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Commitee vote sends Wall Street Place plan to full Council

A rendering of the plan for Wall Street Place, referred to by many as “POKO.”

Wall Street Place, otherwise known as “POKO,” as seen from Isaac Street on April 12.

Updated, 9:45 a.m.: Correction, Melendez is a member of the committee, and did vote.

NORWALK, Conn. — Controversial plans to restart a stalled development in Norwalk’s center are one step closer to approval after a Common Council  committee sent the proposal to the full council for consideration.

The 5-1-1 vote of the Common Council’s Planning Committee followed robust public comment on the plans to finish “POKO,” questioning of the developers, and review of proposed changes to a draft agreement which, if approved, would govern how the development proceeds.

“Something has to be done there. You can’t leave the building the way it is,” Common Council member George Tsiranides (D-District D), one of the yes voters, said afterwards.  “I think there’s enough variety (in the proposed agreement), where we still have to say, it’s not just giving (the developer) carte blanche.”

Council President Tom Livingston (D-District E) was the lone no vote. “It’s a combination of the design and I don’t think the agreement is ready for prime time,” Livingston said after the meeting.  He added that he wasn’t satisfied with some of the answers to his questions on both issues.

“POKO,” of course, is the partially-built Tyvek-wrapped block of a building on the corner of Isaac and Wall Streets, originally conceived as a 101 apartments, 30-40% of which would have been affordable, atop a former municipal parking lot.  The original developer began construction, but ran short of funds and later died.  Lender Citibank took control and has selected John and Todd McClutchy of JHM Group, to come up with a proposal to complete the unfinished structure as 100% affordable housing, so as to gain funding through Low Income Housing Tax Credits.

Tuesday’s hearing concerned the proposed changes to the Land Disposition Agreement and Loan Recognition Agreement, documents that govern Citibank’s relationship with the City and Redevelopment Agency over the land. If those changes are approved, the proposal would then go to the Zoning Commission and the Redevelopment Agency.

Roughly 25 speakers addressed the Committee, before an audience of about 70 in a full Council chambers.  Three spoke in favor of the project, citing a need for affordable housing.  Three said the affordable component was OK but urged changes to the development’s appearance to better fit the area’s historic character.  Six spoke primarily in favor of saving the Garden Cinemas from the wrecking ball, and 14 urged the committee to reject the proposal outright.

Brenda Penn-Williams, head of Norwalk’s NAACP, spoke in favor of the project, which will consist of apartments for individuals and households earning 40%, 60%, and 80% of Area Median Income (AMI).   She noted that at the low end, households at 40% of AMI could earn $52,000 a year, and households at 80% of AMI could earn $115,000, which is not low-income housing, she said.  She added that the NAACP does not want to see affordable housing concentrated in South Norwalk; units in the Wall Street area will increase the geographic diversity of affordable options, and give entry level City workers the ability to live in the city.

John Romano, a Republican activist, said he wished the NAACP would advocate for affordable housing in neighboring towns, which have very little compared to Norwalk.  Romano and numerous other speakers objected to the plan on the grounds that the two- and three-bedroom units would attract children who would cost more to educate than the city would receive in property taxes.  Multiple commenters called for rejecting the plan, and forcing Citibank to sell the project to a market rate developer.

Asked after the meeting why moving the project forward was better than forcing a sale by Citibank, Committee Chairman John Kydes (D-District C) said, “I think the public isn’t aware of what Plan B really is,” meaning that people don’t know what the alternatives are.  Asked to explain, he promised more information when the proposal comes before the full Council.

Marc Alan and Frank Farricker spoke of the Wall Street Neighborhood Association’s desire to have investors buy and operate the Garden Cinemas as a nonprofit.  The duo envision a new Garden Cinemas as a film center, with after-school programs and partnerships with the Wall Street Theater, Norwalk Community College and the Carver Center.  Westport lost its Garden Cinemas equivalent in 1999, and a group has been struggling for the past seven years to replace it, they said.  Farricker received applause after he urged Council members to take an “opportunity to make some lemonade” out of POKO’s lemons and create a new arts complex that would drive the neighborhood’s resurgence.

John and Todd McClutchy, who were present for the entire meeting, declined NoN’s request for comment.

In response to questions from committee members, McClutchy attorney Peter Nolin and Tod McClutchy said they were open to design changes, but wouldn’t go so far as to give design approval rights to the Norwalk Historical Commission.

In attendance were Committee members John Igneri (D-District E), Doug Hempstead (R-District D), Eloisa Melendez (D-District A), Barbara Smyth (D-At Large), Kydes, Livingston and Tsiranides, and non-Committee member Colin Hosten (D-At Large).

Hempstead abstained from the vote.  He said he had been on vacation, and hadn’t had time to review documents provided to committee members, he said.

“I’ve asked for some additional background. You know, from day one. I’ve never liked this project,” Hempstead said. “…I also am a realist to know that they’ve got to {do} something,” he added.

Council’s llone Republican said he’s voted against every extension the project was given and now has concerns about plans to replace Garden Cinemas–a tax-producing property–with a parking garage.  He said earlier discussions involved trying to add retail under the garage, but that’s no longer part of the plan.

“The only reason the Garden Cinema is even part of the conversation is because the property with the original parking was purchased illegally. Period,” Kydes said.

“The owner’s going to sell … regardless,” Melendez said.

“I don’t know the business, but I think part of it is just that movie theaters, especially small art houses, {face} more and more challenges to be successful,” Hosten said.

Livingston said, “I wasn’t satisfied with the with the response to the concerns about design. … And two, I still have a number of questions. And I wasn’t satisfied with some of the responses.”

“Obviously it has to go through Zoning, it’s got to go through so many more departments and approvals,” Tsiranides said. “So what you see isn’t exactly what you’re gonna get, we still have a chance to weigh in. But we have to do something with it.”

Why not force Citibank to sell it?

