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Time to put egos in check, move Central Norwalk forward

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Editor’s note: Norwalk Corporation Counsel Mario Coppola recently testified in Court that the lawsuit against Jason Milligan was a draft on May 31, 2018. The plan to turn over City parking lots to developer POKO Partners, in the expectation that a mixed-use development would be constructed, was formulated in 2004 and initially approved under Mayor Alex Knopp.

Lawsuits are like war and should be used sparingly and as a last resort. Diplomacy is always better.

In Norwalk, Mayor Rilling and his general Mario Coppola have weaponized the law department. They use lawsuits as a first step to silence, intimidate and to control the narrative.

The legal department has a standing policy that employees, commission members, staffers etc. shall not discuss pending or active litigation. So when they want to protect secrets, they start a lawsuit or multiple lawsuits to ensure conversations are stifled.

We just had an election and we have a lot of new faces that will be serving on the common council. There will also be a new director of the Redevelopment Agency very soon. I had really hoped that as our new City leaders got settled that there would be a fresh perspective and perhaps an opportunity to finally have a conversation about POKO. I like and respect Barbara Smith (sic), so I was further encouraged that she was voted council president. My hopes were shattered on Tuesday hours before our duly elected council was to have their first meeting, Mario poisoned the well by serving yet another lawsuit against me. This time over the concrete blocks that were installed to prevent the public from speeding across my property.

A U.S. president should not start a war without congressional approval and a Norwalk Mayor should not start a lawsuit without council approval. An emergency is a different story. This lawsuit if (sic) far from an emergency. Harry & Mario have known for over a year that I planned to close my parking lot to public traffic. They took several action steps to mitigate what I did, such as making Isaac street two-way and installing new signage. Further evidence that this lawsuit was not an urgent matter that just had to happen prior to the getting council approval is that I do not have to respond to the complaint until Jan. 18. If it was an emergency the City would have sought an immediate “emergency” injunction. Clearly there was time for this new council to weigh in on the decision, so why did Harry & Mario rush this lawsuit ahead without council approval?

From the outset, Harry and Mario’s actions have prevented me from having any dialogue with the council, and the prevention continues with the new lawsuit. Mario had a lawsuit prepared on May 31st 2018, the day I originally bought the POKO properties.  Both Harry & Mario have a lot to hide. Mayor Rilling has never owned up to giving away $6 million worth of centrally located parking lots. Mario was the architect of the agreement that gave away the two parking lots. Both men also have significant ego invested in the lawsuits against me. It is time to check everyone’s ego, and it is time for the truth to come out.

Mario Coppola has only discussed the lawsuits in secret executive session, so there is no way for the public to verifying the accuracy of what he is telling our council. I dream of a meeting where the council and I have an open & public discussion, a discussion where the council feels free to ask questions without fear of ridicule or reprisal. We are in this together and we want the same things for Wall Street. Our mayor and chief lawyer refuse for the dialogue to happen. The lawsuits give them control, and as a bonus the significant legal fees paid by the taxpayers benefit lawyer friends, campaign contributors and former colleagues.

Norwalk deserves an open honest discussion. We have tried the heavy-handed methods without success. Harry-We know what you did with the parking lots-admit it, apologize and we can move on to discuss & consider the many solutions to POKO that have thus far been blocked & ignored.

Jason Milligan

New Canaan

Norwalk real estate broker

10 comments

John December 2, 2019 at 9:03 am

You’re basically putting businesses out of business. Did you at least give Pontos or the movie theater a heads up as to what you were planning? The city has a huge parking problem and you made it worse.

Jason Milligan December 2, 2019 at 12:11 pm

John,

That is one way of looking at it. Do you forget that my parking lot was fenced off and covered in construction rotting construction materials, broken glass, abandoned cars and homeless people when I bought it?

I cleared the lot and opened it up for public parking all while communicating to the neighbors and the public that it is not a permanent solution for me to provide public parking on the lot.

Do you not recognize that the giveaway of 2 public parking lots to a failed project as the real reason for the parking problem?

I am NOT the problem! I want to be part of the solution.

The people that created the problems don’t want me or other people in the area to be part of the solution.

Why on earth would we trust the people that gave the prolbelm to solve it?

Bill Nightingale December 2, 2019 at 1:08 pm

Jason, which parking lots were given away?

“Mayor Rilling has never owned up to giving away $6 million worth of centrally located parking lots. Mario was the architect of the agreement that gave away the two parking lots. “

David Muccigrosso December 2, 2019 at 1:35 pm

@John:

Have you… walked around… down there… at all… in the past year?

The businesses on Wall are literally ALL already dying. If Milligan’s “putting [anyone] out of business”, he’s only accelerating what was already happening. It’s a mercy killing, not a murder.

This is going to be a rough metaphor, but perhaps a few hostages need to be shot so this stupid thing finally moves along.

Rilling is a bad Democrat and he’s bad for Norwalk. This is why I voted against him. He’s the sort of politician who would have been a Republican back home in the red state I came from, because that’s where the power and the perks are.

