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Norwalk political notes: Globe a go, no mural for museum

Also in political notes: Photos of the model of The SoNo Collection.
Also in political notes: Photos of the model of The SoNo Collection.

Correction 1:48 p.m. Saturday: Frank Farricker is no longer Greenwich DTC chairman.

NORWALK, Conn. – Here’s what we have for you in political notes this Saturday:

  • Farricker: Wall Street Theater not ‘stalled,’ as Meek claims
  • Historical Commission talks City Hall mural
  • Bonenfant: Dog droppings prove Cranbury point
  • Council checks ‘yes’ box on paint job for two intersections
  • Norwalk to school kids: Go skate!
  • Conservation Commission upholds ‘Cease and Restore’ order


Wall Street Theater now set for September

NancyOnNorwalk decided to give Frank Farricker a call, given comments left here by Board of Education member Bryan Meek alleging a “stalled effort of the Globe theatre.”

“He has no idea what he’s talking about,” said Farricker, former chairman of the Greenwich Democratic Town Committee (new chairman was elected March 23) and the developer of the theater.

The general contractor for the project has been replaced but “we are still on target,” he said, mentioning that the theater would be open in September.

OK, Farricker said in November that he expected that the theater would open in late spring. “I may have been a little optimistic,” he said.

“I just dropped a check for $380,000 to order sound systems the other day. We are not in any way slowed down,” Farricker said.

The paperwork on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Section 108 Loan Guarantee hasn’t been completed yet; Farricker said he had thought that would come to the Common Council next month but there’s some “details on the documentation from Washington,” so probably the month after that.

“We are not in a hurry. We don’t get that money until that project is completed,” Farricker said, explaining that the HUD money would pay off the construction loan.

“Technically, you could say the project is stalled going in front of the Common Council, but over the past three years we’ve gotten two approvals from the Common Council, two approvals from HUD in Washington, two approvals from HUD in Hartford. Our project was delayed for five months because of HUD paperwork a year ago, but no, this thing is so far matured it’s absurd,” Farricker said.

Also in the NancyOnNorwalk comment section: concerns that a lack of parking in the area might be a problem for the Wall Street Theater. Farricker said no.

“Now that POKO is underway, by the time they are done we will have 150 spots,” Farricker said, adding that design changes made by POKO regarding its driveway work out well for the theater.

There was a “really good meeting last week” with Norwalk Chief Building Official Bill Ireland, Department of Public Works Director Bruce Chimento and “all the project people,” Farricker said.

“Do you know who is doing the most on this project? People who are born and raised in Norwalk. If you are lifer in Norwalk, you are bending over backwards to help us… Which is really kind of gratifying,” Farricker said.


Historical Commissioner: Justin Gruelle could have used a model for that painting

The objections to “Steamboat Days on the Mississippi,” a WPA (Works Progress Administration) mural hanging in City Hall, bring up a complicated issue, Historical Commission Chairman David Westmoreland said Wednesday.

It’s true that City Hall is not a museum but, then again, it’s been used “like museum for 80 years now,” he said, explaining that it’s not easy to find a place to put a painting that large.

The Human Relations Commission is planning to hold a public hearing on the painting at 6:30 p.m. April 28 in a room to be announced.

“I am going to demand the Commission address all of them because this going to be just like Chinese water torture,” Westmoreland said.

Norwalk is said to have the largest collection of WPA murals in the nation, with many of them in City Hall. The sports paintings only show white people, and “The Purchase of Norwalk” could be offensive, Westmoreland said, pointing out he has Cherokee blood.

A detail of Justin Gruelle's "Steamboat Days on the Mississippi."
A detail of Justin Gruelle’s “Steamboat Days on the Mississippi.”

“It’s the 1930s telling of Colonial history,” Westmoreland said. “It’s as big a joke because the Indians can be construed as being a little simple because they are fascinated by the mirror. … The portrayal of the Puritans is kind of a joke, they are in these beautiful, flowing costumes and we know from research they were all pretty awful, terrible people.”

It’s almost like artist Justin Gruelle did not have African American models for “Steamboat Days on the Mississippi” because the depictions are quite cartoonish, a commissioner said.

Westmoreland agreed. He had talked to people who are offended, including Sherelle Harris, and the thought was “you have all these white people in very nice clothes and these are the ones carrying their luggage,” he said.

Everyone thinks they can solve the problem by putting the artwork in the Norwalk Museum, he said, but, “They are murals, they are not paintings – they are huge,” Westmoreland said. “We don’t have giant galleries. We don’t have the space. Plus, we have exhibit plans that we built all kinds of programming around and we are not changing those to make people feel better that we are, you know, censoring art.”

He’s looked around and hasn’t seen another place to put them – not because they are offensive, but because of their size, he said. The museum could store it, he said.