“That’s how we ended up where we are now,” Tsiranides said. “We gave it to a developer who we thought had the funds and the ability to do what he said he was going to do. Who’s going to have more funds than Citibank? A lot of developers talked about it, they didn’t. They have never shown a budget sheet that supports a development of this project, the size, this scope.”

NoN will have video and more on this story later.

53 comments

Jason Milligan July 19, 2019 at 3:14 am

Wikipedia “A false dilemma is a type of informal fallacy in which something is falsely claimed to be an “either/or” situation, when in fact there is at least one additional option.[1]

The false dilemma fallacy can also arise simply by accidental omission of additional options rather than by deliberate deception.”

Everybody wants to see something done at POKO, but Council people; it is false to believe that it is this project or nothing. It is also false to believe the city needs to stay involved as a partner.

One really good option is to terminate the Land Disposition Agreement(LDA). The City can then claw back $4.4 million that is set asside for POKO and the sweetheart tax deal gets canceled.

LDA termination ensures that any future project must provide enough parking, and that it will pay its fair share of taxes!

The LDA and all its baggage scare away many would be developers. Terminating the LDA would open the flood gates of potential buyers.

Sure, the City gave away a parking lot, but that is not a reason to make more bad choices.

POKO needs a solution. It just doesn’t need a city lead solution on the backs of taxpayers.

Listen to Kenny Roger’s on this one and “know when to walk away”.

Terminate the LDA. Move on. Be pleasantly surprised by what Citibank or some future owner brings back to the table.

Lisa Brinton July 19, 2019 at 7:23 am

It was a packed house of residents and businesses representing the entire political spectrum, speaking against POKO last night.

The deal stinks for Norwalk and residents: 15 years of tax credits, bailing out Citibank, a $6m fee to the developer, bad aesthetic design, razing of the Garden Cinema and more kids in an overcrowded school system without tax revenue.

Despite overwhelming opposition from the public – this tone deaf administration advanced the deal. When you see the developer walk into the Dem caucus room with council members during intermission from public comments, it’s easy to predict the outcome.

This administration continues to increase population density it can’t pay for and decrease quality of life, while special interests make money off taxpayers and residents see their property taxes climb. Vote them out in November!

Peter and Rosanne Fullam July 19, 2019 at 7:46 am

Disheartening and disappointing is all I can say about the actions of the last night’s Common Council meeting. Obviously, minds were already made up and despite many positive and creative ideas put forth by Norwalk taxpayers; it was just a pointless exercise to give us false hope that we actually have a voice. Mr. Kydes’ comment that “…the public isn’t aware of what Plan B really is.” is insulting and adds to the frustration. The public is entitled to transparency and honesty, and neither seems to be part of Norwalk government. Revitalization of Wall Street must include the Garden Cinema, the arts, and a structure that adds to the character and history of Wall Street. While affordable housing must be part of the development, the proposed 100% affordable housing will not support current or new businesses on Wall Street. The council seems to be ignorant to this critical element, which is essential to the successful revitalization of this area. The proposed plan is a result of past mismanagement, which continues to be the order of business with the Norwalk Common Council

Alice Allen July 19, 2019 at 7:54 am

Thank you Lisa.. I have lived in Norwalk 76 years and have watched it go down hill for the last 20 years. Loss of businesses, increase in population putting a strain on city services. Time for MAJOR changes. Even city employees chose to live somewhere else.

Jason Milligan July 19, 2019 at 8:21 am

“The only reason the Garden Cinema is even part of the conversation is because the property with the original parking was purchased illegally. Period,” Kydes said.

Kydes-“Illegally” Exactly which law was broken? You should choose you words more carefully. No law was broken. The purchase was 100% legal!

John Kydes (D-District C) said, “I think the public isn’t aware of what Plan B really is,” meaning that people don’t know what the alternatives are. He promised to go into detail when the proposal comes before the full Council.

When you reveal secret plan B then suddenly everything will be clear?

Did you discuss plan B in the caucus room with McClutchy?

Sue Haynie July 19, 2019 at 8:36 am

“The only reason the Garden Cinema is even part of the conversation is because the property with the original parking was purchased illegally. Period,” Kydes said. OK, have a problem with ‘illegally’, than let’s call it ‘questionably’.

Either way, Norwalk taxpayers sold that parking lot for $1.00 to POKO with an intended purpose, POKO scammed us, Norwalk leadership was asleep at the wheel, Mr. Milligan saw an opportunity.

Who’s missing out in this scenario, who’s getting the proverbial ‘short end of the stick’? The Norwalk taxpayers.

Mr. Milligan, you are no hero.

Mike McGuire July 19, 2019 at 8:53 am

We stayed until the vote was done. Something all should know is that an amendment is been made to the LDA which incorporates the Garden Cinema into the fixed tax rate structure. What that means is the $175,000 per year that Norwalk will see from this project is for both the POKO phase one site and Garden Cinema.

Based on the Garden Cinemas current assessment of $952,520 the annual real estate taxes of Approximately $25,000.

So in reality, the taxes on the POKO building are really $150,000.

The LDA also had a provision that the developer of POKO could set the parking fee structure for that area if they did not make enough revenue from parking fees in the lower level garage.

Does anyone know if that is still in effect and/ or that “right” was transferred to the Garden Cinema? If it is that would be devastating to the local office market which is truly the heart and soul of small business in Fairfield County.

Ct. V July 19, 2019 at 9:06 am

It’s better than a burned out husk of a construction site. That literally seems to be the rationale for approving this mediocre plan. Mall 2.0.

Jason Milligan July 19, 2019 at 9:06 am

Sue, I did not set out to be a hero.

My purchase was not even questionable. It was an arms length transaction that was well announced ahead of time in multiple publications in bot NON & the hour. Go back and search “Milligan signs contract for POKO prpoerties” Citibank had the option to match my offer and take over the purchase. They chose not to!

The current leaders are not used to this level of scrutiny and they are panicked. It has only compounded the problems.

It is time for the City to cut its ties to POKO and otherwise reduce/eliminate its role in developing Wall St.

