Letter: The Norwalk I know

By Ernest DesRochers

To the Editor:

NORWALK, Conn. — There is a Chinese proverb that says if one man lies, and a hundred repeat it as true, then the lie becomes the truth. As a 22-year resident of the City of Norwalk and one whose children were all very well educated in our public schools, I have to say that I am mystified by the politics that proposed new real estate developments have engendered during this political season. The latest is candidate Riling’s claim that the city development process is dysfunctional and stalled development projects have cost the citizens of Norwalk valuable tax revenues.

As anyone who wants to become mayor should know, attracting new development is not easy and takes time. Market cycles that come and go have a direct effect on new development. The process becomes more complicated when political hyperbole enters the equation.

Naysayers can say what they want about development in the City of Norwalk, but what has occurred in the past few years is nothing short of a miracle. I see greatness in the leadership we have had in all aspects of our local government. Our country suffered through some of the most difficult economic times to happen in 80 years and Norwalk has survived in better shape that anyone could have imagined.

Norwalk has new development everywhere in the retail and residential, commercial and office sectors and public sectors. We are in the midst of a renaissance, the likes this city has not seen in a generation. One only needs to drive around Norwalk to see what is going on. Shall we do that now?

SONO is now a mixed use mecca with retail, apartments, a successful aquarium, adequate parking, new office, water dependent uses, and hopefully a new major regional mall that will make Norwalk a destination. Under construction is the 108-unit Norwalk Company apartment building with its retail and parking garage. Recently completed is the mixed use Avrick Building that is now retail, office and residential. Also completed is the ice hockey rink in the old Nash Engineering site on Wilson Avenue.

In the downtown area, Wall Street has new apartments with Avalon. West Avenue has Waypoint under construction with its 325 apartment units and retail with the 95 unit residential and commercial Phase II not far behind. Of course there are our local gems the Lockwood Matthews’ mansion and the Stepping Stone Museum (also expanding) and unless I forget the hospital is in the midst of a 95,000 square foot expansion of its facility along with a new 638 car parking garage.

In the Route 7 / Merritt Parkway area there has been major development there. The 96-room Hotel Zero recently opened with its first class restaurant. Across the street in the former 30,000 square foot Hour building is a first class medical and general office development that re-imagined an existing use. Not far from there the Summerview residential development with its 50 units located on West Main and Summer Street which has transformed an entire neighborhood into something new for the 21st century.

Over in East Norwalk there are several new developments. The first is the Pepperidge Farm 53,000 square foot Innovation center located near the Westport border. That development retains high paying jobs for Norwalk and it is part of a very nice mixed use commercial and 235 unit residential development that was completed in 2008.

In addition to the above, Avalon is nearing completion of 240 residential units in Norden Park and under construction in Norden with an expected early 2014 completion data is a 168,000 square foot data center. Finally there is the 84 unit Maplewood Congregate Care center on Strawberry Hill in the former Fitch School.

On Connecticut Avenue there is the recently completed CVS store that has transformed an unsightly corner with poor traffic conditions into something that is far nicer with much improved road conditions. Down the street from there is the Lowe’s site that will start construction soon and across from that is the recently completed Fire Department.

The taxpayers of the city of Norwalk are in the midst of a once in a lifetime change in the city and folks are complaining as if our city was a bad place with nothing going on. Average monthly permits have exceeded the rolling 21-year monthly average in each of the past 24 months both in terms of number of permits and dollar amount. Third parties like the Wall Street rating agencies judge the city not only what it is doing but what the future holds. That is why Norwalk was awarded a AAA bond rating once again. An ever improving high quality tax base with well thought out expenditures.

Norwalk was also just ranked by Connecticut Magazine as one of the best large towns in Connecticut. Specifically, Norwalk ranked #1 for both education and community involvement. Our city was also cited for its strong economy and low crime rate. “Thanks largely to thriving local economies, good local schools and relatively low crime rates, Stamford and Norwalk earned the top two spots in our inaugural ratings of the state’s eight biggest cities.”

I see a great city not one on the edge of failure – what about you?

Ernest DesRochers




38 responses to “Letter: The Norwalk I know”

  1. Suzanne

    Rose colored glasses. No mention of the lack of urban nor traffic planning nor the embattled City Hall, unused to sharing contractual nor meeting information for adequate addressing of issues within the context of an overall purpose, a mission. I am glad Mr. DesRochers is so very, very happy but, frankly, he is as skewed in his perspective as, perhaps, I am. The point is, we both have opinions based on fact and he has just listed his as the lovely Norwalk, the Norwalk without traffic plans and potholes. The Norwalk that develops without a sense of cohesion, without addressing the overall needs of a neighborhood, a community. A City government that resists and obfuscates and deflects and rebuffs citizens who want to know about what is going on with their taxpayer dollars. Who piece meal reveal what is going on after regulations prevent any public input or very limited input to eventual outcomes. There are still holes in the ground, still empty store fronts, still an abandoned downtown, still untenable traffic on CT1 and Main Street. Millions being “forgiven” of “valued” City institutions while our tax dollars go to an educational system that is always fighting about budgets rather than supporting the teaching of kids. While Mr. DesRochers laundry list of developments and, oh yes, the coveted AAA rating may be true, Norwalk gets to be excellent and do much, much better. That is not being delivered by any form of leadership from this existing government. My opinion, yes, and I am sticking with it.

