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McCarthy, Watts fighting proposed Norwalk/Al Madany lawsuit settlement

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Councilman David McCarthy (R-District E), left, said he has newfound respect for Councilman David Watts (D-District A), right, as both try to stop the proposed settlement between the Al Madany Islamic Center and Norwalk.

NORWALK, Conn. – While one Norwalk Common Council member was taking heat for speaking out on the proposed settlement in the lawsuit filed by the Al Madany Islamic Center against Norwalk, two other council members have been working behind the scenes to stir sentiment against the proposal.

The two are the strangest of bedfellows.

While Councilman David McCarthy (R-District E) denied an allegation that he and Councilman David Watts (D-District A) are behind the flyer being circulated around West Norwalk, he did acknowledge that he has sent emails encouraging people to email the city in opposition to the mosque. He also said the increased parking at the proposed mosque will increase traffic problems rather than help the situation.

Watts, reliable sources say, is attempting to convince other Democratic Council members to vote against the settlement. Watts declined to comment on that allegation and the suspicion voiced by several people that he and McCarthy are behind the flyer.

Councilman Bruce Kimmel (D-At Large) has been vocal from the start of the community conversation upon the release of the proposed settlement by the lawyers, for which he has been criticized by commenters on this website. “While Kimmel has blabbed and blabbed the rest of the politicos have remained wisely silent on this issue,” a commenter named “Seth” said. “Councilman Kimmel would better serve the City by refraining from public comments before review,” Peter Berman said.

There have been 132 emails received by city officials as of Wednesday afternoon, Assistant Planning and Zoning Director Mike Wrinn said. They include one from the Stonegate Condominium Association endorsing the proposed settlement and one from a Stonegate resident who is opposed to the settlement.

There were 300 emails sent to the city a year ago when Rowayton residents learned about a plan to put a house in Farm Creek. Wrinn did not know how many emails came in opposing the application to put a BJ’s Wholesale Club on Main Avenue, but said it was more a matter of petitions.

NancyOnNorwalk on Wednesday was forwarded an email sent Monday by McCarthy to three men and copied to 30 other addresses:

“Brothers,

“I didn’t know putting ‘Do Not Forward’ on that email would make it difficult to read.  So I am resending this.  If you are just getting it twice, my apologies.

“The bottom line is that we all have a common connection in West Norwalk, and the neighborhood at the border of Kendall and West Norwalk is in trouble and needs your help.  If you have not seen, the Mosque Lawsuit Settlement is coming before the Zoning Commission on Thursday.  One of the ways which the neighbors are making their feelings known is via the information in the email below.  Take a second and read this, and if you agree that the settlement should not proceed, go to the website and send the email to the mayor and council.

“Please go to the website, and don’t use this email.

“Dave”

He was forwarding an email that was sent Aug. 26, the day before emails started landing in City Hall:

——– Begin forwarded message ——–
Subject: West Norwalk Needs Your Help!
Date: 08/26/14 08:36:35 PM
From: “No Mosque Settlement” <[email protected]>

On Sept 4th at 7 PM the Norwalk Zoning Commission will be holding a hearing to allow for a settlement that will permit a giant building to be built on a small parcel of land.  The building will destroy the historic red farmhouse that is currently there and remove all local charm and color from the neighborhood in favor of an institutional district.

Will you help by voicing your disagreement with this, yet another abusive development allowed into Norwalk?  It only takes a moment and a click of the mouse.

Simply go to nomosquesettlement.com and click the link there to let the mayor and others know that you are in favor of preserving neighborhoods, preserving history and open green space, and not in favor of allowing massive buildings in residential areas that will add traffic, noise and pollution to an otherwise bucolic part of Norwalk.

Add your name to the growing list of people who oppose this destructive presense and speak up for reform!  It’s our neighborhood, it’s our fight, together we can win!

If you can, show up on Sept 4th at City Hall and help in person!

Save West Norwalk

No Mosque Settlement

McCarthy said in an email to NancyOnNorwalk that his involvement is justifiable.

“As a council person, I am dedicated to getting information out, and getting opinions back,” McCarthy wrote. “On this issue, on Farm Creek, I seek the input of others, and I weigh it in context with what I know.  The words I used are hardly urging.  I was forwarded the email by a constituent, and I sent the email on so that the people I sent it to might also be able to consider this and act upon it, if they agreed.  I don’t think most of them read the email.”