Bryan Meek July 19, 2019 at 9:10 am

Plan B? Reminds me of ACA where they had to vote for it before anyone could see what’s in it. Like all bad deals, it will fall apart. Just like the Congress voted 419-6 to effectively put the last nail in the coffin of Obamacare the other day, this too will fall apart if it isn’t on the up and up. This is the inevitable outcome of legislating based on the desires of your most powerful lobbyists and donors over the will of the people.

Paul A. July 19, 2019 at 10:12 am

No matter how you spin it or what words you use “The only reason the Garden Cinema is even part of the conversation is because the property with the original parking was purchased illegally. Period,” says it all. This action gives Mr. Milligan and others the great headlines “dead end one way” “garden cinema” (never mentioned as an issue until after the fact).
If the self-designated downtown revitalizer wanted that Cinema so bad why didnt he buy it when it was for sale, not complain after it was sold.

Jason Milligan July 19, 2019 at 10:27 am

Paul A.,

Are you talking about me?

None of the properties I bought were part of POKO phase I. Phase I was seld contained and it was never built. The developer mid construction short changed the project parking in the basement to save money. I have nothing whatever to do with any of the POKO problems. It had failed on a grand scale long before I entered the picture.

I have everything to do with exposing the problems and all the sneaking around.

Garden Cinema has not been sold. McClutchy has had it under contract to purchase fo a year.

I would consider buying the theater property as would others. The problem is McClutchy and other similar government sponsored developers can over pay for properties because tax payers foot large portions of the bill.

Government sponsored development takes a long time to get approved. Lots of secret meetings and coordination etc.

McClutchy did not buy the property and he won’t until/unless he gets the taxpayer subsidy.

There is an event sometime in the fall when McClutchy will have to put up a “hard deposit” to buy the theater. I can almost guarantee he will not put up the cash and will ask for more time.

At that point there should be an opportunity for others to acquire the Garden Cinema.

Hopefully Frank Farriker and Marc Alan’s plans can be moved forward at that point.

Claire Schoen July 19, 2019 at 10:28 am

Kudos to Tom Livingston for his vote. Perhaps there are other on the Council who will also have the guts to admit that this isn’t the best deal for Norwalk.

Mike Mushak July 19, 2019 at 10:29 am

Lisa continues to push her campaign of deliberate misinformation in almost every comment, along with her sidekick and biggest supporter Jason Milligin who is a developer she accepted one of her biggest campaign contributions from, something she has previously attacked Mayor Rilling for doing. The hypocrisy is so blatant as to be funny!

As small businesses on Wall Street get destroyed from the alleged actions of Mr. Milligan according to recent press reports, including illegal demolitions as he vacationed in Europe, we have to wonder what Lisa is thinking by hitching her wagon to this litigious out-of-town developer who up to this point has clearly tried to profit himself by holding up the Wall Street renaissance.

So let’s pick apart Lisa’s comment and do some fact-checking, and hold Lisa accountable in the same way she wants to hold everyone else accountable except of course herself and her small “team” of the same old obstructionists and chronic complainers who are opposed to everything and who post incessantly on this site every day.

First of all, every urban planning expert and anyone else with a brain will tell you downtowns need people living there to survive. Thats why Wall Street declined, and part of its revival has always included increasing population density to bring in a “captive audience” of folks who will support small businesses and the arts and street life. That is why we need Wall Street Place (formerly known as POKO) to bring folks back to Wall Street to live there, not just visit in their cars from the suburbs which clearly has failed over decades.

That planning strategy has worked in SoNo over the last 30 years, including large infill projects like Maritime Yards, Ironworks and The Pearl, all similar in scale to Wall Street Place, The streets and small businesses of SoNo are buzzing with activity, investment is up, and the sky hasn’t fallen on Norwalk.

In fact, I live in SoNo and still drive down Washington Street to get through town, as it moves freely most of the time except a couple of times a day at peak rush hour or when the bridge is open. In fact, all this growth in SoNo has not created an armageddon as Lisa predicts will happen to Wall Street. If we had followed Lisa’s advice in SoNo and said no to density and to every project, SoNo would still be a crime-infested dead zone with boarded up stores as it was for so many years.

I know this because I lived in a tiny studio apartment in SoNo 20 years ago (before I was able to build up equity and buy my old house and restore it a few blocks away, but still in the heart of SoNo), and therefore I have had a front row seat to the revival of SoNo including rolling up my sleeves and working hard to make my neighborhood and community a better place which I continue to do because I love living here. The new residents have added a vibrancy and energy and support a growing business community that employs countless folks, many of them local folks who are working their way up the economic ladder like I did.

You learn a lot about a city when you live in a diverse and struggling urban area, and help it revive. Wall Street needs that same energy, and the same dense development SoNo has had, and which Lisa is opposed to, to bring back people to its mostly empty streets.

Times have changed drastically as well, and many folks want to live in vibrant, walkable neighborhoods now, and thats why suburban areas are declining and young and old folks alike want to move downtown where the action is.

This irrational and sophomoric fear that Lisa has of downtown development and density is bizarre coming from a mayoral candidate, and reveals more about her own “suburban mindset” and complete lack of experience and knowledge to know what is right for Norwalk at this point in history. I know Mayor Rilling has seen the big picture and gets it, and who understands that Norwalk needs to grow and change to stay relevant and attract new residents and businesses to maintain opportunity for everyone. Thats a concept that seems almost foreign to Lisa in her repeated anti-growth positions that no city ever adopts if it wants to thrive.

Thats not to say Lisa isn’ a wonderful and passionate person, but her positions on development are astoundingly out of touch with reality.

And Lisa’s tired old cliche about the schoolchildren costing us more than this development delivers is not supported by any data, but just fabricated in the echo chamber of misinformation she and her supporters live in. The number of new children in these apartments are actually very low as data has shown, and the costs are far offset by the local economic activity generated by these residents which can exceed $50,000 per unit according to Urban Land Institute research, a figure Lisa and her supporters deliberately choose to ignore and instead only concentrate in the property tax income as if that is the only benefit the city is seeing in building more housing. Its a simplistic argument they make, and is based on nothing more than fear and pushing a no-growth agenda that Norwalk has never had in its entire history.