  2. Mike Mushak

    What planet is Mr. DesRochers living on? He “sees greatness in the leadership we have had in all aspects of our local government.” Really? He lists all the development going on in Norwalk as if Mayor Moccia and Republicans had anything to do with it. Most of these projects would have happened anyway, regardless of the administration! And please show us the evidence that any “leadership” had anything to do with any one of these projects.
    I see a different city than what he sees. A much different city. Drive down Wall Street, which Mr. DesRochers must avoid since he doesn’t mention it. Empty storefronts, abandoned buildings, trash and blight. Drive down Washington St. in Sono: empty storefronts, struggling businesses, widespread frustration with the nasty parking gestapo who ticket you for one minute overages and have driven away customers, while padding the pockets of the Parking Authority who seem to have unlimited money to spend on flowerpots that fewer folks actually enjoy because fewer people are visiting downtown after all the bad experiences they have had. You call this “greatness in leadership?”
    The Avrick Building, which Mr. Desrochers mentions proudly, has an empty first floor retail space, and the building was approved by Zoning without even fulfilling its requirement to provide murals and lighting facing the plaza next door. You call this “greatness in leadership?”

    Building permits up? The majority were for repairing Hurricane Sandy damage! Of course permits are up. Hundreds of houses are being raised out of the floodplain as required by new FEMA regulations, while the city has NO plans at all to deal with climate change and rising sea levels. You call this “greatness in leadership?”
    We spent $4 million of taxpayer money on a brand new Bus Pulse Point on the wrong side of town, miles away from the SoNo train station, the only city in America to separate its bus and train hubs while every other city is doing “multi-modal” that combines them for ease of transfers. To add insult to injury, there isn’t even a public bathroom for the riders! You call this “greatness in leadership?”
    Let’s talk about the BJ’s project. GOP officials, including the Mayor and a Planning Commissioner, went on record saying the master Plan had NOTHING to say about big box stored on Main Avenue. That was, until I read to them the actual Master Plan, which no o ne in City hall had bothered to consult before accepting this monstrosity of a project that would have negatively affected Main Ave. as well Cranbury and Silvermine with a traffic nightmare, which is why the study recommended a 10,000 square foot maximum retail while teh BJ’s was 109,908 square feet. over TEN TIMES the size our master Plan recommended. You call this ignorance of our Master Plan and common sense “greatness in leadership?”
    The professional credentials of the P and Z staff are a closely held secret of the Moccia Administration,so no one in City Hall or no member of the public even knows what professional qualifications our P and Z staff have to hold their well-paid positions that are funded with taxpayer money. Public servants not offering their qualifications to the public? You call that “greatness in leadership?”

    Our broken zoning codes actually allowed the mosque and BJ’s to proceed with potential huge impacts to surrounding neighborhoods, with no effort from teh GOP leadership of the Zoning Commission to fix these broken codes, despite attempts by me and former Commissioner Adam Blank, who was NOT reappointed to the ZC because Mayor Moccia wanted “fresh blood” on the Commission. So what does the GOP including Emily Wilson (running for Council)do? Nominate Joe Santo yet again for Chair two weeks ago, after decades of obstructing progress, ignoring by-laws, and nasty behavior towards other commissioners and the public on the ZC and other Commissions going back to the 1980’s! You call this “greatness in leadership?”
    Mayor Moccia made an empty promise last election cycle to have a ‘code enforcement task force” to deal with all the illegal apartments and sub-standard housing that puts folks lives in danger and adds to blighted neighborhoods and reduced property values in neighborhoods all over town. Not a single action by this mysterious “task force” was made in the last 2 years, as if “poof” like magic all those code violations just went away! I have a tour I would like to give Mayor Moccia and P and Z Director Mike Greene (who lives outside of town, in a town that actually enforces code violations, no fool he) in our neighborhood of all the front lawns covered with cars, collapsing roofs while folks still live under them,and folks living in basements without proper fire exits or basic safety standards. But they continue to ignore our requests to do this, as they have done for years. You call this “greatness in leadership?” I call it abandonment of responsibility to protect the public health and safety and the stability of entire neighborhoods and communities.

