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An open question to Norwalk’s mayoral candidates

The area where Mike McGuire has suggested a train station, along the back of the Mechanic Street parking lot.

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This is an open question to the mayoral candidates:

We, the many people of Norwalk that support re-activating the Wall Street Train Station, would like to understand your views on this very important issue.  As such, would you kindly respond to the following questions.

Are you in favor of a Wall Street Train Station?  If so, why; if not, why not?

If you are in favor of re-activating the Wall Street Train Station, what are your specific actions steps to make this happen?  And in what timeframe?

Please be as specific as possible.

Michael McGuire

Norwalk

26 comments

Donald August 23, 2017 at 6:09 pm

Actually, Michael It is not many people of Norwalk that support re-activating the Wall Street Train Station. It is just you and a verv very few others on this site. Most in Norwalk think the idea of a Wall St Train station is a joke and a waste.

Non Partisan August 23, 2017 at 8:32 pm

I don’t live anywhere near Wall Street. I think it’s a forward thinking idea that will generate growth with minimal investment.

The costs I’ve seen on the site are 1 to 1.5 mm.
That’s a drop in the bucket compared to potential tax revenue and gentrification

Sue Haynie August 24, 2017 at 6:26 am

@Michael McQuire, agreed about the need for the Wall Street train station and the need for every mayoral candidate, in their answers to the Norwalk public, to be ‘specific’.

carol August 24, 2017 at 10:04 am

there is a great need for the wall street station,with all the buildings going up and looking to revive the area,this would be a plus. Imagine living in the area and being able to walk to the train station. shoppers could take the train to restaurants,shops,mill hill and help do away with some of the car traffic.

pnolin August 24, 2017 at 10:29 am

The idea of a Wall Street Train stop is no joke. Anyone interested in making sure the Wall and Main area are revitalized and growing for the future would support this plan. I thank Mike for championing the idea which is supported by so many of us in Norwalk. Indeed, a Wall Street Train station might make up to some extent for the Poko disaster the area now faces.

Donna August 24, 2017 at 10:38 am

Depending on time of day, it can take between 40 minutes to over an hour to use Metronorth to commute between South Norwalk and New Canaan. You must transfer at Stamford. And the New Canaan train will not wait for you, meaning you’d better plan on allowing 2.5 hours for that commute. It’s faster to walk. In some limited context, adding a Wall Street station to the Danbury line sounds like a pro-development move. But viewed within the systemic quagmire that is the MTA, it’s hard to imagine a Wall Street stop adding anything but aggravation to peoples’ commutes. Better to have a City Bike or bus service between South Norwalk and Wall Street to faciliate business in that area, and improve the sidewalks for pedestrians who choose to walk from SoNo to Wall Street. These are less expensive options than adding a train stop. Promoting bike and foot traffic has the added benefit of promoting local businesses.

Patrick Cooper August 24, 2017 at 11:32 am

@Michael McGuire – you have been beating this drum for a long time, and for the record – I think it is an idea that deserves inspection. That said – it is but one area of town, and we have multiple issues affecting the city. The “development” of Norwalk often receives a 2- dimensional treatment – winners/losers, who made money, who paid for it. It’s more complicated than that.

I won’t assume you took a page from my comment on the Andy Conroy article – because what I posed were these questions, to all candidates – that are purposely broad in scope – because we need to hear what the overall vision is, and the sequence. What I believe we need to hear (separately conceived so no-one benefits from order) in written format and limited to a number of words, from Rilling, Conroy, Morris, and Thomson (who has already done so) is the following:

You have a two-year term. Define your agenda:
1. What are the top 3-4 priority issues (local only) you will lead city government to focus our resources. By definition, these are issues that can be fully addressed within the two-year term.
2. Why are they priorities?

It is assumed you disagree with how the current administration is conducting business.

3. Specifically define what you will do differently, and why that will make a positive difference?
4. Why and how will you work differently with the state, and again, what positives will accrue to Norwalk?

Note your topic (“Wall Street Train Station”) could legitimately be a cornerstone issue, but maybe it’s not – and for reasons we would need to hear. Maybe building the infrastructure around those transit hubs might make sense first – and the station next, as the city plans the development – which might take longer than 2 years. But at least that would be a plan.

Bottom line – I agree we need these folks to expose and express their plans – on the record. We need pledges of accountability. We need their 2-year goals for the city. We need a real discussion, with a real series of debates, on CORE ISSUES that affect the taxpaying residents of this city. We don’t need party platforms, or political

harry rilling August 24, 2017 at 12:43 pm

Mike: Prior to, and during my recent re-election announcement, I supported the need for a Wall Street Station. That support has not changed as I firmly believe that will be the catalyst to help the area turn the corner and develop to its’ fullest potential.

As far as timing to begin; the time is now. I have had discussions with my development staff on a regular basis. As you know, we are currently managing several major projects so we are not as far along in the discussion as we would like to be.

We first need to determine the best location for the station which at this point in time, seems to be the Mechanic Street lot. We will be reaching out to our potential partners to ensure they share our vision and are ready to move forward to the planning stage.