For example, it is smart planning to attract young folks into Norwalk to live in rental apartments to meet the well-known pent-up demand for housing in our area (which is a problem many areas of the country wish they had as their populations of young folks decline), which will also feed a steady market of single-family home buyers who will get older and want to settle down and raise a family in the community they work in and have established lives in.
Who else is going to buy all those suburban houses on the market as the boomers age out and retire and downsize and perhaps move downtown into the new apartments where they can walk to the train and maybe get rid of their car?

This is the seismic demographic trend we are seeing everywhere in the country, the biggest shift in our lifetimes since cities were abandoned in the 1950’s, as folks in turn now abandon the lonely sprawled out car-oriented suburbs for denser walkable neighborhoods near public transit. To ignore all that as Lisa is now doing is just astounding.

If you don’t keep attracting folks to move to Norwalk, you effectively destroy the economic cycle and the city dies, as other cities have discovered with myopic no-growth policies like Lisa is pushing. Not to mention that one of the biggest side effects of Lisa’s policy would be to increase housing costs for everyone as demand exceeds supply much more than it is now.

Since Lisa is on the record as being opposed to affordable housing, easy for someone from Rowayton who lives in a million dollar house with a swimming pool to be I suppose, then perhaps we should not be surprised at her strategy to keep affordable and attractive housing out of reach for most Norwalkers. She even said Washington Village should have been all market rate housing, basically screwing the community of lower-income and mostly minority folks who have lived there for generations and needed upgraded housing desperately, as the old Washington Village was sub-standard and obsolete and full of mold.

I’ve asked Lisa where she thinks affordable housing should go, and there’s never been an answer.

Finally, lets put to rest one of Lisa’s other fear-mongering comments that she makes so frequently, as she did yet again in her comment above when she says: “This administration continues to increase population density it can’t pay for and decrease quality of life, while special interests make money off taxpayers and residents see their property taxes climb”.

This statement is so far off base as to be laughable. First of all, Lisa’s biggest supporter Jason Milligan is clearly one of the biggest “special interests” trying to “make money off taxpayers”! Lisa should not throw stones from that big glass house she lives in.

Secondly, Lisa’s statement that “this administration continues to increase population density it cant pay for” is just nonsense. Mayor Rilling has actually decreased tax rates across the city while increasing services and improving the obsolete management system in place since Norwalk was a much smaller city, all as the city’s population has increased (more on that in a minute). He’s basically pulled a trifecta with this smart approach, a remarkable record hard to match in Norwalk’s history.

Also, and most importantly to counter Lisa’s incessant fear-mongering about Norwalk’s population growth which again is nonsense she pushes with no regard for facts, the historical record is clear that Norwalk is NOT growing now at any faster rate now than in decades past.

In fact, and I will use all caps for emphasis so that perhaps it may be noticed: NORWALK IS NOW GROWING AT ONE OF THE SLOWEST RATES IN ITS ENTIRE HISTORY, BASED ON CENCUS DATA.

Norwalk’s population grew 3.3% from 2010 to 2016, compared to 17% in the 1960’s, 37% in the 1950’s, 24% in the 1940’s, 21% in the 1900’s decade, 54% in the 1860’s, and 68.8% in the 1850’s. In other words, Norwalk has always grown to keep up with population growth and economic expansion that was also occurring far beyond our city limits, and so its current growth rate of this decade, which may reach 5% when the current census data comes in, is historically one of the lowest rates of increase over the city’s long history.

Sorry Lisa, but the fear-mongering and baseless charges you are throwing out about Norwalk, Mayor Rilling, and almost every other issue you are opposed to which is almost everything, do not hold up to scrutiny. I realize that since Im one of the few commenters who publicly opposes your outrageous claims, that I have been singled out for personal attacks from your supporters. I’d like to remind everyone that Im not running for mayor, Lisa is. And I cannot idly sit by as outrageous and false claims are made without speaking up about issues I know a lot about and people I know and respect including Mayor Rilling, who you seem obsessed about attacking without ever offering up your own positive agenda for Norwalk that voters want to hear. Enough already.

And as far as that Republican endorsement you seek, well, Trump’s approval just went up 5 more points among Republicans with his latest racist rants, so good luck with that. I am just saddened that you can compromise your own ideals in such a blatantly opportunistic way, and seek the support of a party that is now in the age of Trump blatantly on the record as racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-healthcare, anti-environment, and overall morally corrupt. You will have to answer for all of that, if and when you get that endorsement.

Bryan Meek July 19, 2019 at 11:25 am

Who needs a full time PR lackey at $100k a year in salary and benes, when Mushak will do it for free? Someday after I’m finished reading the tax code, I may actually read one of his diatribes. But I did manage the first paragraph and last I checked on $1000 donations from out of town developers, the incumbent is crushing Lisa by at least a 20 to 1 factor.

Jason Milligan July 19, 2019 at 11:31 am

Mushak,

You are the conflater in chief.

Smart growth is good. Government strangled growth against the will of the people is bad.

I am currently building and in process of building 31 affordable apartments on Wall st, and I have dozens to hundreds more planned. They are naturally affordable with zero taxpayer subsidy or government rent control.

My units cost around $200,000 to acquire the land and build each the apartment.

I ask no special favors. I only ask the city to follow their rules as written in a timely way. So far they have not done that.

Surely you support my efforts. It gives Wall Street exactly what you admit it needs.

Will you publicly support my efforts?

We the people of Wall Street oppose the government takeover. We don’t approve of the use of taxpayer money. McClutchy proposes to build “affordable” apartments at quadruple the cost of what ot should cost while taking in $6 million in fees, while taking g $4.4 million in Norwalk taxpayer cash, and while getting a sweetheart tax deal.

