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Community Outreach Meeting | September 13th, 2017

Categories: events

Thanks to the many people who joined us this past Wednesday night for our first Waterfront District workshop and to the many others who have participated in the online survey. Below is a brief recap:

  • Twining Properties gave an overview of the planning process
  • Marvel Architects presented some examples of other successful industrial waterfront revitalizations to help the group understand new possibilities for the waterfront.
  • Attendees broke up into 7 study groups to discuss their ideas over maps of the District and idea cards. The workshop format led to some high energy discussions and great ideas.
  • Two members from each table presented their group’s goals, ideas and aspirations for the Waterfront District.  We heard about whether to have shops, offices, hotel or residences in the District, what to do with the Armory and specifically what people would like to see along the water’s edge. The presentation included many great ideas. A special thanks to the highly engaged and thoughtful teams who made these workshops a success.

Waterfront Community Meeting: Introductory Presentation

Group 1:

Presenter 1 : I’m Bob and this is Stan. I live in Downtown New Rochelle, 10 minutes from the north end. Just as an introductory comment, I think it’s great that the Twining organization is doing new development or trying to do new development in New Rochelle.  I think that the city obviously is going to be getting some very high-density projects, as everyone has heard with RXR, and I think our vision for this, not that or vision really counts for much, would be that you would see a mid-rise entrance way or gate way into new Rochelle coming down from Larchmont that leads into the higher density downtown area.  Just some specific ideas for this site that we don’t expect to be listened to in detail because you know the developers have to make a return on investment… Going visually from the east part of this site to the west part of this site, our group had a bunch of ideas.  One idea we had was in front of the plant, that there would be some type of hotel and mixed-use projects so that there would be some type of retail. Obviously behind the hotel would be a visual lot of the sewage treatment plant, a bit of an eye sore. Obviously, it doesn’t have to be a hotel. But one of the things that was fundamentally important to our table is that we maximize access to the water front, in terms of pedestrian and bicycle paths along the water, and as you’re going further west into Downtown New Rochelle, whatever streets are being used to divide up this space, should create an opportunity for visual connection with the water, because obviously no one sees the water right now and its spectacular to see the long island sound. So wherever they place the roads and streets, it should be a high priority to be able to see from the street the landscaped gateways to the water.  Obviously the developer has to make a return on investment so nobody at our table was concerned about how high these building should be; but obviously some kind of mid-rise building seemed to be appropriate whether it’s from 7 to 12 or 14, stories doesn’t really matter to us.  If they are terrace or different levels —  the idea would be that there has to be enough density to support the retail in the ground floor.  And we don’t have a lot of retail in NR so the idea would be that the retail along the street. You’re not going to get that retail unless you have enough people that are patronizing the businesses.  At the western end of the center section is the armory.  The consensus at our table was that we have something like the Chelsea market, or a St. Lawrence Market in Toronto, or the Seattle’s equivalent, but there would be a multi-vendor permanent food and restaurant and eatery, butchery bakeries, etc. using that space as architectural gateway into a bigger building because it’s not big enough on its own. And then there is this last section here, and there’s some difference of opinion but, the consensus that emerged is that maybe there should be some kind of cultural institution, an aquarium, a museum, something that would attract tourist use, and make the area bring in people who are tourists.

Presenter 2 :  Well so, trying to make this waterway usable, I don’t know whether or not dredging is going to be part of the plan, to make this a water way. Not so much for  boats, but make it usable for kayaking and that sort of thing. And also make it a little more beautiful because at low tide it’s just mud flats; so it’s not very appealing. So, we can try to maybe put a dam here that when the tide comes in the water stays there, something like that.  One of the things we talked about was to make this, this access from echo and access point for the whole space with the bike path that would travel around the edge of the property to the five islands park.  We also talked about because of the Sutton Manor, this area would be a more of a low rise because it would be easier to get to operations for these folks, and the folks over here, not high rise.

Presenter 1 : Less light blockage etc.

