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Milligan’s mural battle draws support

Jason Milligan’s Isaac Street mural on Thursday, after a visit from 5ivefingaz and his crew. (Jason Milligan)

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.”

The mural at 51 Isaac St., before it was covered. (Jason Milligan)

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.

The Tyvek covered artwork at 21 Isaac St. in October. The artwork is across the street from “POKO,” the Tyvek-covered stalled construction of Wall Street Place phase I.

“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.

Tagging by 5ivefingaz. (Jason Milligan)

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.

Wallerstein explained:

“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.”

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.”

A mural at 97 Wall St. on Thursday. (Jason Milligan)

A mural at 97 Wall St. in October, before owner Jason Milligan covered it with a tarp. (Jason Milligan)

28 comments

Adam Blank November 16, 2018 at 7:17 am

If Milligan were so warm at heart he would not have filed complaints against the other murals in town. Pretty pettty.

Jason Milligan November 16, 2018 at 7:55 am

Adam,

I complained of unfair and uneven zoning enforcement.

My Mill Hill mural was issued a zoning violation without zoning receiving a complaint. That is highly unusual. Several officials have stated that they need a formal complaint to issue a violation.

It is time to take artwork away from control of zoning.

You are a smart guy and former zoning chair. Why don’t you fix the regs?
Or lead us out of this situation?

BTW I am not sure anyone has suggested I was “warm at heart”.

M Murray November 16, 2018 at 8:47 am

Was a pretty petty use of a zoning violation on the part of the City as a vindictive measure and that one came back to bite them. Admit the mistake and fix it. If there are imajor issues with the whole project, deal with those. The mural was an improvement and the City wasn’t hay that he found an acceptable solution so they got nitpicky. Now they have to deal with the negative consequences.

Adam Blank November 16, 2018 at 9:10 am

Jason – As I think I’ve said before, I fully support changing the regulation to allow for larger murals – I don’t, support permitting murals that promote/advertise for businesses, i.e. commercial billboards/commercial speech. If, during my time on Zoning, anyone had come to us requesting a change in the reg’s relating to murals I would have happily supported it. But it was never raised as an issue. I just don’t think going after Valencia and O’Neils and trying to harm them was necessary.

Jason Milligan November 16, 2018 at 9:33 am

I am not trying to harm anyone!

I am trying desperately to improve the Wall St area with as many small steps as I can.

The City is doing everything they can to block my progress. They are taking unheard of steps and really flailing around. As they try to block and hurt me they end up hurting the city and they look like fools.

I love the murals around town! It would be a travesty if any of them are altered or removed, including the ones that were painted on my properties.

Did you see the before and after pictures?

Jason Milligan November 16, 2018 at 10:32 am

Quote of the day,
“We do not play favorites, negotiate back-door deals, or bend the rules for anyone.”

-Harry Rilling

perhaps he will take up comedy after his final term as mayor.

Jason Milligan November 16, 2018 at 10:39 am

Tommy D,

I was inspired to have the murals created by the other murals around town. I was not aware of any rules governing painting private property. A cursory check with some folks told me that you only needed Redevelopment approval if you were looking for grant money from them.

Surprise, painting a wall on private property is highly regulated, except it isn’t and hasn’t been.

They dredged up some rules from deep within the zoning regulations to apply against me that they have never applied against anyone else.

I am not looking to get anyone in trouble. I want rules to be changed and loosened. They are choking off progress.

The city would like to have me or other citizens take on the heavy lifting of filing for text changes and rewriting the rules. I am suggesting that the leaders should do it with input from the stakeholders.

I pointed to all of the beautiful murals around town and asking the city to find a way to make them legal!

Let’s not forget that it was Queen of the Arts Jackie Lightfield that lodged the first formal complaint against the artwork.

The good news is the Arts Commission is working on fixing the artwork regulations and zoning seems to be open.

Snitch No

A catalyst for positive change-hopefully.

carol November 16, 2018 at 10:45 am

jason you have every right to bring up other murals if only yours are being singled out.
keep up the pressure many are there for you.

V November 16, 2018 at 11:03 am

Tommy D,
The real Snitch was Lightfield who made the initial complaints against the murals by Mr Milligan. Now the question is why didn’t she also report/snitch on the murals in violation that Mr Milligan pointed out? I don’t defend Mr milligan because I think he has brought a lot of this onto himself with some very questionable decisions and behavior.

If Rilling et al are going to promote this bs sham/scam they should go after everyone fairly.

Tommy D November 16, 2018 at 12:21 pm

Ok V so Milligan was wronged. That gives him the right to drive around town locate other murals then go file a complaint against other Norwalk businesses? I know if I was one of those business people he informed on I wouldn’t be happy. He has a problem with city hall take them to court. But don’t go rat out other Norwalk businesses because you got pinched.