In your mind can people support affordable apartments and oppose this trainwreck?

Or does the conflater in chief never question anything that is pushed by Harry regardless of how terrible it is.

Try to respond with actual logic and fewer adjectives & cliches.

Lisa Brinton July 19, 2019 at 11:43 am

Mike, Your repeated personal attacks to distract from bad decision making and wasted taxpayer dollars is growing wearisome. Attempting identity politics, while ‘robbing’ taxpayers to enrich the few is the ultimate spin. Interesting you don’t seem to be too concerned that Mr. Livingston and Mr. Igneri also live in the Rowayton section of Norwalk. I thank Mr. Livingston for voting no on this absurd deal that disregards the will of the people picking up the tab. Try actually running for office some day and knocking on the doors of ordinary residents, who universally have complained about taxes and quality of life slipping away versus the ‘’entitled and safe’ appointed world you make your pronouncements from. Disappointment doesn’t even begin to describe your behavior.

Audrey Cozzarin July 19, 2019 at 12:09 pm

I attended last evening’s “public hearing” about the Wall Street/POKO development plans, and watched the video from the most recent meeting. Obviously, THE PEOPLE hold an holistic vision for Wall Street—a mix of housing (perhaps) in that Tyvec Temple, with surrounding blocks featuring the arts (film center, performing arts, galleries, etc.), and streetscape that is attractive, in keeping with the historic nature/architecture of Norwalk, safe for pedestrians and bicyclists, and welcoming as a destination for out-of-towners, with places to park. THE PEOPLE at both of these meetings DO NOT APPROVE of the current plan/deal.

It is incumbent upon the Common Council members, who as far as I know represent THE PEOPLE, to follow the lead of their constituents when this much is at stake. I thank Tom Livingston for standing up for what is right. And, what is “right?” Listening and basing future plans for Wall Street on what THE PEOPLE, the citizens, the residents of this city want and need from and in their community.

Common Council members, heed the words of honorable Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” as he addressed the jury: “For God’s sake, DO YOUR JOB.”

Michael McGuire July 19, 2019 at 12:30 pm

@ Mushak

Lisa is just talking hard math facts (and a lot of them) on specific issues that impact the Norwalk tax payer quality of life. She then draws reasonable conclusions and areas of concern that need to be addressed/reviewed/reconsidered – based on the math.

Your comment, at a tome like 1,835 words, had one math fact based on very broad census data with no real analysis or conclusion save your key opinion – Lisa sucks. Inane and overly wordy as usual.

When you run a government based on feelings and not facts you run it into the ground. Think California, Illinois, Detroit, Bridgeport, Hartford, Waterbury, etc. etc. We are fighting to keep Norwalk off that list.

Seems like you’re scared that Lisa is really on to something here. Fact check – she is.

John Miller July 19, 2019 at 12:59 pm

Mike M.: while you provided some excellent information about the population growth in Norwalk as well as the redevelopment in SO NO, which, we all can agree, has been spectacular, your argument lost all credibility when you instinctively turned to the usual prefabricated political rhetoric and broad brushed an entire segment of the population as
“racist, homophobic, anti-healthcare, anti-environment, and overall morally corrupt”….or did you simply forget what happened when half the country was labeled as “a bunch of Deplorables.”

Red headed movie star July 19, 2019 at 1:34 pm

The following is a mundane comment….I grew up in South Norwalk on Spring St, which is now Martin Luther King Dr. Our two family home was located where the Phone bldg. is now. (The whole block taken by eminent domain) When I went to the A & P, Tompkins Lemon Ice Store, Wu’s Chinese laundry, Fox Cycle, the five and dime, Palace, Empress, or Rialto theaters or Lou Levy’s men’s clothing store I told my mother I was going “downtown”
When we went to Sears, Kiddy Town, Tristan & Fuller, five & dime we went “uptown”, currently Wall St. and now called “downtown”. It’s still uptown to me.
I am appalled and saddened at the Common Council Committee to listen and respond to the very legitimate questions and concerns of the Citizens of Norwalk in regard to POKO or better yet, “Poke Norwalk Citizens in the Eye”.
It saddens me deeply to watch Norwalk in the period of transition.

Jason Milligan July 19, 2019 at 1:55 pm

Did you ever go to the Italian ice store under the RR tracks that was operated by my great grandparents?

Mushak-you and others are bothered that I currently reside outside of Norwalk. At one time I lived in your neighborhood on Avenue E. I also lived on Pine St in Sono and 3 other places in Norwalk. I enjoyed my near decade of residing in Norwalk.

As a kid I bought my yo yo collection at Kiddy Town and I bought most of my clothes at Bradlees and Caldor. My grandmother worked at Caldor.

I am proud to be 4th generation Norwalk. My great grandmother lived in a house demolished by Waypointe.

In the how Norwalk are you challenge I beat you!

I have had my business here for almost 20 years and I pay over $500,000 / year in taxes.

I have a right to an opinion. Just as much if not more than you. You don’t care more than the rest of us and you are not more righteous. If were a word you would be wrongteous.

Honest robust debate is what is needed instead of hiding, lying, and posturing.

Adolph Neaderland July 19, 2019 at 2:25 pm

Mr. Mushak, your wordy nonsense doesn’t jibe with your academic credentials. Deal in facts, not personal disparagement.

Keep in mind, when you took me to task because you didn’t recall that the vast majority of attendees at that 1st POCD meeting in October of 2017 voted “no” to additional multi-story mixed use residential in downtown Norwalk, when I produced the Stantec chart confirming my data.rather than admitting you were incorrect, you retreated to hiding behind “you can’t communicate with me because I am a committee member” nonsense.
Shape up.

Bryan Meek July 19, 2019 at 2:34 pm

We do have Mushak to thank for the bike lane that begins and ends on Belden Avenue. The one that Hal Alvord said made the road dangerously too narrow for 4 lanes of traffic. Hal refused to put it in, but after Harry fired him, it happened pretty quickly. My question is when you are done risking your neck on a bike from one end of Belden to the other, where do you go next? Turn around a repeat? Is it any wonder with Planning like this, why we are in the spot we are in right now?