At this time, there are too many variables and unknowns to put a specific timeframe of going from concept to operations but in a best case scenario, I believe significant progress could be made in the next 18 to 24 months if our potential partners are on board.

I would be more than happy to engage you in the process.

Steve P August 24, 2017 at 1:32 pm

Harry Rilling, you’ve been mayor for four years and nothing has happened even remotely close to this. You’ve nodded and smiled…and that’s it.

We all know that “discussions with my development staff” is code for you haven’t done a thing.

If you were inclined to put a train station in this location and were concerned about the variables, would you perhaps pump the breaks on selling the High St lot (or giving it away, depending on your perspective) if it might be needed for large scale commuter parking?

I agree this is a great idea, if only to take the pressure off of SoNo Station. My question to the current mayor is why hasn’t there been any action on this issue.

Bryan Meek August 24, 2017 at 1:36 pm

Instead of spending $20 million on the Glover Ave station upgrades (not that it isn’t a good project), given the limited resources of the state, maybe it would make more sense to spend this money on Wall Street. As I recall when the plan was hatched for Glover Ave, there was no plans for the Walk Bridge and many other projects.

A Wall Street station is not only smart for the other reasons given so far, but it would also help alleviate congestion at the Sono station in terms of parking and traffic. The Glover Ave project makes sense too, but in the context of what is needed now. This would put Norwalk on the map and make our new theatre down there very accessible providing the district with much needed foot traffic and an impetus for someone to finish the Tyvek building (aka POKO).

Rick August 24, 2017 at 2:38 pm

I know this sounds odd but can a station be put in so close to the new rail yard,both freight and Amtrack effects that area,has anyone asks Duff to look into this?

Its not way Norwalk wants its what the rail providers decide when planning stations isn’t it?

Has anyone been given the green light by Amtrack?

I realize its a stupid question but recently CSX had to close sidings and stations via the feds because when something effects Amtrack it effects everyone.

m not sure if this idea is feasible but if a station goes in at the sono collection why would they spend on Wall st?

This work planned for the rail yards could change at any moment without any input from Norwalk,its not their money building such items is it?

Michael McGuire August 24, 2017 at 2:53 pm

Mayor Rilling,

Thank you for your strong support of this important project. Your stepping forward so quickly and with such clarity on your position is very much appreciated. I look forward to assisting with this project.

I would encourage the other three mayoral candidates to response as well.

Donna August 24, 2017 at 2:57 pm

@harry rilling, what exactly does it mean to “support the need” for a Wall Street Station? Have you and your development staff determined that the need exists? If so, what data can you and the staff supply to support the contention that Norwalk needs a metronorth station in the Wall Street area?

Also when you speak of your development staff and potential partners, could you please be more specific? Who are the potential partners, for example? I do not support prioritizing Wall Street district specifically for an MTA stop on the Danbury line. But if the MTA could get its act together, if the Walk bridge plan made any sense, and if a train stop made sense in the grand
scheme of the golden bracelet idea linking Wall Street, West Ave, Main and Washington, I
might come around to embracing a Wall Street train stop is a critical piece of the puzzle. Right now, I just don’t see this as a top five priority.

James Cahn August 24, 2017 at 3:53 pm

Lisa is taking her son to school but I wanted to reply on behalf of the Lisa Campaign.

“Lisa has been on the record for about a year, regarding the reopening of the Wall Street station. She initially put it on paper, as a citizen request to the DOT as part of a ‘compensation package’ back when they made their pitch about the Walk Bridge in the Concert Hall last fall.

Unfortunately, reopening the station is up to the state officials, not the city. It would however, be nice to have a mayor that stood up to the state and fought for the city. At the moment, that does not appear to be happening and that is one of the reasons that she is running.

Lisa will provide a more detailed position on the train station and ideas for Wall Street at a later date, but what has been allowed to happen in our city core, with taxpayer money with the current administration is unacceptable.”

Seaworthy August 24, 2017 at 4:14 pm

Thank you Mayor for your in-person response. It is obvious that a lot of this falls on the state and MTA. I welcome your efforts to work with all parties involved to come to a solution.

Michael McGuire August 24, 2017 at 6:18 pm

@ Donna,

Re-activating the Wall Street train station is critical to stabilize Norwalk’s budget issues going forward. My comment in the post just before this one on NoN (the one about DiScala purchase for a $1 article) outlines the impact. If you would like more to the background reasoning I can provide that to you as well.

In a nutshell it reflects the lowest cost, highest impact TOD development and job creating impact available to Norwalk at this time. And this would be a re-activation – we had a station here once.

Donna August 24, 2017 at 6:48 pm

@Michael McGuire, aside from answering quickly, in what way did Mayor Rilling’s reply satisfy request for specific details? I still don’t know why the Mayor thinks it’s a good idea. And I don’t know who he’s been talking to–what staff members and what potential “partners”. Aside from mentioning Mechanic Street as a possible location, the response was predictably vague and short on exactly the kinds of detail you asked for.

