Dems send message about ‘ignored’ South Norwalk parks

Norwalk Parks and Recreation Director Mike Mocciae is congratulated after the Common Council on Tuesday affirmed Mayor Harry Rilling’s reappointment with a 9-5 vote.

NORWALK, Conn. – A Norwalk lovefest ended on a sour note Tuesday night when five Common Council members, who had been silent, voted against Mayor Harry Rilling’s reappointment of Parks and Recreation Director Mike Mocciae.

Four public speakers and four members of the Republican caucus lauded Mocciae before Rilling called for a vote on the reappointment. He was asked for a roll call vote, which he clearly did not expect. Everyone from South Norwalk – Travis Simms (D-District B), Phaedrel “Faye” Bowman (D-District B) and Sharon Stewart (D-At Large) – and District A members Eloisa Melendez and David Watts voted against him, without saying why.

The positive remarks began with Norwalk Historical Society President David Westmoreland.

“Mike always says yes, he always delivers,” Westmoreland said.

What Mocciae has done with Fodor Farm is nothing less than amazing, Westmoreland said. “I always think of the Norwalk park system to cheer myself up,” he said.

Democratic Town Committee District B member Mike Mushak thanked Mocciae’s parents, who were there, for producing “such a fine gentleman.”

Democratic Town Committee District D member Diane Lauricella said Mocciae is open to ideas from citizens. Douglas Peeples thanked Mocciae for supporting his karate program, which he said helped a lot of children.

In 1985, Parks and Rec was producing $250,000 in revenue for the city, Majority Leader Jerry Petrini (R-District D) said. Today it produces $2.3 million a year in revenue, with half the staff, he said.

“No other town has what we have to offer,” he said. “Norwalk is second to none in the state.”

“It’s one thing to have a vision but it is another to take that vision and make it real,” Council President Doug Hempstead (R-At Large) said. “… Mike has managed to do a lot more with a lot less.”

Bruce Kimmel (D-At Large) said he remembered when there were times when Parks and Rec didn’t have anyone to answer the phone during lunch hour.

When the recession hit, all the department heads were asked to look for savings and ways to raise revenue, he said.

“Mike took it seriously and came up with ideas for saving,” he said. “Other department heads nodded their heads and said ‘we’d try,’ yet nothing really happened. I admire him for that. He’s not just a standard department head, he’s a real booster. He takes pride in our city parks.”

“We all know our parks look right,” Richard Bonenfant (R-At Large) said. “Mike over the years has made so many people happy with the programs that are run.”

The problem is, “He doesn’t do anything for the parks in South Norwalk,” Bowman explained after the meeting.

A new gymnasium put in at Bouton Street Park was from a GE grant, she said. The basketball courts at Ryan Park and Woodward Avenue haven’t had lines on them for 10 years, she said.

Money is spent on Fodor Farm but not the San Vincenzo community garden, she said.

“We want some of the gyms over here,” she said. “Ben Franklin used to be open. Also there was a boxing program in there years ago.”


16 responses to “Dems send message about ‘ignored’ South Norwalk parks”

  1. Once again, SoNo will get much more of its fair share.
    Now if only they paid into the system…

  2. the donut hole

    Bowman could start a neighborhood association to help take care of these kind of like other city parks neighbors do. Or she could wait for others to do things for her. Her choice.

  3. Norwalk Voter

    New Council Members believing their own ‘facts’. Why does Nancy believe this stuff without checking on it. Faye, Travis and Watts need to do their homework. Nancy needs to start asking questions before publishing these inaccurate statements. Saying it does not make it correct. Nor does printing make it true. I lose faith in this column every day.

    1. Mark Chapman

      @Norwalk Voter

      I’m sorry, you do not seem to get the difference between reporting on a public meeting and investigating an issue. This story was reporting on a public meeting that was recorded for posterity and showed a large chunk of the mayor’s Democratic caucus voting against the reappointment of a man the mayor recently said did a “great job.” They council members apparently did not choose to discuss this in the meeting for whatever reason, so the reporter did the proper thing and asked why. Those who chose to go on the record were quoted as to their reasons. Whether you or we agree with those reasons does not change the news value. The news is that there is a perception among a part of the the city that there is a problem, and those on-the-record statements articulated that feeling. The allegations also deserve follow-up story, something that was discussed while the current story was being written. This is how a news organization, large or small, is supposed to work.

