Ayers to Meek: ‘That terminology is degrading’

Screengrab from the packet for Tuesday’s Common Council meeting.

Common Council members voted Tuesday to authorize a $103,250 contract with an engineering firm to design a new Meadow Street Park, adjacent to a public housing complex that may be demolished.

It’s “part of our continuing effort to renew our playgrounds and make them safer, and bringing them up to a quality,” Norwalk Recreation and Parks Director Robert Stowers explained to the Council. American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds and a Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) grant are going to the project, as well as it being part of the Martin Luther King Corridor Initiative, he had said earlier.

Langan Engineering, winner of the contract, is also the developer for the expected new housing, providing complimentary design and economies of scale, he told Committee members recently. The amenities and aesthetics will blend.

The park’s square footage won’t increase but, “We’re just going to try and use the area a little bit more wisely,” he said.

The ensuing discussion Tuesday prompted some Democrats to defend the expenditure in South Norwalk.

District B Council candidate Donna Smirniotopoulos, addressing the Council as a public speaker, was first to question the plan.

“Meadow Gardens is a 54-unit public housing development built in 1960,” she said, adding that the Norwalk Housing Authority expects to demolish it.

In February, NHA Executive Director Adam Bovilsky said, “The conditions of Meadow Gardens are terrible. It’s not OK. Our plan is going to be to tear it down with something called Section 18 demolition disposition, which is a HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) program where we can get vouchers for every unit that’s there.”

Smirniotopolous, an Independent candidate cross-endorsed by Republicans, on Tuesday said, “I’m wondering why taxpayers would be spending money on design for a development for a park associated with a development that’s going to be demolished.”

Stowers said later that while it “happens” to be next to housing, “it’s park property and it has to be maintained.” It’s “not in good shape at all,” grass is growing “everywhere” in spite of efforts to thwart it, “the whole surface needs to be redone,” including the basketball court and a foundation wall, in “a complete kind of restructuring of that small pocket small park.”

While the City is collaborating with NHA, “we have a responsibility for our property” and “even though” NHA expects to construct mixed-use housing, some of it market rate, that’s going on all over the country, he said. It happened in Seattle and “We didn’t abandon our parks that were adjacent to them.”

Area parks are “pivotal” for the South Norwalk community, Council member Diana Révolus (D-District B) said Tuesday.

“No doubt that part needs some TLC,” said Council member Bryan Meek (R-District D). But, “Why are we going to dump 100 grand on designing it? Couldn’t we do a lot of good with that kind of money, if we just put repairs into it? What if we just resurface the lot, put up some new basketball (hoops)?”

He said, “For that kind of money, we could just get it cleaned up quick. I understand the Meadow Gardens demolition and reconstruction is depending on Congress. So you know, we’ll all be dead before we get them to act for us.”

Meek asked if $100,000 was just for design; Superintendent of Parks and Public Property Ken Hughes said it’s for design, construction documents and construction administration.

Council member Nicol Ayers (D-District A) said she wanted to “caution people.”

“Not too long ago, both in Committee and at this table, we heard and saw extensive plans for different parks, and different playgrounds in more affluent parts of town. People ate it up like it was Spaghetti Tuesday.”

Human beings live there, who will be moving from one unit to another, and “you’re telling them that they’re not worthy enough to send their kids outside to play in a state-of-the-art playground that is owned by the city where they may pay taxes,” she said. “That is problematic…. If you wouldn’t send your child over there to play, why do you think it’s okay to send someone else’s child there to play?”

A quick fix up wasn’t sufficient for Cranbury, she said, and, “The fact that you keep saying Meadow Gardens and a housing development, that terminology in itself is degrading.”

Révolus agreed. Council Majority Leader Darlene Young (D-District B) said she’d echo Ayers.

“We’ve got to move past saying ‘South Norwalk as less than,’ period. And those kinds of comments feed into that,” Young said. “…There’s been a lot of divestment from South Norwalk for decades. And so we need to get this right, and we’re going to get it right. And if it costs more than $100,000, it costs more than $100,000.”

She said, “How dare anybody say’ just put up something’? ‘Just something’ has been put up for decades, and we put up with enough and so we need something better.”

