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Duleep not there yet, but almost

This building at 45 Wall St. belongs to Ganga Duleep, under the entity Wall Street Associates.
This building at 45 Wall St. belongs to Ganga Duleep, under the entity Wall Street Associates.

NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk skeptics can take heart – Chief Building Official Bill Ireland thinks work may finally begin on Ganga Duleep’s burned out building.

“I think it will,” Ireland said. “She has made many promises but now I am starting to get things in writing, where things were verbal before, on progress. So engineers’ letters and things like that. That’s a first.”

Duleep’s building at 45 Wall St. is widely viewed as an eyesore that is holding the neighborhood back. Ireland, Norwalk’s blight enforcement officer, turned the heat up in December by sending a blight warning letter to Duleep and TD Bank, the lien holder on the building.

The building has sat vacant and dilapidated since August 2010 when it was consumed in flames. Duleep filed a lawsuit against TD Bank to recover $689,262 in insurance money, according to published reports. In May 2013, she said the money had been released and work would begin. Workers were seen going in and out of the building in September 2013, but then activity stopped, neighbors said. In May 2014, Duleep told NancyOnNorwalk that she had qualified for funding through the state’s Commercial & Industrial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) program but TD Bank would not sign off. She was also eligible for tax credits through the United States Department of the Interior and the State Historic Preservation Office but the process was laborious and slow, she said.

Ireland said Duleep needs a scaffolding permit to proceed with the roof demolition and accompanying abatement work. His department has signed off on it and it’s in the hands of the Department of Public Works, he said.

“We already approved the plan,” Ireland said. “She can put it right up. We just have to make sure of the height, and the protection, so nothing falls down into the street. And that there’s clearance for headroom.

“Hopefully we will see it happen because, like I said, I have been here 67 years, since I was a kid,” Ireland said. “(Wall Street) was the big place to be.”

Comments

20 responses to “Duleep not there yet, but almost”

  1. John Hamlin

    “Almost there.” Translation: nowhere. Nothing has happened from the standpoint of the suffering neighborhood. Enough. What has the city done about this? Nothing. The Common Council could enact a strong blight ordinance but it is a do-nothing, dysfunctional body mired in petty personal squabbling. Such a waste.

  2. John Levin

    Not a story. Except for those that need salacious. Okay, then I guess it is a story.

  3. John Hamlin

    @JohnLevin — the fate of Duleep’s property is “not a story”? Only if you care nothing for the fate of Wall Street and the City’s inability/refusal to do anything meaningful about blight. Thank you NON.

  4. Suzanne

    “She has made many promises but now I am starting to get things in writing, where things were verbal before, on progress. So engineers’ letters and things like that. That’s a first.”

    So this was a “wink and a prayer” strategy all along? Verbal anything does not go anywhere in most businesses and certainly not in a situation like this. Part of the responsibility of this “transaction” must go to a government who does not request documentation for four years and, when they get it, cheer for the bare necessity of having it to get the job done.

  5. Carol

    don”t hold your breath—-

  6. Ms Ruby McPherson

    Give the woman a break, if the bank was holding her money and certain agency wouldn’t give permits,get all of the information. Just because you money hungry want to take the property, Beside a wink and a prayer goes a long way when people are putting obstacle in your way. God will remove them ( and the people)

  7. Kevin Di Mauro

    @John Hamlin

    You could almost say that Norwalk is a city with a “fake” government.

  8. Mickey

    Nothing but hollow promises from her for years! Norwalk we deserve better. She has had more….than enough time to move forward. You think if she devoted her efforts in getting her disgraceful Wall St property in order, she would not have time to meddle in Ryan Park politics ?

  9. Michael McGuire

    I would hope the Norwalk Leadership would keep the fines in place and on-going until documented proof is established for funding, tax credits, contracts with materials suppliers, full architectural, approvals etc are in place.

    If Duleep was serious about doing this she would have adequately secured her building from the weather. This has still not been done.

    If she cared about her neighbors she would have removed the graffiti from the west wall (3rd floor) bold letters spelling “dine”.

  10. John Hamlin

    @KevinDiMauro — brilliant! Love it:
    “You could almost say that Norwalk is a city with a “fake” government.”

    That’s what everyone should be fretting about — our “fake” city government!

  11. jlightfield

    right on @Mike McGuire, right on. Responsible property owners secure their buildings and don’t rely on plastic tarps, cardboard boxes and playing the victim card to preserve and protect their building.

    The latest news on the irresponsible property owner front is that the pipes froze and burst in the building a few weeks ago. Further damage to the historic infrastructure.

    For the record, zoning operates on a paper and record based enforcement system.

  12. Suzanne

    jlightfield, “…zoning operates on a paper and record based enforcement system.”

    That maybe true but Chief Building Official Bill Ireland states: “…but now I am starting to get things in writing, where things were verbal before, one progress.”

    This states that enforcement was based on verbal communications which is just another sign of a broken blight enforcement system.

  13. John Hamlin

    The current Common Council is responsible for this atrocity and much more in Norwalk. And yet they do nothing that actually addresses this problem or the underlying issues — they ALL deserve to be challenged and replaced in the next election — and we should keep doing that every two years until we have a Council that’s functional and takes action to solve problems and address serious issues. We couldn’t do much worse if we elected blow up dolls instead of what we’re stuck with now. What has any Council member done to address/remedy the Duleep atrocity? And that’s the support they should get from the voters in the next election.