  4. dawn

    so tell me what is the truth that is lacking in the story.
    educate me.

  5. diane c2

    Common knowledge that Ryan Park on Raymond Street has been neglected when it comes to programs, maintenance, and amenities.
    The park would be overgrown and dangerous if not for the dedicated work of Friends of Ryan Park, volunteers from Stamford’s Bartlett Arboretum and Master Gardeners from near and far.

  6. Casey Smith

    Someone might want to check with Dave Shockley. I think the San Vicenzo community gardens were recently cleaned up by a volunteer group. If it’s a community garden, isn’t it up to the community to maintain it?

    Ryan Park now has water, which was no mean feat. There have also been numerous plans developed for Ryan Park and endless discussions of the same. Oyster Shell Park has lighting and a brand new playground was just put in. Flax Hill Park had some clean ups and upgrades. Fodor Farm is still a work in process.

    Also, after two major storm events, the pier at the beach is being repaired. Not sure what the status of the seawall is. None of that stuff just happened over night. It took planning and funding allocations and staff assignments to complete.

    It’s too bad that the basketball court at Ryan Park hasn’t been relined in years. Maybe that could be put on the spring list.

  7. SoNoCC

    SoNoCC congratulates Mike Mocciae on his reappointment and we look forward to continued cooperation and collaboration. Mike has been a strong supporter of our proposed initiatives.

  8. ScopeonNorwalk

    @irishgirl…you are obviously unaware that South Norwalk does have property owners who do pay into the system and should have usable parks. You possibly were trying to reference public housing residents but are obviously unaware that they actually have Housing Authority managed bball courts to use. It’s the homeowners and renters that live in the Flax Hill area and at the end of Woodward that the city is short changing.

  9. ScopeonNorwalk

    @Donut Hole: the last time a citizen put lines down at Ryan Park the city paved over it and didn’t replace the lines…also Ryan Park is kept halfway decent by volunteers but the city should be helping. I agree with Bowman the city should do it’s part. How much does it cost to put lines on a basketball court?

  10. jlightfield

    Here’s an idea …. the Common Council people could realize that the funding provided for community stuff like parks and playgrounds, is called CDBG, (community development block grants) and that they, the CC, determine how that money is spent. Right now they designate the Redevelopment Agency as the “manager” of the program and funds. They should just grant money towards parks in SONO that they pick rather than “outsourcing” the decision.
    Why do we have a playground at the entrance to Oyster Shell park when one is located less than 800 feet away (Devon’s Place) because …the children. Someone donated the playground, the common council didn’t bother looking at a map of current playgrounds, a photo op ensued.

  11. Oldtimer

    The key to Mocciae’s political success is he has been able to generate a lot of revenue from the parks and that is all his Republican supporters care about. If he saw a way he could generate substantial revenue in South Norwalk, he would be there. Of course, there would be fees for just about everything.

  12. diane c2

    @SoNoCC – exactly what are your proposed initiatives that have garnered Mr. Mocciae’s strong support?

  13. SoNoCC

    We have discussed a fundraising event for SoNoCC at Vets Park, a community event at Ryan Park, an after-school gardening program for the neighborhood children, etc.:)

  14. I remember an article when the citizens of Rowayton wanted to clean up and rebuild a park (not 100% sure of the exact scope of the project) and they banded together and got the job done. Not a huge spread in The Hour, but it made it to the community page.
    Not long after that, there was an article ON THE FRONT PAGE that featured a public housing complex quoting the residents complaining about the broken glass, the garbage and the missing nets on the basketball court. All they said is “they want” and “they need” and “what is the city doing for us” to have the city come and clean up the “mess”.
    Stark contrasts in the mentality of the two neighborhoods – one is “we can do” and the other is “we are OWED” – now why do you think that most, if not all, of those people who think they are “OWED” still live in the same place. Can’t be because of the beautiful surroundings.
    If people just picked up after themselves and looked out for their neighborhood, then they wouldn’t have such a littered and broken down place to live…
    Jus’ saying.

  15. Karen

    Is it a bad thing to generate revenue to reduce the taxpayer’s tax burden?

    Just curious

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