May 22, 2010

editors note. This is a reprint of an article written by Ms Peggy Godfrey. Those familiar with Ms. Godfrey’s  work can certainly appreciate her tireless efforts as a local activist with issues regarding development, education, the environment, politics,  planning, local history and much more.  An advocate for the citizens of New Rochelle, the hallmark of her work includes in-depth research and sound judgement.  A trusted resource for the “other side of the story”.

by Peggy Godfrey

     David Hall, President of the New Rochelle United Veterans, was called about possibly demolishing the Armory in the Echo Bay area and replacing it with a smaller building.  Hall was also asked to meet with the development manager for Forest City Ratner, the designated developer, to view the conditions inside of the Armory.  When a group of concerned citizens heard this, they also wanted to meet with Abe Naparstek, the development manager for the proposed development of Echo Bay.
     So on a crisp Fall morning a group of interested citizens and veterans had a walk through the New Rochelle Armory with the developer to view its present condition.  Several veteran leaders, concerned citizens,  members of Save Our Armory committee, and an employee of the New Rochelle Department of Development, Suzanne D’Amato, went to look.
     Naparstek explained that saving the building would be costly to his company.  He suggested replacing it by constructing a smaller building at the far end of the property.  Linda Levine, Chair of the Save Our Armory Committee, began the discussion by stating that many veterans had used this historic building and would want to help to restore it.  Hall added that he wanted to save the building because it is a historic landmark.  Complaints that the building was not safe were countered by suggestions that the New Rochelle Chamber of Commerce’s Haunted House is held  here for several weeks every year in October.
     John Maguire, a veteran himself, continued that the Armory was purchased by the City for one dollar with the stipulation that it be used for a community purpose.  Any new plans might include renting it for shows or other events so that it can pay for itself and make money for its upkeep.  
A memorial for veterans should be part of the restoration but a new building would not  have any historical significance.  The group vetoed the idea that there should be a new building.  The murals’ condition inside the building became a topic of discussion as did the use of the building.  Peter Parente, the Commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said presently these organizations are “homeless” and have to use the American Legion Post 8 for meetings.

Since 1991 when the city took over the building, there has been a deliberate lack of maintenance according to Anthony Galletta.  He felt the city needs to “step up to the plate.”  Naparstek said at the end of the day someone has to pay. Questions  were raised by the group about who would be responsible for the toxic and PCB cleanup of the waterfront in the area.   The availability of grants for this Echo Bay Development was questioned.  If the city does not keep the Armory the deed would revert back to the state and who knows what would then happen in Albany?  Councilman-elect Louis Trangucci (District 1) expressed concern that the city had neglected the upkeep of this building.
     The Armory area is approximately 3 acres of the proposed development.  Naparstek claimed it was in a key area of the Echo Bay development.  He was hoping for greater density on the property than 3 to 5 story buildings and wanted to go perhaps to l0  stories but the group found this idea objectionable.   Lorraine Pierce commented that if the developer goes any higher than 3 stories the citizens of New Rochelle won’t be able to see the waterfront.  This would defeat the purpose of having access and views of the Long Island Sound.


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