Norwalk lawyers bash outsider experts hired to fight Al Madany

NORWALK, Conn. – The words spoken by one attorney to another Thursday in Norwalk could not be stronger.

“It’s really shocking to me that you spent a year negotiating and you never talked to your clients,” former Corporation Counsel Peter Nolin said to the attorneys hired under former Mayor Richard Moccia to fight the lawsuit filed by the Al Madany Islamic Center. “You guys were hired by us – by us – and you’ve kept the one party that was key out of the negotiation – intentionally,” he said, referring to the neighbors of the proposed center. “You’ve known about these plans for months. You’re telling us now that it’s going to be jammed through on a vote tonight. Shame on all of you that go along with that, go home. … This has all been cooked. Shame, shame, shame on the lawyers for doing it.”

Comments by lawyers were naturally a part of the Zoning Commission’s public hearing, as three were on stage. But Nolin and Victor Cavallo threw a number of punches from Concert Hall’s floor. In contrast, Galen Wells urged the commission to take their legal team’s advice.

Nolin’s Linked In page says he practices business, real estate, commercial, insurance and environmental litigation. Cavallo says he is experienced in divorce and family law litigation. Wells’ Linked In page says she is the owner of Law Office of Galen W. Wells and a law practice consultant.

All were commenting on the actions of Corporation Counsel Mario Coppola, Marci Hamilton – a nationally recognized expert on the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act – and Joseph Williams of Shipman and Goodwin. Williams is a member of the Real Estate, Environmental and Land Use Practice Group, according to the firm’s website, who practices in the areas of environmental and land use permitting and litigation.

“You are lucky to get a compromise out of RLUIPA,” Hamilton said. “The religious group has special privileges to do what no other builder can do,” she said.

Nolin said there was no federal law that said the Zoning Commission needed to vote on the matter Thursday.

“If the lawyers are saying that they are lying to you. That is not the law. If they promised the court that they were going to vote tonight then again, shame on them. They don’t have the right to do that,” Nolin said.

Williams had said the negotiation had taken a long time and that the case was on a tight timeline. The judge was moving ahead if there was no settlement, he said prior to the hearing, as reported here on Nancy On Norwalk.

The latest court document on file regarding deadlines is:

Order on Motion for Extension of Time

Document: 228

ORDER. Because the parties report that they are making substantial progress towards a final settlement of this matter, and have provided a firm and, as the Court understands it, realistic deadline for finalizing the settlement, the Joint Motion for Extension of Discovery Deadlines 227 is GRANTED. The Court notes, however, that it is has extended the deadlines in this two-year-old case several times in the last eight months to permit the parties to make and finalize their efforts to settle. While the Court understands that this particular settlement is complicated and requires multiple approvals, the Court also has an obligation to ensure that cases are adjudicated promptly, and the period of inactivity in this case has been unusually long at this point. Accordingly, absent an extraordinary showing, the Court will not extend the deadlines further. Fact discovery shall be completed by October 21, 2014; expert discovery shall be completed by January 6, 2015; dispositive motions shall be filed by January 27, 2015; and the Joint Trial Memorandum shall be due within 45 days of the Court’s ruling on any dispositive motions. Signed by Judge Michael P. Shea on 8/11/14. (Khan, J)

While Hamilton said, in announcing the settlement agreement, that Norwalk had attained a benchmark for other cities to emulate in attaining a “remarkable” settlement, Nolin said Hamilton had originally said Norwalk had a winnable case.

“I am shocked to hear a lawyer saying that (Al Madany) gets special privileges. She may … she knows the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution says you cannot give special benefit to a religious organization,” Nolin said.

Hamilton shook her head but said nothing.

Cavallo insisted on a point of order before the public was allowed to speak.

According to Duhaime.org, a point of order is “A term of parliamentary law and procedure which refers to an interjection during a meeting by a member, who does not have the floor, to call the attention of the chair to an alleged violation or breach of the assembly’s or meeting’s rules of order.”

