Home Economic Development New Rochelle delays vote on Echo Bay

New Rochelle delays vote on Echo Bay

A proposed development on New Rochelle’s Echo Bay has been shelved until January following a fiery Tuesday night meeting of the City Council.

The council was scheduled to discuss several items that would advance the proposal, which includes the transferring of a city yard to developer Forest City Residential Inc., an affiliate of Forest City Enterprises. But four of seven council members voted in favor of a motion to table any votes or discussion of the project until January.

Mayor Noam Bramson, a Democrat who has supported the project, took issue with the delay and later pushed for a second vote that would allow the sharing of documents and information even if the vote had been delayed.

Ron Tocci, a former state assemblyman, speaks out against Echo Bay at Tuesday's protest at City Hall.
Ron Tocci, a former state assemblyman, speaks out against Echo Bay at Tuesday’s protest at City Hall.

That measure passed 4-3, with Democrat Shari Rackman shifting course after agreeing to delay the vote and discussion earlier in the evening. Rackman’s vote came after a private discussion in closed quarters with the mayor, which Republican Al Tarantino criticized as a strong-arm maneuver, calling it “waterboarding.”

Lou Trangucci, a Republican councilman, walked out prior to the second vote. Its approval drew boos and insults from a decidedly anti-Echo Bay crowd of residents. Ivar Hyden was the sole Democrat to vote no on the second measure. “I don’t like being bullied, I don’t like being pushed, I don’t like being backed into a corner,” he said.

Earlier in the evening, about 50 residents and members of a local veterans group picketed on the steps of City Hall in protest of the project, waving anti-Echo Bay signs and chanting “No way Echo Bay” and “Hey hey ho ho Forest City has got to go.” The protest was organized by United Citizens for a Better New Rochelle, a group that created “No Echo Bay” lawn signs that residents posted throughout the city, and United Veterans Memorial & Patriotic Association, which has opposed the project because of its impact on an unused armory building at the project site.

Protesters then marched into City Hall in time for public comment on the matter. Robin Sherman spoke in favor of the development and presented a petition in support that she said had more than 500 signatures. Every other speaker at the meeting criticized the proposal, painting the project as favoring the developer over the taxpayer and saying the city should break ties with Forest City and put the project back out to public bid. The developer is set to receive $20 million in tax abatements through 2035.

Resident John Dalois said the project was the latest development in the city that catered to private interests. “You’ve been in bed with Cappelli, you’ve been in bed with Apicella, you’ve been in bed with Trump, you’ve been in bed with Forest City,” he said. “It’s time to start sleeping at home nowadays.”

Resident Jeffrey Hastie said residents were prepared to sue the city if the plan goes through. “We are in favor of development, we’re in favor of affordable housing, we’re just not in favor of this development,” he said.

The 9-acre development on East Main Street would include 285 luxury apartments, 25,000 square feet of retail space and a 5-acre waterfront park. Some critics take issue with the scaled back nature of the project, which was conceived in 2006 as a 26-acre project with 710 residences, 150,000 square feet of retail and two 150-room hotels.

Robert Cox, who runs the New Rochelle blog Talk of the Sound, said the city was not getting enough in return for the tax abatements and the relocation of the public works yard from the project site to elsewhere in the city. “We’re really not getting anything,” he said. “We’re going significantly in debt in the community to get a small to midsize apartment building, not of any note.”

The original proposal would have knocked down the armory and replaced it with a community center, a move that met the ire of veterans groups who wanted the building preserved due to its history. The 26,575-square-foot armory building would be spared under the current proposal, though its ultimate fate remains unclear.

The vote to delay a decision on the project comes only days after a scathing report on Forest City from Cause of Action, a Washington, D.C.-based accountability organization that said Forest City had spent more than $230,000 in lobbying for the project. The report noted that Bramson received $17,500 in campaign donations from Forest City consultants and $5,000 in donations from members of Forest City owners the Ratner family since the project was announced in 2006.

Bramson in a recent interview said that the project would provide a spark to a long-term revitalization of the area even in its pared-down form.

“We learned over the last few years trying to establish one grand vision in a large bite doesn’t work,” he said. “It’s an important, impactful and significant development.”

4 COMMENTS

  1. Mark,

    Your article mentions Robin Sherman.

    I would urge your readers to learn more about this woman.

    She represented herself as an East End resident, a neighborhood located across the street from the proposed Echo Bay project, and a supporter of the project who had collected over 500 signatures on a petition supporting the project.

    In fact, up until two weeks ago she lived in the North End of New Rochelle, signatures that she submitted were collected at the New Rochelle Train Station by employees of Forest City/Ratner and she is a senior executive at a company owned by Greg Merchant, a member of the New Rochelle IDA.

    Setting aside that she misrepresented herself and the source of the signatures on her petition, the bigger question to consider is this: why is an employee of a New Rochelle IDA member, the entity which will be asked to grant a long-term tax abatements to Forest City, working directly with Forest City?

    For those familiar with Forest City’s tactics in Brooklyn and Yonkers, and elsewhere around the country, the roles on Ms. Sherman and her boss, Greg Merchant, will have a familiar odor.

  2. What is missing from your story is that Mayor Noam Bramson has filled campaign finance paperwork which shows that over the last number of years he received money from Forest City Ratner and their consultants for 17,500 this year and at least 5,000 for prior campaigns.
    NY State Ethics would preclude him from voting in favor of this project although its business as usual for FCR. Although maybe not illegal it can be considered unethical when compared to NY State Ethics.
    We are seeing the Pay to Play than NY State is famous for.

  3. Bramson says this project will “provide a spark to a long-term revitalization of the area…” I got news for everyone, no one has complained about the current conditions in this area. The only thing people wanted to see was the armory preserved. That they didn’t get.

    The people of NR have however, begged city officials to revitalized the downtown and bring in retail and parking. We have waited 18 years and seen tax break after tax break given to developers who are going to create the “spark” that will generate this retail. So far, all we got was half empty luxury apartment buildings, higher taxes and fees. Meanwhile, the developers made their money and flipped their projects.

    Echo bay is not in the downtown and there is hardly a need to develop anything there. We can wait for a proposal that makes economic sense for NR rather selling ourselves short so another wealthy developer can become richer. The only person who is eager to develop Echo Bay is Bramson because he thinks it will “spark” his floundering political career. He serves us, we don’t serve him, and we will never give in to this madman. He asked for a fight and he’s going to get one.

    • Just another example of New Rochelle being New Rochelle, just different in that the dirty laundry got hung out in public the other night. If you want to know why we are in the shape we are as a city, this is why. Want to know why our downtown is still an outright disgrace after decades of trying to “fix it”, this is why.
      500 signatures, no matter where they are collected and by who do not trump the thousands of Stop Echo Bay signs all over New Rochelle. Our track record of being screwed by developers is well earned. Echo Bay will just be another name added to the long list if it goes through in it’s present iteration.

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