Rick November 16, 2018 at 12:27 pm

Adam not many see it your way, in fact social media not posted on NON outweighs your thoughts altogether. There are more moral that need yo be considered. Where you spend very little advocating for South Norwalk I assume you don’t realize its the whole city under attack and not just wall st.

Your comment is city hall talk please understand the silent majority is stronger than those handful out here talking about whats right and whats not.

I don’t see any solution from your corner on how to fix Wall st, isn’t this whats its all about moving the city foreword with back {…} resentment.

Trying to garnish support from others to adopt the city policies is somewhat lame, your comments other places have produced vulgarity against the mere fact you don’t work for us you work for them.

Try a new approach try some thoughtful contribution, who is not so say we want more murals larger and more intense and not what you think would be best for a city who had enough with the commissions in the city.

Try telling us why new sidewalks on South main all the way to the new planned six story high rises that will push more old timers out of the city, while Grasso and others are cleaning up ? These sidewalks were functional .

While mothers push strollers on no sidewalks in other parts of the city have to fend for themselves.

Your time on any board can come under the glass and be questioned on many decisions you have made on our behalf just like Mike and jACKIE’s.

Your not one of South Norwalk favorites according to the social media pages anyways. Right now important people in Norwalk are not taken seriously anymore look at Wall st and many other areas where planning zoning and others have trashed both parties and taken on a higher eg to produce change that has been inconsiderate to those the boards have served.

Edited to remove a vulgarity. https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/comment-guidelines/

Rick November 16, 2018 at 1:11 pm

Jason issues are our issues , support is now growing taxpayer money is now spent on fighting the taxpayers and not just one man on Wall st.

Jason is not alone , ratting people out seems over the top , even the Hour has got involved we are now waiting for 12 to come around , this is not a selective fight by no means.

Adam needs to tell us his thoughts on legal expense he seems to know what it costs to fight city hall? The cost of fighting the city has become a sport , Rillling needs to tell us what the legal expense has been this year with issues like Cumberland farms assisted living and sober homes and yes the Firetree case where they were asking for a million dollars in one case alone.

Contributions from law firms is at a all time high to Norallk politicians kitties explain that?

Now they want to dredge the upper river so the new bridge will accommodate ferries and we are all to think what mayor i has it all under control?

This mural issues keeps everyone away from the real issues city hall is playing a shell game with.

The customer service dept in Norwalk tells us they are working on fixing the email going to the all the counsel members the box was full shooting back undelivered responses, when have you ever heard of a email mailbox was full?

Lets all complain write the counsel let them know we are not happy , Im told emails are public on the record let Livingston and others know we are not happy.

Adam Blank November 16, 2018 at 1:33 pm

Rick – I’ve read your comments a number of times and other than picking up generalized anger I don’t understand what point you are trying to make. It seems like you are saying I don’t care about South Norwalk, but maybe I’m just not following your comments?

But so we are clear, in the past couple years I’ve coordinated very sizeable donations to the Maritime, made countless donations to other SoNo nonprofits, sent my daughter to school at Columbus Magnet and serve as one of its PTA presidents where, in large part, we raise funds to provide financial assistance to SONO (and other) Norwalk children in need. However, I agree I can do more for SONO – which is why a number of months back I took a position as a board member on the new SONO Community Center. I don’t care whether or not I’m the most popular on social media and I’m certain there are many great people out there doing more than me, but don’t I take offense at the suggestion that I don’t care about SoNo.

M Murray November 16, 2018 at 1:39 pm

So has Anyone contacted Jackie Lightfield for a comment as to why she felt the need to file a complaint against the artwork? And why this specific artwork?

Gypsy November 16, 2018 at 2:42 pm

I’m curious to know why Mr. Milligan is being consistently targeted. Is it because he bought these properties? From what I’ve been reading and hearing, it seems to me that he’s only trying to do good for Norwalk and make the town a better place to live in. Instead of fighting him, City Hall ought to be bending backwards to work with him in this endeavor. The entire thing smacks of City Hall cronyism and I find it personally abhorrent. Believe me, people will remember the actions of the city the next time the people involved come up for reelection.

Rick November 16, 2018 at 2:53 pm

SONO Community Center.is a great subject to tackle, its obvious that was slipped in and done before facts were digested . You will go on record and state its a clean pollution free site for children and elderly and workers to continue such great work? Don’t say your going by what was presented by the city , clearly the city forgot some studies that would of been concern to those advocating for the city.

This is about people , my anger is not unique in the city , I just bring it on in a way that serves the taxpayers and not the city.