Mike Mushak July 19, 2019 at 3:14 pm

It should be clear to most observers by now who the biggest obstacles are to a revival of Wall Street, both for self-serving reasons either financial or political.

And as I said, anyone who dares to question the Lisa and Jason line of self-serving baloney and deliberate misinformation will get attacked by the usual mob of 4 or 5 people and I’m amused! It certainly helps keep readership up for NoN, and hopefully the contributions. Grab the popcorn!

Gotta love the spinned claims that “no one wants apartment buildings in Norwalk.” Did anyone bother to ask the folks who are living in them and who fill them up as fast as they build them? Of course not! Hardly a scientific sample, wouldn’t you say?

And here’s a good one regularly heard from Lisa and her obstructionist anti-growth camp: “renters don’t pay taxes.”

On a square foot basis, renters pay more in property taxes than single family homeowners, so in general it’s the renters subsidizing the single family homeowners who actually cost the city more in services than apartment dwellers. Those hundreds of miles of suburban streets lined with utilities both above and under ground serving sprawled out development costs all of us an awful lot to maintain, a whole lot more than a dense apartment building. Now there’s something to chew on, readers.

Read my first long comment above again, preferably in a cool place this weekend. It’s full of facts.

You may learn something!

Bryan Meek July 19, 2019 at 3:40 pm

You can listen to Mushak continue shilling for Rilling, or you could take a look for yourself at Waypoint and Belpoint on West Ave with their massive banners advertising plenty of available apartments years after they have opened. Or you can simply look at the commercial space on the ground floor that has still never been rented, nor finished. Just empty and vacant. I’m sure the section 8 voucher applications are flying into the state fast and furious from these developments. And now that we are converting Wall Street into a low income area, that should really bolster the market. All it needs now is a bike lane down the center of West Ave between the double yellow lines.

I’d still like an answer to my question about the Belden ave bike lanes that begin and end there. Is the idea that you will drive down to the library with your bike and then just ride your bike up and down Belden ave?

Jason Milligan July 19, 2019 at 4:06 pm

Mushak,

You make a decent argument for more apartments. You do not even attempt to justify the $80 million Citibank/McClutchy trainwreck.

Their deal will only pay $1500 to $1750 per year per apartment in property taxes. For an $800,000 apartment. How many homeowners would love to pay that little? The least expensive houses in Nowalk pay more than double that amount.

$4.4 million of Norwalk taxpayer cash stuffed into Citibank”s pockets. $6 million in fees to the mega-rich McClutchy dou.

Talk about this specific deal.

Why is it good for Nowalk?

Your other ramblings sound more like an advertisement for my type of projects. Thank you. Not once have you made a specific point for the current proposal.

Bill Nightingale July 19, 2019 at 4:21 pm

One thing in all this is very clear. We don’t need the Redevelopment Agency ever again to impose their buffoonery on Norwalk. A path to abolishing the RDA should be included as a condition to this approval.

Mike Mushak July 19, 2019 at 4:58 pm

@Jason, how would you value the completion of this long-stalled project to project confidence in Wall Street as a
potential investment for other developers and businesses? Over the next decade is it $50 million? $100 million? $200 million? We all know it would benefit the entire city to get this stalled project completed.

So let’s start at the ULI numbers, for the economic benefits of the 101 units. Let’s pick the low end of that scale of $50-80,000 annual benefit per unit to the local economy, in jobs, purchases, food, healthcare, entertainment, transportation, basically everything people pay off to live.

At a conservative $50,000 per unit, we’re looking at an infusion of over $5 million a year of economic activity to the Wall Street area and Norwalk in general, over and above property taxes paid. That’s $50 million over 10 years.

Now let’s look at the alternative. Some have wanted a return to surface parking, which would be death knell to Wall Street as surface lots are deadly to any downtown after decades of research. It destroys downtowns faster than any other element.

Suburbanites fears of urban parking garages is quickly disappearing as technology and security have improved, so the quaint notion that a surface lot is the best use of valuable downtown land to draw in suburbanites is about as relevant as an old Elvis record is in a nightclub today.

Let’s look at demolishing the building and putting up something lower scale. The economics of that just won’t work considering the previous investments made, and you lose the potential for the critical mass of residents to support local businesses and street life that we know worked so well in SoNo with the 100-unit Ironworks combined with the several hundred other units in the Pearl, Maritime Yards, and other smaller projects.

So the solution is to bite the bullet and finish the building, which will remove an eyesore and restore confidence in Wall Street, as well as generate over $5 million a year in economic activity from the residents who will live there, which will then snowball and draw even more investment and businesses and jobs. Now you have a good return on your own investment as well as for everyone else in that area.

Mike OReilly July 19, 2019 at 9:44 pm

Mike,
Just a few fun facts or inconvenient truths you ignore. First off the Washington St. revival was not built on 30% or 40 % or 100% affordable housing. I was one of the original owners of two units at 126 Washington St. back in 1989 . We were a Condominium ownership. We had a stake in the neighborhood. The mission was to keep the wonderful architecture and keep neighbor’s involved. We did this because we were owners and stakeholders.

Let’s face it If Mayor Moccia presented a plan for Wall St. as ugly as the one before us today your hair would be on fire and rightly so.
Nothing wrong with supporting the Mayor but please take a deep breath and listen to what Andy Glazier and most of your neighbors said last night. This is such a awful project as it stands

John Miller July 19, 2019 at 9:58 pm

Since when is the square footage of an apartment the equivalent of the square footage of a single family house AND the square footage of the property surrounding that single family house? A totally phony statement.

Mike Mushak July 19, 2019 at 11:44 pm

@Mike OReilly, I assume that you were like most people and had a mortgage to buy those condos.