    I could go on ripping apart this silly propoganda piece by Mr. DesRochers, but I will stop. I need to go drive on the crumbling streets alongside impassable sidewalks around all the trash and blight and illegal apartments with multiple code violations in my neighborhood, and then down Washington Street with the brand new tattoo parlor and empty storefronts to get to work (avoiding the parking gestapo patrolling the empty streets) so I can pay my sky-high property taxes paying for the six-figure salaries of city staff who we don’t even know are qualified for their jobs. “Greatness in leadership?” Thanks for the Laugh Out Loud moment Mr. DesRochers!

  3. Oldtimer

    Isn’t Mr DeRocheres the head of the committee to build a driving range at Oak Hills ? As the mayor’s appointee to the Oak Hills Authority, he can hardly be expected to be objective. I wonder who wrote this for him.

  4. EveT

    Yes, Mr. DesRochers is the head of the driving range committee. I agree he is looking with rose-colored glasses at the (lack of) leadership and (helter-skelter, ugly) building going on.

    As just one example of the lack of planning, at the monstrosity project on West Avenue the builders put in expensive brick sidewalk a couple of weeks ago, then this week in another phase of the project, builders tore up the newly laid sidewalk.

    Drive into Norwalk from any neighboring town and you suddenly know you are in Norwalk because of potholes, broken or absent street signs & traffic signs, and every house graced by a huge blue recycling bin that won’t fit inside the garage.

  5. Ark

    DesRochers has forgotten more about land use and zoning then Mushak will ever know. He is in the business of financing land development (outside Norwalk) and he was a very successful past Chair of Zoning. Mike M. just cannot stand to hear from anyone who disagrees with his own warped view of things. Mike’s problem remains he cannot convince anyone to follow him on any of his detours and vendettas. If he made motions and could get four votes perhaps he might get something accomplished. Attacking all, including someone who is as neutral and pleasant as Emily Wilson the way he does, is it any wonder no one on Zoning will listen to him or vote with him. Attacking our two lead zoning officials who both have degrees and have worked as zoning professionals in Norwalk for decades is further evidence of a lack of serious interest in advancing a reasonable agenda. Mushak is all about attack and nothing about rebuilding Norwalk.

    If Harry wins Mushak will end up as Zoning Chair and he will throw zoning into chaos for the next dozen years and nothing will get built. A vote for Harry is a vote for the radicals who will end development in Norwalk.

  6. Better Norwalk

    Just Mike bloviating again. Ignore the foolish tirade and look at the facts Connecticut Magazine rated Norwalk 2nd in the state.

    Facts do not matter, only the opinion of someone who is under qualified to run for the mayors office.

    Guess you could just ignore the intense bloviating and read what successful people do and what has been accomplished. 

  7. Suzanne

    Actually, the piece Mike Mushak writes in this thread is factual and accurate. Perhaps, without using the word “bloviate” and any derivation thereof, you all can respond with factual information that makes Mr. Mushak incorrect. I don’t think you will find any. As an example, he led the constituency in the protest against BJ’s in terms of size, scope and traffic issues that were based on the actual master plan. The BJ’s, if it is going anywhere, will not be going in that wrong-headed place on Main Street. Pick a topic, any topic. Prove that what Mr. Mushak is writing is wrong instead of accusing him of duplicity or excessive aggravation against GOP leadership (no matter how “pleasant” they may seem.) Then maybe some of your partisanship will be supported by actual fact and not “bloviating.”

  8. LWitherspoon

    “As an example, [Mike Mushak] led the constituency in the protest against BJ’s in terms of size, scope and traffic issues that were based on the actual master plan.”
    Zoning Commissioners who are ardent supporters of Harry Rilling should not lead protests against a zoning application during the middle of a political campaign. It’s not much different from politicizing the issue of the mosque, and it could give a denied applicant reason in the future to sue.

  9. Suzanne

    A denied applicant based on size, scope, a master plan from the town in which it wants to develop? I don’t think so. On what basis? And why not during a political campaign? Mr. Mushak is not running for office AND it was during a primary. Not a good reason, L. Witherspoon, to not do the correct thing and fight for the constituency (which is what he did as the one voice on the commission under a great deal of GOP derision.)

  10. EDR

    Suffice to say Mr. Mushak and I will not be breaking bread anytime soon.

    My point was not to wear “rose colored” glasses but rather point out that the vast vast majority of what is happening in new development is not big boxes as some folks would lead you to believe. It is diverse and will grow the grand list substantially. Can the city do better? Yes it can but it takes a willingness to actually work together collaboratively.

