Norwalk Center Task Force members say they have the ‘teeth’

Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling, center, chats supportively with Norwalk Center Task Force members Jackie Lightfield and Tod Bryant on Monday in City Hall.
Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling, center, chats supportively with Norwalk Center Task Force members Jackie Lightfield and Tod Bryant on Monday in City Hall.

NORWALK, Conn. – Hours upon hours of public discussion should yield positive results, even if similar efforts have been made before without much to show for it, according to members of the Norwalk Center Task Force.

“This task force has as much teeth as we are willing to put in to make things happen. As with anything we can sit and talk about things or we can do things,” said Chairwoman Jackie Lightfield.

The combination of city staff involvement, backing of leadership at the top and interest from the public will make for teeth, members said.

Councilman Jerry Petrini (R-District D) suggested getting Department of Public Works, Norwalk Redevelopment Agency and zoning staff at the table with the group. Lightfield said she had already talked to P&Z and redevelopment; Petrini would deal with Department of Public Works Director Hal Alvord.

A case in point for the effort was the task force’s objection to a plan formed in 2009 for reverse angled parking — diagonal, backed in — for upper Wall Street, from the Globe Theater down to POKO’s proposed Wall Street Place. Petrini said that would be “chaos,” even though current task force member Mike McGuire had been on the committee that recommended it and said Redevelopment was very strong on the idea.

“I think one of the ways to actually implement things is to understand the City Hall process and to work within that process,” said Lightfield, a former zoning chairwoman. “So when we talk it about how we don’t like reverse angle parking, we already know there is a plan that is calling for that. … It is not complaining about it, it’s saying ‘please go through and make an adjustment to this plan with this text amendment,’ and pushing it through.”

McGuire wondered if that would mean a “big battle” with Redevelopment.

“Sometimes that is exactly what happens,” Lightfield said. “But the only way to ferret that stuff out and the only way to affect change is to start the process and begin that dialog and make those changes.

“Some of it has a little political tenor, you know; the political philosophy is guided from the top leadership,” she said. “I think we have a different political leader in place and things are changing. So there is a shift that is going on between what was the accepted policy before versus now there is a new openness to look at new ideas and new things. We’re just going to have to work with it to figure out how that is going to play out.”

Alvord has people on his staff that were “trained in traffic engineering back in the ’60’s,” she said. Standards have changed, she said, referring to a book she has that explains how to speak traffic engineer to affect change.

“When that reverse parking was put in, it was put in as part of a concession of 50 million other things,” she said. “We have a new crack on this and let’s give it a fair go on trying to get it changed. I think the reception on that particular issue is going to be pretty good. The mayor has spoken that he doesn’t see why we would have reverse angle parking.”

Town Clerk Rick McQuaid said the task force has the public behind it in an unprecedented way. He knows because he still gets phone calls from people who think he’s still on the Common Council, even though he’s been town clerk for 2½ years.

“Years ago if you didn’t read it in the paper or watch it as it went, there was nothing there,” he said. “The public now seems to be interested in what is going on. They are really on this. They want to see something different. People are tired of looking at the demolition signs on the buildings. … I think they are waiting to see and this has been a like a kick-start to some of the things that are going down there.”


14 responses to “Norwalk Center Task Force members say they have the ‘teeth’”

  1. Benthere Donethat

    What a farce!!! Here’s an idea. You can get the Cecil Group to do an update of the update of the update. I can’t stop laughing.

  2. Don’t Panic

    Teeth will involve having staff understand that changes need to reflect best practices applied to the public’s preferences, not what they consider feasible or easy or familiar.

  3. the donut hole

    Jackie Lightfield. Czar of Wall St. Zero provisional authority.
    Making cracks at our staff and expecting they’ll work for her with zeal?
    Who needs a common council when we can just pick Czars off the street to manage city affairs?
    Just get her an IPAD and the whole district will rebound magically.

  4. EastNorwalkChick

    “Alvord has people on his staff that were “trained in traffic engineering back in the ’60′s,” she said. Standards have changed, she said, referring to a book she has that explains how to speak traffic engineer to affect change.”
    Well that seems to explain a lot, maybe they should take a refresher course….it is 2014.

  5. Jlightfield

    So here’s the big policy question for all the keyboard critics out there. Do you want your downtown commercial districts designed to move traffic quickly through, or designed to encourage foot traffic to stores, restaurants and offices? Discuss amongst yourselves, my iPad will keep score.

