Where Are People Getting the Idea that Mayor Noam Bramson Runs New Rochelle?

New Rochelle has operated under a Council-Manager form of government since 1932

Where Are People Getting the Idea that Mayor Noam Bramson Runs New Rochelle?

NEW ROCHELLE, NY (June 14, 2022) -- For some reason, conference organizers, real estate executives, magazine writers, the New York Times, and others suffer from the same delusion: the City of New Rochelle operates under a Strong Mayor form of government.

It does not.

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Mayor Noam Bramson has repeatedly pushed unsuccessfully over his decades on City Council to change New Rochelle’s form of government.

The Mayor’s case is two-fold, that being Mayor of New Rochelle is a full-time job and an elected position. He wants the money and the power that goes with being in charge. He says as an elected official he is more responsive to residents.

This is hardly a new phenomenon.

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In 1961, there was a petition drive to force a referendum to end the Manager-Council form of government.

SYSTEM DISPUTED IN NEW ROCHELLE; Petitions Seek Referendum on Ending City Manager Form Used Since '32 Special to The New York Times. Feb. 5, 1961

The present charter was adopted in 1929 and the first city manager took office in 1932. Since then, the city has had eight managers. Some quit, others were discharged, and two died in office.

Mr. Margolis declared, "we just can't get responsive government" through a city manager. "If we ask a Councilman for something he replies that 'it's not in my province, you must see the city manager'," Mr. Margolis said.

Stanley H. Renton, president of the New Rochelle chatter league, said the city manager charter had been a success. The management of the city by Republican and Democratic officials prior to 1932 had been "horrible" and had produced excessive taxes, he declared.

"They want to get rid of (then-City Manager) Mrs. Meagher now because they can't push her around,"

Mr. Renton said. "Mr. McGovern has sought jobs for political constituents from various city managers and has been refused."

Sound familiar?

There were various efforts in the late 1980s and early 1990s to change the City Charter

Ina Aranow wrote about it in The New York Times: New Rochelle Debates Its Charter (October 7, 1990).

Mayor Leonard C. Paduano appointed a commission of 15 citizens in August to study the City Charter and explore possible changes. His action came after a proposal for a referendum on a strong mayor form of government failed to win sufficient Council votes to be put on the Nov. 6 ballot, and after a group of citizens began a petition drive to place the issue on the ballot.

Mayor Paduano officially represents the city, presides over the City Council, and has one of the five votes on the Council. He has complained of his lack of power...

Proponents of the city manager form of government argue that it puts the responsibility for day-to-day administration on a professional manager and improves the quality of elected officials by allowing them to maintain a professional career while serving their community part-time.

Aranow wrote about the topic again a year later.

New Rochelle Awaits Ruling on Charter Vote Ina Aranow, Sept. 1, 1991

Two propositions that would change the City Charter are to go before the voters on Primary Day, Sept. 12. Whether the vote will take place is still up in the air, pending a decision by the State Appellate Court this week on a lawsuit filed by a civic group charging that provisions in the proposals violate the State Constitution and state law.

One proposition would replace the present council-manager form of government with a strong mayor-separation of powers model; increase the number of City Council members to seven from five and limit terms of office. The post of city manager would be abolished, and the mayor would be the chief administrator with the help of an appointed deputy. Under the second proposition, City Council members would be elected by districts rather than at large.

And again in 1993.

Council System Vote in New Rochelle, Ina Aranow, Jan. 10, 1993

In November 1991, the city voted 6,096 to 5,689 for district elections, but the vote was invalid because it was contingent on passage of a proposition that would have replaced the city manager form of government with one with a strong mayor-administrator. That proposal failed 6,077 to 5,994.

The voters of New Rochelle have repeatedly, formally rejected abolishing the Council-Manager. Even more backroom efforts were stillborn and never saw daylight.

The two major components of a Council-Manager system of government are City Council and a City Manager — not Mayor and City Council or Mayor and City Manager.

City Council — a legislative body - consists of seven members and establishes policies.

The City Manager, appointed by the Council, is the chief administrative officer of the City and is responsible for supervising and coordinating the work of the departments, preparing and submitting to Council an annual budget estimate, enforcing City ordinances and state laws, and executing all contracts, leases and deeds authorized by Council.

The City Manager keeps Council informed about the fiscal condition and future needs of the City and has the sole power to appoint and remove all heads of departments in the administrative services of the City, as well as the City Clerk, and Civil Service Administrator.

The City Manager is at the helm, steering New Rochelle, not the Mayor, who can only act as a member of a legislative body.

The City Council, under the City Charter, is given certain specific duties: to set policy, to appoint the City Manager, to approve the budget, and to enact local laws, resolutions and ordinances. Enactment of a local law must be preceded by a public hearing. A majority vote of the Council is required to pass such a law. Council members, including the Mayor, have no authority to act on their own. Council members also make appointments to certain citizen advisory committees.