“You need to set a policy,” he said. “While I don’t like the idea of censoring art, I totally understand the concerns and issues particularly with the steamboat mural. … I hope this isn’t going to turn into another angry mob, which is what I think is going to happen given the comments I have seen on Facebook on all sides. It’s kind of a shame.”


Council sets Recreation and Parks fees; Councilman talks “doo”

The Common Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a Recreations and Parks Department fee schedule that is identical to last year’s schedule, except when it comes to Cranbury Park.

You need your “beach pass” to get in as of July 1, Recreation and Parks Department Director Mike Mocciae said. Non-residents will be charged $5 a day or they can buy a season’s pass for $75.

That might help with a dog-related problem, said Councilman Rich Bonenfant (R-At Large), explaining that he took two walks in the park recently to show people the new bunkhouse and pavilion, and where a treetop adventure might go.

“I agree with Mike, a lot of out-of-towners are coming in for free, walking their dogs and not picking up,” Bonenfant said. “You couldn’t even walk on these trails, you couldn’t look up at these trees and walk at the same time. There’s tons of dog droppings that no one is picking up, so if we are going to cut out some of the out-of-towners coming in for free, I think that is a step in the right direction.”

There will be a grace period for resident passes as people adjust to the change, Mocciae said. People coming to a special event at the mansion or one of the park’s other facilities will not be charged and the new parking area for the bunkhouse and pavilion will be locked, except when those areas are rented, he said.


Don’t Block that Box, please

The Council unanimously approved a new “Don’t Block the Box” ordinance, specifically aimed for the intersection of Interstate 95 and East Avenue, and France Street and Route 1. Any other intersection would need a new ordinance, Ordinance Committee Chairwoman Eloisa Melendez (D-District A) said.

The fines are $100, while a state law on the topic recommends a $150 fine, she said.

“At the end of the day we felt that it was important to get the lines on the road and that, specifically for the East Avenue one, we would figure out enforcement after, and there would be some sort of trial period before people would be fined if they were found in the box,” Melendez said.

The most notable thing might be the lack of public comment. Not one concerned citizen spoke on the issue.

There were also no comments from the public about the Fodor Farm lease to Live Green CT, which was passed unanimously.


Senior tax relief amended

In another unanimous Council decision, the ordinance for senior tax relief was amended. The income range of citizens who are eligible for senior tax relief was raised by by $3,000; seniors making up to $42,200 are on Tier I and can now get a $1,390 maximum benefit. On Tier II, the maximum income is $52,100 with a benefit of $750.

Councilman Steve Serasis (D-District A) was the only person to speak on this, sharing the story of his father, who passed away recently.

“We all have people we are fond of who are older and we have to take care of them,” Serasis said.


Council approves Vets Park ice rink

The Rink at Harbor Point LLC was given a unanimous go-ahead to operate an ice rink in Veteran Park at Tuesday’s Council meeting, with no hullabaloo about “commercialization of the parks.”

The Council chambers were nearly devoid of spectators – the anti-Go Ape! crowd had exited – to hear Majority Leader John Kydes (D-District C) say, “All school children in Norwalk, included all those attending local private ans charter schools, will be given one free pass a year for skating rentals, to be used in either the period Oct. 15 to the weekend before Thanksgiving and the period following Martin Luther King Jr. Day to the end of season in March each year.”

There was some confusion, as Kydes was making amendments to the contract, but Recreation, Parks and Cultural Affairs Committee Chairman Travis Simms (D-District B) said the committee had already agreed to these changes. They hadn’t gotten into the Council packet, he said. Serasis agreed.

Councilman Doug Hempstead (R-At Large) complained that the contract should have been simplified into a term sheet. Corporation Counsel Mario Coppola agreed, saying, “It was glaring that we didn’t have that document,” and promising that Assistant Corporation Counsel Diane Beltz-Jacobson will take care of that in the future.

Other stipulations: the city will approve fees for the rink at the beginning of each season and no changes will be made without the approval of the Recreation and Parks director.

If there are complaints about noise, the director can change the hours music is allowed, or prohibit it, Council members said.

“We are offering over 11,000 kids free skates and free pass,” Kydes said.


Conservation upholds its action on Recs and Parks

“This is my first Cease and Restore in 31 years, so my apologies for this,” Mocciae said Tuesday to the Conservation Commission.

Mocciae was there to talk about the dumping in the southern end of Cranbury Park, which Conservation cited him recently after Diane Lauricella, who was working for the Cranbury Preservation Association, filed a complaint. Mocciae went through an explanation that is familiar to NancyOnNorwalk readers: much of the materials there date back decades as the city, when it acquired the property in 1965, immediately used that area as a dump.

His department tried to flatten the hill as part of the master plan work and soil went down the slope, he said.

