New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson took mild umbrage over a critical column I wrote in the wake of the Valentine’s Day fire that gutted the Union Baptist Church on Main Street.
I didn’t mention the mayor by name but I did take a shot at the city fathers who over the course of several generations have done a poor job of preserving New Rochelle’s architectural history. I happen to have a low opinion of the “new” New Rochelle represented by out-of-scale skyscrapers, the enclosed New Roc City entertainment complex and other downtown developments that have been hailed as progress. In that context, I lamented the demise of the church, which was built in 1904, and stood out as a historical gem on the main drag.
Bramson wrote in his blog that my glass-half-empty view contrasted with another piece by Westchester magazine that excitedly reported the opening of 19 new restaurants– two of them in New Rochelle.
The mayor said:
“My purpose in sharing these pieces is not really to address their specific topics, but rather to highlight the contrasting perceptions of New Rochelle that they reflect. Reisman’s column offers an unflattering, almost funereal, portrayal of our downtown, while Westchester Magazine lauds the “new New Rochelle” as a vibrant place with expanding prospects.
I”n miniature, these two articles encapsulate a running debate about our city’s history and future that is replayed over and over again in everything from casual conversations among friends, to neighborhood gatherings, to political campaigns. Are we doing well or poorly? Going up or going down? Who’s right?”
Funeral indeed. The saddest sight on Main Street these days is the small army of poor men and women who daily push shopping carts filled with cans and plastic soda bottles for redemption at the corner C-Town.