He continued, “The suppression of free speech is inherently bad.  That there are people telling residents not to come out to the zoning hearing, and that this is the best the city can do, and we should accept our fate, is ridiculous. I am not in any way ashamed to say, that having reviewed the plans side by side, I see almost no change from the last application, except for an increase in parking spaces, most of which are ‘faux’ or VIP spots that are spots parked behind other parked cars, which will exacerbate traffic flow issues on site, rather than help.  I am now continuing to urge people to come out to the Zoning Commission meeting on Thursday.  I sense that there will be a massive rush, which I will oppose, to get this on the council agenda for Tuesday. People should also attend that meeting, if that is the case.”

There are allegations that he and Watts put out a flyer with an exaggerated photo of a mosque and the headline “Don’t let Harry Rilling ruin our neighborhood!”  Asked about that, McCarthy wrote, “That is 100% untrue, though I do have a new-found respect for David Watts.”

The pair have battled at numerous council meetings, including a recent Public Works Committee meeting.

Again, Watts declined to comment.

Emails sent to the city include one thanking McCarthy for responding to a previous email. (That email is not in the folder.)

“It is nice to know you support the neighbors who will be affected by the building of this mosque and care enough to respond to my concerns. I am shocked we have not heard anything regarding this from the representation for the Kendall area,” Ron Paladino wrote.

The Kendall area is in District A, represented by Watts and Eloisa Melendez.

Paladino continued:

“The large building which has a footprint that is not changed from the original plan other than to take a floor off to add a parking deck. This is certainly is not in keeping with the residential character of the neighborhood. I hope the zoning committee will realize this is still bad for Norwalk on this small piece of property on a bad corner of the road where it is difficult and already dangerous. I urge you to speak to the zoning commission, the mayor, and the other council members not to settle. Norwalk has done nothing wrong and should not pay a dime to anyone. Please do what we elected you to do represent the taxpayers of Norwalk not the out of town developers using Norwalk as a dumping ground because it is so easy to do. I am not opposed to a mosque in Norwalk however this little piece of property is not the place for it.

“Norwalkers are speaking loud and clear and the elected officials need to listen. I will be there on the 4th and hope to see you there. This is not a religious matter it is a common sense matter small property, big building, more traffic and more people cutting through our neighborhood streets. I would oppose anything anyone wanted to build of this magnitude on that property generating that volume of cars. Lastly think of the abutting houses of that property they have a better chance of selling eight track players than their houses.”

Amanda Harris, who said she lives near the intersection of Fillow Street and North Taylor, near the proposed mosque sent an email Wednesday. Harris said she was deeply disturbed and that the behemoth structure will destroy the neighborhood’s property values.

“There’s a teeny little church (Church of God) over on Flax Hill Road near Fodor Farm that is about the only comparable structure I could see fitting into the property at 127 Fillow,” Harris wrote. “Quite frankly, I am disgusted, disappointed and feel completely let down by our elected officials. DO THE RIGHT THING AND DENY THE SETTLEMENT. We deserve better. Or perhaps those of you who don’t live in West Norwalk would like it in YOUR neighborhood?”

Another email writer said the existing religious institutions already create problems.

“Our house is on Fireside Court which is located between  the United  Congregational Church and Temple Shalom; on Jewish High Holy Days for many years we experienced blocked driveways, cars parked on both sides on Fireside so we hardly drive in our own street; empty soda cans and water bottles left behind.  I can envision the same problems for the neighbors of the Al Madany Mosque,” Hanna and Jacek Bigosinski wrote.

A Stonegate condo owner said, “Traffic in the morning is already very difficult to navigate from 7-9 a.m. because of the three schools nearby and the same can be said from 3-5 p.m.”

Paul Cantor, a vocal opponent of the proposal to put a driving range at Oak Hills Park on Fillow Street, also wrote to the city.

“I share (the) concern that the proposed mosque will have a negative impact on the residential quality of our neighborhood,” Cantor wrote. “Now on top of the mosque there is a plan on the table to build a large commercial driving range in Oak Hills Park with the aim of drawing even more traffic to the neighborhood. The mosque and the driving range will turn Fillow Street, along which traffic is already getting out of hand, into a downtown thoroughfare. Won’t somebody in government please stand up for the importance of maintaining the quality of life and the value of homes in our residential neighborhoods?”

Comments

8 responses to “McCarthy, Watts fighting proposed Norwalk/Al Madany lawsuit settlement”

  1. Tim D

    A Tale of Two Dave’s!

    As much as this is a total reach – What if it was the Mosque reps were those who sent out the flyer? What do they have to lose? They have the support of the mayor, his closest aides and now apparently Stonegate condo association and if the proposal is rejected they can then as Councilman Kimmel puts it “use it against” the City of Norwalk.