I shot from the hip we are working on major issues some caused by city hall right now, others we have made sure make the media for now city hall is way out of control and someone has to take responsibility .I should give you more respect but no one has given us any a poor way of communication on my part .

You don’t have to do more you need to understand who the victims are and the mistakes that have transpired , Its not money anymore that can fix things its reaching out and vetting accusations to see if mistakes have been made.

Social media has taken on a new role , its not who likes who its bringing facts to table.

I just don’t think going after Valencia and O’Neils and trying to harm them was necessary.I don’t think Jason was the only one who thought tihs was necessary. Jason wants a bakery i doubt if he would take credit for sliced bread.

You don’t get it , war was declared take a side like everyone else. I had them touching up the mural on Ct ave went AP and now again Norwalk looks childish . The mall won’t want a mural on its building?

You want to take a tour someday South Norwalk has plenty of forgotten ills along with some real health issues that are not going away. ,

What made my knee jerk reaction was the fact you think Jason is some ringleader , I met him once and told him no warned him stand in line we were here first . There is building in South Norwalk that not on the list and the owners are terrified that the city will now target them they have van covering the mural , its sad after a few shootings they have too worry about art.

The South Norwalk we know is not full of great stories its a rundown neglected part of the city thats fine as long as it keeps it mouth shut.

Homeless and drug overdoes is now on our plate not Wall st.

Rick November 16, 2018 at 3:34 pm

Norwalk Arts Commission Chairwoman Susan Wallerstein was at vets park when I told the artist that installed the art in the park about the contamination at vets park itself. Ive stayed in touch with her a real nice artist and her husband are also environmentalists Should we stop adding sculpture and art to our parks until they are cleaned up? New rules maybe? Maybe thats why no military monument at vets park maybe?

We also have contaminated soil reports on dug up soil at vets park docks yet allowed to be put back at waters edge in to match the contamination still on its banks. Where was the concern with Eversource and the bridge work?

Needless to say I provided some DEEP paper work on vets park to them the artist and her husband they thanked me, and was taken back by the lack of transparency the city provides. It was dated years ago.

The art work at Ryan Park is gone , in fact that park was to be finished before Spinnaker moved in yet new rentals come with no basketball court under the new windows, Himes came to deliver the goods feet way from people living with squatters and rats . No park for the kids is not a great thing for the kids is it? The taxpayers were lied to money cant fix a kids park even in Norwalk.

Who ever thought Jason is behind a mass campaign out to get businesses in the city ,figure out first who has been screwed the most. The line wraps around city hall twice.

This mural thing is out of Jason hands we have artists and those who enjoy art involved , a friend Sidewalk Sam his work was lost sometime hours after he did it but not by Harry it was rain and god who decided if it stayed or went not city hall, shame he cant be part of this mural fight. But his work will live on.

http://sidewalksam.com

Mitch Adis November 16, 2018 at 4:24 pm

Let’s not forget Jackie Lightfield started this. I wonder where she is? Haven’t heard from her since she lied about making the complaint to P&Z.

EnoPride November 16, 2018 at 6:14 pm

Love this Milligan quote:

“Surprise, painting a wall on private property is highly regulated, except it isn’t and hasn’t been.'”

Thank you, Mr. Milligan, for pointing out the double standards and inconsistencies of how P&Z functions.

If only slumlord operated, blighted, multifamily buildings with questionable fire hazard wires running atangle down the side exterior, several satellite dishes, and cars and commercial trucks all over the front yard and taking up all the parking spaces on the street, were so highly regulated.

Rick November 17, 2018 at 9:36 am

Adam will you go on record and state the SONO Community Center is a clean pollution free site for children and elderly and workers to continue such great work?

Paperwork from the RDA shows no evidence the site is clean. it does suggest the lot is dirty until testing is done .

generalized anger is pushing this issue Adam.

Bujji November 17, 2018 at 12:56 pm

Question for the Zoning and what-have-you people –
If the issue with Milligan and the others in violation is murals promoting businesses and the mural taking up more than 50% of the wall space is the issue then wouldn’t this apply –

Drive by the Jesse Lee memorial rock on the island where Main & Route 1 meet. There’s a free standing substation for electrical purposes. It is COMPLETELY painted 100%. Its a structure so do the same rules apply? If so, you got to write it up too!

Rick November 19, 2018 at 10:02 am

Asam 6500 email attachments went out linking this article to those in Norwalk some who also have done a great deal for Norwalk , some have emailed me letting me know they too support Jason and thank Nancy for her journalism over the weekend. Seems a lot of taxpayers and residents share my generalized anger as well.

I will remind you again social media along with top notch journalism may be the normal path when it comes to deliberate city hall interference by members past and present to be called out on poor decisions and continues support of city halll.

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