Norwalk political notes: Fatherly love, crosswalks and Head of the Harbor

The public plaza at Head of the Harbor South, on March 17.

NORWALK, Conn. — Here are some items of note:

  • Rilling supports son, slams ‘hiding’ critics
  • Crosswalks installed near hospital
  • Wall Street development updates


Rilling congratulates son on sobriety, hits anonymous critics

Mayor Harry Rilling declined comment to NancyOnNorwalk recently when his son, Stephen Rilling, avoided jail time by accepting a plea deal on drug charges, but the Mayor made a public statement Thursday on Facebook.

Stephen Rilling was on the Fairfield Police Department for 19 years before being accused of stealing drugs from an evidence locker. Nearly one year ago, he said on a blog post that he suffered a severe back injury after a car collision during a police pursuit and became addicted to narcotic pain medication after surgery.

Mayor Rilling on Facebook said Thursday that his son has been clean for a year. He wrote to his son:

“We are so very proud of the commitment, courage and strength you have shown over the past year.

“You stood tall in the face of those who would criticize and say terrible things about your situation. They did not have the courage to use their own names rather choosing to hide behind anonymous fictitious names. They have no meaningful impact on your life.

“Perhaps if they knew the true details of your situation, they would think and act differently and with compassion. We should hope and pray for their sake, they never have to endure what you did.

“So my son, continue to hold your head high and be proud of who you are. Remember your family and TRUE friends, who have stood by your side, will always be here to support and encourage you.

❤️ ❤️ ❤️””



Stephen Rilling thanked his father and wrote, “You have been there for me from the start and continue to support me in every way. I could not ask for a better father/friend. I am also proud of you and your ability to handle it all with the utmost compassion. Love you.”

Norwalk Republican Town Committee District D Chairman John Romano wrote, “All the best in the future Stephen, you come from resilient stock.”

State Rep. Terri Wood (R-141) also offered best wishes.


Maple Street paint job

New striping narrows the travel lanes on Maple Street, as shown thursday.


Travel lanes on Maple Street have been narrowed and crosswalks installed on two side streets, in response to concerns about pedestrian safety.

Dr. Eunice Kang of Norwalk Hospital reached out to the city in October to request changes because 90 medical students need to cross Maple Street for their medical residencies, and their “safety was in jeopardy” due to a lack of crosswalks or signage, according to the Bike/Walk Commission.

A new crosswalk across Prospect Avenue.

The Commission, under the leadership of Chairwoman Nancy Rosett, looked into installing two crosswalks on Maple Street, one at Prospect Street and one at Fairview Avenue, but found in discussions with the Department of Public Works that regulations do not allow for an ADA (American Disabilities Act)-compliant crosswalk because the of Maple Street’s steep hill. Instead, crosswalks were installed across Prospect and Fairview, parallel to Maple Street.

A new crosswalk across Prospect Street.

The Commission also recommended that DPW put in a stop sign or other signage to slow Maple Street traffic, or install an island at the intersection so pedestrians would have a refuge and traffic would slow down. Those remedies weren’t implemented but the Commission’s suggestion that the travel lanes be narrowed was, with the 15-foot lanes now reduced to 10-foot lanes via new striping.

“The Commission appreciates how quickly DPW responded to the needs of pedestrians and believes these changes to Maple St. will improve pedestrian safety for all,” the Commission said in a statement. “The Commission invites all members of the public to contact the Commission at [email protected] with any concerns related to pedestrian and bicycle safety in Norwalk.”



Don’t look for an apartment at Head of the Harbor

Head of the Harbor South, on March 17.

Head of the Harbor South is fully rented out, developer Jason Enters said Sunday.

The development came up at a recent Planning Committee meeting, with Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Tim Sheehan using it as an example of progress in the Wall Street area.

The public boardwalk behind Head of the Harbor South, on Feb. 6. The red bull sculpture inside the picket fence is a favorite of Mike DiScala’s and had been at his home, Jason Enters said.

M.F. DiScala’s long-delayed Smith Street mixed-use apartment complex moved forward in 2014 after an agreement was worked out with the Norwalk Historical Commission; in exchange for public property totaling .5 acres, DiScala agreed to provide a minimum of $660,000 of public improvements on the site, a public easement over Smith Street and 15 on-site parking spaces for the city’s exclusive use, all assigned to the Historical Commission. It was approved by the Zoning Commission in August 2015 with plans for 5,000 square feet of office space, landscaping, pedestrian sidewalks, a waterfront boardwalk, a public plaza, a gazebo and pedestrian connections.

The stairs up to Mill Hill, nearly complete on Feb. 6.

