NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. -- New Rochelle business owners and residents young and old attended the public hearing Tuesday night on the Echo Bay Waterfront Project that is being considered by the New Rochelle City Council.
Forest City Residential, the developer behind the project, recently submitted a Draft Environmental Impact Statement to City, which is available to the public and provides the basis for comments. The statement outlines how the redevelopment plans may potentially affect traffic, schools, economic development as well as land and water .
The comments Tuesday were divided. Many parents, members of the school board, older residents, and veterans expressed staunch opposition to the project for a number of reasons. On the converse, young professionals, retail owners, and people representing business associations showed their support for the proposal.
"Two-hundred-plus homes and only 22 kids? I don't think so," James O'Toole said. "We were promised that with the Avalon building, and we have more kids than we've ever had."
"The school district will incur the cost of these students for decades, regardless of any projections, predictions or forecasts made today," Robert Cox said.
Alexi Brock, a resident who has been a teacher at New Rochelle High School for 22 years and whose son has been in the school system from kindergarten through grade 8, said, "I'm very worried about the quality of education in New Rochelle public schools. We've lost over 40 positions in the last three years, and I witness my colleagues at their breaking point with class sizes and increasing state demands."
Brock called for a modified statement from Forest City that more appropriately reflects the impacts, stating that she has experienced how the poor handling of past tax abatements for businesses have hurt the community.
Other heated topics were of course increased property taxes, the burden that will be placed on residents for paying to move the City Yard, pressure on fire and police departments, and saving the Armory.
"All of the green space in the proposal, the parking lot, the annex in front of Armory - all of this belongs to the Armory," said Peter Parente, president of United Veterans Memorial and Patriotic Association of New Rochelle, addressing the Council. "If you take all of this away from Armory, there's nothing left to do with the Armory, so obviously it will just go to waste, as you have been doing for the past 15 years, Mr. Mayor."
There were many others, however, who were in favor of revamping the space, which was called an "eyesore" numerous times during the hearing.
Marissa Brett, from the Westchester County Business Association said, "We are actively working to transform areas in Westchester into cities and towns where our young professionals can work and live. We need mixed-use development to accommodate these young people: desirable residential space where there is retail and restaurant space, where they would want to be. Retaining our young talent is critical for Westchester business."
Several people in their twenties, some participating the New York Youth Works Program, emphasized the need for more a more vibrant commercial district.
Olivia Kaplan, a young professional and lifelong New Rochelle resident, cited a disconnect between past and present. "We need a new vision for the future," she said. "We want different things - we want a promenade, places to walk, restaurants, and beautification. We should use the natural resources that we have."
Most who spoke during the hearing agreed that redevelopment of the Echo Bay Waterfront is desirable, but asked the City Council to consider other alternatives that better serve the community.
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