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Just say no to POKO 2020

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I am an active, engaged citizen and stakeholder of Wall Street, yet I feel like an outsider when the big decisions by the City are being made for the area. The process and details of POKO routinely happen in secret.

Non-disclosure agreements have been signed.

Lawsuits have been filed which puts a stop to communication. There is a standing practice to not discuss potential, active or pending litigation, and lawsuits provide an excuse to ignore Freedom of Information requests.

POKO discussions often happen in executive sessions which are not open to the public.

When details are eventually revealed to the public it is usually a huge document dump with most decisions having already been made.

The latest POKO proposal is being presented to the Planning Committee on Thursday July 2nd, at 7 PM.  Planning Committee Agenda & Documents here.

Below is my summary of the documents:

  • Existing structure: 101 – 100% “Affordable” apartments. Only 40 parking spaces, zero public.
  • New structure to replace Garden Cinema: 50 market rate apartments. 157 parking spaces, zero public.
  • Total Project Cost: $106,017,189
  • Cost per apartment $702,100 (Mostly Studios & 1 Br’s)
  • Median Home Price in Norwalk: Mid $400,000’s
  • Developer Fee to McClutchy $9.6 Million
  • Money paid to the city for the former public parking lot that was donated to POKO… $0!

 

This proposal has a 15 year tax plan that only requires a tiny fraction of normal property taxes be paid including for the 50 market rate apartments.

POKO 2020 has 4 rent tiers:

Lowest Tier: 34 apartments (These are the only truly affordable apartments.)
  • 1 Br $1083 / Month
  • 2 Br $1299 / Month
  • 3 Br $1501 / Month
Second Tier: 32 apartments
  • 1 Br $1624 / Month
  • 2 Br $1948 / Month
  • 3 Br $2251 / Month
Third Tier: 35 apartments
  • 1 Br $2166 / Month
  • 2 Br $2598 / Month
  • 3 Br $3002 / Month
Fourth Tier – “Market Rate”: 50 Apartments
  • Studio $2100 / Month
  • 1 Br $2650 / Month

 

As a point of reference in this immediate market, I just converted the former Treasure House building across the street from POKO at 5 Issaacs St into six new apartments.

I received No special tax plan. No subsidy. No government assistance. Compare my market rate rents to POKO “Affordable” rents.

5 Isaacs St. (Treasure House) Rents
  • 3 Apts – 1 Br $1595 to $1695
  • 3 Apts – 2 Br $2150 to $2195

 

Just Say No to this proposal!

A Narrative Project Proposal was in the 91 page Planning Committee packet. Here are some quotes:

  • “Citibank is backing this proposal out of a genuine interest in seeing the Wall Street Place development completed in a way that will benefit the City of Norwalk and its citizens.”

Nowhere in the 91 pages is there an explanation of how this project benefits the City of Norwalk and its citizens.

  • “-even the most optimistic proforma indicates a loss of the $14 million+ of the $19.5 million invested to date, assuming all goes well from here.”

Said another way, Citibank claims that in the best-case scenario they will only recover $5.5 million, and that would occur after several years of gaining approvals, lining up tax credits, grants, financing, and going through construction.

After I read that claim a few days ago, I offered to pay Citibank $5.5 million immediately.

  • Citibank could get their best-case scenario number right now without having to going through the approval process and construction.
  • The City could save the $4.4 million, and instead use it to help the rest of Wall Street. Or the City could buy the Garden Cinema for $3 Million and still have $1.4 million leftover to invest into fixing the streets and sidewalks.

 

Lastly, Citibank made this statement:

“THIS IS THE FINAL AND BEST OFFER THAT CAN BE MADE. SHOULD THE PROPOSED DEVELOPMENT NOT BE ACCEPTED THE BANK WILL BE FORCED TO CONFRONT THE ECONOMIC REALITY OF HAVING TO SELL THE ASSET.”

Terrific.

Just Say No, and Citibank will sell the asset. Norwalk saves $4.4 million and will get a much better project. Also, Garden Cinemas can be saved…

 

Jason Milligan

 

 

Editor’s note: Jason Milligan’s offer to purchase “POKO” includes a stipulation that the Land Disposition Agreement for the property be abolished.  The Common Council has the authority to void the Land Disposition Agreement, a legal agreement that is part of the foundation of the lawsuit filed against Milligan by the Redevelopment Agency and the City.

8 comments

Milly July 2, 2020 at 6:20 am

I do not like all the decisions being made in Norwalk – but a developer out for profit is the last person who should be in charge of city development. And by adding more apartments to Norwalk you are part of the problem – not the solution.

steve July 2, 2020 at 7:02 am

Sad that the editor had to add a note to this to make clear the writer’s true “stake” in this process (up to his eyeballs). He hardly has “clean hands” in this mess, and from an outsiders standpoint appears to be trying to make hay from the chaos that has ensued.

David Osler July 2, 2020 at 8:47 am

Milligan I completely agree with you I have thought this project is a disaster since I moved to town and had no economic advantage to the public I’m 100% certain somebody’s lining their pockets somehow I don’t know how but the numbers just don’t make any sense and they never have on this project they don’t even make sense of this was Manhattan on Central Park West

Captain Obvious July 2, 2020 at 5:39 pm

The only way to stop this is to get BLM to be against it. Seriously. They are the only one’s this administration serves. 14,600 signatures from concerned taxpayers fell on deaf ears. But a couple of demands from BLM and this Mayor blocks one of the country’s busiest highways for half-an-hour, or removes a statue. Every other town is making budget cuts in the pandemic but not here.

TPM “Tax Payers Matter”. Oh, I forgot, if we make any noise then we get the Dry Dock treatment.

Michael McGuire July 3, 2020 at 3:57 pm

David,

When they started construction in late 2014 I said to my wife “the worst thing that can happen to us is that they get half-way done and stop”.

I don’t’ have any beef with Citibank, the Developer, their Counsel, or even Milligan, since they are all only doing what their business is about. And they are all operating within the guidelines, rules and regulations established by the City of Norwalk.

But it’s coming on 15+ years now in concept, and 6+ years since ground-breaking. And that is entirely on the City of Norwalk.

So what do I think? I still think that the concept here is flawed. The City could have done so much better for its citizens.

Skeptical July 3, 2020 at 6:46 pm

+1 to Steve’s reply

Milligan’s self-interested gambit, childish games, and flouting of regs don’t deserve any sympathy. POKO would be done by now, and Garden Cinema wouldn’t need to be torn down, if Milligan hadn’t jumped into the middle of it trying to make a buck. He’s spent tons of money and time in court trying to avoid answering questions under oath about what he did. I suspect he’s losing, which is why he’s pleading with council to save him. I hope they hang tough.

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