Williams said, “It’s not a public hearing where there would be a point of order,” but Zoning Commission Chairman Joe Santo allowed Cavallo, a planning commissioner, to speak.

Attorney Victor Cavallo addresses the Zoning Commission Thursday. He is a member of the Republican Town Committee.
Attorney Victor Cavallo addresses the Zoning Commission Thursday. He is a member of the Republican Town Committee.

Cavallo said the Zoning Commission had no right to be voting on the settlement because it had no special permit application before it. It had no jurisdiction, he said. “It has been previously denied. The code only authorizes this commission to act on an application that is pending,” he said.

Any decision could be challenged by the neighbors of the property, he said.

“I am asking Corporation Counsel to give me an opinion with respect to this commission’s authority in any way, matter or form on this new plan without a new special permit application,” Cavallo said. “It has already been recognized that this commission has no right to act to on the premises. I want to know what authority does this commission have to act on the new plan.”

Williams answered that one. “The commission is a defendant in litigation and has every right and all jurisdiction it needs to act to approve a settlement agreement and that is what it is considering this evening,” Williams said.

“I think what we need to realistically understand is the federal statute that Marci Hamilton talked about,” Wells said. “There is a very, very heavy burden on the city. If city doesn’t win in this litigation we will end up with a larger mosque, less parking, etc. We could also end up with significant liability.”

Wells pointed out that the town of Greenburgh recently lost a RLUIPA case to the tune of a $6.5 million payout.

Galen Wells
Galen Wells addresses the Zoning Commission Thursday. She is a member of the Democratic Town Committee.

“Anybody who has ever been involved in litigation knows you listen to the advice of your counsel,” Wells said. “Your counsel involved in this case understand the law, they understand the facts, they are very close to it. They’re advising a settlement. They’re negotiating a settlement. It’s a very foolish, foolish client that does not take the advice of their counsel. It’s very easy for a lawyer who is not involved in the case, has never been involved in a RLUIPA case, to sit by and say, ‘Oh we could win this.’ He has no idea whether or not we could win this.”

Plus, she said, “It’s going to take a certain amount of political courage for people to do the right thing here and to approve the settlement. If the settlement is not approved by either the Zoning Commission or the Council, I want the people who objected to it to own it, to own what the consequences are.”

Williams had said similar things in introducing the settlement.

“The city, I want to tell you, has defended this lawsuit vigorously from the beginning. It did so for about a year and a half. It denies that there is any are violations by the city or by the Zoning Commission of the religious land use statute or of the complainant’s rights,” he said. “… But in the life of every lawsuit where there is risk to both sides there are junctures where the parties can hit the pause button.”

The matter should be decided by the community and not a judge in Hartford, he said.

Joseph Williams
Attorney Joseph Williams represents the Zoning Commission.

“The Zoning Commission was adamant from the very beginning of the discussions and throughout them that it was not going to approve a plan that it finds unacceptable solely for the sake of settling the lawsuit, it would rather go to trial,” Williams said.

Settling was done with the “understanding that if it were to go forward, not settle with the case, not only would that be a very expensive proposition,” Williams said. “Al Madany would not be prevented from filing a new application something similar to what’s being proposed in the settlement. If it were to lose the case then … it could easily be $10 million to $15 million.”


31 responses to “Norwalk lawyers bash outsider experts hired to fight Al Madany”

  1. Piberman

    Would be interesting to read the legal brief of the attorneys originally hired by then Mayor Moccia as to the legal issues involved, options for the City and possible outcomes. We know what the legal team has recommended after two years. But what did they say initially ? Was the original motivation in hiring a “nationally prominent attorney” to seek an application revision or to encourage the applicants to seek a more suitable location elsewhere ? And if the legal precedents were well established why was it necessary to hire a nationally prominent attorney to assist the City ? What’s missing from the public discussion is a summary of the experience of other communities in accommodating Mosque sitings. And what was a “reasonable expectation” to seek an accommodation with the Mosque congregation. Was the public lead to believe that the Mosque application could actually be denied by hiring a prominent attorney ? In hindsight some “straight talk” at the outset by City officials and their legal team could have prevented much public anguish. Some residents appear to have believed that the City could reasonably argue against any Mosque would be allowed at the Fillow St location. Finally did City officials ever offer alternative locations given the opposition of local residents ?