Mortgages are tax deductible, so they are a huge subsidy from the government or, in other words, taxpayer-supported affordable housing.

Since you brought it up, mortgage subsidies dwarf section 8 subsidized housing by a factor of $71 billion to $30 billion every year. .

So since we can now conclude that you were in subsidized affordable housing when you owned those 2 condos, what exactly was the point you were trying to make?

I am always amused at the folks who have mortgages who think they are not in subsidized affordable housing. It’s just that when they live in a purchased house instead of a rental apartment, they feel better off and easily forget that taxpayers are footing the bill for both the purchased house as well the section 8 housing voucher.

It’s an inconvenient truth I realize!

Patrick Cooper July 20, 2019 at 1:27 am

Mushak – “Mortages are tax deductible” – you are utterly financially daft. Mortgage interest – yes. At a rate / percentage relative to the individuals tax rate. We pay property taxes too – without 15 year abatements.

But be sure to keep “educating” the public.

Jason Milligan July 20, 2019 at 3:08 am

Mushak,

It really is hard to follow your rambling.

You also may have missed my 1st comment about false dilemma’s.

You and other Citibank Bailout supporters are trying to create a false “either/or” choice.

Support the $80 mill. Bailout or let it rot.

Deciding what to build on the Poko site or how to finish it should be left up to the owner of the property and it will obviously be bound to follow the very thoughtful new zoning regulations.

The binary choice we should be discussing is terminate the LDA or not!

Let’s have that public discussion.

Should the council terminate the LDA?

Why or why not?

Mushak?

Jason Milligan July 20, 2019 at 8:22 am

Where’s the video?

It would be great to see for those of that weren’t able to attend.

Thx

Mike McGuire July 20, 2019 at 9:48 am

@Mushak

At least your thinking with some facts. So here are some additional mortgage facts. The typical mortgage holder will pay roughly 3 x more than the loan amount over the life of the mortgage. Hardly a tax break. More a windfall for the bank.

The fed government is very pro home-ownership since homeowners stabilize neighborhoods and are one of the key drivers of our consumption based economy. The tax break is not a subsidy, it’s an incentive for homeowners to purchase and most importantly the real subsidy here is to the banks since this little “subsidy” as you call it creates a huge business for banks.

The key point here is that a mortgage is a liability to a borrower. Likely the biggest they will incur in a lifetime. But that same mortgage is a asset for a bank.

Interesting world view though – and understandably a product of the public education system that strives to keep citizens fiscally ignorant.

Bryan Meek July 20, 2019 at 10:35 am

Now besides being an urban planner who can’t get a bike lane right, Mushak is also a tax attorney.

Seriously, now you are just embarrassing yourself. Tax subsidy? Here’s a little clue for you, taxpayers also pay taxes on interest income. So the interest earned by the lender is taxed and at ordinary rates. All of this is factored into pricing, which without the deduction for the borrower would correspondingly depress prices.

I could go on, but clearly your grasp of economics wouldn’t comprehend and the mayor just left me his first robocall of the season using our reverse 911 system to tell me its going to be hot. I don’t know how I will survive these 90 degree temperatures, so I better make sure I go vote for him this fall.

Rusty Guardrail July 20, 2019 at 12:28 pm

Chairman John Kydes Glib Patronizing Evasion:

“Asked after the meeting why moving the project forward was better than forcing a sale by Citibank, Committee Chairman John Kydes (D-District C) said, “I think the public isn’t aware of what Plan B really is,” meaning that people don’t know what the alternatives are. Asked to explain, he promised more information when the proposal comes before the full Council.”

So Mr. Kydes claims to possess important secret info which he’ll divulge later!

He’s correct that there’s a lack of public awareness. Lack of public awareness will enable him and his cohorts to reward campaign contributors with our tax money.

Mike Mushak July 20, 2019 at 2:46 pm

@McGuire, I’ll ignore the childish insults, and just thank you for your revelation in your own words that “ a tax break is not a subsidy, but an incentive”, which blows your entire argument against the Wall/West Plan out of the water.

Let me be clear: mortgage interest deductions are taxpayer-funded affordable housing government subsidy, just like section 8 vouchers but aimed at a different demographic and usually 3 times as big for the average family.

Why is one ok in your mind but the other one isn’t? I think I know the answer to that. We have a long history of discriminatory and racist housing policies in America, everything from single-family zoning to mortgage redlining to thinking mortgage interest deductions are not a housing subsidy but Section 8 is.

Stay cool, buddy!

Jason Milligan July 20, 2019 at 3:10 pm

Found the video of the presentation on YouTube.

Attorney Don Gustavson is one slick guy…

He said the agency fully vetted JHM John & Todd McClutchy. When did that happen? I do not believe that is a true statement.

Jason Milligan July 20, 2019 at 3:37 pm

Wish I was there.

Caroline removed the Globe Theater, now the Wall Street Theater from Phase I.

That would require written consent from the owner of the theater! It would also require written consent from me!

Jason Milligan July 20, 2019 at 4:49 pm

Video of the meeting is here: https://youtu.be/-6m6gFLDPAg

It does not include the public comment section 🙁

Why not?

Question-How do you enforce this new mangled LDA against me? It is ridiculous to think I would be bound after entire streets are removed from the master plan.

Amateurs.

Debora Goldstein July 20, 2019 at 7:22 pm

Again, I ask the Wall Street business owners to raise their hands if they’ve seen an additional $5 million in economic activity since HOTH went in. That project has roughly the same number of units, with the regular allotment of affordable units. And the owner pays full-freight property taxes.

You can also anchor a business district with industries that bring people there to work in JOBS, like the financial district in manhattan, but I don’t see anyone proposing those to jumpstart the area. This type of district goes quiet at night, but it is viable.

Also, the argument above is conflating INCOME TAX breaks for mortgages collected by the Feds vs PROPERTY TAX breaks for development collected by the town.

