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Speaking to an overflow crowd during his annual State of the City Address at New Rochelle City Hall, Mayor Noam Bramson cited dramatic progress on economic, environmental, fiscal, and public safety priorities to declare that the “State of the City is the strongest it has ever been.” At the same time, Bramson noted continuing challenges and urged vigorous action to address affordability, job opportunity, infrastructure, and sustainability.
Bramson began his hour-long address by recalling that 2019 marked the fiftieth anniversary of his family’s arrival in New Rochelle. He contrasted conditions in1969 with New Rochelle’s present day, expressing gratitude for the continuity of strong schools, neighborhoods, and an inclusive civic culture, while also highlighting significant positive changes related to downtown development, population growth, law enforcement, and concern for the environment.
Today, “New Rochelle is recognized as a leader and a model,” said Bramson, making specific reference to New Rochelle’s receipt of a competitive $10 million grant from New York State through the Downtown Revitalization Initiative and a $1 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies through the Mayor’s Challenge.
Bramson cited several new or ongoing City initiatives intended to build upon and extend recent progress, including:
• Successful execution of New Rochelle’s ambitious downtown development plan, with 21 projects now approved, 5 more with applications pending, and 11 under construction.
• Construction of a new public works operation center on Nardozzi Place, clearing the Echo Bay waterfront for public access and redevelopment.
• Renewed focus on New Rochelle’s historic assets, including creation of a preservation plan and consideration of re-use options for Wildcliff and the Ward Acres Barn.
• Formulation of a program of implicit bias training for all members of the New Rochelle Police Department.
• Expansion of the City’s Ideally Yours branding campaign, with advertisements and messages intended to bolster New Rochelle’s development efforts and civic image.
• Measures to attract artists and culture to New Rochelle, including construction of artists’ housing, fellowships at the IDEALab above the train station, and a contest, sponsored jointly with RXR, to offer free rent for a year to an artist living in or wishing to move to downtown New Rochelle.
“We’re not resting on fifty years of achievements,” said Bramson, “We’re building on them; our progress is accelerating. And all of these steps together not only benefit those of us already here in New Rochelle, including lifers like me – just as important, they are vital to attracting the next generation of New Rochelleans, and the generation after that.”
To make his point, Bramson introduced several new business owners and residents whose recent arrival in New Rochelle provides evidence of the community’s attraction and appeal. A partial list of these introductions includes:
• Govinda Raghubar, who opened the first Esports gaming lounge in Westchester on New Rochelle’s Main Street;
• Rhiannon Navin, who debut novel Only Child has received nation-wide acclaim; and
• Christina Jimenez, who received the prestigious MacArther Fellowship for her national advocacy on behalf of immigrants and Dreamers.
“It’s a virtuous cycle,” said Bramson. “A successful community is a magnet for remarkable people, who, in turn, contribute their talents to the common good, and renew the promise of the future.”
Despite his optimism, Bramson argued against complacency, affirming that recent success “is not an argument for resting on our laurels, nor an argument for ignoring serious challenges that still persist . . . this is a moment of unique opportunity to do even more, and we must seize it.” Bramson cited five specific priorities:
• “Make sure New Rochelle remains a place where all are welcomed and where it’s realistic for anyone to afford a home.”
• “Provide real economic opportunity to everyone who wants to get ahead.”
• “Deliver even better value for our tax dollars,” especially with respect to roads and infrastructure.
• “Live in better harmony with nature,” through measures that address climate change, while also improving our quality of life.
• “Celebrate our city, with confidence and pride, and a sense of common purpose,” by participating more fully in city-wide events, and engaging in civic debates with civility and a positive spirit.
Bramson concluded by expressing the hope that in another fifty years, “this will still be a city that respects its past, celebrates its present, and is excited by its future. And that the choices we make today will ensure it is so for my children and for all of our children.”
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