  2. Jeff

    Why did Marci Hamilton flip flop on fighting vs settling? Very simply, she was following Rilling’s orders to settle vs Moccia who wanted the lawsuit run its course. Her opinion carries little weight and should the common council vote down the settlement, the city would best be served by terminating her retention and seeking qualified counsel given she has spoken from both sides of her mouth. The dollars used to pay her high legal fees should have been directed in seeking a more suitable location for this religious group.

  3. One and Done

    Nolin hit the nail on the head. The neighbors of this might not have enough money for a lawsuit to withstand the outside forces laundering money through U.S. firms to fight the city, but they can sure as heck file an ethics complaint with the state bar against Mr. Coppola. Show him what it’s like to get screwed over by some bureaucratic process.

  4. It’s just laws.

    A search of press articles on this news site revealed that the inflammatory flyer distributed by Councilman Dave McCarthy and Zoning Chair (at that time) and now Vice Chair Emily Wilson in 2012 was submitted as evidence of official discrimination by the city. It is entirely possible that bombshell evidence switched the case from winnable to unwinnable in Marci Hamilton’s opinion.
    The fact that Mr. McCarthy said at the hearing that it was unfortunate that this mosque issue has become politicized is bizarre and Orwellian, as it was Mr. McCarthy and Emily Wilson who politicized this process from the very beginning, starting with the flyer full of lies and discriminatory remarks copied on this news site that they distributed to win votes.
    For Ms. Wilson to have continued with negotiating the settlement after her connection to that flyer by representing the city and repeatedly agreeing to support the settlement, while full well knowing she would double-cross the city in the end and vote against the very settlement she herself helped put together, is reason enough to have her license to practice law in the state of CT scrutinized by the Bar. You don’t vote against your own client, in this case the entire city of Norwalk, which Ms. Wilson swore under oath to protect when she was appointed.
    Ms Wilson’s vote against the settlement potentially could have cost the city a lost federal case, up to $15 million in uninsured liability forcing tax hikes, teachers getting fired, roads not getting repaved, and the downgrading of our AAA bond rating costing us millions more in interest. It would have also resulted in a larger mosque getting built on that site with less parking (remember the original mosque followed all the zoning codes that the GOP helped dismantle over the years under the mantle of expanding property rights of owners to build anything they want anywhere in Norwalk, a policy Ms. Wilson strongly supported over the years).
    The amateur opinions of small town lawyers who normally deal with messy divorces and property line disputes against national RLUIPA experts and constitutional lawyers were the real dog and pony show on display last Thursday night, and were only meant to help inflame the mob in a coordinated but very risky political attack against Mayor Rilling.
    The federal case was already lost long ago by the actions on the record of Mayor Moccia, Corporation Counsel Robert Maslan, Councilman Dave McCarthy, and Zoning Chair and Vice Chair Joe Santo and Emily Wilson. No matter how hard they try to spin this to shift the blame to Mayor Rilling, it will always be known as the case that the Moccia Administration and the Zoning Commission mishandled and the broken zoning code allowed, and that the Rilling Administration inherited and needed to just limit the damage in the face of a case the city will surely lose quickly, with all the evidence on the record including McCarthy and Wilson’s famous anti-Muslim flyer.

  5. One and Done

    @Its Just Lies. I don’t agree with the tactic of the letter from Wilson’s campaign, but it hardly depicts discrimination. To say it does is gross discrimination against people’s better intelligence. Some people might be that stupid, but most of us are not. Reprint the letter and tell us exactly how it discriminates?
    Harry is the leader now even if he doesn’t know what that means. Instead he is in full CYA mode with help from his minions like you, whoever you are.
    Good luck with that as a campaign platform. “It was a video, err I mean a flyer…we’ll ummm its the fault of a zoning commissioner, someone on the council….who me? What? I’m only the mayor…. I just show up for the cameras on good stuff and look for scapegoats on the bad stuff…and since you are so informed you will vote for me again I hope. (I’m halfway to soaking another pension out of you and we wouldn’t want anything like a drawn out law suit for what is right get in the way of what I rightfully deserve).”