    As far as a silly propaganda piece goes it obviously struck a chord with Mr Mushak as the comments that he wrote to my letter were longer in length than my original letter. Must have said something that set him off. As far a my affiliation I have been appointed several times by two mayors to serve the people of Norwalk. As a former zoning chairman I find his antics boorish and unsettling. He at time does make great points but brow beating fellow commissioners every minute in public hearings or in sub committees is extremely unprofessional and frankly no way to get things done. Mr. Mushak: take a look in the mirror and ask yourself if your behavior accomplishes anything. From my perch you come off as annoying and a know it all who will not consider any other opinion but his own. That is a recipe for failure in any business or community board. That is unfortunate because you could have been a good commissioner if you actually found a way to get a long with others.

  11. Mike Mushak

    Thank you Suzanne for that support. You have noticed like I have that the attacks on me are never for what I said or the facts I present, but like teh comments of “Ark” and “Better Norwalk” are directly related to me personally rather than any facts I present! They never mentioned anything I said in my first post, which leads me to believe they agree with them, and that they just hate me for saying them!
    And L Witherspoon is wrong, since I never led protests on any application including BJ’s. I was clear, and it is on the record, that I left it up to the applicant to prove their project could add up to 500 cars an hour on an already congested and dangerous stretch of road by simply re-timing traffic lights, and that there would be no impacts on teh narrow 19th century road network in the surrounding neighborhoods of Cranbury and Silvermine. Yeah, and perhaps I have a bridge I can sell you in Brooklyn!
    The fact that the public agreed with me on many of the points I brought up in meetings was not “politicizing” at all, and I never “led protests”. I was simply highlighting the issues that would have had huge impacts on neighborhoods all around that part of town for generations to come, just as CT Ave. big boxes have had huge impacts we are all still dealing with every day decades after they were built, including $60 million in road widening that taxpayers will have to pay for to handle teh saturation of traffic it has caused.
    That is unfair to call me “politicizing” by asking questions and demanding more accountability and transparency from staff and the Commission in the decision-making process.
    L Witherspoon apparently thinks Zoning Commissioners, who represent the public as the City Charter requires, should just shut up and be quiet and let the applicant’s lawyers and staff run the show. Wow, that is a revelation in many ways, and flies in the face of established land use law in so many ways I don’t even know where to begin. Just come into Norwalk and build whatever you want anywhere you want folks, and to hell with Master Plans and expert studies! The truth was, Moccia wanted BJ’s, and his hand-picked GOP commissioners were going to try everything they could to do what the mayor wanted, just as they have before which is all on the record.
    As a result, the public has lost trust in the Zoning Commission to make informed and fair decisions, and my attempts to restore integrity and a “fact-based” process have not been easy, and have subjected me to all kinds of ridicule from a few anonymous bloggers who aren’t going to stop me but just encourage me! (They obviously haven’t figured that out yet.)
    I never said Emily Wilson wasn’t a nice person. She’s very nice. But the record shows she was wrong about limiting the scope of traffic studies for BJ'(which I wanted to expand following recommendations in a $500k Transportation study to protect public health and safety), she was wrong to distribute a flyer full of lies about the mosque that jeopardized the city’s position in an appeal, and she was wrong for not enforcing the by-laws of the Zoning Commission when she was chair up until two weeks ago. However, she wants the public to trust that she will be a great Common Council member!

    To get back to that charge from L Witherspoon of “leading the protest” during the BJ’s application, there just so happened that there were many members of the public who agreed with me, who could read like I did a Master Plan that was being ignored by city officials, who could read like I did a $500k taxpayer-funded Transportation Plan that was being ignored by city officials, and who could see from NON’s great reporting and videos right here on this site the obstructionist tactics used by Emily Wilson and other GOP members of the Commission. I simply pointed out the corruption of process that led to a year-long secret negotiations between staff and the applicant without any public knowledge or even the Commission’s knowledge, to the point that when the project was presented to the ZC this past June, we were told it was too late to expand the scope of the traffic studies and that our “regulations” (according to Emily Wilson who never could indicate by email or in public what specific regulations she was talking about!) prevented me from asking for an independent peer review of the applicant’s traffic study. She even prevented it from being discussed on the record by not putting it on the agenda as I requested, denying the public an honest and open debate about why she in particular didn’t want any extra scrutiny for BJ’s, which was TEN TIMES the size our Master Plan recommended.

    So, is Emily Wilson a nice person? Of course she is. Is she a good Zoning Commissioner representing the public interest, and will she be a good Common Council member who might take her responsibilities seriously? You can read all the facts, including about the inflammatory flyer full of lies she is distributing about the mosque and which she fully supports and refuses to apologize for, and decide for yourself. District E will get who they think they deserve, and can’t complain if they don’t show up and vote next Tuesday.

