Iona College officials disagree with complaints that the process leading to a plan for a 7-story dormitory on North Avenue was not transparent enough.
In an email, college spokeswoman Dawn Insanalli also notes that the process, involving neighborhood, city and college representatives, resulted in a plan that would cost the college more. While it would “likely be considerably less expensive” to build on property the college already owns, Iona was following the panel’s recommendation, she wrote. Supporters said was good for the city and neighbors as well as the school, because it could help enliven that portion of the major commercial corridor.
The college, New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson, and the facilitator of the committee that came up with the plan, announced the idea at 3 p.m. the day before Thanksgiving.
That 15-member committee included five representatives of neighborhood associations, in addition to Iona and city officials.
My coverage of it that day, and in a story written Friday, included complaints from a representative of another who sat on the committee, and the head of another association who did not. They said the members were expected to refrain from talking to their neighbors about the plans.
The college would not say where on North Avenue the dorm would be built or who would develop it. President Joseph Nyre said the developer – referred to as the “vendor” in the college’s email – had asked to remain anonymous while negotiations continue.
But one committee member, Guru Madeleine (formerly known as Madeleine Peters) confirmed what others had said or at least speculated: The New Rochelle developer Robert Young would build the dormitory, with stores on the ground floor, at a site on the north side of the Gulf Gas station at Fifth Avenue.
I sought a response from Insanalli on Friday. One came, but not until 8:10 pm, after deadline. Here are major excerpts:
“The College appreciates your continued interest in reporting the accurate premise and result of the unprecedented collaboration between Iona College and the surrounding neighborhood associations.
“First, the College was transparent in representing building options to the Committee for review for each neighborhood bordering the College. While it will likely be considerably less expensive for the College to build on land it currently owns, the College listened and respected a likely more expensive North Avenue recommendation to build on property it does not currently own….
“CORRECTION: The Committee members WERE NOT “expected to refrain from talking to the other members of their neighborhood associations” about potential alternatives. In fact, each member was asked to solicit feedback from their respective community association. The Committee Members shared a strong and informed voice of their respective associations.
“The College is a private nonprofit faith-based organization. It released and RFP (request for proposals) for potential developments at the urging and blessing of the Committee members. The College, in an unprecedented action, shared the result of the private RFP with the Committee. The potential successful private vendor requested and received a confidentiality agreement, which the College shared with the Committee. The Committee, representing the community, College, and the City, was therefore clearly and fully informed. While the College was under NO obligation to share such information, it did so in good faith. Any assertion that the College was secretive would be false and without merit….
“Consistent with the rights of any private property owner or private business, vendors on North Avenue have the right, legal authority, and privilege to protect their confidentiality. The College will not violate said rights of private individuals.
“Again, thank you for your interest in providing accurate information regarding the potential development of North Avenue.