  6. anon

    @Chapman, corrections made.
    The math says there are plans for this to be a REGIONAL DESTINATION.
    Or maybe,
    The math says the mosque expects its membership to triple in size. HOW?
    Or maybe something else, but why does it seem like the answer is a secret?
    Norwalk’s mosque will be almost 3 times the size of Stamford’s mosque and 2 times the size of Greenwich’s synagogue.
    The Stamford mosque is 5,208 square feet and is next to a 2,280 square foot two-family residence used as mosque offices. It is a Commercial ½ acre lot off a main street with direct access to I95. 100 members. The Stamford mosque is almost 3 times smaller than Norwalk’s, same number of members.
    The Greenwich synagogue is 12,000 square feet on a 2 acre Residential lot. 120 members. The Greenwich synagogue is almost 2 times smaller than Norwalk’s and has more members.
    The Norwalk mosque has 42,442 square feet in mass with 21,800 usable square feet including 975 square foot historical house. It is a Residential 1.5 acre lot. 100 members.
    Mayor Rilling’s choice for Norwalk Corporate Counsel MARIO COPPOLA asked this question regarding the Greenwich synagogue, “(MARIO)COPPOLA urged the (Greenwich) commission to approve the project only if a number of conditions were levied against it: a minimum 40 percent reduction in size, a new driveway configuration, limited use of a social hall and WRITTEN REPORTS ON ANTICIPATED DEMAND…”

  7. Jeff

    Yea agree – hard reach to claim discrimination on flyer. As for Emily Wilson, she should be commended for adjusting her vote after public comment. Your vitriol against her is unwarranted as it implies the vote was predetermined prior to receiving public comment.

  8. West Norwalk Neighbor

    OMG! Norwalk lawyers are SHOCKED! SHOCKED! Shocked, that they aren’t getting paid fees from this controversy. Shocked that they aren’t the ones selling out Norwalk. Well thank goodness they are being paid for BJ’s on Main Ave, a new Mall at 95/7, the public land giveaways at both the POKO and 95/7 projects. SHOCKING! Just SHOCKING, I tell you!

  9. RU4REEL

    The letter from the McCarthy/Wilson campaign could be perceived to be discriminatory. If you received the campaign propaganda as I did you can see clearly why, unless of course you blindly follow (Sheep come to mind)the politicians who sent this propaganda out in the first place.
    The person/people discriminated against, their perception is their reality, and who are we to determine when someone else feels discriminated against.
    Until something of this nature happens to you personally, you may have an uneducated opinion, which is your right, but that opinion carries no credibility, purely conjecture.
    I will end by saying this, sadly some of the participants on this site clearly have no empathy for their fellow human, and I sincerely pray they are never in the situations we discuss daily here.

  10. RU4REEL

    @Jeff, please clear this up for me in regard to candidate for a seat in Hartford Emily Wilson.
    She helped negotiate a settlement, then voted against the settlement she helped negotiate, why would you do that?
    At minimum she should have brought her concerns forward DURING the court ordered settlement meetings.
    If she had MAYBE we would be having a different discussion now, and after mulling it over, what decisions would she make in Hartford if she wins in November?
    Please “splain” (thank you Lucy).
    I think she is a nice person but I don’t think having her in Hartford is a good idea for Norwalk.
    BAAA!!! BAAA!!!
    (Editor’s note: Emily Wilson is no longer running for state representative. Fred Wilms won the primary between the two and is now running against Andy Garfunkel.)