  6. Don’t Panic

    Bike paths, racks and security–please. Paying for parking is a tax on shopping and dining. If you want the rest of Norwalk to spend time there, we are going to need wheels if it is too far to walk…

  7. @JL:
    Foot traffic please, not much of a biciclist myself, but there seems to more and more who are, which is nice to see. I prefer to be able to park in a central location, that has easy access to the downtown area, (ie. Westport/Fairfield),so that I can meander from store to store to see if anything suits my fancy that day.
    And since you’re taking requests from the audience, deI would also like decent sidewalks, crosswalks that are timed longer, so that you don’t have to be an Olympic sprinter to make it to the other side safely…. some nice flowering trees, benches and large planting containers over-flowing with flowering plants…a couple major retail chains such as Ann Taylor, Talbots, Banana Republic or even moving the Gap there would be nice…. Oh, and maybe some antique stores or a neat used Book Store….

  8. EveT

    Parking that isn’t a hassle. OK to pay, but not chaotic times and complicated method of payment. Foot traffic, yes.

  9. Benthere Donethat

    Cinco de Mayo is just days away.

    I think JACKIE LIGHTFIELD SHOULD LEAD her farce/force on a […] pub crawl from El Mexicano on Wall St (6 recently arrested during bar fight) to El Dorado on Issac St.[…]
    A detour onto Commerce St for a stop at Diablo’s Cantina (you name it) could be optional.

    This comment has been edited to comply with our comment policy and to removed a potentially libelous statement.

  10. EveT

    I would consider BenthereDonethat’s comment to be an ethnic slur.

  11. LWitherspoon

    @Jackie Lightfield
    Please give more thought to accommodating cyclists and pedestrians. Specifically, I’m surprised nobody has been injured crossing Wall St. to go to Fat Cat or the Yoga Studio after parking in the High Street lot.
    I believe there are already plans to improve the aforementioned portion of Wall St. but don’t recall if they’re finalized and funded.
    @Benthere Donethat
    Please try to be a little more respectful of people who are trying to improve Norwalk, which I presume is the City in which you live. If you don’t like what’s being discussed, propose your own constructive solution and explain why you feel it would be more effective.

  12. spanner

    Involvement should be based on what is paid in taxes from members on boards in Norwalk that would ease some of the confusion set down down by urban planners with no roots in Norwalk.

    @Benthere Donethat that pub crawl I thought has been been implemented by the ideas and comments from some of the participants in the Mayors red herrings.

    There is a large building on Woodward ave for rent it sits empty,shortly after built out of code but was allowed by zoning it was to have employed many but sits empty that was planning poor planning for those with residential housing on the other side of the street.

    Mistakes pile up in the sake of urban planning Norwalk suffers for this it time to pull the plug on those who simply don’t understand Norwalk.

    A lot of us want Norwalk turned back over to the people who built this city not ones who made it their home to impose feel good ideas that simply cost us all money we don’t have.

  13. Piberman

    This article is really “funny”. A City Commission having “teeth” ! Like the BET. Nancy we like you better when you’re serious. But it was enjoyable to have a good chuckle. Not till the cows come home will any City body have “teeth”. Even our politicos show their gums.

  14. jlightfield

    Well then, my iPad is back and the tally is in. First, thanks to all how contributed suggestions to how to structure the policy direction. This thread tally seems to also coincide with the general direction voiced by Norwalk citizens over the years and especially those who’ve contacted me or the various people on the task force recently– pedestrian friendly encompassing all that promotes a walkable, bike-able, and lets’ be clear, ADA friendly as well. All those obstacle course-like intersections, sidewalks and dark and dreary retail corridors need some rethinking.
    Fortunately the National Association of City Transportation Officials have produced guidelines that many city public works departments have adopted. Many of which fall under the Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper, way of doing things that has been so successful in NYC. Yes, it is possible to use paint, and temporary infrastructure to try reengineering intersections, adding parklets and others change how pedestrians interact with intersections, with observable and measurable results. If you are curious, here’s a link to a partial read,
    The challenge for our crackling cormorants here, is to shake off that albatross of negativity and contribute something positive to our fair city. And I don’t mean another assemblage of pixel spittle announcing the latest and greatest misinformed conspiracy theory, xenophobic diatribes or dystopian experiences.
    Can they do it? Or will this turn out like an old skool Scooby-Doo episode. Just like when those meddling kids roared up in the mystery machine only to find that they were being warned off by crazy theories of hauntings, monsters and mysterious events. And funny how it turned out that all those warnings were by the very same ne’er do wells who happened to be behind all the spooky incidents that paralyzed the townsfolk in each episode. Frightfully clever that Shakespeare he was, the keyboards doth protest too much, methinks.

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