The Mayor’s role under a Council-Manager system of government is, by design, sharply limited. The Mayor has three jobs: chair Council meetings, officiate at ceremonial functions, and promote the City (not themselves). The Mayor appoints members of the Planning Board, Civil Service Commission and Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee and one seat on the New Rochelle City Court.

Given such a curtailed role, where would anyone get the fanciful and wrongheaded notion that all roads in New Rochelle run through Noam Bramson?

The answer is obvious: Noam Bramson.

You can go all the way back to 2006 when Bramson was appointed Mayor by the Council after Tim Idoni won election as Westchester County Clerk.

Else Brenner wrote an article in The New York Times: Perched at the Top, a Mayor Surveys the City of His Birth

Perched at the top?

His ascent to the top job here may have been relatively rapid, but he insists it was not a result of well-plotted strategy.

Top job?

Mr. Bramson, who as a full-time mayor is the chief legislator of the seven-member City Council, said he would keep a watchful eye on new construction...

Full-time mayor?

Chief Legislator?

...assuming the guardianship of a sprawling, once-prosperous Long Island Sound metropolis...


Just as there is no “full-time Mayor” position in New Rochelle, there is likewise no such title as “chief legislator” on the City Council.

New Rochelle’s “Full-Time” Mayor Moonlights His Way to Six-Figure Income

In 2008, I wrote about Bramson’s claim that he was a full-time Mayor.

Bramson told me that “the full-time vs. part-time status of the position of mayor in New Rochelle is not, as far as I know, formally defined by law”.

Not only is the New Rochelle City Charter not unclear on this point, it is clear on the very limited role of the Mayor.

Pressed on this point, Bramson said he believes “successfully discharging the duties of the position in a manner consistent with public expectations requires a full-time commitment”.

Bramson is free to make whatever time commitment he wants, but when he became Mayor, he filled out a Personal Action Form and checked the box for “part-time” employee.

After my “Moonlight Bramson” article ran, Bramson sought and obtained a new category on the employment form — “elected official” — to allow him to claim he worked full-time as Mayor, except that he did not. He worked part-time as Mayor and part-time as a political consultant for Congresswoman Nita Lowey.

In the Brenner article in the New York Times, Lowey recounts her advice to Bramson.

Mrs. Lowey recalls advising Mr. Bramson some years back "to first go out in the world, have a successful career and become financially independent, and then come back to politics."

"But he never has seriously considered other careers," the congresswoman said.

He never seriously considered other careers because he expected to be elected to higher office. He ran twice — for State Assembly and County Executive — and lost twice. Now on the other side of 50, the aging “golden boy” of New Rochelle Democrats finds himself boxed in — unable to get elected outside his hometown, without marketable skills that would make him employable in the private sector, few friends willing to appoint him to a county or state position and thwarted in his efforts to pressure City Manager Charles B. Strome to appoint him Development Commissioner, a position for which he is utterly unqualified based on the City Charter.

New Rochelle Mayor Improperly Sought Appointment as Development Commissioner in Violation of City Charter

This conflict between Bramson’s desire for a better job with more pay and actual line authority within government and the 90-year battle over the Council-Manager system of government lies at the heart of one of the charges in the ethics complaint I filed last March:

The effort by the Mayor to gather a majority of Council votes before confronting the City Manager carries with it the not-so-veiled threat that the Council would vote to fire Strome if he did not capitulate and rescind the Gill appointment, accelerating what amounts to an attempted coup d’état by the Mayor, an effort to circumvent the Council/Manager form of government by installing a puppet City Manager who would then appoint Bramson to a $210,000 a year job for which he is unqualified under the City Charter.

It is fair to describe Bramson’s actions as an attempted coup d’état — the removal of a government and its powers. In this case, an effort to circumvent the Council-Manager form of government, install a puppet City Manager (Bramson’s former campaign manager) and centralize power in Bramson’s hands, all without a single vote cast.

This is what is at stake if there are no serious consequences for Bramson’s conduct as described in the ethics complaint — that Bramson might get away with his solo efforts to dispense with a form of government that goes back nearly a century.

The effort by Bramson to promote Bramson as the man in charge of New Rochelle that began almost immediately after he replaced Tim Idoni as Mayor in 2006 continues in 2022.

Real Estate Conference’s Deep Dive into New Rochelle Development Turns on the Mystical Mayoral Power of Noam Bramson

New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson recently participated in a fascinating business conference panel with several leading real estate developers operating in New Rochelle. They gathered to discuss the future of the City’s downtown area. More fascinating was the apparent consensus on the panel that Mayor Bramson is some sort of authoritarian strongman who rules over the development process, which would otherwise not exist but for him.

Bisnow, which describes itself as the world’s leading B2B platform serving the commercial real estate industry, held a conference on April 12, 2022, at 360 Hamilton Avenue in White Plains, NY. The event was billed as Westchester & Fairfield State of the Market: Rising Communities & The Impact of the Continued Flight to the Suburbs.

