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Norwalk to Citibank: Fix blight or pay $100 a day

The Tyvek-wrapped Wall Street Place I, as seen from Mill Hill on July 28.

Moldy conditions in Wall Street Place, as shown by John Mallozzi in his Aug. 6 report to Norwalk officials.

NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk has issued a blight warning letter concerning the deteriorating condition of  “POKO Phase I,” a stalled Wall St. redevelopment project.

Municipal Holdings LLC, which is owned by Citibank, will be subject to a $100 a day fine if the blight condition at 61-65 Wall St. is not corrected by Oct. 18, Norwalk Chief Building Official Bill Ireland wrote in the Sept. 18 notice of blight.

Ireland’s letter, which he provided to NancyOnNorwalk on Friday, noted mold and rot, stagnant water, vegetation, and construction issues.  The list:

 

1. Health and Safety

  • Fire walls on exterior are not complete
  • Stagnant water in the interior and exterior of the building
  • Water entering the building causing mold and possible rotting of structural membranes
  • Joist and truss hangers are not in accordance with manufacturing specifications
  • Various unprotected openings throughout the building
  • Overgrown vegetation

 

2. Lacking Adequate Maintenance

  • Missing windows, doors, siding and other possible exterior coverings
  • Rotted floors
  • Accumulation of outdoor storage in public view
  • Accumulation of junk and trash on property
  • Structure is accessible: no doors
  • Property accessible: gates & portions of fence

 

“These conditions are seriously depreciating property values in the Neighborhood because of its poorly maintained conditions: the conditions need to be corrected so that it reflects the level of upkeep of the surrounding premises and properties,” Ireland wrote.

Conditions in Wall Street Place, as shown by John Mallozzi in his Aug. 8 report to Norwalk officials.

The property, recently dubbed the “Tyvek Temple”, is the uncompleted building officially known as Wall Street Place Phase I.  Citibank acquired ownership through a deed-in-lieu transfer, a friendly foreclosure on the construction loan it issued to POKO Partners, the original developer.  Citibank has been in discussions with City and Redevelopment Agency officials in attempts to restart the project.  The bank has lined up John and Todd McClutchy of JHM Group as its preferred developer for a restart but has not yet moved forward in the approval process.

Ireland accompanied John Mallozzi, P.E., Todd McClutchy of JHM Group and five representatives of Viking Construction on an Aug. 6 inspection of 61 Wall St., according to documents he provided to NancyOnNorwalk on Friday.  The City had sought the inspection for months, with discussions going back to December, according to emails provided by Ireland.

Wall Street Place inspection report 18-0808

 

Mallozzi found that at least 90 percent of the Simpson Joist/Truss hangers were not installed according to the manufacturer’s specifications, with less nails than needed to “achieve the rated capacity of the unit,” the Aug. 8 report states.  Some of the trusses have been cut, and an engineering report will be needed, he wrote.

Conditions in Wall Street Place, as shown by John Mallozzi in his Aug. 8 report to Norwalk officials.

Other comments concern water entering the building and mold conditions.

“Based on the findings of this report I will issue a ‘Do not enter’ order for the property,” Norwalk Fire Chief Gino Gatto wrote to Ireland on Sept. 13. “Please continue to secure all doors leading into the structure. A vacant building in disrepair is not worth a firefighter’s life.”

Construction on Wall Street Place ended in spring of 2016, Ireland wrote in one of his emails.

The building was wrapped in Tyvek in late 2016, to protect it from the elements.

“The report I have from Dupont explains how Tyvek can only be exposed for 270 days and then must be replaced before applying a new layer and the siding,” Ireland wrote in an Aug. 8 email.

“The wrap used is a commercial grade-type and has a nine-month life before being covered with wall finish. The time allotted has expired for quite a while and it is still exposed,” Mallozzi wrote in his report.

Ireland on July 20 walked through the building.  In a report to Mayor Harry Rilling, Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Tim Sheehan, Corporation Counsel Mario Coppola, Assistant to the Mayor Laoise King and Planning and Zoning Director Steven Kleppin, he noted that the building was not watertight, the plywood flooring were delaminating and “beyond saving,” and there was “a strong presence of mold.”

Conditions in Wall Street Place, as shown by John Mallozzi in his Aug. 8 report to Norwalk officials.

Rilling on July 22 told Ireland that a written report was needed after his next inspection.

