NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- In the late nineties, the City of New Rochelle convened a Waterfront Revitalization Committee which produced a Local Waterfront Revitalization Program for approval of t New York State Department of State. That plan was shelved in 1999.
Blame Donald Trump and his dream of developing condominiums on Davids Island for sale to refugees fleeing Chinese control of Hong Kong when the former British colony reverted to control of the People’s Republic of China. City officials wanted to retain maximum flexibility for density and height for Trump’s condos and did not want to be restricted by the Federal Coastal Zone Management Act which entails certain height and setback provisions.
Trump’s plans for David’s Island never materialized but the proposed Local Waterfront Revitalization Program remained on a shelf in the New Rochelle Development Office.
That plan was recently dusted off by New Rochelle Development Commissioner Luiz Aragon in the hopes of integrating a Waterfront Development Plan into the City of New Rochelle Comprehensive Plan and obtaining state and federal funds to clean up the area around Echo Bay, including the New Rochelle Marina, Five Islands Park and Hudson Park. The plan was submitted to New York State for approval this past June.
Aragon tested community reaction to his ideas by making a presentation to the Sutton Manor Association last Thursday. He did not get far in outlining his proposed developer-friendly zoning changes before the crowd turned on him, repeatedly interrupting him and declaring ideas such as a pedestrian walk across the middle of Echo Bay a “non-starter”.
New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson and Council Member Albert Tarantino, who represents the Sutton Manor neighborhood, were on hand. Each spoke briefly without conveying their views of Aragon’s proposal.
After the meeting, Talk of the Sound spoke with Tarantino.
"The proposed zoning changes amount to an end-around on City Council oversight of waterfront development,” Tarantino said. “The proposal would allow developers to build “as of right” on parcels currently zoned WR-1 which I will not support."
The response in the room to Aragon’s proposal’s was often hostile, in some instances, aggressively so. No vote was taken but it was clear from their reaction that while not unanimous, the vast majority of homeowners in Sutton Manor have significant reservations about what they heard. Sutton Manor, about 40 homes sandwiched in between the New Rochelle Marina and New Rochelle City Yard, and directly across the water from the Westchester County waste treatment plant and Five Islands Park, is the only neighborhood directly impacted by both Aragon’s proposed Waterfront Development Plan and the Echo Bay Plans, first that of Forest City/Ratner and more recently, Twining Properties.
Based on the “temperature” in the room last week, City officials, in consultation with the Mayor and City Council Members have, rejected inserting the Waterfront Development Plan into the City’s Comprehensive Plan.
“Upon further review,” said Aragon. “The City has decided to hold off on any zoning changes for the marina.”
While Aragon’s proposed zoning changes may have been set aside, individual parcels can still be developed under special permits.
Whether development on the waterfront proceeds as Aragon hopes, or not, his effort has highlighted the failure of the City to file a Local Waterfront Revitalization Program to the New York State Department of State more than three decades after New York State adopted the federal Coastal Zone Management Act.
Talk of the Sound offers this primer on the law pulled from various sources:
“The Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 is an Act of Congress passed in 1972 to encourage coastal states to develop and implement coastal zone management plans. This act was established as a United States National policy to preserve, protect, develop, and where possible, restore or enhance, the resources of the Nation's coastal zone for this and succeeding generations.
Under this act two national programs were created, the National Coastal Zone Management Program and the National Estuarine Research Reserve System. Out of 35 eligible states, only 34 have established management programs; Washington State was the first state to adopt the program in 1976. In 1982, New York State became the 21st state to adopt this program. 34 of 35 eligible states have adopted this program to date.
The Coastal Zone Management Program, also called the National Coastal Zone Management Program is administered by NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management.
New York State adopted the Coastal Zone Management Program in 1982, diving the state up into 10 regions: Capital Region, Central New York, Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley, North Country, Southern Tier, Western New York, New York City, Long Island, and the Mid-Hudson Region which encompasses Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster, and Westchester. The New York State Coastal Management Program is administered by the New York State Department of State, Division of Coastal Resources and Waterfront Revitalization. The Waterfront Revitalization of Coastal Areas and Inland Waterways Act, Article 42 of the Executive Law, is the foundation for the New York State Coastal Management Program.
Parts of Westchester, Long Island and New York City are incorporated into the Long Island Sound Coastal Management Program. The Long Island Sound Coastal Management Program replaces the state Coastal Management Program for the Sound shorelines of Westchester County, New York City to the Throgs Neck Bridge, Nassau County, and Suffolk County. New York's Long Island Sound coast encompasses 304 miles of shoreline in Westchester, Bronx, Queens, Nassau, and Suffolk counties and its watershed is home to nearly 1.5 million people. The Long Island Sound Coastal Management Program was funded under a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, under the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972.
The programs identifies various Waterfront Redevelopment Areas for State efforts to encourage concentration of new growth to revitalize older urban waterfronts by targeting investment in these areas to reduce urban sprawl, protect open areas, and reclaim abandoned public and private investment.
There are 50 municipalities along the New York State Long Island Sound shore. By 1999, New York State listed ten municipalities as having approved Local Waterfront Revitalization Programs, 14 were listed as in various stages of developing a local program including New Rochelle, which, as noted above, never submitted the plan developed in 1999 for New York State approval.
Aragon expects the Department of State to approve New Rochelle’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program in about six months.