  12. LWitherspoon

    @Mike Mushak
    Your argument isn’t with me, it’s with Suzanne, who said herself that you “led the constituency in the protest against BJ’s in terms of size, scope and traffic issues that were based on the actual master plan.” It’s also with another friend who is a Democrat who told me that you were leading the fight against BJ’s. Sure, you have some technicality under which you claim that you didn’t, but the clear perception by so many is that you did.
    You make numerous incorrect assumptions about what I think Zoning Commissioners should do. The reality is that I think Zoning Commissioners should give us their honest and objective evaluation of whether or not an application conforms to the code. You may very well be doing that, but we’ll never know for sure since you’re so fiercely engaged in partisan politics. How will we ever know if you’re giving your honest, objective opinion or simply trying to score partisan points for “Team Democrat”?

  13. EDR

    Mr Mushak you would do Warren G. Harding proud. But remember this the next time you sit in one of your zoning meetings that “a fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”

  14. Suzanne

    You know, L. Witherspoon, you have consistently ignored a point that has been made in these threads but bears repeating: the “code” and “regulations” are very outdated and do not, for the most part, apply to comprehensive urban planning for the 21st Century. Many of the regulations were developed in the 1970’s long before, for example, run-off was considered a hazard to waterways. To constantly repeat what Zoning Commissioners should do based upon the presumption that the reg’s are the way to go just does not acknowledge the poor condition in which Norwalk finds itself with regard to land planning and compliance. A lot has happened to the environment, to environmental law, to technology and land conformation that is not included nor even mentioned in current regulations. Thus, ALL Zoning Commissioners are hampered and a continual disservice is done to our environment by remaining “compliant” to outdated regulations. Mr. Mushak DID take the lead, BTW, in the BJs plan by simply asking the questions that needed to be asked regarding the applicant’s take on traffic planning, size and scope of the building, etc. Apparently this questioning was uncomfortable for other commissioners who just wanted the rubber stamp for a perceived amount added to the tax base. Mr. Mushak, on the other hand, consulted documents, data and listened to the constituency and their concerns about quality of life issues that was not entertained by any of the GOP members but, rather, was derided. I thank him for his persistence and for speaking on the voters’ behalf. And, frankly, I don’t care what his political persuasion is. He did the right thing, period, and behaved in a way I wish all of our commissioners, appointed and elected officials would behave: as servants for the health and welfare of the citizens of Norwalk.

  15. Mike Mushak

    EDR (Mr. DesRochers), thanks for your friendly advice. I’ll also remember your comment “greatness in leadership” In describing the Moccia Administration. I must ask you something however.
    When you were actively promoting the destruction of acres of pristine steeply sloped woodlands perched above a wetlands at Oak Hills Park, for the construction of a golf driving range, I don’t recall you showing much courtesy to anyone who spoke against that absurd proposal, so absurd that even the driving range operators rejected it.
    In the public hearings, you actually ridiculed members of the public, allowed angry heckling as folks tried to talk, and even joked with the hecklers and said “trust me, let this one talk or you’ll regret it later.” I hope there is a recording of it as I heard it along with any others. It was arrogance towards the public and you obviously had one goal in mind: shove the driving range into the woodlands no matter what. Luckily saner folks prevailed.
    Are you an example of this “greatness in leadership” by insulting the public and pushing hare-brained ideas that destroy public open space and wetlands? Thanks for your advice, EDR! Pardon me if I choose not to follow it.

  16. Piberman

    Will Mr Mushak be a future Democrat mayoral contender ? It would be more interesting than Robocalls and demands of “respect” for highly paid City workers.

  17. Mike Mushak

    Thanks Suzanne. Unfortunately a lot if folks on this site do not realize Norwalk is used as an example by professional planners around the state on how NOT to plan a city. Isn’t that just great? We pay the highest salaries in the state to our P and Z staff, who we have no idea if they are qualified for their jobs as their credentials are a “secret” according to Moccia and Maslan, and we have the honor of living in a textbook example of bad planning! And I’m the one that they say is being unreasonable! Lol, if it wasn’t so sad at the same time. It will take years to clean up this mess, but it will happen. The good folks of Norwalk deserve the best , not the worst. Vote for Rilling and Democrats to begin this process of repair asap.

  18. M Allen

    Mike, for the record, your points aren’t unreasonable. Even your detractors on the commission may not think the points are unreasonable. But your delivery, especially your public delivery, isn’t the most conducive to getting your way. I’m not saying that if you groveled or asked nicely you would get your way either, but politics is about influencing others through a number of ways. Most of which are interpersonal in nature. Can you really hope to bring the opposition to your side if you’ve completely derided them publicly? You may be right on paper, but that doesn’t win the argument where it counts the most. Once again, its the delivery and the public nature of it. I’m not sure if you’re just laying it all on the line in an “all or none” approach to this election. But should it fail, do you have the expectation of being more or less effective at the first meeting after this election? And what will that have done for you and those you try and represent with your ideas and insight?

