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Cece: Mayor, council – don’t let state take this man’s home

NORWALK, Conn. – The state may be preparing take away 83-year-old Michele Napoleone’s home of 40-plus years and turn it into a parking lot, but at least one community activist and longtime family friend is not going to let it happen without a fight.

Diane Cece has been battling the state’s decision to take the man’s property full of fruit trees and his home full of memories. To add insult to injury, she says, the state is offering below market value for the property. The reason? To level it, use it as a staging area for the East Avenue widening and lowering project and the lengthening of the Metro-North train platform. And, when the work is done. It will be a parking lot.

Napoleone received a letter from CDOT by certified mail, postmarked Sept. 24. The letter was dated Sept. 16.

“Please be advised that you will not be required to move without at least 90 days advance notice of the earliest date by which he or she may be required to move,” wrote James Mason, CDOT supervising property agent, acquisition/relocation Division of Rights of Way. “You may consider 90 days from the date of this letter to be the earliest date by which you may be required to move.”

Cece said she has learned the property will be condemned – the step before the state can take it over – within a week.

Cece has sent an email to Mayor Richard Moccia and the Common Council members imploring them to act to save the man’s home. Cece sent copies to the entire Norwalk state legislative delegation. She asked to share the letter with NancyOnNorwalk readers:

Dear Mayor Moccia and Norwalk Common Council,

I am calling on you individually and collectively to intervene on behalf of private property owners in Norwalk whose properties are being taken under eminent domain laws to build a small commuter parking lot abutting the East Norwalk MetroNorth Railroad Station.

State officials are being unfairly aggressive in their tactics to force homeowners to negotiate, and after only receiving compensation offers from the state a matter of weeks ago, the homeowners are being told that condemnation will occur next week – This despite the state’s three month opportunity to review the appraisal themselves!

At least one of the property owners, Mr. Napoleone, of 220 East Avenue, does NOT want to sell his home of 40+ years to the state, and if forced to do so, cannot economically or emotionally afford their unacceptable compensation offer (one that is lower even than the 70% of market value that he pays taxes on today). Their offer is tens of thousands of dollars below all estimated values I can find online; does not allow him to stay in East Norwalk; forces him to consider a lesser value home in South Norwalk, that a state official thinks is “comparable” ; and does not allow for adequate packing and moving services, much less for the professional relocation of his fruit trees (surely you don’t approve of the state bulldozing 8-10 mature peach trees and several heirloom fig trees!!)

Like myself, many of you support the use of eminent domain for legitimate legal use for Public Necessity (army bases, schools, bridges, safety, etc). I personally do not believe the East Avenue project rises to either level, or that it is for the “greater public good,” except for the greater Westport public good and perhaps tractor trailer and garbage/recycling truck “public good.” I also don’t think that other viable alternatives for making the intersection safer have been thoroughly investigated, or worse, have been completely ignored.

Most importantly, those of you who voted to support the project in 2010 could not have been aware that the scope of the project changed from some minor easements and slivers of land being taken, to 2 properties and homes in their entirety and now, 3. Worse, not even the Mayor or Public Works Director Hal Alvord appear to have been in the loop that the project has progressed to taking the entire city block, and turning it into a parking lot! And that the project is proceeding at rapid speed, with construction as soon as next year.

The change from partial land takings, to 2 entire property takings, to all 3 properties for a parking lot surely is not a ‘minor change’ and I believe it rises to the level of another public hearing. I’ve talked to dozens of Norwalkers who, like myself, had no idea the state completely changed this project, and we are shocked and confused that our own elected officials and DPW Director apparently had no knowledge either. I cannot even begin to imagine the public outcry that will occur should the city and state pursue another similar project at the Rowayton Station, and I believe that at some point the elected officials in Darien had the political courage and vision to stop any discussions of widening and lowering the railroad bridge there, despite more tractor trailers hits and flooding woes than East Norwalk.

Even if you support the project itself, please join together to oppose the aggressive progression of the eminent domain and condemnation process and allow the homeowners more time to do their due diligence and negotiate for fair compensation. …

Respectfully,

Diane Cece

 

 

Comments

7 responses to “Cece: Mayor, council – don’t let state take this man’s home”

  1. Mike Mushak

    Wow! Thanks Diane for keeping your eye on the ball, as always, and thanks Nancy for posting this.
    .
    There should absolutely be another public information meeting as soon as possible where we can get all of the facts, including how the city’s plans for East Avenue widening integrate with the state’s plans, as well as the issues related to these property takings.
    .
    Based on the DOT’s efforts in Stamford, with multiple public meetings to discuss the project there to replace their parking garage, I think Norwalk should also have a similar public process, since the changes here (albeit on a smaller scale than Stamford, but no less serious to our city) will affect our quality of life for generations to come.

  2. Counselor Call Out

    The gentleman needs professional legal representation. Sure there are a few
    compassionate Norwalk Counselors that would certainly be happy to assist the gentlemen’s immediate need of representation. With no
    thought, given, to the great pr.

  3. Diane C2

    @ Counselor call out: from you lips, to God’s ears. Homeowner is fearful of lawyers simply taking the money he gets for the house and leaving him with virtually nothing. We’ve explained “contingency” and “pro bono”, but he is reluctant and distrustful. One lawyer offered contingency, but it sounds like case is not big enough for him to even return phone calls. Still working on it, cause I don’t even play a lawyer on TV. If you know of some compassionate lawyers, send ’em our way. Thx

  4. Diane C2

    (correction: the state’s offer is a few thousand more than the 70% tax assessment value, but nearly $100,000 less than the tax market value)

  5. Diane C2

    lots of folks emailing asking how to help….
    please call or email local and state elected officials and ask them to:
    -request an immediate moratorium on the eminent domain process
    -arrange a public forum on the project and schedule
    -demand fair compensation and reasonable negotiations if condemnations are unavoidable

  6. Tobias

    Thanks for being on top of this Diane… It seems like this sort of thing would get lost in the everyday media shuffle if not for this website and your concern. This makes me a bit more apprehensive to want to purchase land in Norwalk and pay taxes on it if it can be taken for such less uses than a parking lot. Where’s Bob Duff on this?

  7. Diane C2

    @Tobias – thx. I’m grateful this site exists, too.
    And you make a good point about this happening in Norwalk, because honestly, if the state can do it here, to Mike, they can do it to you, anywhere.
    Senator Duff responded to my emails a week ago, but only to the extent of sending me the Council resolution that approved the East Avenue project to begin with.
    Where is Bob Duff on this? Where indeed….

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