DiScala has been working out of the complex’s new office space for some time now. Enters said on March 10 that 90 percent of the 60 apartments were rented, with some tenants already living in the smaller of the two buildings. Both buildings have their temporary Certificates of Occupancy (TCOs), he said Sunday.


City, Developer Still Negotiating on Head of Harbor North

Regarding Head of the Harbor North, a development proposal that involves a city-owned parking lot, Sheehan on March 1 said, “There is a draft agreement that still is being negotiated between the city and the developer.”

M. F. DiScala said more than a year ago that it was looking to build an 80-apartment building over the city-owned Main Street parking lot, proposing to make the lot more level and replace its 91 public parking spaces with 93 spaces, in exchange for being allowed to build above the lot.   The project drew criticism during the 2017 mayoral campaign with unaffiliated candidate Lisa Brinton Thomson charging that the city was planning to “give away” valuable land for a dollar.  Sheehan responded that “a conditioned Option Agreement” was being discussed, which would have a deadline for DiScala to buy the property and an associated fee, with the value of the land determined by an appraiser. City approvals would be factored into the appraisal.

Enters in March said the company hopes to get an agreement by the spring.

“We have done a schematic design and we have an as-of-right building to go there and we are working with Redevelopment to get an agreement in place,” he said.


Sid Welker April 16, 2018 at 1:31 am

Rilling Facebook posts about his sons struggles and triumphs and who replied? More of a private matter than news. Is this page 6 or a news site? Sounds like a page out of Responsible Norwalks playbook.

Piberman April 16, 2018 at 10:13 am

Anyone doing the maths showing renters and apartment owners don’t pay their full share of City services and further burden remaining homeowners with their falling property values ? Anyone notice our stagant Grand List for nearly a decade illustrating the wonders of “depreciation” in greatly reducing apartment building tax contributions. Nah. We’re CT’s greatest City.

Michael McGuire April 16, 2018 at 10:15 am

What a great opportunity for the City to work with the developer by requiring the Developer to build the Wall Street Train Station.

The benefits to the City would be tremendous. It demonstrates smart government by shifting what the State can’t do too what can be done by effective local governance. And the Grand List increase that would be seen in the Wall Street area would be significant and much appreciated by every Norwalk taxpayer.

Interesting Statistics – a re-activated Wall Street Train Station would serve the fourth largest concentration of office space/multi-family units within a half-mile radius.

It is behind only Stamford, Bridgeport and Greenwich in size. For example its 30 percent larger than the SoNo neighborhood and 44 percent larger than Danbury.

Makes you wonder – why would you not look at this opportunity as a huge win for Norwalk and fight for it accordingly.

Don’t trade this valuable City asset (the High/Main Parking Lot) away without getting what this area needs so much – a train station.

It would be a travesty to the Norwalk Taxpayer for City leadership to miss this opportunity.

Isabelle Hargrove April 16, 2018 at 10:15 am

Related to the Head of The Harbor North project, the Planning Committee of the Common Council chaired by Mr. Kydes is meeting tonight to review a proposed Innovation District Incentive Ordinance drafted by Tim Sheehan, the executive director of the Redevelopment Agency.

The ordinance calls for a major tax break over a very broad area (from 95 to Cross Street and from the hospital to the river) and numerous business categories. The definition of Innovation and qualifications are very non-specific while granting large tax incentives to businesses and developers.
This is happening under the radar, without a robust public discussion about the vision for our core district and the impact of these substantial tax break on our grand list, residents tax burdens, and infrastructure requirements and costs. It is also happening ahead of the new POCD.

How can major tax breaks be drafted by a non-elected director of a redevelopment agency that does not even represent all of Norwalk’s areas? How can major tax breaks be granted by our common council via ordinances without robust public outreach?

Maybe this is why Norwalk is a vast construction site bustling with new developments, all disjointed, while our grand list stagnates, and our taxes rise to support larger infrastructure needs and payrolls.

Link to tonight’s agenda and backup for the ordinance:

Bill NIghtingale April 16, 2018 at 12:00 pm

That Innovation District plan is just beyond outrageous. Can someone please explain why Sheehan is still the “staff” to the planning committee? Why do we even have a Redevelopment Agency after everything they have screwed up?

Get ready for residents to incur major tax increases if this plan goes forward. Get ready for all sorts of shenanigans if anyone is to develop anything in central Norwalk. This plan ensures no development will ever happen without “deals” having to be cut with Norwalk government and Redevelopment. Would you ever buy real estate or invest in Norwalk when every other insider is getting a property tax break from The Redevelopment Agency?

John S April 16, 2018 at 12:07 pm

We need more than 93 spots for public parking.
Currently, the lot is full on an on-going basis.
Adding even more apartment units will bring even more people to the area.

