level of a new structure at the Home Depot/Costco retail complex. The upper levels of this same structure will be devoted to commercial uses. A smaller portion of our public works activities will be sited remotely along Beechwood Avenue in the West End, mainly on property already owned by the City.
This is a very significant step for two reasons:
First, it is a necessary and overdue investment in critical infrastructure.
Our existing City Yard is in deplorable condition and requires a constant stream of emergency appropriations to keep it up and running. Think of it like a beat-up old car with 200,000 miles on the odometer – risky to drive and urgently needing replacement. The new City Yard will enable us to deliver essential public works services efficiently and effectively for decades to come.
Second, it opens the Echo Bay waterfront for public access, environmental improvements, and economic development.
The existing City Yard was sited on East Main Street a century ago, at a time when the shoreline was seen as an industrial access point, but no rational person would choose to put a public works facility on the waterfront today, where it completely blocks access to Long Island Sound. The City Yard has been the principal obstacle to positive changes at Echo Bay. Now this obstacle is being swept away, allowing us to activate the waterfront for higher and better uses.
The total price tag, a combination of debt and lease payments, comes to about $1.5 million per year. But because development on Echo Bay and on the upper levels of the Yard structure will generate new revenue, the net cost to taxpayers will be lower – and certainly a lot lower than rebuilding the Yard where it is today. In short, in addition to making good planning sense, this is a fiscally responsible move, too.
I congratulate and thank our professional staff and all the members of the City Council, Democrats and Republicans, for addressing this vital issue.
And I look forward to the day – now just about 18 months distant – when it will be possible to stand on US 1, look to the south, and – for the first time in our lives – see an unobstructed view of the shore.
“When can we get a book store in New Rochelle?” For twenty years, I have heard that question from countless residents, and I’ve never had a good answer . . . until now.
Barnes & Noble is coming to New Rochelle.
Their new 9,000 square foot store (complete with a Starbucks cafe) will open in New Roc City this fall. Here’s a full press release.
Big thanks are in order for Monroe College, which has partnered with Barnes & Noble to make this happen.
Of course, no single store can transform an entire commercial area. Achieving our vision for downtown New Rochelle will require patience, persistence, and many other investments and openings. But this sure helps!
New Rochelle’s latest independent financial audit is – without a doubt – the most upbeat we’ve received since the onset of the Great Recession.
The City’s revenues last year exceeded projections by about $3.7 million, while our expenditures came in under budget by about $3.6 million. Together these positive variances contributed to a surging fund balance of more than $13 million – a significant financial cushion that will help stabilize our fiscal health going forward.
Also of note is the City’s historically low debt level. At $62.6 million, total government debt is the smallest it’s been in at least a generation and only about half of what it was just ten years ago.
These figures, combined with today’s exceptionally low interest rates, suggest that this is a particularly good time to invest in infrastructure and long-term capital assets. The City Council is committed to this priority, and I expect that our 2017 budget will feature a new, more ambitious capital budget framework.
The usual (and important) caveats apply. Like all cities, New Rochelle continues to face long-term fiscal pressures. Many vital investments and services remain underfunded. And, of course, many taxpayers are strained to the limit. For these reasons and others, economic growth and business development remain absolutely essential priorities.
But having coming through the dark fiscal tunnel of the recession and its aftermath, it’s a big relief to emerge finally into the sunshine.
New Rochelle is partnering with Volunteer New York to make it easier than ever for residents to donate energy and talent to worthwhile local needs and organizations.
In addition to launching this New Rochelle-specific web portal with lots of opportunities to get involved, Volunteer New York is also working with local not-for-profits so they can take full advantage of a regional volunteer network.
There’s more in this press release.
Volunteerism helps to better connect us with our neighbors, while addressing real community needs — and almost all of us have the capacity to contribute in some way to the common good.
Try not to fall asleep while reading the next sentence. The State’s Capital Plan Review Board has given the go-ahead to the MTA to proceed with a package of large regional transit improvements.
Yes. I know that sounds like bureaucratic gobbledygook – but, in fact, the right response to the news is not to snore; it’s to cheer . . . and loudly. Because contained within the MTA’s now-approved $27 billion long-term capital plan is new, direct service to Penn Station via Metro-North’s New Haven line.
That’s a huge deal for commuters along the Westchester Sound Shore and in Connecticut. And it’s an even huger (if that’s a word) deal for New Rochelle. Why? Because the split in the rail line leading either to Grand Central or Penn Station is located right around Webster Avenue in New Rochelle — meaning that when this new service is introduced, New Rochelle will have the closest station to New York City with direct access to both the east and west sides of Manhattan.