  19. RU4REAL

    Why does he have to get his way with his delivery, he is telling the truth, stop making excuses for the others who are not doing the same.
    It really doesn’t matter how the message is delivered, those in charge don’t get it, LOOK at the facts Mushak is giving you, stop ignoring them.

  20. Mike Mushak

    For too many years, Republicans have been able to control commissions and the Council with intimidation and strong-armed tactics, while they publicly pretend they are “bi-partisan” like the Karl Rove wannabe McCarthy does on the Council. It’s all bullcrap. There is nothing bi-partisan about these folks.
    When Geake defected two years ago, giving the GOP a one vote majority on the Council, the GOP could have respected the will of the voters who voted a Democratic majority to the Council, and claimed only half the committee chairs out of respect, but no, they acted like kids near a candy jar and grabbed everything they could, then conducted a big “we’re in charge now so get lost” campaign agianst the remaining loyal Democrats. It was ugly, but the greedy GOP went nuts with power and did absolutely nothing with it. Oh, there is a 10-year garbage contract with ambiguous savings with a corrupt company that has been the subject of criminal investigations in other cities, that happened to be a top donor to Moccia’s campaign in 2011. So something did happen, but not much more than that.
    The tactics used against me and other Democrats on the Zoning Commission are reprehensible. While calling for by-laws to be followed, professional credentials to be revealed so we can figure out what experts we need to bring in to help bring our staff(hired in teh 1970’s when Carter was prez!)up to speed on modern planning concepts, and better accountability to expose all the back room deals our Zoning staff make with developers at the expense of Norwalk residents and businesses, I have been shouted down, have had meetings adjourned mid-sentence as the GOP Commissioners laugh, and have watched as state and local laws, expert studies, and our own Master Plan have been ignored.
    I have calculated the costs that bad planning decisions since the 1980’s have cost Norwalk taxpayers, and it is in the hundreds of millions. Yet, the Republicans continue to ignore me and pretend everything I say is nonsense. I didn’t start this battle, Republicans did, and I had to waste my time and lower myself to their level just to get my voice heard, and they despise me for it but that’s a burden I have taken on. Cleaning up entrenched corruption is not an easy task, and I wish i didn’t have to do it, but restoring the public’s faith in the Zoning Commission is something I wake up every day looking forward to, and I am not going away. The system clearly is broken, and needs to be fixed.
    In the middle of this nasty GOP-created environment on the Zoning Commission that the public has witnessed many times, including video right here on NON (thank God for NON for exposing these GOP shenanigans), there are folks like M. Allen who say I should just roll over and play nice, and I’ll be more effective that way! Do you think Joe Santo or Emily wilson would have been any more responsive to me if I was their humble servant? They are doing the mayor’s bidding, end of story, and will not stop at anything to get his preferred projects through like BJ’s no mattter what the potential costs to surrounding neighborhoods, property values, local businesses, and quality of life. Being nice would not have changed anything, trust me. I am not the first Democrat to be treated like this by the nasty Republican cabal running Moccia’s corrupt City Hall, and the core group of Moccia’ enforcers that he keeps bringing back out of retirement to serve on his corrupt commissions (exhibit A, Joe Santo, exhibit B, Virgulak on Oak Hills), but I am one of the toughest ones to fight back this destructive force and try to bring back integrity and professionalism to the commissions, and restore the public’s trust.
    We will start cleaning up this mess Moccia has wrought on Norwalk soon after Harry gets elected, but be patient. We have to ween the tired and cranky Moccia do-nothings off the commissions slowly, and that will take a little time, but it will happen!

  21. M Allen

    I said I didn’t think groveling or rolling over would have gotten you your way. I’m just not convinced that making your attacks as personal and public as they have become does you any favors either. Unless I am wrong, won’t all these same commissioners remain for their terms even if a change occurs in Mayor and the Council? So no matter the outcome of the election, you will need to work with these folks.
    I hear your concerns, I do. I know it’s difficult to be in the minority party, regardless of how the party came to be in that position. In the end, you have to fight for what you think is right. And if sucessful, you can claim that your words have inspired the voters to toss out those you feel have made this city’s government “corrupt”. Of course, we’ll then just reverse positions and the party in control will become the opposition party and toss the grenades back in the other directions. But that’s politics, right? The ability for either party to work together across party lines for the good of the people seems to get farther out of reach each election. It’s sad, but it is what it is.
    Good luck to you Mike. You do have insight to offer. But when it comes down to it, the people of this city deserve representives who will work together on behalf of the city as a whole. They no more deserve respresentatives who are one-sided and hostile anymore than they deserve respresentatives who will lower themselves to the level of their enemy. In the end, you all become low. Perhaps the answer is this: clean house of all bad actors. But that would include you for having lowered yourself to their level.

