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Milligan denies demolishing a building without a permit

A shot of 20-26 Isaacs St., taken Tuesday. An “entire building” was not demolished, just a “small” part of one, real estate broker Jason Milligan said.

At left, 20-26 Isaacs St., July 7. On Tuesday, real estate broker Jason Milligan called this sidewalk “the scary alley where people drank hard liquor and urinated.”

NORWALK, Conn. — Real estate broker Jason Milligan is again accused of conducting a demolition without a permit.

Milligan, under IJ Group OZ LLC, bought 20-26 Isaacs St. on Sept. 2. 2020 for $1.5 million. That’s also known as the former El Dorado Club, next to Wall Street Place (often referred to as “POKO” and sometimes “The Tyvek Temple”).

There was a narrow passageway between 20-26 Isaacs St. and POKO, but it’s been replaced with a large open space, with patches of asphalt where exterior walls used to be. A street sign for “Milligan Way” is perched high on a black wall facing the new concrete park.

NancyOnNorwalk last visited the building July 7, and there were no signs in the windows announcing a pending demolition.

“No permits nor Intent to Demolish Application filed,” Norwalk Chief Building Official Bill Ireland wrote Tuesday, when asked about it.

“I have an interior demolition permit which we have been operating under,” Milligan wrote Tuesday. “Very recently we discovered a section was structurally unsound and quickly took it away before someone got hurt or something bad happened.”

The building had been cited for blight, he said.

A decoration on what used to be an interior area of 20-26 Isaacs St.

That happened before Milligan bought it; Milligan filed the blight complaint against former owner John Dias.

“The permit is still open. No inspections have been requested,” Milligan said Tuesday.

Again, the permit was for “only” interior demolition.

“My site is now in terrific shape especially compared to the blighted Tyvek hell hole next door,” Milligan wrote. “The Tyvek Temple is literally blighted. As in cited for blight by Norwalk’s blight enforcement officer and being fined over $100,000. Ironically it is the ONLY blight in the neighborhood and it belongs to the blight fraudsters known as the redevelopment agency.”

Actually, Citibank owns the building, having taken possession via a deed-in-lieu transfer after POKO Partners ceased construction due to a $9 million budget gap. Norwalk cited Citibank for blight in 2018, subjecting the bank to a fine of $100 a day.

“The Tyvek Temple,” at right, as seen from Isaacs Street near the intersection with Wall Street.

“The assessment for POKO stands at $91,500.00 through the end of June of this year,” Norwalk Blight Prevention Officer Stephen Brueski wrote Wednesday in an email to Milligan.

“It is such a big property and it drags the whole neighborhood down,” Milligan wrote.

The administration worked with JHM Group and Citibank to develop an amended plan for Wall Street Place, which worked its way through multiple City bodies to win approval over the objections of some stakeholders.

Milligan has filed an appeal of that Zoning approval. Construction has not resumed.

 

Been accused of unauthorized demolitions before

Milligan is the most active defendant in a lawsuit filed by the City and Norwalk Redevelopment Agency over his purchase of properties slated to become part of Wall Street Place phases II and III. The plaintiffs maintain the sale was done in violation of the Land Disposition Agreement for the properties, which gave the Redevelopment Agency the right to approve a property transfer as this would mean a new partnership with a redeveloper, who would be expected to complete the obligations outlined by the LDA.

Milligan claims the LDA is invalid for a host of reasons. The case is percolating in the courts. Milligan turned down a settlement offer in March 2020 but has lately been attempting to negotiate, claiming that he’d made an offer and been turned down. He says he’s still “#winning.”

The plaintiffs cite Milligan’s demolition of 21 Isaacs St. in August 2018 as part of their evidence against him.

In July 2019, Ireland and others said Milligan had conducted an unauthorized demolition at 31-39 Wall St. Workers severed a pipe and flooded the stores on the ground level; City officials called the work unsafe.

 

 

Unanswered questions, many comments

From the City’s website: An old photo of 20-26 Isaacs Street, predating the construction of Wall Street Place.

Milligan said, “A small unsafe section of the building was removed.” And, “The only street frontage for the property remains 80%+ intact.”

Ireland did not respond to a follow up email asking about Milligan’s argument that his crew was working under an open permit.

Also not responding to emails giving them a chance to comment were Mayor Harry Rilling, Norwalk Chief of Staff Laoise King and Norwalk Communications Director Josh Morgan.

Milligan responded to multiple emails but did not answer the questions posed. These include:

  • How many square feet do you estimate was removed?
  • When was this demolition done?
  • By street frontage, you mean the portion of the building that fronts Isaacs Street, where you had a mural?
  • A land records schematic of 20-26 Isaacs St. It dates to 1915 and is listed as having 9,940 square feet on .28 acres.