Presenter 2 : We also discussed the idea that there has to be parking, especially if you’re going to put something that is draw a crowd, you have to have parking.  But the idea is, 30 years from now you’re not going to have cars, we are going to have driver-less cars, we don’t have to park cars anymore so that any parking planning should be done with he idea that there could be an alternative use for that space 25-30 years from now because this property should be here for that long so that part of the planning objectives would be to be able to re-purpose that space

Presenter 1 :  At least have parking as invisible as possible

Presenter 2 : And make the parking as invisible as possible.  One is to make green roofs wherever possible so that there can be actual parks on the roofs that are not only environmentally a good idea but also can be used.  And so that the visuals when you’re driving down main street would all point to the focal point here, where the water is so that you will get the perspective that NR is connected to the water.

Presenter 1: That’s it

Presenter 2: We do realize that there is a considerable vertical change from the street to here, which can support a higher rise boiling, an extra floor or two, down closer to the water without appearing as tall buildings from main street. So that you can taper the buildings so that you can get more square footage closer to the water.

Group 2:

Presenter 1 : I’m Bill this is Lynn, and I would just like to also say this is a wonderful group. I’m very impressed with all of us.  Okay. Starting out, Lynn had a great idea. Can you talk about this?

Presenter 2 : I’m coming at this from a different point of view, which is not so much a developer and development point of view, but understanding the ecosystem that’s here, my husband and I have some kayaks here out on the marina, and if you actually get out on the water you see that these places [on the water are] all interconnect.  This is one big sort of water ecosystem, and then out here is the echo bay yacht club. So there really is kind of a boom, boom, boom (pointing at the Marina, Five Islands Park, and Pratt Landing). And, when you get back in here, there are bottles and pans (point near the water near the waterfront district) and it’s kind of really disgusting. But, there are all these beautiful water fowl that still live there. It’s just incredible, big tall cranes etc. So, I was thinking, can we somehow make the part that hits the water something more natural, like a marsh or something? And you can still have it set up so people can come down and put the food and all the stuff maybe up here, but then visually somehow connect these different parts visually over the water. I mean when you get out here, there’s all this natural wildlife out here.  So, rather than put up another [Faneuil Hall], can we do this in a much more environmentally, ecologically, integrated way to encourage the water fowl to multiply and have babies.

Audience : A wildlife sanctuary

Presenter 2 : We had the question though, of the fact that we have to develop this to get money to pay for schools. But if you get out of here on your kayak, you just have a totally different view of it. So really pretty cool.

Presenter 3 : Now one of the ideas we all kind of felt, even at different tables, is that we would have some type of trail or nature walk or place to run all along the water’s edge and that would be natural and open to all of us. One idea that I had was that up here, where it’s over towards Larchmont area we have some kind of a major retail, have parking down here between retail and a sewage plant. You can’t do much else with that. And then instead of having parking over here, have some kind of a transit loop. I was thinking about those little carts that people ride at the Bronx zoo. People can ride around their cart. Have it come out and they could get the bus stop up here also. People can come in by bus, and they’ll ride around through there without having any kind of problem.  As far as the armory, somebody from the other table came here and said [food hall] that is kind of like [Faneuil Hall]; and just so you guys know Peter [Faneuil] is from New Rochelle! So the veterans in NR have their own plans for the Armory, but they haven’t been able to execute it. So maybe you guys from Twining can communicate with the veterans here in NR.  And somebody wrote, running and nature trail, all of that will go in with the trail — that’s a very good idea. My idea for this retail, is some kind of big box because I’m also a home owner, and I keep thinking that we need more sales tax, but whatever would bring in a lot of sales tax, I’m all for.  Also, I’m president of the historical association. We are looking for volunteers, if anyone wants to volunteer with us let me know.

