Norwalk 2.0 gets nod, with or without Smith Street

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Norwalk 2.0 co-founder Jackie Lightfield talks to the Common Council Tuesday.

NORWALK, Conn. – Shipping trailers are likely to be seen soon in the Wall Street area under a plan approved by the Norwalk Common Council on Tuesday.

The leased containers will be part of a Norwalk 2.0 three-week art exhibit, described in a positive way as “edgy” by Council President Doug Hempstead (R-At Large). The approval was contingent upon Department of Public Works approval because Norwalk 2.0 has been planning to use part of Smith Street, which is closed. But Norwalk 2.0 co-founder Jackie Lightfield said Thursday that the project will go ahead with or without Smith Street.

Two things: documentation of why Smith Street is closed is apparently hard to come by; and Lightfield can’t say yet what the trailers will be used for.

An estimated four trailers will be part of an artists village in Freese Park and at Mill Hill from Thursdays to Sundays from May 23 to June 29, thereby activating the area with visitors, Lightfield said. Two other trailers would be on Smith Street. The permit includes set-up time.

Norwalk 2.0 was waiting to put out a call for artists until it got approval from city government, she said. Therefore, Lightfield did not know yet what artists might use the trailers for, but did not expect anyone to actually be in the trailers. They will be locked when the artists are not on site, she said.

Majority Leader Jerry Petrini (R-District D), a Wall Street businessman, told Lightfield he was on board.

“I mean, I’m not quite sure about some of the trailers and the storage, but you know what, Jackie? You’re 2.0, whatever you do it’s usually a great thing for the area. You bring people into an otherwise quiet location, especially after hours, with the concerts that are going there. Something new, I’m not quite sure what’s going on but then again I’ve come to trust you. I know that you’ve got your heart in the right place and whatever you do there is going to definitely improve it.”

The conditions on the permit stem from the plan to use Smith Street. Councilman David McCarthy (R-District E), chairman of the Public Works Committee, said Lightfield had promised the Parks and Recreation Committee that she would obtain permission to use the street from DPW Director Hal Alvord. There was no such permission obtained.

“I was really kind of confused about that,” Lightfield said. “Because generally when we do an event we go to DPW to pull a permit to close the road.”

People chuckled.

“Well, you know, what permit are we going to pull? To open the road?” Lightfield continued. “I mean, we don’t really want it open. We kind of want it closed so the pedestrians can have access. So I went back and tried to figure this out.”

She looked to see if DPW had held a public hearing or gone to the Traffic Commission or “even had an engineering report that said why this road is closed,” she said.

“The funny thing is Dave, I didn’t find anything. So I put it back to you – why is the road closed?”

“Good question. I’m not the director of Public Works,” he said. “We made the condition, you know, based on that. And I was just asking if it got approved by DPW. Have you approached him?”

“Approved for what?” she asked, continuing to press about what she was asking DPW to approve.

Petrini read the condition drafted by Parks and Rec: “Usage contingent upon roadway access by Public Works.”

“I’m just confused by that,” Lightfield said.

McCarthy said the road was “closed by the appropriate authority.”

“If you could provide me some documentation that showed that the road was closed by the appropriate authority I would be then happy to apply for a permit to do whatever I need to do to have access to it. But I am not finding that, Dave,” Lightfield said.

Petrini suggested approving the permit contingent upon to talking to Alvord.

Mayor Harry Rilling piped up with an explanation.

“I believe, if I recall, the road is closed because the retaining wall is deemed a public safety hazard,” he said. “When Head of the Harbor South and the Historical Society start working on this project, part of the project is repairing the wall, making it safe so people aren’t walking by and it falls in on them.”

Lightfield said she would love to see the engineering report for Smith Street but she had asked for it and it hadn’t been provided.

“Obviously we would be concerned if there was a danger there,” she said.

Rilling said he could talk to Alvord.

Councilman Bruce Kimmel (D-At Large) said Rilling could resolve the issue.

“If you’re involved I am sure it will work out to everyone’s satisfaction,” he said to Rilling.

Although McCarthy suggested tabling the item to get questions answered (the motion failed 14-1), the permit was eventually approved unanimously with the condition that Alvord be consulted.

Council members expected that to happen Wednesday, but there is no indication that it has happened yet.

“I have told Hal to get in touch with Jackie Lightfield or her to get in touch with him,” Rilling said in an email Thursday. “There are safety issues on Smith Street and I’m not certain we could be comfortable re-opening the road for pedestrian traffic.”

Lightfield said it doesn’t matter.

“Whatever the City determines is fine by us,” she wrote in an email. “The road, Smith Street, is currently open to pedestrians.”

There are barricades on Smith Street and signs that pronounce the road closed, but the barricades do not physically prevent anyone from walking through.

“We were seeking to install two shipping containers on the former parking area on the hillside there for the three-week period,” Lightfield wrote. “If the city chooses not to grant the permit for us to install a portion of our project on Smith Street, we would simply not install any shipping containers there. Since the street is barricaded, we definitely would require the city’s help in temporarily removing the barricade on the southern portion in order to gain access for the installation and removal. Similar to how we have been granted access to remove trash and debris in the past.”


6 responses to “Norwalk 2.0 gets nod, with or without Smith Street”

  1. Mike Mushak

    Congratulations! Great idea and will help boost business in the area. Best line ever at the very end. Hal Alvord will see the light on this. He must, he will, he better!

  2. Shelly Marr

    Keep up the good work Jackie and MB! Shelly

  3. spanner

    Wouldn’t it be odd if there was at one time hazardous material of all kinds dumped in these areas along closed streets.What seems to be an area prime for this example over the years was Smith st.Hate to think there is asbestos or even chemicals dumped there during excavations of projects the city had done,or contractors with strong ties to the last administration who used the areas of concern without any environmental concern.

    I can’t say this with any proof,but looking back under a 95 bridge that hosted outdoor activities a few years back the cap of the very dangerous hazardous waste site was peeled back and work on a sewer transmisson line was being done.It was worked on with piles of dirt that sat under the cap that simply sat there with no plastic on it for a few weeks until the line was fixed.

    Its a shame no one took pictures of that fiasco,or the piles of dirt covered with plastic on old Smith Street.Taking samples would of been even better it would ended all speculation.

    Maybe a suggestion could be offered,have an entrance exam done before your gala event and a exit exam after making sure there wasn’t any chemicals or substances the city forgot to mention in the permit process.Maybe what I’m suggesting is just nonsense and should be ignored.

    Maybe the reason its not been cleaned up is there is that speculation something is there and the DPW workers are not trained to clean up that kind of waste.

    Norwalk had its share of brownfields and contaminated sites but didn’t our State reps and politicians step in and make sure nothing was left for us to worry about? This is why suggest maybe my above post has no merit.

  4. Phyllis Bolden

    Good Job Norwalk 2.0 team!

    Well Jackie – the non-verbal communication piece… continues ….. geesh! – Anyhow, I really appreciate your work, and your pre-investigative fortitude (if you will) in this matter (and so many others).
    Best wishes on your upcoming venues!

  5. Hind Sight

    My recall is that DiScala and Co claimed “ownership” of Smith Street when they purchased the old pottery/ceramics brick factory bldg on the water and promptly razed it about 10 years ago? Still waiting for the Head of the Harbor or whatever that project was to be called. Mr. DiScala, Norwalk wants it’s street back.

  6. spanner

    That must answer any dirty dirt questions its been deemed safe by Norwalk and the owner of the property no reason to think there is any danger on old Smith st.So much for honesty within Norwalks professional pool.

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