  11. The text of the flier in question:

    (bold type) Protecting Norwalk’s Future
    (bold type) Protecting Our Neighborhoods
    In June 2012, the Norwalk Zoning Commission denied permits for a mosque due to concerns over traffic and the impact on the neighborhood. Instead of trying to work with the city, the applicants decided to file suit in federal court for discrimination. Mayor Moccia, the Republican caucus of the Common Council, and the Zoning Commission decided that the fair and just concerns of the residents of West Norwalk are worth fighting for,
    (bold type) Mayor Moccia is pressing the legal fight to defend against this group’s lawsuit
    If the city were to acquiesce in court to the applicants, West Norwalk would get a too-large and too-busy destination development. Also, the city would end up actually financing the building of this project if the applicants were awarded damages. It would threaten the sovereignty of the city. That would mean that any special interest could come in and impose their wants and needs above the safety of the people of Norwalk.
    (bold type) One Democrat official, Warren Peña, spoke in favor of this mosque, calling it an “opportunity” for the city.
    Harry Rilling, the Democrat mayoral candidate, voted in favor of settling. When pressed, he declined to familiarize himself with the details of the application and is not opposed to it. Other Democrat Zoning Commissioners, including Mike Mushak, Nate Sumpter and Adam Blank all voted for this project.
    (bold type) Vote Republican, Vote to preserve our Neighborhoods

    (end flier)

    For clarity’s sake, let me also point out that Zoning Commissioner Emily Wilson also voted “in favor of settling.” The only person to vote against that resolution was Zoning Commission Chairman Joe Santo.

    The story about the flier: https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2013/10/norwalk-dems-republican-flier-gives-plaintiff-a-better-case-in-mosque-lawsuit/

  12. Wineshine

    Thank you, Nancy. Anyone who can divine even an iota of religious discrimination from this flyer should immediately seek counseling. I’m much more afraid of a zealot who can come to that conclusion that I am of any impending traffic nightmare.

  13. Kevin Di Mauro

    Right or wrong, I appreciate the voice of local attorneys who publicly express their opinions on this important matter. However, somebody’s voice is conspicuous by it’s absence. I’m referring to the voice of attorney Larry Cafero a long time West Norwalk resident who has time for the ice-bucket challenge, get a state grant for OHPA, and promote a new mall. Any comments on this topic Larry ?

  14. Bruce Kimmel

    For the record: most members of the Republican caucus, me included, were enraged when we saw that flyer. It was a total surprise and most of us were disgusted.

  15. One and Done

    Bruce, we know you hate basic truth and facts. There is no discrimination here. Get back to polishing Harry’s ego already.

  16. One and Done

    Again, the tactic was in poor judgment due to the individuals involvement in the matter. As someone said above, whoever gleans discrimination from that is discriminating against anyone with an ounce of common sense and should apologize.

  17. Amanda

    Why were you so disgusted, Bruce? What is exactly so inflammatory about it?

  18. Jeff

    @RU4REEL. Emily was clearly an independent decision maker and had the backbone to finalize her vote after public comments were taken into consideration. She gets it. She was obviously swayed by the public comment and adjusted her vote accordingly. This is how a democracy works. There should be no surprise here either. Emily went on the record stating ,
    (Reference, Nancy on Norwalk 8/4/2014) “Don’t expect a sudden announcement that Norwalk has settled with the Al Madany Islamic Center.

    There is a process that will be followed before a settlement would be agreed to, Zoning Commission Vice Chairman Emily Wilson said.

    Wilson said it’s a “major ‘if,’ because I have no idea where we are right now,” but “If at some point the Zoning Commission is asked to vote on a settlement, there will be a public hearing prior to, that the terms will be explained and that people, and the neighbors, can come and listen and have a chance to express their concerns or their questions.”

    That’s what she has been told by attorneys, she said. A public hearing is part of the process, she said.

    “I don’t know that it will happen at all, but just procedurally that is what we are looking at,” said Wilson, the Republican-endorsed candidate to represent the 142nd district in the Connecticut House of Representatives.”

