Farewell, New Rochelle

Bob Cox says goodbye

Farewell, New Rochelle

NEW ROCHELLE, NY (June 29, 2023) — I am packed up and set to hit the road. Today is my last day living in New Rochelle. I have no expectation of returning so this is farewell.

Me, my wife and Zeke, my English Bull Terrier, are permanently relocating to Ireland.

For me, that is the end to 29 years as a New Rochelle a resident (plus 4 as an Iona Prep student), for my wife longer, as she grew up here. Zeke is not exactly sure where he lives and does not care as long as he is fed.

Why are we leaving?

My wife retired this week (effective June 30) after 30+ years as a special education teacher in Westchester County, most of that working for the New Rochelle Board of Education. The cost of living in New York makes retirement in place unattractive. Our four kids are grown, college graduates, making their way in the world. We did our job and new adventures await us.

Why Ireland?

Over the past few years we considered a number of options within the United States, places with lower taxes and lower cost of living. Several years ago, my wife joined her girlfriends on a 10-day trip to Ireland. She had been to Ireland in 2002 for a family trip (me with my boys atop the Rock of Cashel) but something clicked and she came back from her trip wanting to retire to Ireland. I am a dual US-Irish citizen with a European Passport (my mother’s parents emigrated from Ireland in the 1920s). I needed no convincing. For the last several years we have been planning our move. Our plan was to fly to Dublin on July 1, the same day our lease ends but Aer Lingus only ships dogs on Mondays so that became July 3. Needing a place to stay for a few days, we decided to leave today, spend a few days with our oldest daughter upstate, then drive back down and catch our flight.

Where in Ireland will you settle?

Our goal is to buy a house on the Mizen Peninsula in County Cork, the area formally known as the district of Carbery but commonly referred to as West Cork. Mizen Head, at the tip of the peninsula, is traditionally regarded as the most southerly point of mainland Ireland.

For the first year we will be in Dublin, for a variety of reasons but primarily the logistics of establishing ourselves in Ireland: bank accounts, insurance, mobile phones and more. It made sense to be in the nation’s capitol to get started and use Dublin as a jumping off point for house hunting and travel.

West Cork is along the The Wild Atlantic Way, a tourism trail on the west coast, and on parts of the north and south coasts, of Ireland. The 2,500 km driving route passes through nine counties and three provinces, stretching from County Donegal's Inishowen Peninsula in Ulster to Kinsale, County Cork, in Munster, on the Celtic Sea coast.

That this area is rustic and off the beaten path is appealing to me (my Irish cousins think I am crazy to want to live there), For me, this “drawback” is the appeal. The area is rocky, wet and isolated which is what attracted George Lucas to film scenes from Star Wars on and near the Mizen Peninsula.

Scenes from Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens and Star Wars Episode VIII The Last Jedi were filmed there, in particular on the Skellig Islands, off the west coast, not for from Mizen Head. Luke Skywalker is living in exile on the lost planet Ahch-To, a water world dotted with small, rocky, uninhabitable islands, while seeking the First Jedi Temple. Rey travels in the Millennium Falcon with R2-D2 and Chewbacca to find Luke. Luke begins to train her in the way of The Force.

Living in exile? Uninhabitable islands? Sounds good to me!

Will you still publish Talk of the Sound?

This is, by far, the question I get the most.

The answer is... it depends what you mean.

There is 15 years of content in my website. It is arguably the biggest repository of institutional knowledge of New Rochelle and the surrounding area over that time. The site generates advertising revenue. There is no reason to shut down Talk of the Sound.

The question is more about actively publishing new content. I have made a commitment to myself to continue publishing through until the end of 2023 and reassess. I can do most of what I do remotely including covering public meetings. I will not be able to cover live events such as first responder incidents. I have at least a year’s worth of stories that have been researched and are waiting to be written. So, the coverage might be a bit different but mostly the same. There is a probably a book in there somewhere. And I like writing Substack columns.

At the moment, I am running at half-speed because all the work going into the move — made more complicated by moving to an entirely different country. I expect that slower pace will continue into July. Once we are all settled in Ireland, I can turn my attention back to writing and publishing.

With you in Ireland, who will watch the powers that be?

If not me, then no one.

In order to be the watchdog for a community a person has to be willing to speak truth power, not back down, hurt people’s feelings and alienate people. You have to be focused and doggedly persistent over an extended period of time. I have been at this for many years (the 15th anniversary of Talk of the Sound is September 1, 2023). I know what it takes. I am aware of no one who could do what I do.

From when I started covering New Rochelle, there is no one left on the New Rochelle Board of Education, same for the school administration, whether it is the Superintendent, the cabinet, department heads or building leaders. They are all dead, gone elsewhere or retired. There is no one left from the City leadership. The only two people left on the City Council are Noam and Al, and Noam will leave at the end of the year.

I had a “farewell or good riddance party” last week during which one former City official observed that I always treated him fairly, adding that while many people complain about me, the reality is I have not gone after that many people. True, but is is also fair to say when I do go after someone it is always for good reason and I always leave a mark.

Some are happy to see me leave, others have said they appreciate my work, some will miss me, others will not, quite a few expressed worry about what the bad guys will get up to with me gone. I am not being shipped off to a desert island. Ireland has the Internet. As a good part of my work is done online or over the phone I can still write and publish. The five hour time difference is not an impediment to interviews, watching a public meeting or making FOIL requests.

The impetus to launch Talk of the Sound in the summer of 2008 was borne out of several years advocating for one of my children. What I experienced was a school system that treated people poorly unless they were connected to New Rochelle’s power structure. I was not. My child was treated quite badly. I would say, criminally. The more I advocated, the more those in power revved up their steamroller and tried to flatten me. I came to realize that what New Rochelle needed was an alternate power structure. I went out and built my own steamroller. Oh, and how they howled when they got a taste of what they had been dishing out to others.

It took years, but eventually I was operating an alternate power structure which offered people like me a place to go and be heard. That culminated in extensive investigative reporting resulting in many bad school district employees being “unexpectedly resigned” (over 50) and one top administrator going to Federal prison. There were other signature moments, but the sentencing of John Gallagher and Mauro Zonzini, and all that entailed, was my proudest moment as publisher of Talk of the Sound.

Why don’t you turn over Talk of the Sound to someone else?

It is not a charity! If someone wants to buy Talk of the Sound they can make me an offer I can’t refuse. In reality, there is not going to be anyone willing to grind as hard as I do, seven days a week, without a break.

Had you told me when I launched Talk of the Sound in 2008 that I would still be at it in 2023, I would have laughed in your face. I cannot explain exactly why I stuck with it all these years but I am highly confident no one else would want to take on the role I have played over these past years.

15 years is a pretty good run so for now, farewell. I will be watching.

Read more