Jul 28, 2014
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Voice of New Rochelle: Armory—Rope or Hope?

The author feels that his ample nose may be picking up the scent of twine, as in cord, as in rope enough to hang the dreams of those who wish to save the Armory, within the very process of the RFPs on which those hopes have been pinned.

Voice of New Rochelle: Armory—Rope or Hope?

In my favorite play, Becket by Jean Anoulih, the pope’s political advisor, Cardinal Zambelli, warns the pontiff of Archbishop Thomas Becket’s chief asset—sincerity—before cynically adding that he used it (sincerity) himself when necessary, as if it was an arrow one took out of his quiver. 

The pope replies to the effect that his aide be careful not to confuse himself through his own deviousness.

And so it is that I can’t tell who is the pope, Zambelli or Becket when it comes to the politics of the RFPs proposals now engaging the New Rochelle City Council. And we can add me to the list, as well. Maybe I see intrigue where there is only accommodation.

The two proposals are both for mixed uses of the building. One proposal was submitted by the Save the Armory Committee along with the New Rochelle Opera.

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Recent interviews with the powers that be and conversations with callers to the radio station have opened up in me the notion that the requests for proposals for adaptive reuse of the Armory, separate from those focusing on the general waterfront, are both an accommodation and a gambit. The accommodation being that—and these are my words, no one else’s—”let’s give them their day in court. After all, there is no way they will get the money or achieve the sustainability necessary, and we can go ahead with the development of the waterfront all-in—Armory footprint included.”

It is an accommodation because it is not linked and it is open to all comers. It would seem a fair democratic process. Those same words, though, are perhaps a gambit, pawns—even red herrings—in the larger game of development.

If the proposals do not pass muster, the pawns have been taken, and the board is clear for checkmate.

Unless...

What if the ideas put forward by the two groups really can convince the City Council and the masters of development at City Hall of the viability and sustainability of their proposals? In that case, my skepticism will have been just that. But what if, at the end of the day, the proposals meet many of the criteria but fail to integrate, as will be necessary, the broader future waterfront landscape. For that, I am learning, is going to be the challenge, assuming the financing is there.

I am hearing through the grapevine the comments of some callers and the wisdom of professionals that there is the possibility that almost any proposal done separate from an overall waterfront strategy will have little chance of passing muster. So, I have a few questions for you to ponder:

Who is the sincere, perhaps naïve, Archbishop Becket? Is he represented by the earnest folks who, whether you agree with them or not, have wanted to preserve what they believe is an almost sacred place? Who then is the pope’s political advisor trying to outmaneuver his flock? And who then is the pope? What group or individual will try to do what is best for New Rochelle?

As for me, I may just be the guy doing the news too long who sees conspiracy where there is none—or not. 

What do you think?

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