  19. Aga Khan

    @OneandDone by calling the mosque a “destination development” the opponents are mirroring the language of the opponents to the so-called “victory mosque” in lower manhattan which was based on Islamophobia. Nevermind that the congregants are local residents. Then we are told that a finding by the court that the mosque was treated unfairly would “threaten the sovereignty of the city”. Consider that the former Confederate States opposed desegregation because of “states rights” and that the federal government was threatening the sovereignty of the southern states. Finally the flyer speaks of “[outside] special interest [who] could come in and impose their wants and needs above the safety of the people of Norwalk.” Once again the local Muslims are viewed as the “other” whose incursion the neighborhood needs to be “defended” against. All of this may seem to be benign language by Republicans but they are a series of dog whistles they mean something to the read, and at the very least are used to arouse passions. For these reasons the flyer is seen as an incitement to racism. It was mentioned as such in the hearing that the City lost in Federal Court and also mentioned by the judge as a basis for why the mosque is correct in alleging that there is some community bias that infected the Zoning Commissions previous decision.

    @anon the mosque membership is not 100 people it is a hundred families. With each family having on average 4 people that’s 400 who would show up at high holidays. That is why the mosque is the size that it is.

  20. Kathleen Montgomery

    My two cents on the flyer: why not use the rendering of the actual mosque instead of one with multiple minarets and something that resembles explosions going off?

  21. Karen Doyle Lyons

    If you look at the mosques in Fairfield County they are all……. In commercial areas…. Main street in New Haven, Dixwell Avenue in Hamden and on. I would like to know the square footage of these and where does it say that a church has to have a community center. The road is soooooooo curved and dangerous.
    .??? Wll cars be towed if they park on Fillow and North Taylor. .?? Will they be able to call prayer five times a day starting at 4:30 am? And how?
    Will they have festivals and block all the near by streets?
    So many questions?… I have to say I am in agreement with Peter Nolin.
    I respectfully ask that this have more research and citizen input before the City of Norwalk spends our hard earned tax dollars.

  22. RU4REEL

    Still not buying it folks, perception of discrimination still counts if you are the victim.
    Ms. Wilson should have gathered all information including the feelings of the residents prior to the settlement meetings and expressed those resident views in the settlement meetings, no matter how you sugar coat it, it’s a flip flop.

  23. anon

    @Aga Khan

    Greenwich synagogue “…..Robert Birnbaum, president of the board of trustees at the Greenwich Reform Synagogue, which serves about 150 FAMILIES….”

    Stamford mosque “…the fast-growing congregation now receives more than 100 local Muslims for Friday prayers…The Stamford Islamic Center’s swelling attendance means there is not enough room to accommodate women….The Stamford Islamic Center’s new mosque, WILL ALLOW THE ENTIRE CONGREGATION TO WORSHIP TOGETHER IN THE 3,000-square-foot prayer hall.”

  24. RU4REEL

    Thanks Nancy it was Santo who flip flopped not Ms. Wilson, my apologies to Ms. Wilson.

  25. Aga Khan

    @karen some churches are in commercial areas and some are in residential areas. Why can’t it be the same for a mosque. What is it about a mosque that makes everyone think that it doesn’t operate just like any other religious facility.
    Similarly churches don’t have to have a parish hall or a gym but many do. Connecticut courts have recognized that religious practice doesn’t just involve prayer but includes learning, socializing and playing. Why shouldn’t Muslims have access to the same types of facilities?
    If the road is “sooo dangerous” then the are should be condemned and no one should be allowed to walk or drive there. The people who decided that there should be schools in the area should all be convicted of child endangerment. The fact is that this street is no more dangerous then any other curvy road in Norwalk.
    If you have been following this debate you would know that Muslims have only two high holidays when there would be congestion. Also there is not going to be any outdoor call to prayer (God forbid that they notion of prayer interject in people’s daily lives). People keep interjecting this reason because they deem it shocking or offensive. It is neither.
    This litigation has been going on for two years and has thoroughly been researched. If you think it hasn’t you’re simply saying that the zoning staff and commission are […]. If they are, why are we letting them make decisions about other matters?
    The plain fact is that this application complies with the law. It always has. A lot of people don’t like it and so now they want to use their own reasons to reject it. Our society, thankfully, doesn’t work that way.
    @anon Just because the Jews want less space doesn’t mean the Muslims have to as well.