Group 3:

Presenter 1 : So, I’ll start off by introducing. I’m [Linda], this is [Betsy]. I live in Premium Point park. she lives in the [same area]. We did a lot of writing in our group, so I’m not going to say everything we wrote. We just answered all the questions — what do we like and dislike about the water front.  We liked the fact there is water. We were all in agreement; I think a couple of people said they liked the walking and biking path.  We liked the armory and the historical nature of it. We had the same ideas of using it as some sort of food hall or grocery and town market.  We liked local businesses as part of the retail.  The main things we don’t like about the current state of the water front is that there is no access, the pollution, that there’s not a lot of green space and trees, the car lots, the lighting being very bright, the loud sounds are a concern. I don’t know if it currently is, but that is a concern [from] some of the neighbors about what we will build here eventually. They are concerned about it being very loud, and the fact that it’s mostly industrial. And our group does not like big box stores. The most important issue for the overlay zone to address, again we are really really against the big boxes, we think the biggest things for everyone to address is the (1) current pollution, (2) to open up the views that been said before that you can see the water from the main streets, that (3) there be green space, there was also a concern from the group again in regard to taxes that there be more co-ops and opportunity to own property as opposed to just all rental. Also, since we were just dreaming, would love some sort of little trolley or some way to get from the New Rochelle train station down to this developed area.

Presenter 2 : What elements and features we thought it should include, and again we were just kind of going “Disney land”, we weren’t going specific to areas. What we would like to see is (1) outdoor dining, (2) water activities, whether it be some kind of paddle boats, kayaking, or that type of thing.  (3) Open parks, maybe playing fields, just green space. A bike path, jogging path.  We would love to see dogs welcome there because they banned dogs everywhere in New Rochelle and we would like to take our dogs places. Maybe some theater and art space.  Somebody mentioned a park course, you know what that is like at the high school and some areas where you have different fitness stations where you go around and do different things. More homeowner than rentals.  Having it be more affordable, which I don’t know how you can do that on the water, but that was something that came up, to make it more affordable.  And one thing that someone brought up was keeping more vegetation and, things like the high-line in NYC, where you keep it more natural. Looking like that, we thought, was kind of interesting.  And then appropriate buildings types and uses — we felt dinning, entertainment, markets and underground parking.  And what would you like to do here, we would like to have al fresco dining, some night life, but not too loud, jogging trails, dog walking, water activities, maybe see a play a concert, shopping, and maybe some interactive games like giant chess boards or giant tic tac toe things where you can hang out with your kids.  Areas to spend time with your family relax by the water just enjoy the outdoors on the water front in New Rochelle and maybe a brewery or winery.  One thing we thought that would be interesting is if there was some type of water taxi that could take us to city island or even dreaming to NYC, or something like that.  We don’t know if that is possible, but we wanted to throw it in there.  And the type of retail — we thought the armory would be a great place to have sort of a gourmet food market, an international food market. We have so many diverse populations here that can be represented; it just is a natural thing to me.  Maybe some arts and crafts stores where local artists can display their things for sale.  Some clothing’s stores. No dollar stores; there are plenty of those down the street. And we want Walters; Walters is opening up in White Plains. I think they can come into New Rochelle. And maybe a coffee shop and bookshop.

Group 4:

Presenter 1 : Many of us are neighbors of this site. We echo very similar things. We want to be able to walk along the water front and have access. One of the first things that came up was the desire that the project doesn’t negatively impact the neighbor’s sewage, traffic, that kind of thing. So, we want the infrastructure to support development, whatever it is. We want walking, biking access like everybody. Maybe dredge the water so we can do more water activities. Views are really important just as everybody said, views to the waterfront.  Things that we like are kayaking, five island park, and walking in the area. Dislike park carriers, constant moving and unloading in front of the site, which limited public access to the sound, and the lack of connectivity to the waterfront to the downtown.  I really like that idea of a trolley that goes back and forth.

Presenter 2 : If I can just add, and I don’t know if the other presenters have done this, but the connectivity is really connecting the filtration plant, the water treatment plant, with the rest of the site.  I grew up in Chicago, and the filtration plant that on lake Michigan used to have public access all the way along that was tied into the water front. So, we said, if we can connect the water front near the water treatment plant with the rest of the site, it gives a great deal of more public space. You would have the park over here, and would be something that would mitigate some of the negativity about this big water treatment plant that’s on the water front.

