• Watch This Interview

    April 22, 2014

    I recently sat down with Ina Aronow of the League of Women Voters for a really good half-hour discussion.  Our talk focused mainly on future development plans, but also looked back at last year’s campaign and at the Echo Bay project.  Please watch.

    To Mulch or Not to Mulch – Part II

    April 18, 2014
    Mulch or bag these.

    Mulch or bag these.

    Last night, the City Council approved a significant change in New Rochelle’s leaf collection policy.  Beginning this fall, loose piles of leaves at curbside will no longer be picked up.  Instead, homeowners (and professional landscapers) will have several options.  The contestants are . . .

    1)  Bagging:  Placing leaves in biodegradable yard waste bags that will be picked up at least once a week.

    2)  Containerizing:  Placing leaves in standard garbage receptacles (not mixed with trash, however.)

    3)  Carting:  Delivering leaves directly to the City’s yard waste transfer site.

    4)  Mulching:  Mulching leaves on site, using mulching mowers or standard mowers equipped with mulching blades.

    And the winner is . . . mulching!

    It is by far the best choice from every perspective.  Mulching is cheaper, involves less labor, and produces healthier lawns that don’t need to be fertilized as much.  And there are many landscapers who offer mulching services at no additional charge.  So feel free to bag your leaves if you like, but you may as well stuff some dollar bills into the yard waste bags, too, because you’ll be throwing away money.

    Taxpayers will save about $250,000 to $300,000 per year as a result of this change.  Plus, our local roads and storm drains won’t be clogged with leaves each fall.  Everybody is better off.

    A new policy like this does require a change in habits and perspectives, however, and that makes public information especially important.  To ensure that this transition occurs smoothly, the City will devote a portion of the first year’s budget savings to a professional public information campaign, involving mailings, robo-calls, lawn signs, and educational demonstrations for homeowners and gardeners.  We want to be sure that everybody understands their options, especially mulching, before the leaves start to turn.

    Here’s some more information, including facts and tips about mulching, a good case study from Greenburgh, and my prior comments on this issue.

    And many thanks to the Citizens Panel on Sustainable Budgets, which recommended this policy in their 2012 report.

     

    State of the City 2014

    March 20, 2014

    NR-seal-smI just finished delivering my annual State of the City address to a packed house.  Here is copy of my prepared remarks.  Or you can view this webcast.

    Every year, I try to make the most of this occasion by celebrating  accomplishments, confronting challenges, and establishing goals.  It’s a good way to set a course for the months ahead.

    I feel privileged to share thoughts with colleagues, neighbors, and friends — and, of course, welcome your feedback.

    The Next Step

    March 12, 2014

    Development Opportunities Slide copyWith studies on transit-oriented growth and traffic patterns completed, the City is now poised to take the next step by seeking a “master” developer for multiple sites around Main Street and the New Rochelle train station.

    Compared to the traditional project review and approval process, master development agreements typically encompass a wider range of locations, a greater degree of flexibility, and an enhanced public-private partnership during initial planning stages.  It’s a model that’s proven successful in many places, but is new to New Rochelle.

    As this week’s presentation to the City Council illustrates, there’s a lot we can put into play, with publicly-owned properties serving as the core of potentially larger redevelopment areas.

    We expect to issue a Request for Qualifications for master developers by May of this year, with the aim of making a selection around the end of summer.  The redevelopment process itself will, of course, take much longer, and include extensive community input, as we work to match an idealized vision with the realities of the marketplace.

    The City Council is unanimous in its enthusiasm for this approach, a level of consensus we rarely experience when it comes to economic development.  I am excited, too, about the possibilities.  But it’s important to keep in mind that putting shovels in the ground will inevitably entail compromises and trade-offs – and that’s when the choices become more difficult.

    The presentation to Council also noted options for the Echo Bay waterfront.  With the prior proposal from Forest City now set aside, the Council must determine how to proceed.  The big immediate questions concern the scope of properties to be included in a future development agreement and whether competition should be open to all interested parties or initially limited to developers who have already submitted proposals of one kind or another.  The Council is still wrestling with these issues, but is likely to make some determinations soon.