    This comment was edited to remove an offensive term.

  26. anon

    @Aga Khan

    Stamford mosque “…now receives MORE THAN 100 local Muslims for Friday prayers” .… “means there is not enough room to accommodate women”….”The Stamford Islamic Center’s new mosque, WILL ALLOW THE ENTIRE CONGREGATION TO WORSHIP TOGETHER IN THE 3,000-square-foot prayer hall.”

    Norwalk’s mosque: 2,709sf prayer hall PLUS mezzanine approximately 1,000sf.

  27. John Hamlin

    Which of these politicians did anything in the years leading up to this zoning application to amend the zoning regulations, reform the planning and zoning department, or do anything other than support the absolute right of individual property owners to do whatever they want with their properties regardless of the consequences? Not one. The city got exactly what its elected and appointed representatives worked hard to achieve over many years. Now everyone wants to blame someone else. Enough! Do something constructive and change the zoning regs, enact a real blight ordinance, and reform the planning and zoning department. Or don’t be surprised when somebody builds a mosque next door to you.

  28. It’s just laws.

    Karen Doyle Lions, the mosque will not have prayer calls broadcast from its single minaret half the size of the high tension towers that cross through Oak Hills Park and across Fillow and then directly behind the homes on Stepping Stones Lane.
    You say mosques are in commercial areas in other cities and so that’s where Norwalk’s belongs but most of the 56 churches and synagogues in Norwalk are in residential zones as our code allows. Why should an exception be made for this particular “religious institution” unless you think this religion should be treated differently than all others? In West Norwalk, within a half mile of the mosque site, are 3 large religious institutions including the huge 2,400-family St. Matthews that seats 1,079 and has over 300 parking spaces, all in the very same AAA residence zone as the 100-family mosque site that “seats” 200 on prayer rugs ( the city’s flawed formula for determining seating assumes congregants sit in chairs or pews and incorrectly determined the mosque seats 435). None of those religious institutions were required to have traffic studies or were submitted to the same scrutiny (2 traffic studies) as the mosque was by the city, even though the mosque followed the zoning code exactly. This was clear evidence offered in the lawsuit of discrimination, along with the flyer distributed by Emily Wilson and David McCarthy that called the mosque a “special interest threatening the sovereignty of the city by imposing its wants and needs over the safety of Norwalk residents.” That clearly discriminatory statement about the mosque composed of Norwalk residents and that followed all of the zoning codes ignores the fact that the huge 2,400 family St. Matthews where Mr. McCarthy attends would never be referred to in the same language by McCarthy or anyone else, since it is so absurd and threatening.

  29. Scott

    You said Jews! I feel discriminted (I’m not of the Jewish faith but I’ve been told i look Jewish) . I think I’ll sue. Any takers to work this case pro bono? Sounds ridiculous? Anyone can feel discriminated against at amytime if they look hard enough. Offer me a beer and i could say you’re calling me a drunk (I’m of Irish heritage) . People need to focus on legitimate battles such as why a law should allow a group or organization (religious or otherwise) to have rights not enjoyed by every tax paying resident of this municipality

  30. Wineshine

    @ aga, owing to the integrity of this site, we’ll never know what the “offensive term” you used is, but it could only have come before two words in your statement. I think you just outed yourself, buddy.

  31. Oyster

    Can we be clear? The settlement specifies no “amplified” calls to prayer. That doesn’t preclude legally making “unamplified” calls to prayer.
    Regarding the timing of traffic…traffic may not be tied only to the Friday afternoon worship session and high holidays, due to the nature of the activities at the community center, which have not been fully vetted for their effect on traffic flows.

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