Presenter 1 : And here are some of the things that we said are most important for the overlay zones — to discourage car dealerships and repair shops. Again, the infrastructure, the traffic is important. If the development is great, we should have sufficient schools for whoever moves there.  And green-space, there should be soft, forest materials used for the landscaping so that it doesn’t create more flooding in the area.  And we want to do the same thing that everyone else wants to do, go out to eat, walk along the water, water activities, views, shopping.

Presenter 2 : And we are not in favor in big box. I spend my life in real estate. A big box retailer would not want to come to this site.

Presenter 1 : In terms of building types, low rise to mid-rise, maybe stucco which is like the surrounding area. It’s really important to our table that the development also provided affordable housing and pretty much the city should be doing that in all of the development that they do in the city, not just this parcel.  And maybe a concert entertainment location and possibly a small, boutique hotel which might also draw more people.

Group 5:

Presenter 1 : My wife [Chris] my name is [Ken]. We live in Sutton Manor; so, we are trying to be respectful with everyone else needs and wants. But, we definitely have a little bit of a bias towards our neighborhood, and we did a horrible job in answering the specific questions. Had I had any idea that we were speaking I probably would have shaved!

Presenter 2 : But we did sort of talk about everything and tried to answer everything; we will get there. What do we like and what do we dislike about NR waterfront? Well, right now the way it is, we don’t like the impact on the environment in terms of pollution and everything that is seeping into the ground. The run off. And we don’t like the presence of the City Yard isn’t the best use for the space and car lots and car sales aren’t the best use. We like the idea of cleaning it up and doing something better there. But we are concerned about everything that has been presented so far, not from our neighbors…

Presenter 1 : There’s a commonality of idea. We talked about connecting with a walkway or the ability to run from five island park or Hudson park. We spoke about reclamation of the water, if we do that, we want to put in grasses so that if there flooding, it will be absorbed.  As Sutton Manor folks, preferably there should be a little bit of a buffer between us and the development.

Presenter 2 : We talked about having open space in the front, and the park area and have the density increase as it goes towards main street, and back down again toward main street so that you have small, no big box retail, no big boxes, and so that we have more boutique shopping and restaurants. All main street and possibility down Pratt. And also for the veterans — there were many suggestions; I thought about having either a theater, not a movie theater more of a theater of the arts, or a food market which has been mentioned, like a farmer’s market.  So most of the density in the middle and the height in the middle, so that our area is protected, so that main street isn’t overwhelmed either. So that as it goes up towards the center, and it goes down.  So that both sides have are protected.

Presenter 1 : Architecturally it should complement what’s already there.

Presenter 2 : So actually, it’s suburban neighborhoods around the area, so we suggested material like brick, wood, more natural look, not metal and glass like high rises — that’s very important. And one of the most import things is to have no roads for cars on the waterfront that going to destroy the ecosystem. Right now, it’s quiet. It’s like a bird sanctuary. It was already mentioned, there’s beavers there are blue harons — it’s just beautify.  I like the idea of having something that complements the environment and making something that’s quiet.  This would bring cars honking, and also bring exhaust, which is bad for the environment.

Group 6:


Presenter 1 : Hi I’m [Erica]. Hi I’m [TJ] and live in Downtown New Rochelle. So, our group really focused on the one biggest thing which was greenery.  There’s not that much water space and greenery along the water. We want to activate that with biking and walking paths, but an idea that we had was not just activating what’s within the dotted lines, but see if we can expand the green space and bike lane by going down and connecting to the five islands park and then also if there’s any way we can expand the bike and walkway to Hudson park and not just like your walking lane, but also activating it with greenery.  Another point was keeping the whole site active throughout the entire day and that kind of brought the idea of who are we going to allow [in the space].  One idea was office space, because it activates people for coming out during lunch, having restaurants and that keeping active during the day, and then also having maybe some small hotels. I know you have other larger hotels within your town, but keeping in mind of bringing new faces within the space. And then also, it was expressed that there’s a lot of new residential areas within your town, but having some apartments within this because it is soon to be a great water space, active park in your town, and it would be really, there’s an interest of having residents coming in and within this space.