The City put this unique distinction front-and-center in our successful effort to attract a master developer for our downtown, and it continues to be a major talking point as we bring new investment to New Rochelle.
There is an important caveat. The connection won’t be completed until 2022 at the earliest. But that’s not so far away. And with this recent approval, the uncertainty surrounding the project is largely swept away. This is going to happen, and it’ll be a big boost for our city and region.
It’s official. Two-way traffic will be returning to Main and Huguenot Streets in downtown New Rochelle.
To be clear, the changeover isn’t going to happen overnight. It’s probably about two or three years away, and lots of preparatory work needs to occur first – detailed design, parking adjustments, enforcement protocols, and public information.
But the conclusive policy determination was made last night by the City Council, when we unanimously approved legislation involving federal and state grants for the new traffic signals that will support the altered circulation pattern.
I was initially very skeptical about this change, but the weight of evidence is convincing. Experts tell us that two-way traffic is far better for walkability and retail attraction, the computer modeling tells us that the traffic flow can be managed well, and common sense tells us it’s easier to get to our destination when we don’t have to circle around the block. The vast majority of urban planners recommend two-way traffic systems, and the new pattern will help support our larger effort to strengthen New Rochelle’s downtown economy.
Even so, making that first turn on to a bi-directional Huguenot or Main will be a strange experience!
Did I mention that this is a big deal?
Everyone knows (well, most people know) that it’s important to phase out supply-limited, climate-changing fossil fuels like oil, coal, and gas . . . and move toward clean, renewable energy like wind, hydro, and solar.
The day will come – hopefully – when we can flip a light switch, power up a computer, or turn on the air conditioner without feeling like we’re doing an injustice to our children and grandchildren.
But getting there could be hard. Progress can be pain-staking and incremental. So let’s be realistic about it. When can we expect New Rochelle’s electricity supplies to be fully renewable? 2050? 2040? If we’re really ambitious, maybe 2030?
Think again. Here’s the answer:
Next month. April 2016.
That’s when all of our electricity goes fully renewable. All. Of. It. I told you this was a big deal.
Not only that. To put a handful of cherries on the sundae, we’ll also get a discount on our electricity costs, which will come down by about 5%. So our power will be cleaner and cheaper.
How did this come about? New Rochelle and about twenty other municipalities in the area banded together under the auspices of a group called Sustainable Westchester to bargain for a better deal from electricity suppliers. This effort was specially authorized by New York’s utility regulators as an experiment to test the theory that by pooling the demand of consumers, we could strengthen our leverage in the energy marketplace and deliver lower-cost, greener power for our residents and businesses. And it worked!
For most of us, who get our energy supplies from Con Edison, the changeover will happen automatically. So if you are presently served by Con Ed and are happy to start getting clean, green energy at a 5% discount, you don’t have to do a thing. Con Edison will continue delivering the juice, but it will be supplied by a subsidiary called Con Edison Solutions. The savings and new renewable power will begin flowing after your April meter-reading.
About a fifth of New Rochelle’s electricity consumers, however, have pre-existing agreements with other energy service companies. If those folks want to participate, they will have to opt in to the program.
To be very clear, energy consumers will retain all of their rights. For example, if you prefer the traditional “brown” energy mix of fossil fuels, you can opt out of the “green” energy package. (Doing that will save you another 3% on top of the 5% savings in the green rate, which seems like a lousy trade-off to me, but that’s your call.) Similarly, if you want to pick a different energy supplier instead of Con Edison Solutions, you can do that, too.
A website will go live in the next couple of weeks with lots more information, as well as online opt-in and opt-out features. Anyone who needs help figuring out their choices will also be able to get personalized assistance over the phone or by email.
Of course, the whole energy delivery process is a little more complicated than this blog post. It’s not like there’s some special, dedicated line that can connect New Rochelle to a wind farm or solar field; electricity flows from every power plant on the grid. So we’re getting our power “greened” by Renewable Energy Certificates, which are purchased from renewable power plants and validated by the most rigorous standards in the industry. It’s all above board, but, even so, it will be good eventually to have additional sources of renewable energy generation in our own region.
I am enormously proud that New Rochelle is on the leading edge of what could become a revolutionary change in the energy market. Our positive example will almost certainly inspire other communities and regions to move in a similar direction. Indeed, our success is already attracting lots of attention, such as this Wall Street Journal article. (There’s a little quote from me in there.)
Plus, by increasing demand for renewable energy, we can create strong incentives for electricity providers to expand renewable energy infrastructure and production – a virtuous cycle that could drive down costs even more.
Great news all around, and a giant leap toward not only achieving, but exceeding our sustainability goals.
So what big economic, environmental, and social challenge should we tackle in May?