RDRXR Releases DGEIS Based on RAP . . . More Acronyms to Follow

New Rochelle’s master development team at RDRXR has just presented their Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS) to the New Rochelle City Council.  It’s now online and will be the subject of a formal public hearing on October 13th.

Based on the zoning and urban design principles presented several weeks ago in the Recommended Action Plan (RAP) for the downtown, the DGEIS is a comprehensive look at the effect of our ambitious development initiative on everything from traffic patterns, to economic activity, to student enrollment, to job creation, to utility demands.  It also includes a preliminary framework for ensuring that developers contribute fairly to the infrastructure and service costs associated with growth.  That’s critical, because development only makes sense if residents and taxpayers come out ahead.

The word “Draft” should be emphasized.  By accepting this document, the City Council has not yet signaled approval of or satisfaction with all of its content.  Instead, we have deemed it sufficiently complete for the purpose of receiving feedback from the community and from other public agencies.  An updated “Final” version of the document (an “FGEIS”), that includes responses to any comments received, is scheduled to be presented later this year.

Then there’s the word “Generic.”  What does that mean?  Instead of focusing on a single project, as in most prior environmental reviews undertaken in New Rochelle, this EIS evaluates the effect of build-out targets and proposed zoning for the entire downtown area.  In this sense, it provides a much more holistic view of how development could reshape New Rochelle and of what measures would be necessary to ensure that our community receives both planning and fiscal benefits.

Once the environmental review process concludes, specific projects that fall within the development parameters of the GEIS will no longer be required to conduct their own full-scale environmental analysis (some lesser form of review may still be necessary.)  By providing this kind of pre-approval, New Rochelle can knock down a major financial and procedural impediment to investment and help transform our entire downtown into a more attractive business proposition.  Indeed, this is one of the major objectives of the master development process; by paying for the comprehensive GEIS, RDRXR is, in effect, subsidizing development by other teams that may now view New Rochelle as ripe with opportunity.

I look forward to examining the DGEIS closely in the weeks ahead, asking my own questions, and receiving constructive comments from our community.

We’re making great progress . . . more acronyms to follow!

Downtown Vision Takes Shape

Wide ShotOur vision for downtown New Rochelle is taking shape – a walkable, culturally vibrant, inclusive urban center that takes maximum advantage of our unparalleled location, and offers exciting opportunities to live, work, play, and shop.

Last night, New Rochelle’s master development team at RDRXR presented their Recommended Action Plan or “RAP.”  Today, you can read the entire document online (warning: it’s a big download) or watch the presentation to the Council.

The product of months of hard work and extensive community input, the RAP lays out design criteria, height restrictions, planning strategies, and infrastructure improvements for different portions of the Main Street area and lower North Avenue corridor.  These recommendations will be the basis for a proposed overlay zone that is likely to come before the City Council by the end of this year.

Proposed Downtown Overlay Zone Boundaries
Proposed Downtown Overlay Zone Boundaries

The RAP also suggests a market-supported balance of commercial and residential construction, totaling millions of square feet – the largest and most ambitious development effort in the modern history of the Hudson Valley.  These targets will be the subject of a comprehensive environmental review, also likely to conclude by the end of this year.

Together, the zoning and the completed environmental analysis will reduce barriers to future private investment by establishing clear, predictable development rights, and by eliminating the high cost of project-specific environmental reviews.  More than ever before, New Rochelle will be open for business and ready to welcome any investor who shares our vision.

The forward-looking action items within the RAP are its most important features, but the discussion of historical development patterns is also worth a look and offers helpful context for current decision-making.

There’s much more hard work ahead, and I certainly won’t be satisfied until there are shovels in the ground.  But the release of the RAP is a major milestone in the City’s ongoing downtown revitalization efforts, and I’m excited about New Rochelle’s prospects.

I’m In! Are You With Me?

We're in!  Will you join us?
We’re in! Will you join us?

I’m in!  This month, I officially entered the race for reelection as Mayor.  Are you with me?

It’s easy to show your support.  Just click here.

New Rochelle is on a roll — our lowest crime rate in 54 years, our top bond rating in 80 years, the fourth lowest city tax rate in the entire state, and an all-time high in local sales of goods and services . . . not to mention plans for the most ambitious downtown development in the region’s history.

But to take the next steps forward, we’ll have to apply intelligence, integrity, and vision to some of the biggest and most complex choices our city has ever faced.  This is when good leadership matters most.  And this is when our partnership matters most, too.

It has been a privilege to serve our community and to work at your side.  Together, let’s make the most of this moment.

Please join me today.

Ed Doctorow

Ed Doctorow by his house on Broadview.
Ed Doctorow by his house on Broadview.

New Rochelle was founded in 1688.  During the 327 years since, hundreds of thousands of people have called our city home, and a fair number have had an outsized influence over the events or imagination of the larger world.  Thomas Paine, Norman Rockwell, Carrie Chapman Catt, Ossie Davis & Ruby Dee, Don Hewitt, to name just a few.  Visit the Walk of Fame at Library Green for many more examples.

Ranking the prominence and historical importance of such over-achievers is a bit of a fool’s game; it’s all subjective, and the passage of time can magnify or diminish accomplishments in unpredictable ways.  But any list would surely include E.L. Doctorow at or near the very top.

He is universally acknowledged as one of the great American novelists, with works that are unchallenged classics and will almost surely be read for decades, if not centuries, to come.  Doctorow’s (front page, above-the-fold) obituary in today’s Times makes clear his remarkable impact on our nation’s culture.

Here in New Rochelle, we have a more intimate perspective.  Until just a few years ago, Doctorow and his wife Helen lived on Broadview Avenue, the street he made famous in the very first sentence of Ragtime.  (“In 1902 Father built a house at the crest of the Broadview Avenue hill in New Rochelle, New York.”)

To his neighbors, he was Ed, not E.L.  And he was notable not just for his talent, but for his kindness — unassuming in his bearing, unfailingly polite, with no sign of the frosty arrogance that sometimes afflicts the famous.

He was also generous with his time, often appearing at local educational or cultural events, giving readings and talks, and otherwise being very much present in our community — and continuing to return after he was no longer officially a resident.

He even had a close connection to our local government; his late sister-in-law, Elly Doctorow, served two terms on the City Council and was much beloved for her civic involvement.

The local history collection at the New Rochelle Public Library is already named in Doctorow’s honor.  In the weeks ahead, we will consider other ways of properly acknowledging this extraordinary man.

For now, I join the world in mourning E.L., and join New Rochelle in mourning Ed.