Updated, 1:23 p.m.: Comment from Lisa Brinton.
NORWALK, Conn. — Norwalk is investing more than $4 million in the Wall Street/West Avenue corridor within the next year and a half, Mayor Harry Rilling said Friday.
“Investments include streetscape and roadway improvements; traffic signal replacements and upgrades; pay stations and signage; milling, paving, and line striping; enhancements to the Yankee Doodle Garage, and fencing for Freese Park,” a press release said. “In preparation for the official unveiling of these improvements, the City worked with stakeholders for more than 16 months. These enhancements were included in the budgetary process over a year ago, have gone through the proper approvals, and now are ready to be rolled out in the 2019-2020 construction season.”
Video by Harold Cobin at end of story
Rilling was joined by members of the Wall Street Neighborhood Association (WSNA), the Norwalk Parking Authority, and other area stakeholders for a Friday morning press conference on River Street, where the just-completed reverse angle parking spaces were celebrated and touted. Rilling called them a “home run” and predicted that they will be much safer than traditional parking spaces.
Rilling, a Democrat, is seeking reelection to a fourth two-year term. He is being challenged by Republican-endorsed unaffiliated Mayoral candidate Lisa Brinton. Brinton did not reply to a late Friday email asking for comment. She has left no comments on previous stories about this topic.
On Saturday, Brinton commented, “While ‘touting’ the ~$4M in Wall St. West Ave. upgrades, paid for by taxpayers, the mayor continues to distract from the core issue impacting residents this election cycle – his deliberate acquiescence to Hartford to cram as many people into Norwalk as he possibly can.”
Danna DiElsi, owner of The Silk Touch on Main Street, left a comment on Brinton’s Facebook page, calling the reverse angle parking “absurd” and predicting that it will hurt her business. You need to use an app to pay for the parking, she said.
Rilling, at the Friday press conference, said he couldn’t imagine the reverse angle parking not being a success.
Parking Authority Chairman Dick Brescia said the change has roots in outreach efforts that began in 2013, and the feedback that came from stakeholders including Michael McGuire and Jerry Petrini, owner of My Three Sons.
“The addition of reverse angle parking created nine new parking spaces in the area and will help slow traffic through the corridor,” the press release said. “Studies have shown that backing into a parking space is safer than backing out into traffic, and allows occupants to exit vehicles safely near sidewalks. A video demonstrating how to safely back into the spots is available at norwalkct.org/tmp.”
“Since January 2015, more than 200 people have been involved in nearly 100 accidents along Wall Street,” the release continued. “Of these, there were 31 injuries and one fatality. Additionally, four pedestrians were struck at intersections. The parking improvements come in direct response to requests from the business community and factor in the anticipated growth of pedestrian and bike traffic.”
“Efforts to improve parking for the Wall Street area is much appreciated by the area businesses, residents, and WSNA leadership,” Nancy McGuire, president of the Wall Street Neighborhood Association, is quoted as saying.
Area visitors will also notice new bike lanes along East Wall Street near the Mill Hill Historic Park and Norwalk Historical Society. “This addition safely expands mobility options through Wall Street. In the coming months, new sidewalks will also be installed throughout the Wall Street/West Avenue Corridor,” the release said.
“In a downtown center like the Wall Street district, curbside parking spots typically produce $100,000 or more in retail and restaurant business per year. With 18 additional spots, we have the potential for $1.8 million per year for the area,” said Jud Aley, Commissioner with the Norwalk Parking Authority. “In addition, new bike lanes and speed calming elements increase pedestrian and cyclist safety, while providing connectivity between neighborhoods.”
The investments will “improve mobility and safety in the area, help create customer turnover for local businesses, and enhance existing neighborhood resources,” Rilling is quoted as saying. “It’s important we build on the characteristics of the neighborhood and help bring more people into this area. We continue to work closely with residents, businesses, and stakeholders to identify key projects across the City that enhance the quality of life. We intend to carry this approach forward through the next budgetary process.”