Michael McGuire December 2, 2019 at 6:21 pm

@ David Muccigrosso

Remarkably this area look a lot better than it did when I came here in 2001. Many Norwalker’s carry your same opinion which is sad since this area is literally undergoing the change everyone has been hoping for. Giving the area bad press without fully understanding what is actually happening here does not help. The Wall Street Neighborhood Association (WSNA) was formed a couple of years ago to help get this place moving and I was an early member. One of the key issues we continue to push back on is the local Norwalk perception that Wall Street is down-market area. But when people come down here and really look to see what is going on they are usually pleasantly surprised.

What truly surprised me 2 years ago when we started WSNA was the depth of the arts community that had moved in here over the past decade. Add to that is the fact that nearly every building down here has changed hands meaning new owners investing for change.

All this change is happening which results in tenant rollover which does require space to be vacant for awhile. Although the area and buildings may look somewhat unchanged, the tenant base is shifting and will continue to do so lead primarily by the artists – theaters, galleries, creative tech spaces etc. Change like this is slow and hard notice unless you look hard.

Consider Wall Street’s strengths – it is the 3rd largest Central Business District in Fairfield County. Its strong suit is it caters to small businesses, both office and retailers. This is markedly different than Stamford or Bridgeport, the only two with larger downtowns. And Stamford has a much higher price point. Most of the other small downtown are even higher. The Wall Street area is virtually the last significant downtown that is affordable for Mom & Pop retailers. The historic nature of the place, its River frontage and walkable size is ideal for locating a small tech/creative business here.

The last ingredient needed is to re-activate the Wall Street Train Station. Located next to the Pulse Point creates a natural intermodal transportation hub.

We are working hard to make a train station a reality. As I understand the Mayor is on board as are many on the Common Council. The State of CT is conducting a feasibly study for this train station it the spring of 2020. WSNA is actively looking to create a business incubator for both office, makers and retailers and we have great space for these uses. And we are pushing for Norwalk Community College to take the Riverview Plaza space to accommodate that institutions constant growth. Located next to the pulse points makes it easy to access.

Personally, I think a 100% affordable housing project on Wall Street is not a good thing, nor is imposing parking fees prematurely. The area needs more market rate residents and the retailers in particular need some breathing room to put down solid roots here. Start charging for parking when parking demand becomes a problem (as in ” I can’t find a place to park”) – not before.

Sorry for the long comment but slamming the Wall Street area needs some pushback. I hope you come down and see a show or a movie, have dinner, listen to some live music, visit a gallery or two. WSNA has a weekly on-line news letter that highlights everything that is happening. Check it out http://www.wallstreetct.org

Jason Milligan December 2, 2019 at 10:26 pm

Bill,

In 2015 Harry signed the Loan Recognition Agreement Amendment (LRA-A) which was an amendment to the LDA. The document acknowledged that the Isaac street parking lot was gone forever(the lot behind FC Bank), and it put the price tag at $2.99 million to get the Leonard Street lot back via a reEntry.

So the 2 lots were the Isaac Street lot and the Leonard Street lot. For people not familiar with the area the two lots provided the most convenient open, flat parking for FREE in the area!

The Loan Recognition Agreement Amendment (LRA-A) that put the reEntry price at $2.99 million was a huge factor that made me feel comfortable buying the 5 properties from POKO.

I am shocked that the city is trying to distance itself from the LRA-A.

Sharon December 2, 2019 at 11:27 pm

Mr. Milligan-

Your poorly written boorish position statement reeks of desperation. And it certainly posits a stance that you have done nothing to contribute to the impasse. A look in the mirror should be a starting point you consider while trying to figure out how to work your way out of this labyrinth, which all evidence suggests you created. You have blamed everyone else, except for yourself, in your frequent writings on this site, all of which I reviewed today. This issue was only ecently pointed out to me and I was directed to this site. How about a piece where you spell out all of these resolutions you want to discuss with your identified enemies?? That might be interesting to the public that you are attempting to sway. Do it with maturity, with your ego in check and with a plan that is rooted in reality. Then people may take your circus seriously. Or not, if you have no plan other than your past and current campaign of gutter stunts and cheap publicity. I hope you really consider evaluating your tactics and antics.

I must admit that I am not currently a resident of Norwalk or even Connecticut. I grew up in Norwalk and a family member has directed me toward this website and specifically the situation of downtown Norwalk, which I remember fondly. I am older now and have more time on my hands than I wish sometimes. I am hardened in life and it takes quite a bit to get a rise out of me. I am cautious when I express my opinions. Meaning I do not regularly make contributions to public forums. But you have stirred up a bit of aggression in me with your bombastic expressions. I doubt my words change your position or approach much but I feel better for expressing myself.

Jason Milligan December 3, 2019 at 7:51 am

Sharon,

All that your position tells me is that the City has a good PR Department and that the news coverage and probably your opinions are biased.

Why don’t you demand for the city to spell out their plans in writing?

They won’t.

The most workable solutions start with dialogue which they refuse to have. Instead we spend literally years in court arguing over minutiae. 50 to 75 page motions are routine and cost thousands $$.

I will soon be revealing a “Plan”. It is a very thoughful plan that takes into consideration past, presnt, and future.

It will both be liberating for all of Wall Street, and it will not restrict any plans for property owned by Citibank. This plan will create abundant parking for the area that will open up solutions for the Tyvek Temple.

It is the best plan given our circumstances!

However it should be clear to the world that the best solution is not being sought.

Protecting reputations and rewarding Citibank and big donor McClutchy seem be the priorities.

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