State of the City 2016
In a confident and upbeat State of the City Address to a packed house of public officials, business people, developers, community leaders, and interested residents, New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson pledged to implement “the most ambitious downtown development plan in the entire Hudson Valley” and to “seize hold of tomorrow” through city-wide infrastructure and environmental initiatives.
Adopted late last year by a unanimous City Council, the City’s downtown plan calls for nearly 11,000,000 square feet of new construction, with a balanced mix of retail, office, hotel, and residential uses. Pointing to the flexible, form-based downtown zone and the environmental review associated with the plan, Bramson noted, “There’s never been a clearer path to doing business successfully in New Rochelle.”
But, Bramson continued, “Our end goal isn’t a healthier rate of return for developers – that’s just a means; our end goal is a healthier city.” That is why the downtown plan also includes the City’s “highest standards ever for urban design,” affordable housing requirements, a new job training initiative, and “a fair share mitigation fund that, for the first time, requires developers to contribute to the infrastructure and capital needs that come with growth, including the construction of classrooms or schools.”
“We’re wasting no time putting the plan into action,” said Bramson, unveiling the first project from the City’s master developers at RDRXR, a 28-story tower with a ground level public performance space at the site of the former Loew’s Theater on Main Street. Noting that multiple additional projects are either under construction, approved, or in discussion with City officials, Bramson compared New Rochelle to a jet preparing for takeoff. “It is wheels up,” said Bramson, “New Rochelle is ready to fly.
To make the most of this moment and help ensure that progress downtown lifts our city as a whole, Bramson suggested three major priorities:
First, Bramson urged the City, major community institutions, and residents to join together to “tell our story,” with a robust marketing campaign based on the City’s new brand: Ideally Yours. “Image can be self-fulfilling,” said Bramson. “When it’s positive, it can boost your investment climate, your ability to attract customers, your housing market. Everything.”
Second, Bramson called for a renewed focus on the needs of neighborhoods across New Rochelle through several specific steps, such as completing the City’s Comprehensive Plan, implementing programs to reduce energy costs, and introducing New Rochelle’s first bike share service. For the waterfront in particular, Bramson urged the City to explore options for the Municipal Marina, Hudson Park, Wildcliff, and Five Islands by issuing a Request for Proposals. “These are invaluable public spaces,” said Bramson, but “we’ve never done a good enough job of putting all the sites together as a package, with complementary uses that give more of us a reason to visit the shore.” Bramson also advocated for a decision this year on the relocation of New Rochelle’s Public Works Yard, noting that “Waiting doesn’t make the choices any easier . . . the price only goes in one direction, and that’s up.”
Third, Bramson argued for a new commitment to infrastructure investment. “New Rochelle needs a strong physical foundation,” said Bramson, “[but] a lot of that foundation is more than a century old and falling apart.” Bramson praised the City Council for expanding New Rochelle’s road paving budget and for initiating a Complete Streets Plan, calling these important first steps. What’s needed now, he suggested, is “a sustained and predictable policy that rebuilds New Rochelle over a period of years” that also addresses “the look and feel of the public spaces where we gather,” and that directs “every precious capital dollar . . . to build the future, not just patch up the past.”
Acting on these three priorities would benefit the people of New Rochelle and enhance the competitiveness of the New York metropolitan area as a whole, said Bramson, while also positioning New Rochelle as a community “where our children and grandchildren can live and want to live.”
Acknowledging that he called for many changes in his speech, Bramson concluded by “celebrating the things that should never change at all” and by recognizing a diverse group of City residents, including artists, police officers, fire fighters, not-for-profit leaders, business pioneers, and others “who define our spirit of inclusion and optimism, of accomplishment and creativity, who show what it means to find your ideal and what it means to be your ideal.”
The State of the City is presented by the Chamber of Commerce of New Rochelle.