New Lights Brighten Transit Center and Save Money

As noted here this summer, the City Council approved installation of new high-efficiency LED light fixtures in the New Roc City and Transit Center garages, supported by a loan from the New York State Power Authority.

Now installation at the Transit Center is almost complete, and the work at New Roc City is about to begin. These new lights for our parking garages are expected to cut energy use by about half, reducing CO2 equivalent emissions and energy costs for the City. Over the expected 20-year lifespan of the new lights, total savings for local taxpayers will be about $2 million.

Reducing municipal energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions is one of the goals of GreeNR, New Rochelle’s Sustainability Plan. In this spirit, the City is already undertaking comprehensive (and money-saving) energy improvements at City Hall and the Police/Court facility. Up next: replacing all outdoor street lights with more energy-efficient models.

You can read more about the lighting upgrades in Patch and the Daily Voice, or watch the video report from Patch below.

Council Acts On Energy Efficiency Goals

New Rochelle’s Sustainability Plan, GreeNR, sets a goal of reducing municipal energy use and greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2020. We’re off to a very good start, with comprehensive energy efficiency upgrades already underway in our two largest municipal buildings.

This week, the City Council took another big step forward by approving the installation of high-efficiency LED light fixtures in the New Roc City and Transit Center garages. The new lights are expected to cut energy use by about 60%, from roughly 1.9 million kilowatt-hours to about 1.1 million kilowatt-hours, with an equivalent reduction in CO2 equivalent emissions. That’s a big environmental benefit.

Taxpayers also come out ahead. Energy costs will be cut by about $160,000 per year. Because the initial capital costs of about $1.5 million are funded by a loan from the New York State Power Authority, our net savings will initially be smaller — between about $5,000 and $25,000 per year, depending upon variable interest rates. Once the loan is paid off, between years 7 and 10, all the savings will flow to the City. Over the expected 20-year lifespan of the new lights, total savings for local taxpayers will be about $2 million.

Efficiency and savings must be ongoing priorities for our community, especially in a time of fiscal challenge, so we will continue seeking opportunities to be both green and cost-conscious.

Regional Consortium Aims For Sustainable Growth Strategy

A successful and sustainable development strategy shouldn’t — and can’t — be constrained by municipal borders. In order to create jobs, expand economic opportunities, capitalize on our existing transit networks, and conserve our shared environmental resources, local development plans must be integrated into a regional framework.

To foster regional cooperation, New Rochelle has taken a lead role in the newly-created New York & Connecticut Sustainable Communities Consortium, comprised of city and county governments from New Haven to New York City to Long Island. This was a major theme of my State of the City Address in March. Now, the Consortium is taking a big step forward, thanks to a vote of confidence (and a big check) from the Feds.

Last Friday, April 15, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development officially awarded a $3.5 million Sustainable Communities Initiative Grant to the Consortium, kick-starting several projects throughout the region centered around the transportation hubs of New Haven, Bridgeport, Norwalk, Stamford, New Rochelle, and East New York. I was pleased to attend and to speak at the announcement in New York City, alongside colleagues from other municipalities, leading planners, and Obama Administration representatives.

The Consortium is devoting its initial efforts to key nodes on the Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road lines, and that makes perfect sense, because these locations have the potential to foster vibrant, livable, transit-oriented neighborhoods with diverse housing and employment opportunities. This strategy may sound familiar, because it is the approach New Rochelle has embraced for more than a decade, with some notable successes, but also plenty of still-to-be-met challenges.

New Rochelle will use its share of this funding to study means of improving connectivity to our own transit center, including improved pedestrian access and better links to local businesses. The proposals that emerge from this study will then be embedded in our updated Comprehensive Plan.

The bottom line is this: New Rochelle will grow, the only question is how. To the extent that our residents are less reliant on the automobile, more energy efficient, and able to move from home to work and back again with convenience and speed, we will all benefit. An integrated, forward-looking approach to transportation, development, and housing challenges will help ensure that growth contributes to, and doesn’t detract from, our quality of life.

If this subject interests you, I encourage you to read more in the various attachments linked to this post. And, of course, I welcome your comments.

Train Station Restrooms to Reopen

The New Rochelle train station is a vital component of our city’s downtown and a daily stop for thousands of local commuters. It is among the busiest stations on the New Haven line, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. But its restrooms could use some help.

Now help is on the way, thanks to assistance from Metro-North Railroad. The restrooms have been plagued by vandalism, and, with the cost of maintenance spiraling out of control, the City was forced to close them last month. But a new agreement with Metro-North will include the restrooms under the supervision of MTA Police, for added security, and Metro-North has agreed to contribute to the replacement of fixtures.

To begin with, a single unisex restroom will reopen during the station’s busiest hours, 5:00 am to 1:00 pm, seven days a week. Necessary repairs of the second restroom will begin immediately.

HUD Awards $3.5 Million to Regional Planning Group

As reported last month, New Rochelle has joined and taken a lead role in a bi-state regional planning and sustainability coalition that stretches from New Haven to New York City and Long Island. This effort has already borne fruit in the form of a $3.5 million grant award from the federal Department of Housing & Urban Development that will help the member communities analyze various individual challenges related to regional development.

New Rochelle’s (relatively small) share of the funding will be employed to examine access to our transit center, with the goal of enhancing connectivity to the surrounding area, especially for pedestrians. Our train and bus station is a significant local asset, but its full potential is unrealized. Establishing more reliable and safer access to the transit center will buttress our overall economic development efforts and improve the functionality of a heavily-used public facility.