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Tension Escalates As New Rochelle Tables Vote On Echo Bay Project

Members of United Citizens For A Better New Rochelle protested outside city hall.
Members of United Citizens For A Better New Rochelle protested outside city hall. Photo Credit: Suzanne Samin

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. -- The New Rochelle City Council has motioned to table a vote on the controversial Echo Bay project until January.

The City Council was due to vote Tuesday, Nov.12 on moving forward with Forest City's proposal at this meeting, which was to be followed by public hearings and an open mic.

However, Councilman Al Tarantino moved to table discussion and voting until January. Four out of seven council members voted in agreement.

Subsequently, Mayor Noam Bramson pushed for a reconsideration of the vote later that evening, which was passed narrowly.

New Rochelle residents bundled up and stood outside of City Hall in spite of plummeting temperatures on Tuesday night to voice their concerns about the Echo Bay Project.

While the City Council meeting took place inside, outside the protest, led by United Citizens For a Better New Rochelle (UCFBNR), gained volume and honks of approval from passing cars.

The protest was centered around the Echo Bay project - a hot topic of discussion within the community since Forest City's bid for the project was chosen in 2012.

The group held signs saying "NO Echo Bay," and repeated chants, saying "Hey hey, ho ho, Forest City has got to go."

UCFBNR, which claims to be non-partisan, has been very vocal in their opposition because they believe the project's cost will greatly outweigh its benefit due to poor planning.

They are also concerned about Forest City's documented controversial and predatory business practices adversely affecting New Rochelle.

James O'Toole of New Rochelle participated in the protest.

He said, "I just don't think the project fits where it is. The taxpayers are going to have to pay for the project, while the developers get everything handed to them on a silver platter. Why does that happen?"

Peter Parente, president of the United Veterans Memorial and Patriotic Association, waved an American flag on the steps.

"We don't think Noam is taking what's best into consideration. We think he's concerned for his friend Forest City Ratner, who donated $17,500 to his campaign fund."

The figure of $17,500 is verifiable via the Board of Elections, and was confirmed by Bramson later at the meeting.

"Those numbers are available to the public and I invite everyone to look at them," Bramson said.

The protest drew around 70 participants, many of whom spoke at the open mic in opposition of the project. Their statements all ran similar paths, urging the council to make decisions based on their constituents' needs.

Robin Sherman, a New Rochelle woman in support of the project, handed in a petition of 500 signatures approving of Echo Bay at the beginning of the hearing.

"The opposition, though very vocal, does not speak for the entirety of New Rochelle," she said.

Steve Meisner, 43, of New Rochelle, chose not to attend the hearing but said he believes the project would bring development to the downtown where its very sorely needed.

"New Rochelle is in the need, and an outside company wants to spend a lot of its own money developing here. If you say no because of something like parking, no one else will come," he said.

However, as in previous hearings, the opposition greatly outweighed the support.

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