    The attached image is from the City’s GIS system. Does that line that runs from Isaacs to the back of 77 Wall St. represent the wall that is left standing?

 

Milligan’s comments include:

  • “To say that No permits were issued is factually inaccurate.”
  • “I can find you 500 worse offences. {sic} I can find you a half dozen next door. Citibank owes over $100,000 in blight violation fines.
  • “If we are looking for work done without permits or work done slightly outside the scope of permits I can inundate Bill’s office before the end of the day.
  • Real estate broker Jason Milligan’s art park, on the former municipal parking lot awarded to POKO Partners in return for a promise to build Wall Street Place. City officials maintain Milligan’s purchase of the land was illegal.

    “My site is clean as a whistle. It is safe and the area is drastically improved by the new openness between the ArtPark and Wall Street.

  • “Can we please put our City resources to better work.
  • “How about focusing on fixing the crumbling sidewalks of the wretched condition of Isaacs St. God know what the city just spent to patch Isaacs street with a crew of 20 for a week only to have it more bumpy. Isaacs St is perhaps the street in the worst condition in the city!”
  • “I have attempted to ‘follow the rules’ only to be routinely stymied. I do not have the special relationships required to do business in Norwalk under the current regime.”

In the foreground: what’s left of part of 20-26 Isaacs St. At right is the partially constructed Wall Street Place and at left is the Wall Street Theater.

18 comments

Jason Milligan July 22, 2021 at 6:58 am

Pg 109 of the LDA that is recorded on the land records,

“New Street #1. The City shall be responsible for constructing New St #1 which is a pedestrian plaza and limited access street running southeast from Wall Street to Isaacs Street between the Globe Theatre and 83 Wall Street, as indicated on the Conceptual Master Site Plan. (To be coordinated with construction of the Phase l improvements)”

The Conceptual Master Site Plan is also recorded on the land records and it has been shared in articles by Nancy.

Steve July 22, 2021 at 8:19 am

When the man in the red Ferrari was stopped for traveling at 80mph in a 30 mph street he protested – “what about that car that was speeding, and did you notice the missing taillight on the blue Honda”. He then exclaimed, “don’t you have Better things to do- like fight real crime. I also gave money to the PBA and My taxes pay your salary.”

Victor July 22, 2021 at 9:38 am

This sounds like a soap opera!! what channel is it on? I hope that the taxpayers aren’t paying for any of this! proud of them for making Wall Street a mess!!

Jason Milligan July 22, 2021 at 2:48 pm

Steve,

Not a bad story but it is an inappropriate analogy. Perhaps I am driving a Chevy and only going 35 mph. The City, Agency and all their cronies are going 80 mph.

It is easy to say follow the rules but impossible to actually do as they are routinely ignored, misapplied and constantly changing.

My attempts to strictly adhere to all the rules are met with endless review, misplacement, or denial based upon vague interpretations.

The blight fraudsters aka Redevelopment Agency in collusion with Zoning and big banks / developers lied to create an enormous Redevelopment Plan area and to get POKO approved. I have spent several hundred thousand dollars proving it and over 100 hours of depositions. The truth will fully be exposed during my jury trial next May.

It is not shocking that there is retaliation for trying to expose the lying and corruption.

It is sad to understand that this regime would rather see Wall Street fail then find a way to work with me.

Barbara Meyer-Mitchell July 22, 2021 at 4:35 pm

Why does this individual continue to think he is above the law and due process like permits? It’s shocking that no one in his orbit had sat him down to talk some sense….

Jason Milligan July 22, 2021 at 6:08 pm

Barbara,

As someone that has been inside the inner circle you are more than aware of how it works in this city. Few people pull more permits that I do in this city!

There is an open Demolition permit for this site albeit for interior demolition.

Some permits that I apply for are so straightforward and so perfect that they cannot possibly be denied. Those permits are just unnecessarily delayed.

However, because our zoning code is so complicated, complex and vague that there are countless to stymie the most pristine permits. Some projects are just flat out denied based upon personal interpretation.

One thing is for sure, if you are a big donor and part of the crony crowd your permits are reviewed in the best of lights and all manner of special consideration is made. Regulations are amended, rewritten and projects are ushered through.

Norwalk should clean up and simplify the regulations so that there is an even playing field for all applicants, and all types and size business.

I have done business in this town for 20 years. It is only when I bought the property next to the library that I felt the wrath. That purchase and project was arm’s length. It was straightforward and as of right. My permits application was pristine and by the book. I was very excited about it.

The mayor and the law department went nuts to stop it and they revealed how low they would go. I was portrayed as a bad guy for no good reason, and I was slandered and sued.

BMM you can believe what you want but you of all people should understand what really happens in this city.