  22. M Allen

    and RU4REAL – really? Are you for real? If you want any claim to respect and civility, you do so by not lowering yourself. Saying I had to lower myself is a copout. You don’t become an animal to fight an animal. Not unless you are willing to accept the fact that when the war ends, all rabid dogs must be put down and you took one for the team in sacrificing yourself. Perhaps that was Mr. Mushak’s goal. He becomes the martyr to his party’s future. But regardless of who is mayor on November 6, Mr. Mushak has lowered himself to the point where he has become part of the problem he assails. If only we all stooped to the level of those we disagree with. What a wonderful world it would be.

  23. Daisy

    By the time you scroll to the end of some of these long-winded, impossible to read and follow, comments, you forget who said what. But whoever pointed out that CT Magazine rated Norwalk #2 – most of the people who post here aren’t sophisticated or well read enough to READ CT Magazine

  24. Flo 2

    If these serious allegations are true, why hasn’t Mushak filed a formal complaint?

  25. M Allen

    Because it’s easier to cry corruption than actually do something about it.

  26. Oldtimer

    In one of the recent debates Rilling tells us he was told by Moccia that he (Moccia) needed BJ’s and Lowes approved by zoning when he appointed Rilling to Zoning. Moccia, of course, denied it in the same debate.

  27. M Allen

    That comment, which Mr. Rilling stood by last night, was very new to me in all the debate surrounding BJ’s, his op-ed piece and his subsequent recusal. October 29th and new details are revealed. Odd that.
    I’ll take the side that presumes he did say it, or somethign like it, just to avoid the argument over he said/he said. That isn’t corruption and it isn’t undue influence. Saying the city neeed BJ’s and saying it needed to be forced through in THAT specific location are two different things. I could completely agree with BJ’s, but not in THAT location. The mistake was the location, not the business. Although Mr. Rilling has tied himself to the position of Not There, Not Anywhere. But in my opinon, that is as wrong as Yes There, At Any Cost. Besides, unless Mr. Rilling is saying that the Mayor demanded his vote assurance prior to making him a commissioner, which he did not say, this was nothing more than a conversation. Perhaps the Mayor honestly believes BJs and/or Lowes in Norwalk is a good thing. We all have differing views on that. But debate the vision. Not the he said/he said nefarious meaning. Not everything need be made into Bjs-gate

  28. Oldtimer

    Is he related to the Zoning enforcement lady with the similar (anglisized) name Aline Rochefort ?

  29. Flo 2

    BTW, has Mushak, the patron saint of transparency, disclosed what relationship he may have w/ a member of the board of directors of a property adjoining the proposed BJ’s site? The world wants to know….

  30. Oldtimer

    M Allen
    If, as you say, it was just conversation, why did Moccia deny it ? There is no law against conversations between the appointer and the appointee, and nobody ever said it was put as an order, or a condition of the appointment. Why not just agree that was said and it was Moccia’s opinion that these two applications were important ones that should be facilitated ?

  31. M Allen

    Because maybe it didn’t actually happen as described. I just didn’t want to debate whether it was said or not said because it doesn’t get us anywhere. I think its pretty obvious that the Mayor believed these applications were important. Now define important and to what lengths we should use to get it done. Our conspiracies run too deep in this town.

  32. Suzanne

    As to accusations of bad behavior or “lowering” one’s self to the “other side” of the “enemy”, I invite anyone, any commentator here at all to attend a meeting of, say, the AdHoc Committee on Oak Hills or the Zoning Commission or a full Council meeting and observe the behavior on BOTH sides of the aisle: it is not only unpleasant, it is unprofessional and not in service to Norwalk taxpayers. If people here want to “clean house” of Mr. Mushak, then every participant on councils must go. I, for one, find it hard to tolerate the dismissiveness, rude remarks, sarcastic asides, texting, cross talk, at times yelling, etc., displayed by these “public servants”. This is a basic issue: civil behavior, civil discussion, respectful disagreement, information fully disclosed and supplied in a timely fashion to committee/council/commission members: these are things that should be expected from a working government in any town, large or small. This behavior begins at the top, unfortunately, and, honestly, it feels like being in a playground of over-aged children instead of a working environment, active for the sake of us, the taxpayers. Go ahead and complain about unions, pay, civil servants but, before you do, take a look at who is running this crazy show. It is far from the excellence that Norwalk deserves.

  33. EDR

    Mr. Mushak you complain about the credentials of every member on the commission and the credentials of the planning and zoning staff. I am curious about your planning and zoning credentials. Can you enlighten us?

