Mount Vernon and New Rochelle are similarly sized, first-ring suburbs of the New York City metropolitan area, with comparable challenges, land use patterns, and histories. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated pre-existing trends in remote work, declines in transit use and increases in e-commerce. These trends upended existing relationships between work and home life, transportation patterns, logistics, and, most importantly, between communities and their downtowns in both of these cities. In the face of a changed world, the studio identified these challenges and recommendations as a path forward for two of Westchester’s most important communities.
This studio occurred over two semesters. The first semester resulted in an existing conditions analysis of each city, covering areas such as community history, demographic trends, land use, housing, transportation, parking, economic development, and trends associated with e-commerce, including the increase in distribution/fulfillment centers. The existing conditions reports are included as appendices to this report. This second semester final report contains recommendations for addressing the many challenges identified in the first semester. The studio involved extensive data and information gathering through a variety of sources, including census and community documents, assigned class readings and other research documents, guest speakers, consultations with experts, and discussions with community leaders. Field visits in each community guided by municipal planning staff allowed the studio teams to observe the status of urban amenities, accessibility, design and other conditions related to the project’s main topics. In addition, focus groups with community stakeholders and on-line surveys provided information on community sentiment and concerns. While the existing conditions data and research provided a more objective foundation for understanding current conditions, the community engagement feedback yielded more nuanced and subjective information from a wide range of residents on their priorities for New Rochelle and Mount Vernon.
The information and data gathered was synthesized and considered to identify key challenges facing each community and to develop project goals, strategies and initiatives which guided the development of specific recommendations for the two cities. A workshop was held in the second semester with three experts who commented on initial proposals developed by the class.
This report details the studio’s final recommendations with supporting documentation. The recommendations are data-driven, forward-looking, and rooted in the needs and experiences of the New Rochelle and Mount Vernon communities.