Michael McGuire July 22, 2021 at 8:01 pm

Barbara,

He might be hard to deal with but he doesn’t think he’s above the law. He’s responding to the constant hypocrisy that comes from the City. What we really need are our CC reps to pay some attention to what we are all working so hard to achieve down here, despite the “millstone” City policies.

Case in point Mario Capollo’s comments that POKO is now 5-6 years out from even getting started. We simply wont accept this type of edicts anymore when this project can be going in less than a year as a market rate development.

That being said, we are looking for ways to work with the City on projects that can make a difference because we know that the City has good people on staff who really care about a thriving Norwalk.

If you don’t agree with Milligan, meet with him and hear what he has to stay unfiltered by NoN. You might come away with a different opinion.

B July 22, 2021 at 8:55 pm

Are ordinary Norwalk homeowners allowed to demolish 20% of a home’s exterior walls with only an interior demolition permit?

What’s the penalty for demolition without a permit?

How many times does Milligan get to brazenly flout rules with no consequences?

Bobby Lamb July 23, 2021 at 12:48 am

Isn’t this the second or third time this guy has done this? Demolition of a building is serious business. His above the rules attitude is dangerous to his workers and neighbors. Enough already.

Lisa Brinton July 23, 2021 at 7:04 am

Petty, crony, dictatorial and vindictive (with taxpayer money) sums up the Rilling Administration and its rubber stamp common council and now dysfunctional BOE. (Barbara, you understand that more than anybody. )

Bryan Meek July 23, 2021 at 10:07 am

Tyvek Temple is getting so old. Time for rebranding. How about Hotel Harry? Payback Plaza? Milligan’s 0.8 Mile? Rlling’s Rattrap?

Kevin S. July 23, 2021 at 11:49 am

So did he have the “PROPER” permit or not for demolition?

A permit for interior demolition? Half the building is gone, come on man!

I agree that this city and the Wall Street area is a disaster but that doesn’t mean disregard proper procedure and protocol.

Jason Milligan July 23, 2021 at 2:40 pm

Barbara, B, Bobby, Kevin,

Have you ever pulled a permit for anything, ever in the city of Norwalk?

What was it for and how long ago?

At present I probably have 25 open permits!

I also have close to 10 in various stages of submittal.

1 time through the process and you will realize that there should be changes.

The problem is most people only pull permits once if ever and they do not have the energy to try to improve the process after they just battled their way through it.

The Hour ran an article a few weeks ago about a retailer on Westport Ave that grinded through the arduous process. The process is time consuming, expensive, confusing, often times asinine.

Field conditions often dictate changes and sometimes even emergency changes.

If this latest issue is the catalyst that gets the city to scrutinize the system that would be fantastic.

As always, if any of you are genuinely concerned or would like to hear the full true story then reach out. I am not hard to locate.

Mike lato July 23, 2021 at 4:22 pm

I totally agree with Jason some of the Town workers not being disrespectful don’t even know their own jobs.. but they’re fast to give you a fine very fast.. and again no disrespect to any of the Earth for the town we have some really good people..but I think some of them have been there too long and are too comfortable they need to change things up a little bit how about if I call for a permit someone comes down from the town and tells me I don’t need anything I start to work and they send Paul down … Tells my guys to stop working immediately tells the customer that we just do whatever we want.. come to find out I already had them down there and they gave me the wrong information their guys Jean who works for them told me we didn’t need a permit so what do you do with that…people should be happy that Jason’s the only one down there trying to clean up that dump.. looks like everyone down there just kind of abandoned it and he’s the only one trying to make something different and then you got people that’s going to criticize them and try to find them why do you think people don’t want to do work in this town just look at the facts.. and again just to reiterate we do have some really good people down there that work in the town that care about the town but I just think they need to change it up sometimes cuz some of them get on a power trip and get too comfortable 🤷

Jason Milligan July 23, 2021 at 9:54 pm

Thanks Mike. Spoken like a guy who gets things done in the real world instead of paper pushing Zoom world.

Everyone who works in city hall should be required to open a business or otherwise pull a permit.

The process would be enlightening for them.

I agree that most people that work for the City are great,

I also believe that the rules and procedures could be streamlined and improved for everyone’s sake.

Bryan Meek July 23, 2021 at 11:17 pm

@Mike L….is that your crew landscaping the top of Stonecrop? Your crew does nice work, if so. I’ll be calling whoever that is to do some at my house.

Peter Hull July 24, 2021 at 6:18 am

It is obvious that Jason doesn’t want to play by the town’s cronyism, pay to play rules. Downtown Norwalk has been a blight for decades. Jason wants to help revitalize the area and is stymied by the town because he’s not one of “their guys”. Instead of the town fighting him they should be working with him to help expedite the process. Maybe Norwalk needs a change of government with honest, responsible employees.

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