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Norwalk $2 million property transfer moving ahead

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An artist’s rendition of the development proposed to replace Washington Village, as drawn up by Icon Architecture under the direction of the Norwalk Housing Authority and Trinity Financial.

NORWALK, Conn. – An option agreement that will allow the city of Norwalk to sell two valuable Day Street properties to the Norwalk Housing Authority is likely to be approved at Tuesday’s council meeting.

The option agreement was approved unanimously at Wednesday’s Planning Committee meeting, allowing NHA to apply for a federal grant in its effort to demolish and rebuild Washington Village, the oldest housing project in the state. The city is giving NHA the sole right to purchase the properties at 13 and 20 Day St. – for $1 – if it gets a HUD (Housing and Urban Development) grant.

The combined property is estimated to be worth $2 million, causing some observers to question the wisdom of the deal.

“There’s always issues you can look at but at some point we have to look as a city and say do we leave the housing project as it is now or do we at least provide an opportunities for change to occur?” Norwalk Redevelopment Agency Director Tim Sheehan asked at the meeting.

Planning for the development – which will put affordable housing, public housing and market rate housing side by side in buildings that are raised to avoid the problems of being in a 100-year flood plain – was paid for by a HUD Choice Neighborhoods Grant. Sheehan said Norwalk was the only community in the state to win such a grant.

The grant Norwalk is applying for to build the project is very competitive, he said. Only four or five are granted across the country. The inclusion of city property in the application will show that “the city is committed to the concept and transformation of the area,” he said.

“We admittedly understand there are challenges associated with this and they’re not insignificant,” he said. “At the end of the day, if we don’t take the incremental step we don’t even have a chance to begin the application process.”

Councilman Matt Miklave (D-District A) agreed that without the grant, the dilapidated housing project will probably remain as is, flooding issues and all.

“We do not have the resources in our capital budget to tackle all the things we need to tackle,” he said. “… We have the opportunity to leverage public money from the federal government to benefit everyone in the city of Norwalk.”

Councilman Carvin Hilliard (D-District B) said the project will be good for both South Norwalk and the city at large.

“It’s not only going to improve the look of South Norwalk and the city, it’s also going to help the residents of Washington Village by bringing services to them,” he said. “If they need job training, that’s part of the plan. It’s going to add to the neighborhood and add to the economics of the city.”

Committee Chairman Nick Kydes (R-District C) tried to allay fears about Ryan Park, which sits within the area to be redeveloped.

“Ryan park is not going to be adversely affected by this development.On the contrary, Ryan Park could benefit from this development,” he said. “No one is going to be out there trying to do away with Ryan Park. … That area has a tremendous amount of potential to become a showcase, not only for the state of Connecticut but I would say for the northeast if not for the entire country. It’s a beautiful design.”

Specific terms of the deal, if the entire council approves it, will be drawn up by Corporation Counsel Robert Maslan.

Comments

7 responses to “Norwalk $2 million property transfer moving ahead”

  1. Bruce Kimmel

    The grant mentioned in the article is for $30 million. Plus, if we do not win the grant, the two parcels revert back to the city. Two mill for thirty? That’s a no-brainer.

  2. Diane C2

    Seriously Mr. Kimmel? It’s a no brainer?? I think that is an insult to Norwalk taxpayers.

    While I respect that your opinion is based on the carefully worded presentations fed to you by NHA and Redevelopment, what this really is:
    a “no public forum”, a “no public hearing”, a “no facts & data”, a no “where does the $30 million go”, a “no out for city when $10 million in infrastructure is required in addition to the $30 million grant”, a “no out if Trinity cries hardship and asks to move affordable housing offsite”… hardly a “no brainer”.

    Plus, read the Memorandum of Understanding closely – if NHA doesn’t win “the grant”, looks like they can apply for other grants without benefit of Choice Neighborhood funding for services and still move ahead with Trinity.

    Still want to give away MORE THAN $2 million in property without a Public Hearing?? All because the law doesn’t require you to hold one? By the way, the law does require NHA to hold one, but apparently they think they’re above it.

    As much as everyone wants to see the lives of Washington Village tenants improved, and for the 50-year old outdated structure to be razed and replaced, surely none of us want it done under the shadow of looming questions that aren’t answered fully or truthfully; or while viable alternatives haven’t been fully vetted; or even while the tenants themselves may or may not fully understand the ramifications of this project. Last time I was there many were suspicious of NHA, and rightfully so. Just look at their tenant interaction during Hurricane Sandy – pathetic – intimidating letters to tenants to threaten them into purchasing their own replacement appliances – not until public outcry did NHA offer to replace them! They left the tenants there to flood with no storm preparation, and no post-storm support – for pete’s sakes, it took outside religious groups to mobilize and send in volunteers to even help them clean and disinfect.

    Any by the way Mr. Kimmel, the $30 million are also my tax dollars, so when it comes time for you all to vote on the project itself, you can bet I’ll be disputing any “no brainer” conclusions again.

  3. BARIN

    Thank you Diane.
    They dont hold public meetings because they dont have to; What, why not?
    What are they afraid of, hold a series of real public hearings.
    May be that everything is hunkydory, but it looks a little suspicious with unanswered questions while still going forward with their plan.
    I have been told by residents of Washington Village that threats of eviction are

  4. BARIN

    Didnt finish my sentence there.
    I have been told by residents of Washington Village that threats of eviction are a big part of keeping them from complaining.

  5. Joe Espo

    Dear Diane: I’m verklempt. What do you hope to accomplish with all of this misdirected supercharged unbridled protests against anything that has the tinge of government in its DNA? If you want to go nuclear for a narcisstic foray into some cause, do breast cancer, or alzheimers, or domestic violence, or Huuricane Sandy or global warming. You are wasting your valuable and precious energy butting your head up against a wall on which you’ve painted a mural of Dick Moccia, Hal Alvord and the common council flavor of the month. My Dad has Parkinsons. If you would just devote 1/5th of the energy that you do fighting against the Norwalk municipal government, my Dad would be cured and dancing at the next Mayor’s Ball. So… can you do me that favor?

  6. Diane C2

    Joe, you seriously need help. By the way, I do support many worthwhile organizations, incuding National Alliance On Mental Illness (NAMI). May I suggest you start there?

    Also, I think I can now safely assume that you’re not a taxpayer in Norwalk, or if you are, I’m afraid not a very well-informed one. Else you’d be using more than “unbridled protests” to denounce the astronomical waste of taxpayer dollars, yes, particularly in DPW.

  7. Diane C2

    @BARIN- no tenant would risk losing out on a modern, safe apartment or a Section 8 voucher by daring to ask questions. I’ll be telling the Council this: the fear of eviction is always greater than the desire to ask questions. It’s heartbreaking, but even worse than that is to see some tenants paraded about by NHA in support of the project. They’ve been sold a tale of coming back to a beautiful new development – we can only hope that is true. Sadly, I still think the “choice” neighborhood they’ll end up in is just up the road from Water Street – little place called Bridgeport.

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