“We would then have a meeting to discuss what must be done to correct structural deficiencies to protect the asset,” Rilling wrote.

Coppola first suggested blight enforcement on Feb. 8, after Ireland reported that the Tyvek wrap was starting to blow off and asked if Citibank could be contacted and told to have it repaired.

“Also my request to inspect the interior has never happened, could you please see if access will be granted,” Ireland wrote in the Feb. 8 email.

Assistant Corporation Counsel Diane Beltz-Jacobson wrote in a Feb. 8 email to Ireland, Sheehan, Coppola and King that Citibank had not replied to a Dec. 7 certified letter requesting access to the building so an inspection could be done.

“{T}he question is how do we get the bank to respond and comply?” she wrote.

“I suggest that we inform Citibank and the developer that we will not conduct a meeting with the developer until Citibank grants the City access to inspect the interior,” Coppola replied. “Futhermore, Citibank and the developer should be informed that the current condition of the property where the Tyvek wrap is beginning to fall off the building is a violation of the City’s blight ordinance.  Therefore, if the owner fails to promptly fix this problem, the City’s Blight Prevention Officer will commence the blight enforcement process, which includes issuance of a citation (fine) for a $150 per day penalty.”

In another document provided by Ireland, Norwalk Permit Engineer Tom Little wrote to Viking Construction on May 2 to request that Isaac Street be restored to the state it was in before construction began.

“This includes the establishment of a 6” bituminous curb line the length of the property while maintaining approximately a 29’ to 32’ roadway as designated on the attached map,” Little wrote.

Ireland said Saturday that Municipal Holdings LLC has not responded to the blight warning letter.  The company can apply for a 30-day extension.  Rilling, King and Coppola did not respond to a request for comment on the letter and on the requested restoration of Isaac Street.

 

Issac Street Modifications (4-27-18)[1]

Notice of Blight Warning to Citibank 18-0918

 

ireland email 4-26-18

Ireland email 8-8-18

Ireland email 8-8-18

 

 

Detail of a request sent by the Norwalk Department of Public Works to Viking Construction on May 2.

13 comments

Milly October 1, 2018 at 6:55 am

This 1/4 built building needs to be torn down and returned to a much needed parking lot. I have seen for years now all the pooled water laying under it (mosquito haven) what a mess!

Harold Cobin October 1, 2018 at 6:55 am

Bill Ireland — Based on its rate of deterioration, if left in its current state, how long will the building remain structurally sound?

Jason Milligan October 1, 2018 at 7:00 am

It is about time!

10 months after a certified letter from the law department. That letter was sent last December just when the law dept was negotiating a non disclosure agreement.

Thank you Bill Ireland.

When are we going to demand the 100 temporary parking spaces owed to the public?

Reopen Isaac as 2 way?

Christine M. October 1, 2018 at 11:11 am

So they say they’re going to fine Citibank…will they really, like with the Duleep building? That was fined for years, but not a dollar was collected, correct?

Rick October 1, 2018 at 11:35 am

If the city was concerned about parking open the garage up and give us free parking and back charge city bank .

If they were really concerned about parking that would stop the towing and excessive parking ticket handouts that is seen daily in the police log.

This is about the parking tickets and garage fees, its about the mayors not listening to the problems, its abut Norwalks legal team not listening to the taxpayers.

I cant imagine losing the hospital thrift store was a blessing, that brought in foot traffic no matter how bad it got.

This all points back to city hall and those who think the city is run well.

Based on the findings of this report I will issue a ‘Do not enter’ order for the property,” Norwalk Fire Chief Gino Gatto wrote to Ireland on Sept. 13. “Please continue to secure all doors leading into the structure. A vacant building in disrepair is not worth a firefighter’s life.”

talk about deflecting problems, its been said the Y on west ave is worst, lets talk some fact enough of the BS.

How many do not enter structures does Norwalk have? Lets not let one building on Wall st take all the spotlight.

There are issues with the old Y including mold and trespassing and much more to burn than wall st. Usually a building like the Y gets walk thru and with whats been said no one is allowed inside for just a building check. They say the structure has failed with water thru the roof.

Odd how things are done in Norwalk when it comes to gas leaks fire suppression and coverage of the city. I not talking from experience Im talking from observation. Firefighters need new equipment new stations is not the only remedy.

The hydrant in front of wall st in question does it work? What is the operating pressure just curious? Its been thru a few winters and the stem could be frozen or snapped.