  14. John Levin

    Aren’t there many other vacant properties on Wall Street? Ganga Duleep is singled out because why? Her’s is the ugliest? Or because she doesn’t have enough money to maintain it properly so she should sell it to another developer who has more money than she? Or because it once was occupied, but now isn’t? It’s her fault that the other properties, which she doesn’t own, have been left vacant for MANY years? Is there a double standard here?

  15. Taxpayer Fatigue

    Oh please. Vacant is one thing, burned out with frayed plastic tarps blowing in the breeze in place of windows is another. And it took four years after the fire for her to figure out she should shut the water off? Now the broken pipes have caused even more damage to a historic structure whose roof, windows, and doors have not been secured from the weather for the past four years. Do you think the intention here is “demolition by neglect”? Oops, sorry the building is too damaged now to save – I guess we’ll have to tear the whole thing down now.

    Double standard? That would be laughable if the whole situation wasn’t so pathetic.

  16. anon

    @McGuire and @ LIghtfield @Taxpayer Fatigue, points well taken, agree

  17. Michael McGuire

    @John Levin

    You bring up a very good point that I believe reflects Greater Norwalk’s perception of Wall Street “Aren’t there many other vacant properties on Wall Street?” – The answer is No.

    True some of the retail is vacant. However, unlike Duleep’s buildings they are being marketed for lease and have been occupied periodically. Tenant come in, struggle for a couple of years, then go out. Unfortunately the tenants don’t stay largely due to issues such as Duleep’s buildings (garbage/blight) and a business sapping parking policy the chases customers away.

    There was also the M&T building which was vacant since circa 1992 and I wasn’t until 2004ish that it was finally sold to POKO to create something. If we had an effective blight ordinance then (1990’s) the M&T building would be something other than a hole in the ground it is today. The other buildings on Wall that were taken over for the POKO development had been occupied for years.

    The office market in downtown is solid for small space (not large office space which is important to understand). It is the go-to place for much of Fairfield County’s small office user market. With 5 banks, post office, library and a host of support business services its a logical place to do business. However, the lack of planning and support to create a thriving commercial market place for small business is missing. Hence Wall/Main is a shadow of what it could be.

    And its large – there is over 600,000 SF of small office in downtown Norwalk – that’s roughly equivalent to two Merritt Seven office buildings in size.

    The Wall/Main area looks the way it does because of poor planning and neglect by the City leadership. I believe that the RDA is generally more focused on large “grand slam” projects for a host of reasons I wont go into here. However “hitting singles” wins the game more frequently.

    I’m a classic example. In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s I went to P&Z and RDA with the expressed intent of doing a renovation/redevelopment project. Since I was small (sub $1.0 million – a single in baseball analogy) I was “patted on the head” and with a few kind words shown the door.

    While slightly deterred my team and I took 64 Wall Street from a decrepit office building that had not been touched since the 1950’s with a broken elevator and 3 tenant squatters (with 5 people total) and created one of Norwalk’s best small office buildings.

    Since finishing in 2004 we’ve had generally 90% plus occupancy with 23 businesses creating “jobs for the 21st century” for up to 65 people who spend money every day in Norwalk and we generate a large amount of tax revenue. We just one example. Other owners are doing the same all around the area.

    Consider that there is no Enterprise Zone here to kick start small business, particularly retail business. Yet SoNo has had this economic support for decades. Check out the RDA web site and you’ll see a costly study done to create a “retail incubator” in SoNo. It calls for a 30,000 SF building with low rents. Hmmmmm….Wall Street has that.

    Likewise the lack of planning and communication between the Planning Commission, P&Z, NPA and RDA resulted in a Norwalk Parking Policy that is punitive to business. A qualified professional planner would see these lapses and take corrective action.

    So your question is a good one since it speaks to the “perception” of Wall Street, and that perception became reality that everyone seems to just accept.

    For finger pointing I’d have to say the buck stops at P&Z/Planning Commission(s). Planning is needed to quarterback the various agencies (P&Z, RDA, NPA, DPW, Building Dept. etc) and keep the CC informed and educated.

    Without this “quarterbacking guidance” each agency will focus on there tasks and the CC and Planning Commissions (all good people but with no real development/planning background) will be guided by the developer or whoever is screaming the loudest (whether for logical reasons or not). And the epic planning blunders will continue.

  18. Tod Bryant

    Jackie and Mike are right on. A responsible building owner would stabilize and protect the building immediately – not wait 5 years to start work. A normal business person would either repair their property of sell it. She has done neither. The building is bringing down the entire street and businesses are leaving. There is no excuse for this conduct.

  19. Kevin Di Mauro

    @Michael McGuire

    The only time I venture into that area is when I need to go to the post office. Although the Avalon housing project seems to be finished, it doesn’t look as though anything is happening with the old Pathmark Shopping center. Do know anything about it?

  20. jlightfield

    @Kevin Di Mauro, I believe that the retail tenant planned for that space fell through. Ground floor retail is still in a fragile market and we’ve seen the Redevelopment Agency award grants to move Wall Street businesses to SONO, so we’re not quite sure what that means long term.

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