Mike McGuire August 24, 2017 at 7:23 pm

@ Donna

1. Strong support for this project
2. An understanding what’s at stake
3. Organizing staff to make this a priority
4. Admission that not all is in his control
5. Suggested timing that works with the Walk Street bridge project
6. Understanding site options and which would most likely be most conducive

Pretty solid and consise response. I would assume partners are DOT and MTA and I would hope the State’s economic Dev.

Finally – downtown is the largest urban core (CBD) not serviced by a train station in lower Fairfield County. With over 4 million square feet of commercial space with 1/2 mile of this proposed station and nearly 1700 new apartment units built in the past decade seems pretty logical place for a train station.

Donna August 24, 2017 at 9:09 pm

@Mike, I understand your investment in a Wall Street station. As someone who owns a Wall Street business, you can see the benefits that are elusive to me and to many others. The last time Wall Street had a station, I believe there was one stop per day. The Merritt 7 stop exists just to serve those workers. SoNo is a mile away give or take. Wouldn’t it make more sense to shorten the distance between Wall Street and SoNo station with bus service, City Bikes and better pedestrian walkways? Also how does the entirety of Metronorth factor into this decision? Presumably Metronorth serves commuters who want to get to Danbury and who have no interest in another stop along the way.

Donna August 25, 2017 at 12:21 am

@Mike, with all due respect, I didn’t read in Rilling’s response all the things you wrote. And I’m a pretty close reader.

Rick August 25, 2017 at 1:47 am

Mike just watched Murphy on stage with the Mayor of Stamford ,they want the bridges all six over a 100 years old replaced long before you get your station.There isn’t any consideration given to Wall st, The window for that has closed.

You do realize its not only the walk bridge that need replacing the Washington st bridge has slipped its footings a fact known for the last 5 years.

Right now your pipe dream is years away from planning,if anything gets done first its a platform at the Mall . It would serve more with less effort and money.

Sue Haynie August 25, 2017 at 6:29 am

@Rilling, You’ve had the bully pulpit for the Wall Street Train Station for 4 years and you’ve been pretty quiet. Although glad to hear your support for the Wall St Station now, can’t help but sense a little political expediency in your answer.

Agree with @Donna, your response lacked specifics. Let’s hear more on what you have actually done to date, show us.

Michael McGuire August 25, 2017 at 11:13 am

@ Donna,

All Good questions. Based on my professional background I know that having a train station in a downtown environment attracts private sector investment.

Wall Street is the only CBD in lower Fairfield County without train access. Current economic trends (smaller tech companies needing to attract highly skilled millennials) require business to locate into “Cool” urban environments with train access to NYC. Lower Fairfield County is seeing an influx of these companies but we have essentially run out of space.

Stamford’s downtown Class C buildings (older, in town brick 2-5 story buildings) have a vacancy rate of under 8 percent (very healthy) while the overall Stamford office market has a vacancy rate over 20% (very unhealthy). Similar story here in Norwalk.

To attract more of these companies we need provide more of the right kind of space in the right kind of environment. The Wall Street area with a train station fills that need. I know this personally has we have lost 6 office tenants in the past 2-3 years. They all site the same story…”we need to be closer to the train station”.

Why not use a bus? 1) The skilled workforce in this area is not very receptive to public bus transportation. 2) A shuttle bus is intangible, it’s a contract that can be changed. Bus stops do not, and have not, inspired the private sector to invest.

A train station is tangible and attracts private investment. You only need to look at the very healthy commercial real estate markets right around a train station to see the positive impact.

Re-activate the train station on Wall (but don’t impose crazy parking policies like in SoNo) and you will see a 10-25% increasing property values within the downtown within 5 years. Plus the apartment market will be much more stable, the retail will revitalize and the overall are will bloom.

Now ask yourself “do I really want MTA or DOT to make this very local economic decision for me”?

From the feedback I’ve received Norwalk will receive mitigation for the Walk Street Bridge . It’s up to Norwalk to decide what that mitigation is. Nothing comes close to revitalizing Norwalk or creating a larger Grand List more than a train station on Wall Street – and if its electrified all the better.

Nancy Chapman August 25, 2017 at 4:58 pm

I have a comment from Republican mayoral candidate Andy Conroy: “A station at the Wall Street end of the development zones has merit and is worth exploring. Gail (Lavielle) suggested a tie-in to the Walk Bridge replacement, looking for a way to fund the project.”

Donna August 26, 2017 at 1:00 am

@Mike, thanks for explaining why this station makes good economic sense. Can we have a Wall Street station, funded in whole or in part by CDOT and MTA and still improve the walkabilty of the Wall Street/West Ave corridors, linking them to SoNo without forcing people to walk under the freeways? What I have gleaned from this thread and elsewhere is the sense that Wall Street got “left behind” when the City focused its attention on SoNo. And SoNo isn’t winning any prizes lately, with high turnover, difficult parking and a capricious Stroffolino Bridge. i would rather view Wall Street and SoNo as parts of a vibrant and cohesive downtown Norwalk and not separate business districts competing for dollars and attention.

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