To Mulch or Not to Mulch – Part IIApril 18, 2014
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.
And many thanks to the Citizens Panel on Sustainable Budgets, which recommended this policy in their 2012 report.
State of the City 2014March 20, 2014
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 StepMarch 12, 2014
With 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.
Downtown Vision Takes ShapeFebruary 6, 2014
Fresh on the heels of the transit-oriented development plan presented to the City Council last month, this week we received a comprehensive traffic analysis (download warning – it’s a big file) chock full of interesting recommendations. Together, these two reports help refine our vision for downtown New Rochelle, a vision based on smart growth, better access for pedestrians and cyclists, and stronger connections between neighborhoods, businesses, and the waterfront.
Like all conceptual plans, this one needs to be distilled into practical steps, which means setting priorities, establishing a logical sequence, and determining how improvements can and should be funded. I expect that there will be lots of discussion about some of the report’s more creative suggestions for re-routing traffic.
This spring, after we receive one more study from Columbia University, the City is likely to invite developers to submit their proposals. The key will be striking a balance between our idealized vision and the economic realities of the marketplace. Take a look at the traffic study.