What You Can Do With The New Rochelle Armory

February 25, 2010

Have you been to these venues lately?

The Westchester Veterans Adaptive Center
The New Rochelle Center for the Performing Arts
The New Rochelle Youth Sports Olympic Games
The New Rochelle Regional Songwriters Symposium
The New Rochelle War Veterans Interpretive Center
The New Rochelle “Go Green” Building and Technology Trade Show
The New Rochelle Center for Opera
The New Rochelle Business and Trade Exposition
The Norman Rockwell “Hometown History” Exhibit
The “New Rochelle – Rich in History” Our Place in History and Culture Through the Years Exhibit
The New Rochelle Children’s Outreach Weekend
The New Rochelle Regional Gymnastics Invitational
The New Rochelle Center for Sustainable Design

Each and every one of these venues would end with the same three words – At The Armory – if only there was the commitment to do so. That is ALL that is needed to start, everything else can be worked out. That is how a vision is transformed into reality. That is how all great projects become a success. It is the clarity of that vision that will provide the path to solving the issues

When you consider the amount of concessions that will be handed out to whoever develops the area and how much money the city loses only to be made up by the taxpayer, it’s not hard to see what makes sense. If we are going to pay for it, why not get something that gives back to us. Something that engages the public, defines our history and culture. Will we get that if we pay for condo’s instead?

I can’t stress this enough, we will pay for whatever happens on that footprint either through tax abatement’s or our commitment to excellence and I believe New Rochelle deserves the commitment to excellence. This is a critical time that will forever take it’s place in the history of New Rochelle and what we do now will affect generations to come. We have a gift few other cities can boast about or even claim to have in their possession, yet some would choose to replace it with a plan that could be considered mediocre at best and absent of any real contribution to the city other than more people.

Imagine developing the area with the Armory as the focal point, the anchor, as it were, where people of all sorts would want to visit and participate in the events. They would enjoy a show, take in the majesty of the shoreline along the promenade, have dinner at one of the eateries and shop. Build something like this and commerce will want to develop around it, without PILOT programs. People coming to town with the intention of spending money at Echo Bay and the downtown area shops.

The groundwork has already been laid out for us. This is a property we already own free and clear. The city was deeded the property with the express intention that the facility continues to serve the public. This is a binding legal contract. Did the city intend all along to try to cash in on the value of the property at a later date? It depends on who you ask. There has been absolutely no effort to maintain the building or even to mothball it to preserve it for some future time when a plan could be formulated. Some say it is through purpose and intent the building was systematically allowed to deteriorate and knowingly damaged without regard to the original deed restriction. The city could have, at very little cost, sealed the building, but they didn’t. The city could have made some attempt at utilizing it through the years, they chose not to.

With all of the development that has gone on, could someone have asked for seed money to get something going there? There has been millions given away and it would have taken only a small percentage of that to maintain/protect the irreplaceable artifacts within. Now, sadly, 3 of the murals have been stolen. They weren’t just pictures taken off the wall. According to an art expert who saw where the murals were would later say it would probably take 2 people, who knew what they were doing, hours to remove just one of the murals. They had to be peeled off the walls. This shameful act could have taken place over the course of days. What does that tell you?

If there were numerous attempts at making the Armory work for us perhaps I would think differently, but the ones who have tried were met with indifference, and the ones who controlled the issues chose to turn their backs.
As far as the condition of the building now. It IS structurally sound. It was built to last seemingly forever in spite of what was thrown at it. I challenge anyone to dispute that fact. We are told there’s lead inside. Here’s a little comparison. Virtually EVERY house or building in New Rochelle that was painted before 1978 has lead paint somewhere. Asbestos? As any contractor will tell you there are as multitude of buildings that still have asbestos pipe insulation, or asbestos shingles. It is so commonplace that hiring an abatement contractor is as easy a process as hiring a carpenter or plumber. And yes, it needs new plumbing and electrical work. Don’t people buy houses knowing the building needs this type of work because their vision is not deterred by this minutiae?

While we’re at it, lets talk about the “green” side of the equation. It’s been said that the greenest building is the one that’s already built. While there are up front costs to going green, they would be far less significant than tearing this building down and rebuilding it 1000 feet down the road. We could lead by example and adapting this building should be the model all others follow. Helping to put New Rochelle at the forefront of sustainable building practices. Have you seen the size of the roof. Imagine the amount of water that could be recycled. Solar panel arrays, passive heating and cooling,natural light bathing the interior. You couldn’t ask for a better platform to start with. This would only fuel the interest in the project. When you buy a compact fluorescent bulb you’ll pay 8 times the price of a regular bulb. Why? Because it’s the right thing to do but perhaps more importantly, you know there is a payoff at the other end with reduced electrical bills. The same for modernizing your furnace. This is the same principal on a larger scale. You do it for the return on investment and we can all understand that.

There are many whom have advocated to save the Armory long before Forest City came to town, but I think if we start to think of it as using the Armory, it becomes more clear. There is an end game to reviving this piece of history in that it gives back so much to every citizen of the city and for not one penny more than what we give away to the developer. There is a movement rising for support and the result of this will be nothing short of long delays and great added expense to anyone who chooses to not seriously consider this possibility. The quality of content should be the attraction in this city, not the quantity of content.

I ask you to consider these points with an open mind. Challenge the facts on both sides. To think of it as having no intrinsic value would be short-sighted to say the least. What would really benefit the city in a way that makes you brag, just a little, when you tell someone you’re from New Rochelle. What would you prefer their response to be A) We went to the Armory, dinner, a show and moonlight stroll, it was fantastic or, B) You mean Echo Bay? we tried to go for a walk down there but they kicked us out at dusk.
My choice is as clear as the vision of what could be. I support using the Armory and I support New Rochelle

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