    Thank you

  34. Suzanne

    EDR, have you not read about this? Mr. Mushak is a licensed Landscape Architect. He can speak for himself but I happen to be very familiar with the curriculum: it requires at least a bachelors, preferably a Master’s Degree in the field, a comprehensive board exam similar to the bar exam in the legal profession and continual CEU’s yearly to maintain one’s license. Public policy and position statements for the profession, regulated by the American Society of Landscape Architects can be found here: http://www.asla.org/GovtAffairsContents.aspx? It includes knowledge of everything from Air Quality to Urban Development and Transportation Systems. It is one of the best representations of professional expertise I can think of for a Zoning Commissioner. While I wish there were more land planners on board and those like Adam Blank who deal with the legal aspects of zoning and development, Landscape Architecture is a very comprehensive, holistic approach to land development. As an aside, the first true landscape architect and the person most credited with creating the profession is Frederic Law Olmsted, one of two creators of Central Park, a place I believe all can agree is beautiful, useful and a brilliant use of land in New York City.

  35. Mike Mushak

    Well said Suzanne. FYI, I am a licensed landscape architect in 3 states (CT, NY, and NJ), and have a Bachelors in Landscape Architecture from Rutgers University, class of 82. I’ll be heading up to Boston next month for the annual ASLA Conference which draws over 5,000 la’s from all over world, and I participate in seminars on everything from stormwater management to regional planning.
    My portfolio of design projects and bio is at http://www.tuliptreesitedesign.com. I worked on the restoration of Central Park in the 1980’s with the firm Bruce Kelly/David Varnell, then worked with one of the largest architectural/engineering firms in the world called HOK, in their Manhattan office although the international firm was based in St. Louis. I worked on community master plans and urban design, including the 50-story Federal Office Building on lower Broadway between Duane and Reed (where the original Duane-Reed drugstore was if you know that chain in NYC.)
    I was president of the West 55th St Block Association from 83 to 88, dramatically improving that part of Manhattan with street trees and crime prevention working with the Community Board, City agencies, and NYPD Midtown Precinct, before I moved out of the city to Pound Ridge NY to become head designer at Poundridge Nurseries from 90-95, before I hung out my shingle with my own design firm beginning in 95, then starting my current design/build firm Tuliptree Site Design Inc in 03. I moved to Norwalk in 1999, which seems like a millennium ago, lol.

  36. EDR

    My question about your background was rhetorical. You never would have been appointed if someone did not think you had the necessary background and experience to be on zoning in the first place. As I have said in the past you have some good ideas it’s your methods that I disagree with.

    Have you or anyone in your family ever been threatened before because of your work on a commission? My now adult son was 10 and when that occurred it was one of the saddest moments in my life when I had to explain to him that adults sometimes say and do things that they really don’t mean. Fast forward 14 years and some of those people show up at public meetings and are disrespectful tell lies make false accusations without knowing the facts or even researching the facts and throw around terms that they do not even know the meaning of.

    I am guilty as charged about my behavior at times because as you know taking verbal assaults all of the time from people who do not do their homework or are completely unqualified to make accusations can be difficult to take. Before you go on a tirade research the facts. It’s not about fire ready aim like it is with many folks.

    For all of you who love a fight take a lesson from Bill Wrenn- the man has something that many people lack today- dignity. I have tremendous respect for he and his wife. While we do not agree on a lot I respect what they have to say. If there were more folks like him my job would be easier and candidly so would yours. Screaming and yelling and calling people names and threatening them is not how to accomplish anything in life.

  37. Jlightfield

    @edr thank you for reminding people about those pesky things called facts. Like you, I have served on zoning and observed the fact free accusations that pass for comment during many a hearing.
    The difference between a good democracy and a fiefdom (or really any type of alternate political system) is that a good democracy is based on a rule of law. We enact laws to achieve political goals in hopes that there is a uniform fairness to the application of those laws.
    Norwalk could use a citizens advisory panel to address updates, revisions and tweaks to its laws, whether zoning or ordinance. The political process in that regard has seemed to fail us.

  38. Suzanne

    It is ironic, EDR, that what you say regarding M. Mushak’s credentials qualified him for the Zoning Commission. Adam Blank’s replacement had no qualifications for such a position other than loyalty and a lot of hard and respected work previously on behalf of the Moccia administration. This seems to happen frequently and I am hoping that this “policy” becomes party neutral. That is, the politics are left behind for the qualifications that make a person able to address the issues with a degree of expertise. My experience of being yelled at and derided, BTW, led me to believe that being among such dysfunction even with a prepared, vetted and factual statement (but not what the particular commission wanted to hear) was not worth my participation at all. It was like being in a giant dysfunctional family where yelling, threatening, cross-talk, texting, ignoring, counter-pounding, etc., was the norm. Why would I want to participate in that, even as a concerned citizen? Thus, my community in politics becomes these threads which may or may not have any impact of Norwalk governance but at least I can express my opinion without being verbally abused and derided. Such behavior could be controlled and legislated from the very top. It is not and, in fact, I have witnessed some of this similar behavior from our Mayor. Norwalk’s constituents deserve so much better and this town could be so much more participatory with respect and decent planning that is implemented.

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