This is the only lot that most businesses in the area rely on.

“IF” there is any development, it should include ADDING parking to the area.

Rick April 16, 2018 at 1:55 pm

@Sid ever think even if we don’ t care for the Mayors politics its nice to reach out with a kind word once in a while.Its not always about us so with that said its a media outlet written with also compassion and thought by a awesome journalist who covers all sides of the news.

Some of us have the same public servant blood and this does touch home, with that said you have supporters Stephen and Harry no matter what.

John Levin April 16, 2018 at 2:30 pm

Sid – Nancy’s job is a hard one. She sometimes is criticized for ingorning items, and sometimes for including them. No one will be happy all of the time. Oddly, I often plead for MORE ‘Page 6’ content, and yet it remains a pretty classy operation. What can I say?

Sid Welker April 16, 2018 at 5:24 pm

@rick Im a big supporter of Harrys support of Steve. My point was that this sites punch drinkers often slams Harry no matter what the article says. Its just a knee jerk reaction for some.
@Chief Problem Solver Jackie, like El Mexicano is an Historic building. Same goes for alot of the Wall St area. If someone wants to make it better with their own funds I say let them do it. Its been stagnant for 50 years. Its needs new blood.

Rick April 16, 2018 at 5:46 pm

I’m with you Sid and I agree thanks for reaching out I respect your posts as well. Other medias jumped all over it made it front page headlines, NON waited and used class.

John you have a lot of class as well.

Urban Dictionary: class

Piberman April 16, 2018 at 8:32 pm

Downtown Nowalk has been piecemeal “redeveloped” for many decades and still is the County’s shabbiest Downtown. If past is prologue decades from now Downtown will still look pretty much likes it does today. Maybe its not surprising that City Mayor has ever hired a Development Professional with major league experience actually participating in large scale redevelopment projects. Mayor Rilling is upholding that “tradition”. Nor to the best of my knowledge has City Hall ever hired a major league consulting firm with major league redevelopment experience.

If Norwalk wants to change from a disjointed combination of leafy suburbs surrounding a large low income depressed core its going to need hire major league development and consulting talent. Since our Mayors traditionally have no senior level business experience they may not be aware of the necessity to hire real expertise to achieve real results.

While its always easy to point fingers in Norwalk its our increasing numbers of low income residents who would mostly improve their lives with a serious Downtown redevelopment effort attracting new businesses. Maybe its time for our inner City residents to become much more outspoken in their needs for a new Downtown. Rather than assuming that City Hall under either Party will secure serious improvement.

Rick April 16, 2018 at 9:45 pm

Redevelopment Agency has been a problem for years,look at Ryan park they are way over their heads and on Wall st the same. Money is given and they work with a blank check and some of the powers to be experiment with the city rather than make it work for the majority.

West ave art anyone? 40 miles an hour how much does one see with the overgrown growth why it wasn’t put into some garden for the garden club even Mikey the landscaper could of found a better spot he has good ideas once in a while. How much is that art costing to maintain each year? Oh ya it was free, free my A$$.

They planned wall st years ago, with help from people like Duff which has proven without a doubt has been a mistake.

How can anyone defend wall st when things like this went on?


change your politicians change the direction we are going, wall st ignores things like this why trust them with the future they never corrected the past.

Like Stantec is doing any work before they sit in class and understand how its going to be.They take direction East Norwalk is a great example.

Stantec has made a statement many times we can help plan but your the ones that have to find the money, yet there are some companies who match grants with wish lists.

Other things I never hear from most activists is matching grants, other cities find matching grants to latch onto they work for those receiving the service or aid in future plans.

Has the wall st crew ever had matching grants for anything? Have they ever looked?

This crap with Manressa and salt marsh restoration below contaminated Meadow st land and many other election tool votes work for the politicians but who else?

Wall st should have a task force but with people from all over the city where they all pay taxes not a selected few who have only s stake on wall st. spending our money. They are starting to sound like another Redevelopment Agency.

Looks like Norwalk after years taking money for the Norwalk river navigation and vets park docks are being told we made the river passable so a lift bridge is all you get , good for them. By the way any plans to dig up the river and get rid of the tons of contamination buried there because Norwalk thought it was a good idea?

here is another question ask Perone about the


did they not plan on the Norwalk river in its original plans for commercial traffic?

run silent run deep ought to be the politicians motto along with the city slogan.