Presenter 2 : I think [Erica] has summed it up very well for us.  I think many of our ideas were very similar to what everybody else was thinking here.  But I think the important thing for us is that we don’t have a waterfront really to speak of in New Rochelle. We have a couple of parks, but this would be a really good opportunity to make it accessible to the community at large, and our feeling was that it is important to be able to walk down, it should be a very walkable community, limited to cars as much as possible. A few parking toward main street if there has to be some parking fields to utilize.  I think some of the ideas were good about, you got the sewage treatment plant here so this is already used for cars right now so it’s kind of a good spot there.  But to open this up to people, open up the water front.  We talked about maybe having a walking pier that would extend out into the water a little bit to give people a little more access to the water, and a completely different perspective in terms of looking back at the site and the rest of the city.  Everything that’s been said tonight is a common theme and I don’t think we really come up with anything that would contradict some of the other ideas heard tonight.

Presenter 1 : So just some other points that were mentioned, the food court, the flea market. Having some art space, some galleries, having music. An open market utilizing the armory, restoring that and activating it. Some thoughts were having a brewery there.  Activating it with natural vegetation.  Having retail, bars, restaurants, especially having restaurants along the water so that you can sit outside.

Group 7:

Presenter 1 : My name is [Chris] and I live in Sutton Manor

Presenter 2 : I’m Joan and I live in the [Davenport] area.

Presenter 1 : So, we are on the water front, and I guess I’m a little bit closer to this area and my concern is that this is a very residential area, and I would hope that the developers are well aware of the fact that we are going to be impacted.  I know the Stevenson Blvd. area, they are very concerned about people parking in their area, so there has to be sufficient parking on site to handle all the different uses.  Sutton Manor, we are right there. We are very concerned about noise control and limited the hours, nothing after 10 o’clock let’s say, and the artificial lighting.  And that’s why it was raised no driving, no road right here because we envisioned there would be car lights in our faces all the time as we are enjoying our homes.  We can hear the music. If you don’t live on the water front you might now know that noise on the water travels.  This past weekend, there was a party going on five islands, and it was so disruptive, you really could hear it.  I walked out of my house to see if my neighbors were having a party I wasn’t invited to.  It’s just loud, and it interferes with your quality of life.  I don’t want to be just negative, we all do feel that this is a wonderful site.  Return on investment, Alex that’s going to be your problem.  I do know that the cleanup on this site is going to be very expensive.  But that, again is your problem.  So, we understanding this ROI issue that you brought up, we would like you to put the high rises and the parking areas on the sides. Don’t use this area for that.  Let’s have more of the low-rise. I like the initial zoning that required it to be a water related height for heights of 3 and 5 depending on where it is.  A wall on main street just isn’t conducive to a welcoming, inviting area.  We want people to want to come here, and that’s it. [Lind, the previous groups] covered everything I wanted to say.  The armory, we had the same ideas as everybody else does, the farmers market, food trucks, art shows, galleries, pop ups, stores, kiosks. Just more of a public use. Waterfront access for everybody, would love to be able to have a kayak ramp.  We know its impractical because I understand that you’re not going to be dredging.  We are not talking about big boats, we are talking about kayaks.  Absolutely a boardwalk or walkway as wide as it is on Glen Island, because on Glen Island when we go on weekends, you have people pushing their strollers, you have bikes, you have people walking, you have people rollerblading, it’s just a wonderful public park and it would be so lovely to have that here.  Absolute access, I understand that Con Edison site has recently been rezoned to a public park.  I don’t know if that a permanent rezoning but, if it is going to be a public park, to be able to use that as the connection over in this area would be nice.

Presenter 2 : And we talked about being sure you have open views as you drive along Route 1, to invite people in so you can see that we are a waterfront community.

Presenter 1: We have been able to use the site for so long. It would really be nice if the it was focused on how the public would use this space.

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Special thanks to Westhab for allowing us to use their beautiful space for our community meeting!

Author: bhong85