Norwalk notes: Lawsuit concern, Brinton slams Rilling, RIP Jackie Steiner

Wall Street Neighborhood Association Chairwoman Nancy McGuire listens to Norwalk Director of Community Development Planning Tami Strauss (not shown) explain a revision to the Wall Street/West Avenue Redevelopment Plan, last week in City Hall.

Updated, 11:02 a.m.: Copy edits, revised headline

NORWALK, Conn. – Some noteworthy Norwalk items:

  • WSNA warns of possible litigation over Wall-West plan
  • Brinton slams Rilling over proposed budget
  • Jacqueline Steiner, 1924-2019


Wall Street leader believes plan will ‘most likely be legally challenged’

The Wall Street Neighborhood Association (WSNA) in January sent Common Council members a letter objecting to the proposed Wall Street/West Avenue Redevelopment Plan. The letter strongly objected to the plan’s declaration that area “blight” justified the existence of a plan.  Since then, the plan has been revised to say that “deteriorated or deteriorating,” buildings justify the plan.

“(WSNA) believes that the Plan, based on flawed inputs resulting in questionable conclusions, will most likely be legally challenged, drawing Norwalk into litigation and further putting our businesses and properties at risk of avoidable mistakes,” the Association wrote. “We believe it is the obligation of the Plan’s authors to present a Plan with accurate data and Blight determinations, and that there should be ample time for the community to review any revisions.”

WSNA Chairwoman Nancy McGuire explained to NancyOnNorwalk that the Association is “absolutely not contemplating a law suit.”

“The association has concerns about the new plan including the possibility of legal challenges,” she wrote on Feb. 4. “Sloppy planning can have negative consequences which Wall Street has experienced firsthand. WSNA wants the boards and commissions to make sure extra care is taken before moving forward with anything that would affect Wall Street. There are 205 property owners whose properties have been too casually characterized as blighted without any inspection or evidence. Any single owner who feels aggrieved by NRA actions/inactions in the plan area can and may take legal action.”

Common Council members on Thursday briefly considered the revised plan, which they had just received, and planned to continue their discussions at their March meeting, after studying it. The plan is tentatively scheduled for a vote on approving it and sending it to the full Council; if the Council approves it, it would go to the Redevelopment Agency.

WSNA in January wrote:

“The Wall Street Neighborhood Association (“WSNA”) is not opposed to many of the themes of the Plan, although it believes that a broad CBD zoning designation with 8-story maximum heights will promote assemblages such as POKO and put historic properties at significant risk.

“WSNA also believes that the plan will permanently enshrine more unnecessary regulatory hurdles rather than reduce them. This alone is a barrier to innovation and therefore the WSNA suggests that no agency oversight authority unless it is required under city ordinance.”




Rilling: ‘It’s common practice’

Unaffiliated Mayoral candidate Lisa Brinton on Tuesday took to at least two venues to criticize Democratic Mayor Harry Rilling for the proposed use of $6 million in Rainy Day Funds in the 2019-20 Operating Budget.

The recommended budget was unveiled Monday at the Board of Estimate and Taxation meeting. On NancyOnNorwalk’s story about the budget, Brinton left this comment:

“I don’t necessarily have a problem using the Rainy Day fund to address a ‘one time’ capital’ budget issue – but using it for operating expenses to cushion the tax blow ‘or lower taxes’ during an election year is a joke. The BOE budget crisis will resume next year and as it has since my children started in 2004.”


Rilling wrote to NancyOnNorwalk:

“It is common practice to use the fund balance to help keep taxes as low as possible. We’ve done it before and so have previous administrations. I have no idea why she would be unaware of that. In fact her current campaign treasurer recommended drawing down the fund balance by a significantly larger amount just last year. Maybe she should ask him for clarification.”


Brinton’s treasurer is Republican Board of Education member Bryan Meek.

Brinton also commented on Facebook:

“Tax credits for friends and now a Rainy Day Fund raid, to ‘reduce’ taxes during an election year? 😆Homeowners, regardless of your political affiliation, it’s time to call Harry out on this. He has wasted millions, grown the school poverty rate and is now day trading Norwalk’s future for personal gain. For Norwalk’s former Top Cop, this borders on criminal. Please wake up Norwalk!!”


Rilling declined to comment. NoN emailed Brinton and asked how Rilling has “wasted millions;” she did not reply.

The Council is considering tax breaks in connection with the Wall Street/West Avenue Neighborhood Plan. This was formerly called an “Innovation District” but is now being crafted as a Real Estate Tax Agreement Ordinance for the Wall Street-West Avenue Neighborhood Plan. The Council would have jurisdiction over awarding tax breaks.



Norwalker Jacqueline Steiner, co-writer of ‘Charlie on the MTA,’ dies at 94

Jacqueline Steiner, who was active in the Norwalk Branch NAACP, died Jan. 25 at the age of 94.

Steiner’s passing was noted in the New York Times and Boston Globe, which reported that she “wrote most of the lyrics in 1949 for what is popularly known as ‘Charlie on the MTA,’ a song made famous by the Kingston Trio,” and considered the song a “toss-off, an occasional song that would soon be forgotten.”

