Council Approves City Yard Plan – Big Step Clears Way for Waterfront Improvement

Moving the City Yard will open the Echo Bay shoreline to public access and economic development.
Moving the City Yard will open the Echo Bay shoreline to public access, environmental improvements, and economic development.

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.

 

 

Barnes & Noble Coming to New Rochelle!

Noble“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 Finances in Good Shape

DollarsNew 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.

Here’s the full report.

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.

Volunteer in New Ro

VolunteerNY LogoNew 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.

Please take a moment to explore the new web portal and find out about local volunteer opportunities.   Then let’s all work together to make our community even stronger.