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Could Norwalk bare it? Main Ave. property owner makes strip club ‘threat’

NORWALK, Conn. – A strip club on Main Avenue?

Say what?

That was one of the options that witnesses said property owner and Westport resident Alexander Gurevich suggested last week to Norwalk neighbors of the dirt wasteland where BJ’s Wholesale Club would like to put up a store. Gurevich’s comment has been described as “threatening” by one observer and “sarcastic” by another, while a third person said you have to take it in the context of a heated statement.

Gurevich, one of the owners of the property at 272-280 Main Ave., a Superfund site, met with about 30 people in a secretive meeting last week at the Norwalk Inn. Reports are that Attorney Frank Zullo was disappointed by the low turnout, but his invitation was cryptically  worded. Would-be attendees were not sure who was invited, a source said.

Also in attendance were workers from a public relations firm. They cringed when Gurevich made the strip club comment, witnesses said, but Peter Barhydt of Aberdeen Associates denied it.

“I did not hear the owner threaten anyone,” Barhydt said. “I did not hear anyone say that.”

Lynn Detroy says he said it.

“He said, in a really kind of sarcastic voice, he said, ‘Look. I could have put a strip club in here. What would you think of that?’ Everybody was shocked. He was very sarcastic. It was mixed company and I was very uncomfortable.”

That mixed company included one female resident of the Laura Raymond Homes, a senior independent living complex next door to the proposed site.

“They didn’t say they would do it, but they said ‘How would you like it if a strip club was going in?’ which I thought was kind of a stupid thing to say,” said the woman, who declined to be identified.

She didn’t think much of the presentation.

“Some of them were stuttering for an answer,” she said. “I don’t think they knew what they were talking about. … They just didn’t give straight answers.”

The strip club comment was first reported in the NancyOnNorwalk comments section by someone calling himself Herb Eaversmels, who said Gurevich “made repeated threats to the residents what he would do on this site if his plan was not approved.”

The commenter explained more in a phone call, in which he refused to give his real name.

Gurevich threatened to put a 50,000-square-foot strip club on the property if the BJ’s was not approved, he said. He had done it before in the Virgin Islands, he said.

Gurevich said he would never live next to a BJ’s Wholesale Club but Norwalk residents have to take what they can get, according to the caller. Developers are not flocking here, he said, using the debacles of 95/7 and POKO Partners as an example.

It was threatening, “Eaversmels” said.

Detroy agreed that it was threatening. Diane Cece doesn’t see it that way.

“He said ‘strip club’ in the context of what could be put there today,” Cece said. “I’ve heard a lot of people bantering around the term ‘threat,’ but I didn’t get that sense, not in my recollection.”

Everyone is upset, she said.

“There is as much passion on the side of the application and the applicant’s attorney, especially after having invested as much money as they have, as there is on the passion of the people who would rather not have that there,” she said. “I think they need to respect that.”

Comments

9 responses to “Could Norwalk bare it? Main Ave. property owner makes strip club ‘threat’”

  1. Tobias

    He could have said Chuck E Cheese.

  2. Ergo

    Well, one could argue that’s another way to get BJ’s in Norwalk.

    Too soon?

    😉

  3. Bruce Kimmel

    We have a very good ordinance on the books that would limit what can be done regarding “adult use” projects in the city. I am about to ask the ordinance committee of the Common Council to review that ordinance.

  4. M Allen

    Why a news story about an off-hand remark used to say “Just imagine what could be here?” Senasationalism or just trying to demonize the developers further? Yeah, maybe he said it, but why not provide better context than the astonishment of Puritans in the audience who were taken aback by such a “threat.”
    .
    The fact is that many of those against BJ’s at this location, would likely find fault with many alternatives. Fast food restaurant? “Oh no, noise and air pollution. I can’t smell fried chicken or hamburger fumes all day.” Everyone seems to say that we want mixed use, blah, blah, blah. How about an office building? Those add relatively little traffic on a consistent basis, have a high tax base and provide good white-callar jobs that low-skilled workers won’t qualify for. Doesn’t that tick all the boxes? I’m sure we can toss a couple stores in on the ground floor to call is mixed use. That would fit the bill for so many of us, but probably not if you are in Rolling Ridge and a 6 story office building would be in your line of sight from your kitchen window.

  5. Herb Eaversmels

    @Bruce Kimmel. For starters, how about getting the City to adopt the Norwalk Transit Management Plan we paid $500,000 for? http://www.vhb.com/norwalktmp/

  6. Suzanne

    I watched the interview with Mr. Rilling posted elsewhere on this site. I thought he had a good idea: businesses on the bottom, residences on top. I would add, make them flat-roofed for gardens or “yards” or living green roofs (a technology that works very well) to promote energy savings. That way, the adjacent neighbors would see green, living environments next to their residences with neighbors as opposed to a busy thorough fare to an underground parking lot and a wide expanse of roof. Buffering a much smaller building would also be easier on all the abutters. There is just so much more that can be accomplished at this site than the single proposal. Those who rejected the BJ’s permit should get busy with other, more lucrative ideas.

  7. Don’t Panic

    Let’s not lose sight of the fact that the withdrawal of the BJs application gives the City a window of opportunity to act on Mr. Mushak’s call to implement the zone changes along Main Avenue recommended in the 2008 Master Plan.
    .
    He has cited it, elsewhere on this site and I quote him, as follows:
    Under item E.3.1.11 on page 37, which states “Implement the recommendations of the Westport-North-Main Corridor Study.”
    .
    “That study, conducted in 2006 by a nationally recognized planning and engineering firm called Vollmer(Stantec now), specifically addresses the need to re-zone the maximum size of retail along this stretch of busy road to 10,000 foot maximum. BJ’s at 109,08, would not have been permitted at all and we would not have this current controversial issue captivating the city if that zone change had been implemented.”
    .
    It is now possible to act on his recommendation without compromising an application under consideration.

  8. Norwalk Lifer

    First of all, if this person bought this property with the explicit intent to sell it BJ’s and that deal fell thru, then he is subject to the oldest law on the books when it comes to commerce “Caveat Emptor”, Buyer beware.

    It is very amusing to hear how individuals complain when the wheels of free enterprise start turning furiously, and create an adverse situation for them; it’s fine when the offering is being pushed on an unwilling public, but once the public pushes back and the deals disintegrate, the whining becomes stentorian, and deafening.

    There are many opportunities for that parcel of land, it’s just a matter of time and patience, again I see no reason why there couldn’t be an offering to a start up, with intervention from the federal WIRED program for developing disadvantaged areas (from a manufacturing perspective). Lowell Massachusetts has done this and it’s start to reap benefits. And for all those deficit in industrialization history, Lowell Mass is where it all started.

    Patience, and forward thinking, that’s what is required to rebuild a shattered self generating economy in Norwalk, and all would benefit, from property owners, to school boards, to police and fire to small businesses.

    How about we start looking at this property with an eye towards bi partisan small business development, and start with the “easy money” generated despotically by Big Box?

    Regards
    Norwalk Lifer

  9. Why

    Oh my god a strip club!!!! Ugh with the self righteous indignation. …

    (This comment has been edited to conform to our guidelines)

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