Jlightfield April 16, 2018 at 9:45 pm

@Sid Welker, hiding behind an assumed name makes you oh-so righteous, eh? Well, I kinda agree that property owners should invest in their properties. But the land-grab in question here, isn’t an issue of a property owner using their own funds to invent in improving their property. It is about breaking a convenant that used federal disaster funds, to redevelopment a neighborhood and supply a critical amenity for the public good. Many historic buildings were saved, and are now occupied based on a plan that parking would be be supplied by a shared lot, operated by the city. Now the Redevelopment Agency wants to repeat the same old plan, of selling off that tax payer’s asset to create a financial transaction that has historically not returned a profit to the community. I think the words stagnant grand list can be used freely here to die scribe what the net gain has been to the community who invests in their homes and businesses in this area.

Mitch Palais April 16, 2018 at 9:51 pm

Gentrify- don’t subsidize

We need more payers and not takers

The reason all the new units are not paying their fair share- subsidized apartments that are subsidized by Home and condo owners.

Tysen Canevari April 16, 2018 at 9:59 pm

i think it is a shame that you have to use facebook to speak with your son. After all he lives with the mayor. If we stole from walmart you will go to jail. However, if you are a cop and steal from the evidence room you get probation. LOL Just saying….

Donna Smirniotopoulos April 17, 2018 at 1:41 am

@Isabelle, thank you for giving us a heads up on the Common Council Planning Committee Special meeting. Several members were absent. Chairman Kydes would like to expedite this ordinance proposal and intends to have a public hearing in May or June.

How did the Redevelopment Agency come to have so much sway over our city and our Common Council? How do ordinary taxpayers protect their interests when RDA promotes tax incentives under the radar and who ultimately pays? Also how exactly does someone get appointed to the RDA Commission?

More evidence that Norwalk needs charter revision and professional city management. I’d vote to dismantle Redevelopment too. There’s a lot of money being spread around from the state and HUD. But the underserved in Norwalk aren’t getting any of it. Funny how that works.

Bill NIghtingale April 17, 2018 at 9:25 am

This RDA / Kydes proposal is exactly why Norwalk is and always will be a city of cronyism.

RDA needs to be flushed and this Innovation District proposal stopped. This will essentially take away our property tax revenue from all of central Norwalk. All business owners in central Norwalk are about to be written a check by Norwalk homeowners. Must be Kydes or some fiends are working on a business plan in the area? Kinol Paxton will get his tax abatement after all.

The worst thing is that in the long run this is going to deter investment in Norwalk more than promote it.

Tim Sheehan and the RDA live in a world of developers (most of who do not even live in Norwalk)coming through their door and promoting pie in the sky ideas for subsidized development in Norwalk. He then acts as the fox in the Planning Committee henhouse promoting these ideas. He is the totally conflicted staff to our planning committee where there is zero representation of the interests of homeowners.

The RDA truly needs to be abolished.

Mike Barbis April 17, 2018 at 10:14 am

Tim Sheehan is the one saying that these new developments don’t add kids to the school system … #enoughisenough

Last I checked it was 70 kids from the new apartments … Let’s remember our schools are at 109% of capacity. Every new student further burdens the schools … and the first incremental seats in new schools will not be available until September 2022!! If all goes according to plan …

Who are our elected officials representing?

Debora Goldstein April 17, 2018 at 11:05 am

When the City fails to Plan for Development, the Developers continue to plan the City. It is disgraceful that the lack of a plan has made our city so unattractive to innovators and new businesses that the City literally has to pay people to build and/or start businesses here.

It’s time to turn the planning of the City back over to the people who are paying for it. Revise the charter and implement Outcome Based Planning and Budgeting, so we can prioritize where the money is going and make sure that we are subsidizing projects that actually provide a ROI for the CITY, not just the developer.

Bill NIghtingale April 17, 2018 at 11:53 am

As I mentioned in numerous emails to council members and Mayor Rilling and in public comments regarding the Mall, once one business is given a tax abatement then all the others are going to come asking for one as well. This Innovation District is the manifestation of that on pretty much the entire business district of Norwalk.

Tax abatements out of control!

Rick April 17, 2018 at 1:34 pm

Just in

no federal approval for a third casino in East Windsor Go JOE!

screw the mall build the hotel and metro platform for Bridgeport’s casino !

Mall was only going to get a tax abatement anyways and the taxpayers were going pay for the rest.

Maybe now the Island Belle can come down the river pickup gamblers for a lovely ride to Bridgeport, a win win they use our parking garages only iNorwalk left empty by the tinder box construction .

Donna Smirniotopoulos April 17, 2018 at 2:00 pm

Personally, I have enormous compassion for Stephen Rilling and believe it is appropriate for his father to support his son as he struggles through a difficult recovery. Opioid addiction is a national health crisis. What was to be a home for 19 Federal Prisoners on Quintard may soon be home to 18 recovering opioid addicts. The crisis is all around us and even in my own backyard.

