Updated, 8:55 a.m.: Copy edits
NORWALK, Conn. – The mural at 97 Wall St. may need to be painted over, real estate broker Jason Milligan said Thursday.
In more pleasant news for Milligan, the artist calling himself 5ivefingaz on Wednesday used stencils to leave his “little two cents” on the tarps covering two of Milligan’s murals. The spray-painted messages “Art is not a crime” and “Censored” express disapproval about the potential removal of that mural, and others.
“The politicians, realtors and whoever else is Involved should have a sit down meeting to resolve this unfortunate situation,” 5ivefingaz wrote on Instagram. “… The artists who created the murals and everyone that enjoys looking at the commissioned pieces should not have to be caught in the middle of a dispute.”
Milligan has been pressuring the Planning and Zoning Department to issue a permit to “Mr. Mango,” a man who has been selling smoothies out of a van, to open at 91 Wall St. Zoning violations at the property have been a stumbling block; the violation for an auto repair business in the back end of the building has been cleared up, but the mural on the side, depicting Mill Hill, is still an issue, Milligan said.
Planning and Zoning said the tarp covering the mural is not satisfactory, Milligan said.
“They would prefer Tyvek,” Milligan said.
An email sent at 3:39 p.m. to Planning and Zoning Director Steven Kleppin, Zoning Inspector John Hayducky, Mayor Harry Rilling and Norwalk Chief of Staff Laoise King yielded no information, as no one responded.
Milligan is embroiled in a legal dispute with the City and the Redevelopment Agency, fighting a lawsuit challenging his purchase of “POKO” phase II and III properties, including 97 Wall St. The lawsuit alleges that Milligan has used “sham” companies to transfer properties in a violation of their Land Disposition Agreement (LDA); Milligan maintains that he bought the properties to force action on the stalled Wall Street Place development and “get business cranking.”
Milligan said Thursday that Mr. Mango has been issued the permit he needed to begin the process of opening in the storefront. Mr. Mango has installed a sink in compliance with Health Department rules but will need additional permits from the law department, the Fire Department, the Health Department, the Conservation Commission, the Department of Public Works (for the disposal of grease) and the Building Department, according to Milligan, who decried the process as cumbersome for a small business person, part of the reason storefronts are vacant.
If the mural turns out to be a stumbling block for Mr. Mango, it will be painted over, Milligan said.
In that event, “They better start fining other people,” Milligan said.
Milligan filed complaints on other non-compliant Norwalk murals, on the side of Valencia restaurant on Main Street, the Post Road Diner on Connecticut Avenue and O’Neill’s Pub.
P&Z has reportedly notified Valencia and the Post Road Diner that the murals are in violation of the Zoning regulations because they cover more than half of the walls they are painted on. This carries a $150 a day fine, although the murals have existed for years.
“They are going to have to figure something out to make those comply,” Milligan said. “The Arts Commission is talking to (the City).”
Milligan expressed doubt that a permanent solution will be reached before Mr. Mango is ready to open his business but said he’s hoping for a moratorium.
Norwalk Arts Commission Chairwoman Susan Wallerstein said Thursday that discussions are underway.
“At its November meeting, members of the Arts Commission agreed to explore best practices for promoting, supporting and maintaining quality public art including murals. We expect this will lead to recommendations about how Norwalk might amend existing regulations and/or develop new ones. Our ongoing efforts include a request to Connecticut Conference of Municipalities and ongoing conversations with all stakeholders.”
A petition posted in October by the Wall Street Neighborhood Association in support of “wall art” is up to 812 signatures.
“I visit Norwalk a lot and love all the beautiful murals ! Let them stay better to have beauty than vandalizing graffiti,” Barbara Grey wrote on the petition Thursday.
“The art gives character to the neighborhood,” Roseann Sedita wrote Tuesday. “Many cities have art on their buildings and it is both appreciated and enjoyed by residents and visitors.”