Steiner lived in Norwalk since 1980 and died here of pneumonia, the Globe reported. Norwalk Fair Housing Officer Margaret Suib, Norwalk Branch NAACP secretary, sent an email last week with the links to the two articles.

Manhattan-born Steiner and the song’s co-writer, Bess Lomax Hawes, dashed off “Charlie on the MTA” for a Boston mayoral candidate in 1949, expecting it to fade after the election, the Times reported.

“Her father was a clothing retailer, her mother a telephone operator. Her parents divorced when Jackie, as she was known, was a toddler, and two aunts and sometimes her mother raised her, mostly in Greenwich Village,” the Times reported.

The Connecticut NAACP in 2010 gave Steiner the Roy Wilkins Award for Leadership, and in 2012 she won a Clara Lemlich Award for social activism.

“From 1946 to 1948, she was executive secretary of the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee/Spanish Refugee Appeal in Boston,” the Labor Arts website states. “…Back in New York in 1950, Steiner joined People’s Artists, sang folk and protest music, and was involved in protesting the imprisonment and then the tragic and unjust execution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg in 1953.  In the 1960s, Steiner devoted herself to peace and civil rights issues, participating in the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in August, 1963.  She worked with Westchester Women for Peace (a part of Women Strike for Peace) to protest the Vietnam War, and in 1967 released an album, ‘No More War,’ in which she sang 12 original anti-war songs.”


Jason Milligan February 13, 2019 at 8:10 am

Hopefully another lawsuit won’t be necessary.

If it is, there are currently 8 plaintiffs and growing that own property in the proposed Redevelopment Plan area that will have an injunction lawsuit ready.

A Redevelopment Plan Area grants extraordinary power and control to an unelected, and largely unaccountable agency. Property owners in the area will not stand for shaky conclusions drawn by questionable (fraudulent) consulting work.

Especially since a new Redevelopment Plan is 5 years ahead of schedule. RDA plans must be refreshed or recertified every 10 years. It was last updated in 2014, and before that 2004.


The POCD plan for Norwalk is also due every 10 years. The last POCD plan came out in 2008. The “People’s Plan” is the more important plan that is actually due now. Also, any redevelopment plan must comply with the POCD plan, not the other way around.

Why is this new, ahead of schedule RDA plan being raced ahead of the POCD plan that is on schedule or slightly late?

Having 2 concurrent plans has caused unecessary confusion and plan fatigue. How can the average person keep it all straight especially when you add in the Innovation District Plan or whatever the rebranded namme is?

One might wonder if the confusion was deliberately caused?

Patrick Cooper February 13, 2019 at 9:44 am

So, the mayor wrote to Nancy and said – “it is common practice”. Why not last year? Why “wrote”. Why not have a discussion (face to face, skype, etc) – hear his voice – ask the questions – record the response. That way it’s authentically his response.


Why did he reference this Rainy-Day fund debate from last year – and tell Lisa to ask “Brian”? I believe last year – Brian was an advocate for this approach – and it was the mayor who said – NO. It wasn’t acceptable, last year. With the shoe clearly on the other foot – why the flip flop? ASK the question please – what is the difference – this year?

Again – the spin is 2.3 for one time – but that still leaves 3.7m for “operating expenses” (ongoing). Exactly what he was against.

Lee Levey February 13, 2019 at 10:39 am

Jackie was my neighbor here in Silvermine and over the years I got to know her fairly well. We would talk as we retrieved our mail, or over the stone wall. She was a wonderful woman; intelligent, musical, very quick witted and as you might expect political. I know that I will miss her and know that many others that she touched will also.

Bryan Meek February 13, 2019 at 10:59 am

My concerns about the growing Fund balance were documented to show I believed the money should be invested in the city or returned to taxpayers. Governor Malloy’s OPM chief had a target on these during the last state budget crisis. We need to have a reasonable amount and right now we are even over our own proscribed (and ridiculously conservative) policy. We’ve had some grant funding reduced in each of the last two years. They may say it doesn’t factor into consideration, but cities without healthy fund balances are getting more grants while ours either get cut or barely keep up with inflation and population growth. As noted before the tentative plan for funding one time items for the school budget seems to be a reasonable use. And if you take the new Governor at his word about cutting more funding for building schools, we may end up spending it on the school buildings we need desperately need to build.

Sherelle Harris February 13, 2019 at 10:33 pm

Thank you for the post about Jackie Steiner. When I moved to Norwalk it was people like Jackie Steiner, Otha Brown, Dennis Bradbury, Marianela Medrano, Rev. Richard Stenhouse (Bethel AME), Isabel Espinal, et al. who made Norwalk a beautiful place to be. These folk were strong in their own cultures, but mixed with others effortlessly. I thrived in that atmosphere. I was not personal friends with Jackie, but she was always the same when I saw her: Warm, welcoming, open, honest and plain smart. She was committed to good causes and stayed on the right side of issues with strength. I think what I admired most about Jackie was that she stayed ready to support the oppressed or the wronged. Perhaps it was because she didn’t forget what her own ancestors endured. Rest in peace, Jackie. Norwalk was graced by your presence.

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