Latino business owners slam City Hall as they support Rilling for mayor

Updated 1:29 p.m.: Comments from Jim Clark of the Golden Hill Association added, with an additional comment from Hal Alvord.

NORWALK, Conn. – Complaints about no communication from City Hall marked a press conference called Wednesday to urge Latino Norwalkers to vote for Democratic mayoral candidate Harry Rilling.

Norwalk Department of Public Works employees showed up on Oct. 2 to tear up Cedar Street without warning any of the business owners on the street, said business owner Nathalia Gonzalez.

Gonzalez said she was speaking for other Cedar Street business owners — the restaurant owner, the tattoo shop owner, the graphic design shop owner — as she joined with immigrants from Ecuador, Columbia, Peru, Mexico, Venezuela, Nicarauga, Panama, El Salvador and Puerto Rico to stand united for Rilling.

Common Councilman Warren Peña led the group of Latino leaders, standing in Don Floro’s Restaurant at 75 Cedar St., where there is very little traffic due to the reconstruction of the Cedar Street bridge and the city construction crews working on a $1.8 million project that, according to DPW Director Hal Alvord, has been planned for 10 years.

“There has been absolutely no communication here,” Peña said. “There are many small business owners here that should have had some type of dialog. The mayor should have come down here himself to speak to the small business community and say ‘Hey, look, we’re going to have an interruption here, how can I help? How can we make sure that we are working together? So that way you don’t suffer from a closed bridge and clients not being able to come through this area. … Harry Rilling, the man that I know, is going to have an open dialog and will have better communication skills with the Latino community, our children and the community overall here in Norwalk.”

Norwalk Latinos for Rilling 102313 008
Norwalk’s Cedar Street has been closed at the Interstate 95 overpass for months.

Gonzalez said business owners recognize that the construction projects are a huge opportunity but feel that communication is in order.

“We were never announced about the construction,” she said. “I think it is not fair to us business owners. That same day, when I called City Hall, somebody came down here and said somebody was supposed to tell you but that person is new at the job. So I think it’s unprofessional. It seems like, you know, we’re all Spanish business owners and we’re not getting anywhere. Some of us have gone to City Hall and nothing happens. No one takes us seriously.”

That response from City Hall – a worker visiting Don Floro’s – was it, she said.

“I had already left,” she said. “They spoke to (Don Floro’s owner). They were looking for me so they didn’t say anything else. Besides that we got no communication.”

Alvord said the project has been developed with the collaboration of the Golden Hill Association and the Cedar Street Merchants.

“We try to communicate to people in the most effective manner that we can,” he said. “In my view, this project was a model of the way a neighborhood group and a city can work together to the benefit of both. They helped us plan the project – they were involved in every meeting on the planning of the project. They were involved in the timing of the project. They wanted to make sure the work was done while the bridge was still closed so that we didn’t unnecessarily extend disruptions on the street and they offered to do all the communications with the merchants and the people in the area. That’s the ideal way. That’s more effective than us putting fliers in people’s doors and stuff like that. As far as we know the communication was being done by those groups and everything was fine.”

Jim Clark of the Golden Hill Association said the spirit of Alvord’s statement was correct but the specificity of it wasn’t.

Yes, the volunteers of the association were involved all along with planning the project and working with the merchants, who were consulted at the time the plans were made. Communicating with all the stakeholders is a big challenge, he said, and no matter how hard you try something that is unexpected will crop up, like a machine being parked in front of someone’s door.

“We’re not given that kind of granular detail,” he said. “We never specifically said we’re going to be giving street closing information, we never said we would communicate that. But having said that we could improve … As much as you try to communicate with folks you could always do a better job of it.”

Property owners were kept informed but perhaps those people didn’t pass along the information to the business owners, who appear to be tenants, he said.

Alvord said Peña scheduled a meeting with him Friday to discuss the complaints, but canceled it. He therefore had not had the opportunity to inform Peña about the involvement of the neighborhood association, the said.

The road construction will be done by the end of the year, Alvord said. The bridge is supposed to reopen by then, too, Clark said, but the Fairfield and Taylor Avenue bridges will then close for two years.

Rilling said a lack of communications from City Hall is common.

“This is not the exception in Norwalk,” he said. “This is the rule. Very little communications comes from City Hall to people who are affected by what’s happening.”

Peña said Moccia’s approach to the Latino community is “nil.” He urged Latinos to vote for Rilling, who said he spent two years in Puerto Rico when his daughter was a baby, having “wonderful, wonderful times.”

Nevertheless, Rilling and Peña said they realized Latino votes are hard to come by.

At last week’s mayoral forum in the South Norwalk Community Center, it was said that of 5,200 Latino registered voters, 800 voted in the last election.

“We have a problem in Norwalk with voter apathy,” Peña said. “The Latino community needs to understand that we need to come out and vote as a block together. Today I am calling on the Latino community to make sure that they stand with us, here united, for the benefit of Harry Rilling and the city of Norwalk.”

“If everybody in this room reached out to five people, who reached out to five people, who reached out to more, the Latino community would be heard loud and clear,” Rilling said. “They’ll be heard saying ‘We want a voice.’”



16 responses to “Latino business owners slam City Hall as they support Rilling for mayor”

  1. Question: Why didn’t Pena pick up the ball or was he just waiting to complain and get people riled up.
    I also hope that everyone brings proof of citizenship before being allowed to vote (and that is EVERYWHERE).