The Mayor was inexplicably described as the person in charge of New Rochelle, the gatekeeper who decides which new developments can proceed, and the architect of the long-term planning which has spurred a building boom in the City.

Simonelli opened the panel discussion by saying of Bramson, “None of the projects get going without him.”

In reality, the Mayor has no role whatsoever in green-lighting any development projects.

“Obviously, you’re in charge of a large city with some of the most skyscrapers going up in the region right now,” said Simonelli.

Not obvious at all, really.

Under New Rochelle’s Council-Manager form of government, the Mayor is not “in charge” of anything. He cannot order a single pothole filled. Under the City Charter, the primary function of a Mayor in New Rochelle is to serve as the chairperson for the legislative body, the City Council, where that person sits as an at-large member with one vote, the same as every other member of Council.

“What else are you looking for in the city?” asked Simonelli, “What else needs to come to kind of complete your plan and what’s your vision of the city over the next 10 years.”

What is happening with downtown development in New Rochelle is not the result of the Mayor’s plan or his vision but rather the professional staff led by three successive development commissioners under City Manager Charles B. Strome, the person actually in charge of a large city with the most skyscrapers going up in the region right now.

Graziose said, “kudos to the Mayor and the City Council for putting together a retail task force”.

The idea of the task force came from another government official who asked not to be named.

Bramson took the idea to the City Manager and Development Office staff, where he attempted to pass the idea off as his own. At the direction of the City Manager, Kathleen Gill, the acting Development Commissioner, Adam Salgado the new Development Commissioner, and Jorge Ventura, Director of Economic Development researched the idea and delivered a presentation to Council on January 18, 2020.

Council approved the plan for a retail task force, the City Manager appointed its members (Bramson not among them) and the task force began operations. Other than appropriating someone else’s idea and walking down a hallway, the Mayor had little to do with the retail task force.

Kelman, asked why her company developed the Stella, said, “the main impetus, of course, sort of, was the planning that had been put in place by the Mayor and the City and with RXR’s involvement over the years.”

The Downtown Overlay Zone and related policies were created by the Development Office under the City Manager. The Mayor did not put any planning in place.

The Downtown Overlay Zone was designed specifically to keep Noam Bramson out of the development process on the heels of Bramson’s catastrophic meddling in the Forest City Ratner Echo Bay fiasco. The project went down in flames in 2015 after a majority of Council members coalesced in their opposition to Bramson after the infamous waterboarding incident. In the end, the Echo Bay project was voted down 6-1 with only Bramson willing to go down with the ship.

Forest City was out of business by 2018.

Former New Rochelle Councilwoman Breaks Silence on “Waterboarding” by Mayor Noam Bramson over 2013 Echo Bay Vote

The latest salvo in the Bramson Boosting Bramson campaign arrived yesterday courtesy of Westfair Communications, which publishes thinly researched, one-sided puff pieces on Westchester County personalities through its WAG magazine.

Peter Katz has the cover photo of a smiling Bramson looking into the sun — whether a sunrise or a sunset is not clear — under the headline “Steering The Sound’s Queen City”.

The article is entitled: At the Helm of a City on the Rise

A sidebar extolls Bramson as the hometown boy who made good.

In what way is Noam Bramson “managing an organization with a budget of $261.5 Million”? How is he at the “helm” and “steering” New Rochelle?

He is not.

Katz writes of Bramson working a Mayor’s “sometimes long hours in City Hall”.

Again, Bramson can work whatever hours he likes, but he remains a part-time, weak-Mayor.

Bramson is quoted saying that leasing of recently completed projects being ahead of expectations “really validates the hopes and expectations that the city had when we adopted our downtown framework in 2015”.

The framework was designed to keep him far away from the development of downtown.

Bramson notes that new zoning recently was approved for the Echo Bay waterfront section of the city, which he hopes will unlock the potential of that site.

The new zoning at Echo Bay is another part of the effort to keep Bramson’s meddling hands out of development, this time the waterfront area.

Katz portrays Bramson as generously crediting the members of “his team” for the progress made in New Rochelle.

“The Mayor’s” team?

Bramson “consistently shares credit with members of the city council as well as City Manager Charles B. Strome III and the rest of the staff”?


Anyone who knows how New Rochelle is run would know how absurd this statement — and the entire premise of the article — truly is.

And yet, these absurdities continue to make the rounds, pushed along by a Mayor who claims credit for whatever good happens in New Rochelle while lacking the authority to fill a single pothole.

Bramson should have taken Nita Lowey’s advice all those years ago — get a real job.

UPDATE 6/16/22: The Mayor has now responded to the justified criticism in this article. As usual, the Mayor professes ignorance as to why he is portrayed as the boss of New Rochelle. He even titled his blog post “WAG Spotlights New Rochelle” as if the entire article is not about him and he is some sort of victim of irrational exuberance. No. The article is all about him and his supposedly  running the City. No shame with this pathetic hustler.

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