What concerns me about Mayor Rilling’s Facebook post, however, is the choice of a public social media platform to shake a finger at “cowardly” anonymous critics, while saying nothing about what might have led to the comments, the colossal betrayal of public trust chief among them. Rilling is the Mayor. He’s the former Chief of Police. He is the father of a former narcotics officer in Fairfield who presumably arrested people for drug possession. Some of those people perhaps received jail sentences. The younger Rilling was accused of removing drugs from the evidence room to support his own addiction. So while the addiction may have been the root cause for the behavior, once you add the badge and the gun and the father who’s a mayor and a former cop, things do get a little more complicated for the public to just take on good faith as simply a decent family struggling with the opioid epidemic. Some members of the public may feel resentful. And the fear of retaliation from law enforcement may motivate some to hide behind fake names. Is that cowardice or prudence?

So good for you, Mr. Mayor, for supporting your son during his recovery. But also, shame on you for failing to acknowledge that the trust the public placed on law enforcement to protect their lives was betrayed as a consequence of an officer’s addiction. Acknowledging the addiction while ignoring the betrayal of public trust is a strategic error in my opinion, regardless of the addiction.

Rick April 17, 2018 at 2:03 pm

May I add

Brookfield plans to redevelop the land GGP’s malls are situated on, using its expertise in multifamily, office and hotel properties to increase the value of the real estate.

Just think at ground level with no tenants or choice stores for a Hotel Norwalk would be worth twice as much for investors.

Mall at the casino is a no brainer in Bridgeport.

Norwalk again is low hanging fruit.

But trust adams he is how you say in the loop.

On hold or slow on building this buys time to slip the hotel back in. Of course our Mayor sees no problems .

Tysen Canevari April 17, 2018 at 9:32 pm

@Donna Why the need to speak to your son on social media. Its all a front. {…} While addiction is terrible and has no boundaries you still have to be responsible for your actions.
Edited to remove an unsubstantiated allegation.

Rick April 19, 2018 at 3:39 pm

Just in

good time to put a hold on bike lanes the backlash is on how to never roll out another program like this.

I hope Norwalk isn’t stupid and behind the curve like they have always been new data show alarming stats. Now the bike lane in front of the ER can stay to prove a point.

How could anyone deny the new findings, the way cities now have to change asap on the bike lanes, yet Norwalk parking seems to be in the bike business how nice for us. bike fatalities in the US is now at a 35 year high .

Time out t the bike lanes and lets talk some fact instead of pushing the city once again by a louder voice that has no merit or in this case facts to slow down this bike lane crap.

backlash on bike lanes are coming to a city near you ignore the obvious is to ignore common sense

instead on bike lanes they now suggest separate roads $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

Sid Welker April 20, 2018 at 4:30 pm

@jackieL. Im not following you? Did you try looking me up on The Facebook or city records? Im a 68 years old relocate and have no time for what the younger generation call social media. My grandson gave me his old ipad to pass the time. I have lived in Norwalk now for almost 20 years. Im unable to drive a car and I rent a condo. What else do you need from me to prove that Im a man who cares about where I call home. I thoroughly enjoy keeping up with all of the local news but Ive also been around long enough to realize this battle for the parking lot seems to be a bit more personal considering you have no business in the Wall St area. Am I correct? Do you have a business down there? Do you know the developer personally? Or do you just consider yourself a caped crusader?

Donna Smirniotopoulos April 28, 2018 at 1:04 pm

@Sid Welker, you don’t need a personal monetary investment on Wall Street to be a credible voice in opposition to the “sale” of this parking lot to a developer. Anecdotally speaking, the lowest blows against activists on social media seem to come from anonymous sources, in my opinion. And the nature of the arguments are usually personal, not rational or logical. Jackie doesn’t have a business in the Wall Street area, so why does she care? That’s a logical fallacy. The question isn’t why does Jack care. The question is why don’t we ALL care about what happens on Wall Street regardless of our personal business interests? We all have skin in this game, even you, Sid. I’m a residential property owner. Every time Redevelopment gives something away, I lose. Every sloppy deal that the mayor or the council gives the nod to costs residential property owners out of proportion to big developers. Eventually, the bad math is going to catch up to renters like you, too, Sid. Quality of life will deteriorate. Residential property owners will flee as their property taxes rise. The proportion of owners to renters will decline to economically dangers levels. And all will suffer because the city won’t have the sand to offer even basic services.

BUT I can still be thankful for something. With all the bicyclists on the sidewalks, at least I can walk in the bike lanes.

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