NORWALK, Conn. — Jason Milligan’s dollars have recently been spent decorating his Isaacs Street parking lot.
The many murals caught the attention of Mayor Harry Rilling, who acknowledged the tensions between Milligan and the City when he offered compliments.
“You probably would never believe you’re going to hear this from me, but I want to say thank you to Jason Milligan for art, the park on Isaacs Street,” Rilling said during an April 14 Council meeting held via Zoom. “I drove through there today. It’s actually really nice. I would encourage you to take a look at it. It’s something that I think we all need at a time like this.”
Rilling’s comments came five weeks after Milligan’s latest lawsuit was filed, this one claiming that the traffic box at 69 Wall St. was installed illegally. The Wall Street Theater Company is also listed as a defendant.
Milligan, a real estate broker, first presented artwork in the lot in November – a colorful in-your-face, as the concrete blocks blockading the Isaacs Street side of the lot were fancifully painted.
He said he needed to protect his property, as people were speeding through. Milligan has since opened the lot.
In December, two trailers appeared in the lot, each decorated with graffiti-like artwork on one side and on the other, something more elaborate, such as Mr. Rogers saying “I love you just the way you are.” In February, a painting paid homage to the late Kobe Bryant.
And in April, Rilling drove through.
“I was very, very impressed and it certainly it would be worth taking the drive thru and taking a look,” Rilling said to the Council.
Milligan has not returned multiple emails from NancyOnNorwalk, inspired by those comments, asking about the murals. On Tuesday, he declined to say how much he’s spent on the artwork. “It is a considerable amount, but less than I have spent on legal bills…” he wrote.
Since the Council meeting, there have been new additions to Milligan’s art park – on Saturday, a Facebook post on the norwalkctmurals page celebrated an Audrey Hepburn portrait done by Chris Sainato. On Wednesday, there was a post marking the contribution of a Bob Marley likeness. And just Monday, there’s a post praising Cara Beatman for the new colorful decoration on the side of the old El Dorado Club:
“Wow! Cara @cbeatman
“This colorful wall is amazing in so many ways.
“It adds a huge spark of hapiness to the boundary of the #ArtPark to a building that had been sort of a downer.
“It was awesome how you organized a quarantine friendly community painting event with disposable brushes and time slots to keep appropriate distancing.
“The result is magnificent and the involvement of the community so hungry for activities makes it even better.
“The message Stay – Home Safe Strong is also especially appropriate.
“Thank you Cara for creating and organizing.
“Thank you @rings_end for donating paint.
“Thank you Milligan for donating $$.”
Beatman’s Instagram page indicates that she began the project two weeks ago.
“I had this idea to bring the Norwalk community together during Covid-19 quarantine to paint a mural,” she wrote. “Families would sign up for a painting appointment so no one would be on site together. Gloves would be worn, new disposable brushes made available. The message would be: ‘Home. Safe. Strong’.”
In another post, showing the finished piece, she wrote, “I’m so happy everyone that signed up was so grateful, excited to get out & create together.”
Milligan is, of course, embroiled in multiple lawsuits with the City and the Redevelopment Agency. Milligan’s purchase of the Isaacs Street lot in May 2018 resulted in him being sued, alongside with Rich Olson of POKO Partners, under multiple legal entities. He has also sued the Redevelopment Agency, and its consultant, alleging that the blight determination used to legally justify the Wall Street-West Avenue Neighborhood Plan is invalid, and therefore the plan should be invalid, too.
And, on March 10, Milligan filed a suit against the City and its Department of Public Works, alleging that a traffic box at 69 Wall St. is illegal.
You may recall hearing about that before. Norwalk Police were called to the property just over a year ago by DPW workers, who sought to remove a Tyvek-wrapped enclosure Milligan had installed around the box. Milligan screamed at the workers, calling them “thieves stealing his property” and “criminals,” DPW Superintendent of Operations Chris Torre said at the time, calling the enclosure a “stunt.”
Milligan said Corporation Counsel Mario Coppola had ordered “Gestapo Police State tactics,” but that the confrontation had ended with him buying Mr. Mango smoothies for everyone. Torre said only one or two people drank them.
The City has had a traffic box at that location for decades. Milligan bought the property in December.
His lawsuit alleges that the box was put there without permission. An easement was granted to the Parking Authority in 1956, to allow paving with proper drainage, replacement of fire escapes in connection to such paving, pedestrian access from 69 Wall St. to the parking lot directly behind the property and to provide adequate lighting and snow removal for the pedestrian access, according to the complaint filed by Milligan’s attorney, Candace Fay.
The complaint points out that the Norwalk Parking Authority doesn’t own that parking lot anymore, and states that the Parking Authority doesn’t own the traffic box. Even if it did, the installation of the box would be a violation of the easement rights, according to Milligan’s attorney.
The Wall Street Theater Company was added as a defendant on April 30. The theater owns half the alley the easement was granted for, according to Milligan.
The suit seeks to have the easement overturned and monetary damages awarded.
Defendants have not filed any replies as yet. The traffic box contains electronics that control a nearby pedestrian signal and traffic lights.
As for the “POKO” lawsuit, there have been recently been many motions with titles such as, “Request for Adjudication of Complex Litigation.”
They are requests for extensions of deadlines on discovery requests. More substantively, the City made Milligan an offer in compromise in March. The deadline to accept the offer has passed, so Milligan has legally turned it down.
“We didn’t expect he’d accept it,” Rilling said on March 14.
By law, if the case goes to trial and the court finds in favor of the plaintiff, awarding damages that exceed the proposed settlement of $1,935,000, Milligan would be required to pay an additional 8 percent interest on the difference, unless he’s filed a counterclaim. If the offer was made 18 months or more after the complaint was filed, interest would be calculated from the date the offer was made. If less than 18 months have passed, interest would be calculated from the date the suit was filed. The city’s offer to Milligan and the other legal entities was made three days before the 18-month anniversary of the filing.
And, as for the lawsuit against the Wall-West plan, multiple motions seek to have the case dismissed. Last week, Milligan filed opposition to those motions. No events are scheduled.
This story was updated at 2:11 p.m. Wednesday to include a comment from Jason Milligan.