  2. LWitherspoon

    Watts’s opposition is interesting since Councilman Travis Simms, the Democratic Minority Leader, already announced that he is sure the entire Democratic caucus will support the settlement.
    .
    I would like to see Mssrs. Watts and McCarthy collaborate on an educational rap video about the issues related to the proposed mosque.

  3. UN Envoy

    David Watts will have to live with himself for the rest of his life, knowing he compromised his principles of justice and protecting the rights of minorities in the face of an angry mob whipped up into hysteria with lies and hatred by a few self-serving politicians who are hungry to take back City Hall. It is no different than if he joined a mob at a lynching, instead of protecting the victim. So much for that Yale Divinity School education and all those values he was taught. He can now share the blame for rejecting the settlement with David McCarthy, which would please Mr. McCarthy to no end no doubt if and when the time comes to pay up the millions in court costs no matter whether the city wins or loses, and the larger version of the mosque gets built if the mosque wins, which likely will happen according to the national experts Mayor Moccia hired, which is why they strongly recommended the settlement and called it “remarkable.”
    ;
    Sacrificing your principles out of petty and cowardly fear of a misinformed mob stirred up by self-serving Republicans. Way to go, Mr. Watts. You may just prove that you stand for absolutely nothing except your own political self-interest, by selling out those who need you most in the face of so much ugly discrimination. People also will always wonder what your cost was for your vote, regardless of whether you struck a deal or not.

    It is ironic that Mr. McCarthy is leading the charge against the mosque when his own church, St. Matthews, is just across the park in the same AAA residence zone and is the largest religious institution in Norwalk. St. Matthews received a free pass from the city and neighbors when it last expanded in 2003, doubling its capacity. St Matthews has 2,400 families as members, seats 1,079, and has over 300 parking spaces. It is a megachurch as defined by Wikipedia, yet the city waived their need for a traffic study every time they expanded over the last 40 years. The city treated the mosque completely differently in the application process, requiring not just one traffic study, but two, which became evidence in the lawsuit filed against the city after the city denied their application as reported on by NON.
    ;
    Mr. McCarthy also distributed a flyer last year while running for Common Council that was produced by the Republican Town Committee, that described the mosque as a “special interest imposing its wants and needs above the safety of the people of Norwalk.” We need to ask Mr. McCarthy what the difference is between the “special interest” of 2,400 Catholic families at St. Matthews imposing its wants and needs on the people of West Norwalk as it expanded over the years into a megachurch (in the same AAA residence zone as the mosque site just across the park), and the “special interest” of the 100 Muslim families at the mosque who made an application that followed all the zoning codes and yet were denied. A statement from the Corporation Counsel Robert Maslan admitted the flyer misrepresented official city policy. The flyer was submitted as evidence of discrimination by officials from the city according to press reports.

  4. Don’t Panic

    Motives attributed to the traffic studies in this case show a sad misunderstanding of how zoning operates. The City almost always asks the applicant to pay for the traffic studies, and as seen in the recent contretemps in Rowayton, it is not surprising if they ask for more than one because they fail to identify the correct scope of the study the first time. Witness the famous BJs traffic study. If this doesn’t serve as a wake-up call that zoning needs to be reformed, I don’t know what will.

  5. One and Done

    @Un Envy. The fact is Mr. Watts, who for the most part I despise, was to his credit campaigning against the mosque back in 2011.
    .
    On the contrary, it is you who will have to live with yourself the rest of your life as you bring unwarranted scrutiny and animosity on you and your people. All because you had to have your way for a ridiculous proposal. You shamelessly post here flaunting your disdain and hatred of your would be neighbors and act incredulously as to the opposition you are facing. You have made this bed. No one forced you to do this.

  6. Jeff

    This should be further proof that the safety and welfare issues are the core issues here, not left/right issues or racial discrimination. . . Hats off to Councilman McCarthy for standing on principle! It is refreshing to see the opponents are crossing party lines and standing up for the welfare of the neighborhood.

  7. Un Envoy

    No one explains how the megachurch St. Matthews which David McCarthy belongs to got a free ride from the city in terms of traffic impacts or its huge size through its multiple expansions over decades, including having the need for a traffic study waived every time, but members of St. Matthews including Mr. McCarthy have become some of the mosque’s most vocal opponents based on their concern for “traffic” even though it is a fraction of the size of St. Matthews (2,400 families vs. 100 families at the mosque). They are in the same AAA residence zone and located on small lots (St. Matthews: 43,000 livable square feet on 2.5 acres with over 300 parking spaces, compared to the mosque: 22,000 livable square feet and 135 spaces on 1.5 acres.) This data is from NON’s reporting.

  8. LWitherspoon

    Gosh, I wonder how Mike Mushak feels about the settlement.

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