With an estimated few hundred people in attendance, we hit the ground running with our first Comprehensive Plan Town Hall meeting for the Lincoln Avenue corridor. While the Comprehensive Plan is being created for the entire City of New Rochelle, I feel that it is vitally important to include a robust zoning analysis of the Lincoln Avenue corridor. The only way to accomplish this is through maximum community participation.
After opening remarks by Pastor Allen Weaver of Bethesda Church, the host site for the meeting, I was able to share some updates regarding happenings in the third district. From that point, our Development Commissioner Luiz Aragon introduced the concepts behind the city’s Comprehensive Plan, and the City’s consultants, BFJ, shared a presentation with the crowd. Then we were ready for questions and comments pertaining to the corridor.
Many productive things were said throughout the evening and many valid concerns were raised. I’ll tick off a few of the themes.
1) Improved Lincoln Park amenities – As an exercise last year, we went through a similar process with our Lincoln Park master plan. What came out of that process was an expansion of our community garden, a grant for new playground equipment, and funds for security cameras. While so far, we have been addressing Lincoln Park in isolation, there is a real opportunity to use comprehensive planning as a mechanism to increase the likelihood of obtaining additional resources.
2) Improved Remington Boys and Girls Club – Although the Remington Unit is owned by the City of New Rochelle, the decision-making for what is done with that facility would come from the Boys and Girls Club of New Rochelle. Whether the Club decides to renovate the existing structure or seeks to build a brand new facility, my support will be provided along the way. Once we move forward in our planning process, and new concepts for greater density can be explored, the opportunities to provide more resources for our children will become greater.
3) Better and safer traffic flows – Before we consider any zoning changes or adding more density, we need to first address some of our current traffic issues. Up Lincoln Avenue from North Avenue to Prince Street, traffic congestions can make travel difficult. And on Memorial Highway, high rates of speed and awkward turning lanes can cause hazardous vehicular transit. Within the framework of the Comprehensive Plan, pedestrian and vehicular traffic flows will be highlighted to ensure that any new zoning changes would not make worse the current state of traffic in the neighborhood.
4) Cleaner streets and sidewalks – When I first joined council, I hosted a community cleanup day. It was a lot of work, but with about 75 volunteers, we had a rewarding experience as we cleaned up the streets and sidewalks up and down the Lincoln Avenue corridor. A second cleanup day is in order and we’re targeting this spring to pull it off. But long term, we will need upgraded trash and recyclable receptacles and greater beautification efforts to make this area cleaner on a sustainable basis.
5) Workforce housing – One of the more contentious items of discussion at the Town Hall was on the issue of adding more housing. Areas of concern related to negative traffic impacts, more school children, and general issues of density. However, there was recognition among many that throughout the city, and along the Lincoln Avenue corridor in particular, there is a great need for workforce housing. As we move forward in this comprehensive planning process, the options for more housing will be vigorously analyzed to ascertain if providing greater density along the corridor will be an asset for the neighborhood.
6) Retail – It was discussed throughout the evening that some quality neighborhood retail was desired along the Lincoln Avenue corridor. As we move forward with our planning efforts, new zoning will be considered that can create the appropriate conditions to bring about retail opportunities that are beneficial to the corridor.
7) Open space – In addition to Lincoln Park, there was discussion related to the creation of new open space, particularly as it relates to walkability and connectivity. The Comprehensive Plan ultimately will need to include room for open space as it provides a nice balancing effect to other proposed growth measures. Additionally, within the open spaces and along all sidewalks, more efficient lighting is necessary to make it safe for people to walk.
These are just some of the major points of discussion that were raised at the Town Hall. We will likely soon need a follow up to this meeting to discuss some more advanced concepts. But in the meantime, please feel free to contact me, or our development staff to chime in along the way. I will also make myself available to entertain small groups prior to our next community meeting so that we can make sure that all voices are heard.
Councilman Jared Rice