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Norwalk Parking Authority faces pushback on Liberty Square plan

Norwalk citizens learn about plans for Liberty Square during an information session Wednesday at the Connecticut Department of Transportation’s Walk Bridge outreach office in SoNo.

Updated, 6:49 a.m.: Copy edits

NORWALK, Conn. – Liberty Square business owners are concerned about the Norwalk Parking Authority’s plan to take over management of the Liberty Square parking lot.

  • Good news for business owners and residents: NPA hopes to prevent people from leaving cars there for days or months, and from sitting in the lot at night and drinking.
  • Bad news: Everyone must pay to park, except for those stopping for 15 minutes or less.

Video by Harold Cobin at end of story

NPA Administrative Services Manager Kathryn Hebert revealed the news Wednesday in a meeting held in the Walk Bridge public outreach office on Marshall Street. Hebert fielded a few hot questions and promised the 15-plus attendees that there will be more discussion.

The need to better manage the lot has been on NPA’s radar for years, she said.

“There are people who are going to Vets Park, parking all day” in Liberty Square, she said. “There are people that leave their car there for weeks or months. There are people in the surrounding areas, in the residences and the condos, who leave their car and park there, and with the Walk Bridge project coming up and Eversource (utility work), it’s critical that we better manage this parking lot.”

NPA’s takeover of the lot follows the Connecticut Department of Transportation’s taking of Goldstein Place property by eminent domain for use in the Walk Bridge project.  The state and City are now working to improve drainage in the area.  Installation of catch basins began this week, Senior Civil Engineer Vanessa Valadares explained.

The lot will be repaved and restriped, but ingress and egress will stay the same.  Plans include 58 regular parking spaces and three handicapped spaces, an additional light pole, and new landscaping.  Two pay stations will be installed.  The state will also consider adding a traffic light as part of the Walk Bridge project, Valadares said.  Work is expected to begin Sept. 24 and finish by the end of October.

Liberty Square’s lot will be closed for two weeks during that period, and temporary parking will be available at Veteran’s Park across the street.  A police officer will be on hand to help people cross the road, and one lane of Fort Point Street will be intermittently closed.

Dre Towey, who operates JAM (Junior Art & Music Inc.) in Liberty Square, asked if businesses there would have parking after work is complete.

“There will be monthly permits,” Hebert replied, meaning, “no.”

“As a business owner and as a resident of Liberty Square, we should have free access to parking,” Towey replied.

“We still have the problem of managing the parking lot,” Hebert said, “… where people are parking there all day, and months on end, and don’t move.”

Another woman asked if it was definite that the pay stations were going in.

The pay stations are going in, but the Parking Authority has to work out the management plan, Hebert said.  She added that the meeting was being held to get input.

“How good is our input?” a woman asked.

“They have already made up their minds,” a man said.

“Your input is very valuable,” Hebert replied.

Patsy Brescia, a real estate agent who is also the wife of Parking Authority Chairman Dick Brescia, said she has owned Liberty Square property for years.

People speed through, she said, and it’s “sometimes very scary” there as people are hanging out, drinking or taking drugs.

It’s also been “filthy all these years,” she said.

“It’s public property and private people are taking care of public property because nobody has stepped up to the plate to do it. If I were a tenant in there, and I came home in the dark, I would love to have some control so that this kind of people are not there and I can find a parking space.”  She noted that the City will improve drainage.

Dick Brescia said he has recused himself from all Parking Authority discussion about the issue.

Jackie Lightfield asked if there was a plan to provide mitigation to the businesses for loss of revenue during construction. Hebert said there isn’t.

Other queries included how the NPA takeover would affect parking at night for functions, the liquor store, trucks parking, and driveways off the road behind the building.  “People are parking there and nobody is enforcing anything so we need to come up with something that makes sense for all of these different uses and that is what we are going to do,” Hebert said.

4 comments

V September 13, 2018 at 11:30 am

What was the purpose of the meeting? By all accounts those at Liberty Square do not have a choice at all. They should’ve sent a flyer out with the new rules and regulations and just ended it without a false charade.

Wineshine September 14, 2018 at 8:30 am

What am I missing here? The precendent stated was a case of eminent domain. That’s not the case here though. This is a private lot, owned by a family member of the head of the NPA who recuses himself from the matter, being taken over by the city? The lot at East Norwalk station was policed by private security for years. Why wasn’t that done at Liberty Square? Why has the city inserted itself into a private matter? Where else is this done? My lawn has lots of crabgrass. Can DPW come on over and clear that up for me?

Debora Goldstein September 14, 2018 at 7:07 pm

Items like this are the reason our budget process needs fixing. Each year, departments bring requests for schemes like this to the City of Norwalk to get capital budget funds. They go before the Planning Commission, and the BET, and the Mayor works with all parties to develop a budget ask. Then the Common Council sets a cap, and the budget ask is “right-sized” to match what the cap is. There is also a public hearing.

Generally, the public hearing is sparsely attended, except for those who appear to ask that a particular item be funded. Lots of people show up to support band uniforms, or a particular park, or something in the way of school construction. Almost nobody shows up to speak to whether charging for parking at Liberty Square because they simply don’t know its been proposed.

So then you have a public information meeting on a project that is already planned and funded, and the input from the public is not really going to move the needle much.

I knew about the pay stations at Liberty Square because I attend the Capital Budget meetings. I spoke to folks that lived there and businesses there, and everybody seemed supportive of having the parking authority manage the lot. However, it is not clear now that they understood that they would be paying to park there too.

This item is exhibit A in support of reforming our budget process. Unless and until we get charter revision to fix this, folks are going to have to take the time to keep an eye on the budget each year. And if you don’t like something, say something at the public hearing.

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