  2. Joe Espo

    Harry and Warren: do you just want to represent latinos, latinos, latinos or would the other 95% of your constituency appreciate your representation? Just think of the other voters who would prefer that you not be so myopically ethnocentric but who would appreciate you prosecuting their grievances as well. Beside latinos, there are Irishinos, Italianinos, African-Americaninos, Polishinos, Greekinos, Indianinos, Jewishinos, Catholicinos, Musliminos and even Waspinos among your contituency in Norwalk. We are a diverse city. What about them? Should they vote for you?

  3. Don’t Panic

    The subtext of Mr. Moccia’s statement being the usual blame the victim mentality. We worked with the neighborhood association s so if you didn’t show up for those meetings its your own fault.
    Planned for ten years, yes. In those ten years Mr. Alvord, did you not notice the absence of those business owners from DPW committee meetings? Would flyers in their doors have been LESS effective than this?
    In NYC, when sidewalk are blocked with those construction contraptions, additional signs are put up to alert people that businesses are still open. Norwalk might have taken similar steps.

  4. M Allen

    Chief – you’re smarter than this. Be careful how far down the rabbit hole you go with Pena. He has a single-constituency agenda. You don’t.

  5. Dirty Politics

    This is politics it’s worst. NON did you interview Harold McCready at the liquor store? Bill at The Cedar Street market? Anyone at the Laundry mat? Did you check with Deering Construction to verify that there were LARGE orange cones with Notification were up since August? PRIOR TO WRINTING THIS PIECE? or is this race baiting Reckless reporting.

    What a low down dirty move by both Harry Rilling and Warren Pena. How offensive to Hispanic people to make it seem as though they need a special envoy, as if they can’t read or write, to convey what was posted on Cedar st for more than a month. And if that’s the case then one could consider this an Epic failure on pena’s behalf to have failed to notify “his people”. Never have I agreed with Mayor Moccia – but he’s got a point. This is race baiting at it’s political worst.

    To La Sopressa – loyal customer right here, (I also frequent Harold’s shop as well as Cedar St Market mult times a week) I support the Mom and Pop shops but this really disappoints me. I will have to re consider visiting your location again.

  6. Th Other Harry

    If Warren Pena voted for this project, why didn’t he tell the community it was happening? Its the same old story, complain that the roads are bad and complain when they fix them. next they’ll be saying people drive too fast because the roads are too smooth.

  7. Daisy

    You said it all.

  8. Oldtimer

    “myopically ethnocentric” ? Once again Joe Espo misses the point altogether. Latinos are about 25%, not 5% of our population and do not vote in the numbers they could, pretty much convinced their votes won’t count. Warren, and Harry, are trying to get them out to vote this time and Joe Espo pokes fun at that effort, in some misguided hope his sad humor will help his buddy get re-elected.

  9. sofaman

    Easy Joe, take a breath. Just because there’s a video depicting a candidate meeting with one of the city’s vibrant business owners group doesn’t mean the rest are being ignored. Unless you’re suggesting candidates should continue to ignore and disrespect this group, it’s kinda hard to tell.


    Pena’s look says it all. Like that of a used car salesman. I would no sooner vote this guy than I would for Moccia.

  11. D(ysfunctional)TC

    Hopefully this is the bottom.
    Can someone enlighten me if “Latino” is the new accepted term? All my EEOC forms say Hispanic and they seem current.
    Should I be enraged that no one informed me of the change? Or should I try to pay attention to my surroundings and take on some personal responsibility?
    Thanks for your advice.

  12. Joe Espo

    @Th Other Harry: you’re right but you forgot to mention that Pena is next going to claim voter suppression.

  13. Suzanne

    Census 2010 shows that 24.26 percent of Norwalk’s population is of Hispanic or Latino origin. Showing interest in this sector of the population does not mean the rest are ignored but it is wise to spend some time with this significant group of people. Any other approach would just be silly. …

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

  14. Susan Wallerstein

    For what it’s worth, reminder that Jim Clark (D) is a Moccia appointed Board of Estimate & Taxation (BET) member.

  15. Norwalk Lifer

    Like it or not, this is a considerable portion of our community, I think that the vibrancy that is brought by every ethnic group blending itself into this ideal of American exceptionalism, is yet another example of why this country is great.

    If anyone here wants to dispute that, they can go “kick rocks”. Nothing will change my view on this.

    I’ll propose to all that at one time or another, every single one of you, including irish girl were immigrants. And some of YOU were illegal in nature.

    Isn’t it wonderful, that every new group of people who have come to this country, have brought their own culture and blended it so successfully? Without the luck of the Irish, the Laughter of the Italians, the Dance of the Greeks, the Sturdiness of the Germans, the resolve of the Brits, the audacity of the Aussies, and every one culture that has ever passed these shores, our ideal of a democratic union based on the premise that all men are created equal would not be able to show it’s miraculous awesomeness over and over again.

    We are a people of the “second wind”, we are all second winders, and those that believe in pre-destined, well it’s just so, it’s written in the cards, type of existence, just don’t know what Americans believe.

    You should rejoice in the voices of these people, you should listen to their concerns, because they are breathing that “second wind” into this country, just like your forefathers and ancestors did.

    Norwalk Lifer

  16. The Deal

    Lifer….atta boy!

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