Interactive Town Hall For Comp Plan Update

As previously reported, the City is in the process of updating our Comprehensive Plan, a land-use document that helps guide future decision-making with respect to development, preservation, mobility, and other essential community features.

Several public meetings have already been held to gather input. Now, to give more residents a chance to weigh in, New Rochelle is launching an interactive town hall feature that lets you receive information and submit comments, suggestions, and opinions on-line.

Please check it out at envisionr.com. (You’ll be asked to create an account, which is really easy.) And be sure to log on regularly, as the content and questions will change as the planning process moves forward.

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Envision New Rochelle Kick-Off Meetings in June

As noted here last summer, New Rochelle’s Comprehensive Plan is about to undergo a complete re-evaluation.

Though focused primarily on issues of land use, a good Comprehensive Plan helps city leaders, residents, neighborhood associations, and business people make decisions about the future of New Rochelle in ways that are productive, rational, and consensus-driven. The new Comprehensive Plan will become the blueprint for both development and preservation of our community.

During the first week of June, the Department of Development will hold six public meetings throughout the city to discuss Envision New Rochelle. Every resident and interested party is invited to attend any of the following events:

  • Friday, June 1, 10am – 2pm, City Hall, Youth Bureau Conference Room
  • Monday, June 4, 5:30pm – 7:30pm, Ward Elementary School
  • Tuesday, June 5, 5:30pm – 7:30pm, New Rochelle High School
  • Wednesday, June 6, 5:30pm – 7:30pm, Mascaro Boys & Girls Club
  • Thursdy, June 7, 5:30pm – 7:30pm, New Rochelle YMCA
  • Friday, June 8, 10am – 2pm, City Hall, Youth Bureau Conference Room

The revision of our Comprehensive Plan is a large, important undertaking, and I hope you will consider attending one of these meetings and becoming involved.

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West End Assessment Completed

Several months ago, the City commenced a planning analysis of New Rochelle’s West End, one of our community’s oldest and most densely populated neighborhoods. Funded by the federal community development block grant (CDBG), this analysis featured several public meetings, as well as expert assessment of land use patterns, mobility issues, and physical conditions.

On August 22, we released the final product of this analysis, a “West End Needs Assessment” that reviews the area in detail and makes recommendations for future improvements.

Some measures are already moving forward, such as the restructuring of the Union Avenue parking lot to expand neighborhood parking options and the enhancement of pedestrian access to Columbus Elementary School. Other recommendations might be implemented in conjunction with the Sound Shore Medical Center streetscape project. And some may be dependent on the receipt of additional grants in the years to come.

The West End Assessment is likely to be embedded in the City’s updated Comprehensive Plan. It’s a good example of how the Comprehensive Plan’s broad outlines will be linked firmly to specific actions and initiatives in targeted neighborhoods. Over time, this process permits a more rational allocation of scarce resources for infrastructure and other needs, especially with respect to federal dollars, the use of which is restricted to areas with socio-economic challenges.

As an aside, for those who don’t know, the West End is a really vibrant neighborhood. For a hundred years or more, it’s been New Rochelle’s unofficial immigrant gateway — first German, then Italian, and now heavily Hispanic. You can still get the world’s best Italian ice at Saccone’s on 6th Street at Washington Avenue, right across from Columbus School. (Lemon is my favorite — watch out for the lemon seeds.)

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Comprehensive Plan Set For Update

A good Comprehensive Plan is part vision-statement and part practical guide to action. Focused primarily on matters of land use, it describes a community’s current conditions and charts a course to a desired future. Once completed, a Comprehensive Plan serves as the basis for subsequent decisions on zoning, infrastructure, development, and preservation. Even the most thoughtful Comprehensive Plan cannot anticipate all of the factors that shape a city’s options, and so such plans are intended to be living, flexible documents that change in response to new conditions and opportunities. But the value of a good plan cannot be overstated in helping to guide municipal priorities.

New Rochelle’s current Comprehensive Plan is fifteen years old. And while it has been updated periodically on a piecemeal basis, it is now time for a full re-draft. During the June 14th meeting of the City Council, our Planning Director Eleanor Sharpe presented the essential principles and procedures that will shape this effort. We expect the process to unfold over approximately 18 months and to involve extensive public input. You can learn much more by viewing Ms. Sharpe’s presentation.

In recent months, I have written about the City’s GreeNR Sustainability Plan, a Bi-State Regional Planning Consortium, and a mayors’ planning session with the Lt. Governor. Now we can add the Comprehensive Plan to this list of significant, forward-looking initiatives that will help shape New Rochelle for decades.

It is easy to dismiss such efforts as so much hot air and shuffling of papers, but that perception would be dead wrong. I have found that good planning is invaluable and benefits our community on multiple levels:

  • enhanced capacity to attract private investment and economic development;
  • improved access to grants, some of which explicitly require a planning component;
  • broader community involvement in civic goal-setting;
  • rational and proactive allocation of scarce resources, especially for infrastructure; and
  • better decision-making by the City Council and Administration.

What’s more, this is precisely the right time to concentrate on planning. By doing this work now, in the midst of a difficult economic climate, we can move immediately to implementation when the economy improves. I want New Rochelle to hit the ground running as soon as the recovery finally arrives.

Lastly, our various planning initiatives are intended to complement and strengthen each other. For example, the land use principles laid out in the Sustainability Plan will form the basis for the more detailed goals in the Comprehensive Plan, and the transit analysis made possible by our involvement in the Bi-State consortium will be integrated into the Comprehensive Plan’s transportation recommendations.

You’ll hear much more about all this in the months ahead, and I look forward to constructive input from our entire community.

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