NORWALK, Conn. – The area around the Rowayton train station looks like a strip mall now, according to Carolyn Chiodo, an opponent of the Rowayton Avenue lowering project.
About 25 to 30 mature trees have been cut down, including oaks, cedars, sugar maples and a rare elm tree, according to an April 15 Facebook post from Sixth Taxing District Commissioner Mike Barbis.
“The area looks terrible without the trees,” Sheila Higgins wrote in response.
“Despicable on so many levels,” wrote Jamie Wildstein Behr.
“Tax $$$$$ at work! Looks like a strip mall now.\:(,” Chiodo wrote.
The tree destruction has always been part of the plan, Department of Public Works Director Hal Alvord said Thursday. Some of the residents have thanked DPW, he said.
The contract for the reconstruction of Rowayton Avenue under and north of the Metro-North bridge was approved by the Common Council in late January, despite an effort to stop it. That included a meeting with Connecticut Department of Transportation officials, in which Mayor Harry Rilling learned it would cost the city $750,000 not to go ahead, he said.
The project will lower the hill north of the railroad station by three feet to improve the sight lines for drivers. The road north of the bridge will be narrowed from 32 feet to 28 feet. The road south of the bridge will be widened from 26 feet just south of Caroline Court to 28 feet, to make the stretch uniform.
The Facebook posts are on the Rowayton (Sixth Taxing District) page, which had 232 members as of Saturday night. It drew responses from 19 people and became an angry political back and forth between Councilman David McCarthy (R-District E) and Zoning Commissioners Nora King, and Mike Mushak and sIXTH Taxing District Commissioner Mike Barbis, in which McCarthy accuses Barbis and Mushak of lying and denies name-calling, but rather says the accusations of lying are factual.
Mushak calls into question whether the federal government has the funds to live up to its end of the deal to reimburse Norwalk for 80 percent of the expected $2.3 million cost, saying the Federal Highway Trust Fund will run out of money by September. Norwalk will only have enough money left to replace the majestic mature trees with four spindly trees, Mushak said.
“Every Rowaytonite must ask why (McCarthy) was so desperate for this expensive, unnecessary boondoggle that no one wanted to go through based on so much deliberate misinformation and manipulation of the process, including lying about accident data and true costs to the city,” Mushak wrote.
“Of course, you fail to mention that all the trees will be replaced at the end of the project once the sidewalks are in and the roadway improved. You make everything a personal attack and resort to rumor mongering,” McCarthy wrote in reply.
McCarthy also responds to comments and questions from the public.
“So is there a plan (drawings, budget, etc) for sidewalks and replacement trees or are those things ideas only with no plan for action and execution? It seems that this project was conceived and approved in the 1990’s and now we have more information and different goals as a community,” Kathryn Kukula wrote.
“There are extensive plans that have been reviewed, commented on and all suggested modifications that I know of, including the type of curb, extension of sidewalks as well as the addition of bike lanes has been made,” McCarthy replied. “As recently as last month, meetings were held with commuters, local residents and Tammy (Langalis) representing the commissioners and no additional changes were suggested to my knowledge. The concept and core of the project was requested in the ’90’s and the details were baked throughout the entire process.”
“Is there any way to stop this project before it goes any further? Sounds like it still needs more discussion on who said what and who is supporting it and who is not. The community seems pretty unhappy about this. I haven’t heard anyone in support of this ‘fix,’” Peter Morrison wrote.
“Dave I hope you are not up for reelection this year,” Chiodo wrote. “I think you are going to have a tough time selling that to Rowayton. We do need sidewalks/bike lanes … this isn’t a project that delivers either. Hunt Lane/Rowayton Ave Bridge to the Hunt/ Highland Ave. ….”
“Actually from the number of supportive side emails I’m getting, I’d disagree, Carolyn,” McCarthy wrote. “You can have your opinion on this and that, too. Just not everyone shares it.”