Trust me the fire dept finds broken hydrants and its usually when your grabbing it to lay a feeder line in. The one next to the mall perfect example was fire dept went to use it and it was broken. I haven’t seen this hydrant can the water dept actually get to it and check it?

Not seeing the whole letter from Fire Chief Gino Gatto does it address the hydrants operating condition? That would be important along with the ones near the old Y. Quick check to see if they have been opened would tell you someone knows maybe paint seal would be broken as visual inspection.

With raising the streets around Day even by inches , I asked people in charge if the fire dept had enough room to hook up to some of the old hydrants.Bring the sidewalk up around old hydrants could a problem, their faces showed it was a complex question to answer as concern grew.

It shouldn’t be like this and the people in charge should know this.

Dorothy Mobilia October 1, 2018 at 12:23 pm

This is a desperate and shameful situation. Why is this end of Wall Street being ignored? I spoke with a long-time commercial resident of that street more than two years ago, someone whose family had been there for years and knew the vibrant community it once was, and he asked, “Why doesn’t anyone care?” I couldn’t answer him then, and today the public only hears about developers’ challenges and city lawsuits against them.
Nancy, this is the first real story about that building’s deterioration–will something real come out of this? History books tell us this was once a thriving heart of Norwalk. In 1914, just a year after Norwalk was consolidated, Wall Street from Smith St. to West Ave., had well over 100 small and large businesses, from newspaper offices to realtors, lawyers, dentists, lunchrooms, importers, shoe stores, milliners, clothing stores, banks, a hotel and an inn, and yes, residents.
As we know, many municipalities attract residents, businesses and visitors to their historic and inviting “old towns” while embracing newcomers in market-rate venues. We need the balance and affordable living for the rest of us as well. We can do both.

Ann sal October 1, 2018 at 1:28 pm

Give us back the parking lot. We don’t need land coverage everywhere. Nothing wrong with open space parking lot. Put a few Planters in to Dress It Up.

Yvonne Lopaur October 1, 2018 at 7:25 pm

What is the reason this situation has been ignored for so long? These conditions did not happen overnight!

Jason Milligan October 1, 2018 at 8:43 pm

It was a bad plan from the start. Too complicated. Too much government money and restrictions from too many different agencies.

When it failed nobody knew how to solve it. Lot’s of people waiting for someone to save the day.

1 person stepped up and acted bravely. Rather than being embraced he is being treated as the bad guy and scapegoat.

He is me. The are lots of ways to solve this mess.

Step 1 finally just happened, which is to put pressure on Citibank.

Step 2 is to put one person at City hall in charge. Preferably Tim sheehan or Steve Kleppin. Definitely not Mario.

Then negotiation should happen.

EnoPride October 2, 2018 at 11:48 am

Wow! Some progress! Hoping the city is building up a case to sue Citibank and hold them accountable for demolishing the structure. Then I’ll be curious to see if after all this debacle, the City planners are going to put the same type of development there. If they do, I will have lost all faith in this group for their lack of big picture vision. I hope they have a change of heart and redevelop with a scale appropriate layout that brings in more businesses to bolster the others there and has the business owners and residents in mind. We need creative vision here.

Hope the powers that be recognize the potential of that spot to be a cultural enclave, and have a plan drawn up as a gift to Garden Cinemas and Pontus Taverna and to Norwalk taxpayers. Ironworks Sono courtyard comes to mind as inspiration. An inviting public space enclave with fountain and/or outdoor sculpture surrounded by restaurants, bakery/coffee shop (Incentivize to get that talented lady from Norwalk who won Cake Wars on TV and who has store in Stratford to be one of your businesses – she would be a gem to the area and a good business near a great restaurant and an indie movie house), art galleries, instead of a massive block of a building which swallows up precious space and brings no commerce or outdoor social gathering. A microchasm Innovation District if you will. People flock to those types of layouts. An appropriately scaled parking lot could easily go in there too. Seems like a no brainer to me. Wake up, City Hall! Don’t let the vision get swallowed up! Honor the POCD Survey input from your very engaged residents and make the right choice for your Innovation District!

Reasonable Doubt October 3, 2018 at 3:25 pm

While that level of fine might be effective on a home owner. Not sure $100 a day fine will even be noticed by Citibank.

Maybe the City should consider increasing the fine to be commensurate with the size of the property. As it stands its a burden for the little guy and a nuisance, at best, to the big guy.

City Hall – is anyone awake up there?

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