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