Acting on a recent engineering analysis that convincingly illustrated the benefits of relocating the City’s Public Works Yard to Beechwood Avenue, a 6 to 1 bipartisan Council majority voted on Tuesday to issue bonds in the amount of $600,000 to fund the design of a new DPW facility. This is a significant step toward moving the Public Works Yard away from our waterfront, thereby creating opportunities for shoreline development, parkland, and public access.
Detailed design is the necessary precursor to construction. To move forward to the next phase, the Council would have to vote again next year on a larger bond resolution, estimated at about $12.5 million.
These are big numbers, and they rightly give many Council Members pause, especially at a time when money is very tight. But it is essential to recognize that relocating the Public Works Yard to Beechwood Avenue is the least costly option. Therefore, acting on this priority now makes sense not only from an operational and planning perspective, but also from a fiscal perspective. For more details, please see my post on this subject from last month.
I applaud the Council for its decisive action.
The status and potential relocation of New Rochelle’s Public Works Yard on East Main Street has stirred a long-running and sometimes heated debate. With the release of a new, detailed and conclusive engineering study, that debate should now be over.
The study, delivered to the City Council this week and illustrated in this presentation, leaves little doubt that the Public Works Yard should be relocated to a site near Beechwood Avenue (adjacent to I-95), and that doing so would (a) save millions of dollars for taxpayers and (b) free up the Echo Bay waterfront for higher and better uses and benefits.
In a press release on this subject, City Manager Chuck Strome put it well: “New Rochelle’s Public Works Yard must be modernized to meet current and future service demands and avert the ongoing, escalating cost of emergency repairs. Further delay could expose taxpayers to significant risks, while raising the cost of inevitable and unavoidable infrastructure expenses.”
Here are the key facts and conclusions:
- Constructing a new Public Works Yard on Beechwood Avenue would save taxpayers more than $3 million, compared to the cost of modernizing the Public Works Yard at its present East Main Street location. The estimated price tag for the Beechwood site is approximately $13 million, while the estimated price tag for the East Main Street site is approximately $16 million, and that excludes the additional East Main expense of developing and operating a temporary facility during the construction period.
- The Beechwood site meets all current and projected operational standards and spatial requirements for the Department of Public Works and has already been rigorously reviewed under the terms of the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA.)
- Once the Public Works Yard is moved, the East Main Street site will have great potential for alternative public and private purposes, including public access to the Long Island Sound shore. While the modernization of the City’s Public Works Yard must occur regardless of any waterfront development plans, relocation to the Beechwood site has the added benefit of freeing up East Main Street for a higher value re-use.
This is a big expense for New Rochelle, and it comes at a time when our finances are already very strained, but large municipal projects of this kind are paid for through the issuance of bonds, spreading the cost over many years — probably twenty years, in this case. Acting now lets us benefit from historically low interest rates. Most importantly, the alternatives are far more costly in terms of both monetary outlays and foregone economic growth.