• The Most Ambitious Proposal in New Rochelle’s History

    October 7, 2014

    Wide ShotThe City has received the most ambitious development proposal in New Rochelle’s history — a sweeping, dramatic vision that would fundamentally transform our downtown and reshape the image of our city as a whole.

    Click here to learn all about it.

    The proposal, put forward by RXR Realty and Renaissance Downtowns (together: “RDRXR”) responds to a Request for Qualifications issued by the City  several months ago.  In a larger sense, however, this is the product of many years of hard work and careful planning aimed at encouraging smart, mixed-use, transit-oriented growth — or, in less jargony terms, a thriving downtown that we can all be proud of.

    Looking southeast across Library Green

    Looking southeast across Library Green

    It is very important to understand that the images and statistics within RDRXR’s proposal are, at this early stage, simply examples of what this project could become.  The precise composition of the plan will evolve as more information is assembled, feasibility studies are completed, and — most importantly — the public weighs in with opinions, ideas, and expectations.

    To this end, RDRXR will soon launch a major “crowd-sourced place-making” effort to invite community input.  This is not mere window-dressing, but rather an innovative process that integrates social media, face-to-face discussions, and neighborhood meetings, and that will play an essential role in shaping the project’s specific features.

    During our October 7th meeting, the City Council took a key first key step by unanimously authorizing our staff to work out the terms of a master development agreement (MDA) encompassing multiple sites.  The MDA will take a couple of months to finalize and then other actions will follow over a period of years, but RDRXR’s commitment to New Rochelle is real and begins immediately; they are placing funds in escrow to cover the City’s third-party consulting costs and even negotiating lease terms for an office downtown.

    Green roofs exemplify sustainability principles.

    Green roofs exemplify sustainability principles.

    Many more steps remain, hard questions must still be answered, and tough negotiations are inevitable.  Given its breathtaking scope, this proposal probably will (and should) dominate civic and political discussion in New Rochelle for the foreseeable future.  But we now have a compelling opportunity to vault our city to a whole new level of vitality, based on the “triple bottom line” of economic, environmental and social progress.

    I have never been more excited or optimistic about New Rochelle’s prospects.

    Library Green Named In Honor of Ruby Dee

    October 2, 2014
    Mayor Noam Bramson with members of Ruby Dee's family and community leaders.

    Mayor Noam Bramson with members of Ruby Dee’s family and community leaders.

    Today, New Rochelle paid tribute to the memory of Ruby Dee by renaming Library Green in her honor.  It will now be “Ruby Dee Park at Library Green.”

    It was a true pleasure to join members of Ruby’s family at the ceremony.  I am also especially grateful for the wisdom and effort of the volunteer committee established to guide the City’s commemoration of Ruby’s life: Council Member (and Committee Chair) Jared Rice, Dr. Hasna Muhammad, Rev. Dr. Allen Paul Weaver Jr., Alvin Clayton, Linda Tarrant-Reid, Michelle Sanchez-Boyce, and City Historian Barbara Davis.

    The tribute to Ruby continues this weekend with a film festival at the New Rochelle Public Library.  For more details about today’s ceremony and the film festival, please see this press release.

    At today’s naming, I delivered the following remarks:

    It goes without saying that Ruby Dee was much bigger than New Rochelle. She was a global icon, known, loved and admired in every corner of this world for her creative genius and moral strength.

    And it may seem a little presumptuous for a small city of just 78,000 to lay any claim to a person of such stature.   After all, most people who reach that level of celebrity would probably regard New Rochelle as only the place to set their head on a pillow.

    But that was not Ruby. Nor was it Ossie before her.

    She was not simply a resident of this community. She was a pillar of this community, a builder of this community – who worked to ensure that the same values she championed all across our country were expressed fully here in the place she called home.

    And to a remarkable degree, she succeeded. Together with Ossie, she devoted herself to causes that ranged from the quality of our public schools, to the survival of our public library, to the inclusiveness of our local government, to our celebration of the arts . . . to the principle that every one of us is created equal.

    To these things she applied herself not through name or gesture alone, but personally, directly, giving time and energy, as one who knew herself to be a full stakeholder in our city’s life.

    Just as remarkable was her the modesty.  Think what an amazing thing it is to be blessed with such truly super-human talents, and yet have the humility to maintain a sense of self with a human scale. To be just Ruby.

    She could have sat back and sipped the wine. (Or, as was noted in her memorial service, she could have sipped the vodka.) Instead, she chose to labor in the vineyard. She chose to thrust her hands in the soil and call forth life.

    So if others elsewhere can better testify to Ruby’s extraordinary creative talents. We in New Rochelle can perhaps testify best to something every bit as worthy, and that is Ruby’s character.

    When we re-name this wonderful space, this heart of our city, it won’t be to honor an A-list celebrity with thousand-watt star power (although Ruby certainly was that); it will be to honor a neighbor and a friend, a mother and a grandmother, whose gentle strength, moral conviction, and force of personality have left an enduring mark on her New Rochelle and our New Rochelle.

    May God bless the life’s work of Ruby Dee, and may each of us prove worthy of her example.

    Don’t Miss ArtsFest

    September 16, 2014

    Arts Fest 2014 CoverWith galleries and exhibits, activities for kids, live musical performances, and a trolley tour (not to mention a host of good restaurants nearby), the 2014 ArtsFest has something for everyone – and is also a great way to showcase the range of cultural venues and activities in New Rochelle and Pelham.

    Most of the action takes place on Saturday, September 27th, including a special behind-the-scenes tour of world-renowned 3-D artist Charles Fazzino’s Museum Editions studio.  Other highlights are LEGO Day at the Huguenot Children’s Library, a Sherlock Holmes film festival, community garden tours at Lincoln Park, even a free belly dancing demo class at Westchester Yoga Arts.  There’s much more detail in this brochure.  And visit the New Rochelle Council on the Arts website for the latest.

    Then, on September 28th at 3pm, be sure to catch a free concert from the Villalobos Brothers.  They’ve performed at Carnegie Hall, the Rainbow Room, and Shea Stadium.  Now they’re coming to Library Green — finally, the big-time!  (And Catie says they are amazing.)

    Lastly, enjoy special dining discounts during the weeks before and after ArtsFest, with many of New Rochelle’s best-known downtown restaurants participating.



    9/11 Serve & Remember

    September 8, 2014

    Volunteer NY ImageThirteen years after September 11, 2001, 9/11 remains a date of sober reflection for our entire country.  But it has also become something more – a date of service, an opportunity to contribute to the present and the future, even as we remember the past.

    Here in Westchester, Volunteer New York has taken the lead by organizing more than twenty-five different volunteer projects, from feeding the hungry, to providing live-saving blood, to bringing dignity to those less fortunate, to mitigating environmental damage, to nurturing early literacy.  These activities will extend from September 11th through September 14th, and most are family-friendly.

    Here’s detailed information about all the different volunteer opportunities, or you can call 914-948-4452 to learn more.  Early registration is encouraged.

    Let’s make this 9/11 a day of remembrance and service.