“I think $100,000, to me, does not sound like a lot of money to upgrade that. If anything, you might even be on the low side,” Council member James Frayer (D-District E) said.

“We talk about equity,” Council member Josh Goldstein (D-At Large) said. “We talk about what that value means. But then we have to walk the walk. This is about walking the walk … If you get a really nice park in Cranbury, or Calf Pasture Beach or anything like that, you also get a state-of-the-art park in South Norwalk.”

Meek voted for the project, making it unanimous and inspiring Young to say “What?” She stifled a laugh.

Screengrab from Tuesday’s Common Council meeting on Zoom, right after members voted to approve a $103,250 contract with an engineering firm to design a new Meadow Street Park.

In a post-meeting email, Meek thanked the Council members for the discussion.

“I didn’t think this would be so controversial,” he said. “Based on some of the comments after mine, I think some of you might have misunderstood me.”

He hadn’t wanted to belabor the point by responding to them during the lengthy meeting, but “I hope you all realize after my voting FOR the project I was in support just looking for more facts that were missing from the packets, which you might recall only included one page with a black and white picture of the existing playground and absolutely nothing else…for only construction design work.  Nothing else, which we learned later in the conversation includes some repairs, some design, and maybe more money,” he said.


  • “Evicting people and bulldozing Meadow Gardens housing while gentrifying the park for an undetermined amount seems questionable.
  • “Will the kids in MG benefit from this or some other future transplant?
  • “I played some ball down there in the 80s and it needed work then.  I think it is a good asset that needs support so I voted to get this moving forward.  But let’s please be careful here.
  • “Looking forward to seeing the plans we voted for and a timeline so we know who this benefits.”


NancyOnNorwalk requires full names from commenters.

For more information, go here.


4 responses to “Ayers to Meek: ‘That terminology is degrading’”

  1. Scott Vetare

    What is really degrading is the way you people spend our money! Bryan is right on the mark with this one, as he is with all of your silly spending games!
    There’s so much other things Norwalk can do with that much money!
    Maybe an assistant to the assistant perhaps?!
    Thanks for trying to look out for the good of Norwalk Mr. Meek!

  2. Jason Milligan

    Bryan wanted to spend the money directly and immediately on the park improvements instead of spending all or most of the $100k on out of town consultants.

    Most kids won’t play with plans on paper, so the $100k in design expense will give them no immediate tangible benefit.
    New equipment and surfaces right away would likely be more appreciated even if the plan wasn’t designed by a fancy consultant.

    Is the design / layout of the park the problem or the fact that the improvements are old and worn out the bigger issue?

    If the park plan / layout is the problem the people working at the Parks & Rec department could definitely come up with a solid plan as part of their regular paid job.

    $100k could go a long way toward actual improvements.

  3. Tysen Canevari

    I love how Darlene Young says if it cost over $100,000 than so be it! Really? In case the council forgot Meadow Gardens is the name of the housing project. What’s offensive about that? I would go as far as to say the council is ridiculing Bryan Meek in the same manner they are accusing him. Why do you need to say if Cranbury needs a nice park then it gets done? Is it the fact that we pay huge taxes over here and we will keep it clean and graffiti free! I have friends in Meadow Gardens and you are lucky if they pay a few hundred dollars in rent! They don’t pay property taxes. Why not petition the public to see if someone were willing to volunteer to help design the playground? Shoot, I bet Ken Hughes could oversee it himself and you could give him a bonus of $25,000! Why not put some of those high price administrators at city hall to work and make some connections in the community and I bet you could raise enough in donations from corporate sponsors to pay for the new project? Shop Rite and other companies load Harry’s war chest with donations so maybe knock on their door first. Bryan is simply asking for some fiscal responsibility from our elected council instead of spend spend spend without thinking. BTW has NY reached out to sue us yet for stealing their logo we paid $100,000 to have a marketing company come up with? Finally, why don’t you push for Meadow Gardens to be knocked down first so the residents can have a better place to live. I bet they would like that more than playing hoop on some new asphalt!

  4. Mike Murray

    owned by the city where they may pay taxes,” she said. ???? MAY PAY TAXES???? What about those who do pay taxes? Who is watching the city wallet for them?

Leave a Reply

sponsored advertisement




Recent Comments