Mike Mushak July 21, 2019 at 12:07 am

@Deborah Goldstein:

First, Head of the Harbor is not the same size as Wall Street Place as you just claimed. It’s 40% smaller. Oops.

Secondly, you just claimed in your own words: “you can anchor a business district with industries that bring people to work in JOBS, like the financial district in Manhattan, but I don’t see anyone proposing those to jumpstart the area.”

Well, the city did propose exactly that recently, and it is called the Innovation District to draw new industries and jobs to build upon our existing strengths like healthcare and chemical engineering.

As I recall YOU and your candidate Lisa Brinton strongly opposed the Innovation District.

The confusing messages being pushed by the Lisa campaign are enough to make your head spin!

Bryan Meek July 21, 2019 at 9:49 am

Bike lanes to no where are what makes peoples heads spin. As well as projects no one wants or needs that are concocted through back room deals and always involve political supporters. Spin that.

Debora Goldstein July 21, 2019 at 10:25 am

Mike,

Its Debora, no “h”. Oops.

Great. So where is the $3mm in additional economic activity from sixty units.

The innovation district language was so loosely crafted that it permitted residential development to claim incentives meant to attract development. The idea is still sound. The execution would have been flawed.

It is unbecoming for an appointed land use commissioner to continue to act as if he is the sole arbiter for neighborhoods, attacking citizens, and slinging unsupported and cherry-picked facts.

Debora Goldstein July 21, 2019 at 10:29 am

*meant to attract new business development*

Oops. I made a mistake. My whole point must not be valid. /snark

EnoPride July 21, 2019 at 2:38 pm

What a show! Meetings like Thursday night are why engaged constituents are feeling disenfranchised and cynical about their current local government. They speak up and partake as is their civic right and duty, only to feel like a checked off box (Time’s Up! NEXT!!) by their “Meh” Common Council. They are offended to be made to feel like a bothersome group of people whom their elected officials merely go through the motions with, only to ignore them while jamming through their special interest agendas right before their eyes. “What is the point of being here if it is a done deal and we have zero say?”, some questioned at the break after the public speaking portion. Our system is clearly broken.

Do not get discouraged, Norwalkers! Keep chippin’ away at it! This bailout deal stinks to high heavens and is worthy of a good, hard fight. You can continue to fight by voting for change this November to shake up this Common Council by bringing in some new blood, so it may finally stand a chance of working the way it is supposed to – for and with you, not against and around you!

On Thursday, we witnessed a spectacular public hearing where the MAJORITY of the public voiced STRONG OPPOSITION to this WSP proposal. Most people want a NO DEAL and eloquently voiced why, fighting to keep Garden Cinemas, and presenting brilliant ideas and proposals for a more appropriate arts district Plan B. I wondered, what was Mayor Rilling thinking while he listened? And how about those McClutchys watching all those speakers? Oh, if only we could have read thought bubbles over their heads.

Councilman/Committee Chairman John Kydes as usual displayed serious disrespect toward the public. To pull rank and play head games with us, ignorantly giving away the behind closed doors nature of this entire debacle by intimating that we are not yet privy to a Plan B which is being cooked up in executive session by the committee, is just audaciously rude. Mr. Kydes is a PUBLIC SERVANT whose job is to ensure that his constituents have a seat at the table. He has failed us. Mr. Kydes somehow consistently manages to marginalize or flat out dismiss public opinion at every meeting. He is guaranteed to bring a palpable “Us versus them” energy to the table. Talk to the hand. Whom exactly is he representing? Can John Kydes’s three minutes be up? Vote him out, Norwalk. He is doing you NO favors.

I commend Mr. Livingston’s NO vote, but I’m scratching my head over the five who voted YES to advance the plan when there was such fierce public outcry and opposition, not to mention that there were, as Mr. Livingston voiced, so many vaguely or inadequately answered questions regarding this proposal. Again, exactly whom are these council members representing? Why are they on auto pilot? Have the five been brainwashed and rendered voiceless by Kydes behind the scene? Hearing the passion from that podium Thursday night, I don’t know how anybody with a heart and soul, A PULSE actually, and a true desire for what is best for that area – for it to further thrive as an arts district inclusive of a reimagined/repurposed Garden Cinenas which Mr. Allen and Mr. Farricker proposed – could not be strongly persuaded into nixing this entire proposal. Is intimidation causing the complicit reaction from council members? Hhhhmm… It will forever remain a mystery.

Eloisa Melendez seemed more focused on making sure her “30 SECONDS” warning sign was held up to the speakers on time than actually LISTENING to the creative vision of the public and letting the exciting creative energy seep into her psyche. Her mind was made up before the meeting. She evidently likes colossal, ugly box buildings which ruin organically developing arts districts. She states myopically that Garden Cinemas was going to be sold anyway, with no acknowledgement that perhaps the rotten Tyvek Temple carcass had something to do with the cinema’s struggles. Buzz kill. We witnessed all these passionate people speaking their vision, which was powerfully compelling and impressive, and then the second that “30 SECONDS” sign and the emotionless look behind it flashed at them, you could literally hear their voices wilt or crack. The wind was taken right out of their sails. This rotten POKO/WSP bailout plan has negatively impacted, and will continue to negatively impact, Ms. Melendez’s district! Why is she advancing a RDA botch job bailout deal which stinks? Where is her voice? I sure hope she finds it if she is going to continue a career in politics.

Norwalk, let’s clean house this November and take our city back. The current culture at Norwalk City Hall which makes residents feel marginalized and dismissed has become one of many quality of life issues which negatively impact the overall health and well being of our city. Let’s vote for change and take back our quality of life.

Rusty Guardrail July 21, 2019 at 3:58 pm

What he said.

The political machine cranks on, and taxpayers are fodder.

The exodus from the tri-state area continues, not because the system works any differently in FL, SC, or NV, but rather because the politicians there just squeeze less out of taxpayers than they do here. For now, that is.

I suggest informing your neighbors, most of whom don’t know what’s going on. Change of leadership will require more than the 20% turnout we experienced last time around.

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