“Because of the ‘sins of the father,’ the 70 feet that encroaches was not all recent,” Mocciae said. “I don’t think it was anywhere near, 5 -10 feet at most. But needless to say the city has to clean it up.”

Recs and Parks has called Norwalk Carting, he said.

“We will clean it up, we will meet the setback, and plant whatever we need to plant,” Mocciae said. “We didn’t cut down any excessive trees, that area was like that for a long, long time. We cut a few dead ones that were in there, again, just trying to level off that plateau.”

The Commission unanimously upheld the Cease and Restore that was issued. Mocciae has until April 26 to submit an approvable application, which “has to include the removal of all the recently deposited fill,” Senior Environmental Engineer Alexis Cherichetti said.

The model of the proposed SoNo Collection, recently placed in the City Hall atrium.
The model of the proposed SoNo Collection, recently placed in the City Hall atrium. Sunset-like shadows provided by the photographer’s flash.
The model of the proposed SoNo Collection, recently placed in the City Hall atrium.
The model of the proposed SoNo Collection, recently placed in the City Hall atrium.
The model of the proposed SoNo Collection, recently placed in the City Hall atrium.
The model of the proposed SoNo Collection, recently placed in the City Hall atrium.
The model of the proposed SoNo Collection, recently placed in the City Hall atrium.
The model of the proposed SoNo Collection, recently placed in the City Hall atrium.
The model of the proposed SoNo Collection, recently placed in the City Hall atrium.
The model of the proposed SoNo Collection, recently placed in the City Hall atrium.
The model of the proposed SoNo Collection, recently placed in the City Hall atrium.
The model of the proposed SoNo Collection, recently placed in the City Hall atrium.


7 responses to “Norwalk political notes: Globe a go, no mural for museum”

  1. Bryan Meek

    To be clear, I’m looking forward to the Globe opening. But let’s face facts. The original building probably didn’t take a fraction as long to build as it is taking to refurbish it. My point was moreover to the outsiders promoting preservation of the White Barn theatre. A home builder will have the development done inside of a few years. The preservationists would likely take 5 to 10 years to get anything going and eventually watch the existing rat traps on site rot into the ground.

  2. EveT

    The public hearing about the “Life on the Mississippi” mural will be like Chinese water torture? Oh dear, now the residents of Chinese descent are going to be offended too.

  3. Mike Lyons

    EveT, EVERYONE is offended these days — and ‘offense’ trumps the First Amendment, apparently.

    Here’s Bill Maher’s take on this phenomenon in its latest campus incarnation:


    1. Mark Chapman

      @Mike Lyons

      Three things;

      1. I liked the previous link you posted on this topic, one you shared with me offline a while back: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/09/the-coddling-of-the-american-mind/399356

      2. You watch Bill Maher???

      3. I find the words ‘offense’ and ‘trumps’ to be ironic in this context, given that the words have become pretty much synonymous, and it could be said that, with his constant assault on good taste, manners, civility and the press, Trump offends the First Amendment.

  4. Paul Lanning

    Renovating the Globe is a good thing.

    Having no plan for filling the theater ongoing with paying customers isn’t a good thing.

  5. Mike Lyons

    Mark –

    1. Yes, that’s a great article.

    2. Yep, occasionally watch Maher, used to watch Stewart a lot (funny is funny, whether from liberals or conservatives). Listen to NPR – and listen to Rush. I’m always struck by the people on both sides who won’t even CONSIDER listening to the other side. Listening doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing, but it does help understanding.

    3. Good catch on ‘trumping’ the First Amendment. The Donald doesn’t much like that Amendment (did you see at one of his rallies he said he wants to amend the law to make it easier for politicians to sue the news media?). Being a politician myself who has often had to ‘suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous’ attacks, I know how he feels, but Times v. Sullivan has struck a good balance in that area since the ’60’s and I see no value to country in changing it.

  6. Deidra Davis

    I support replacing the Steamboat Days on the Mississippi painting in City Hall. Black people love their ancestors just like any other race. It is an ignorant piece to have there in 2016. They have just launched the new branding for the City of Norwalk using the different races here, but it is not an honest telling. The truth is that Blacks are not respected in this town as evidenced by having to have a hearing to take down the mural. There wasn’t a hearing to put it up. Why is there a hearing to take it down? They accuse Blacks of drawing attention to racism here. What to you call this hearing? How are you going to continue denying those who have called attention to Norwalk’s treatment of Blacks. Dropping money here are there and politically appointing people to boards to silence them is not a form of respect, but just another form of trying to control outcomes. Appoint people who really care about and can help you understand the Black race and replace that picture. I’ve heard that there are plenty of other pieces that can go in its place. The pictures of whites in City Hall have them on nice picnics, playing sports, doing nice things. Stop the nonsense and replace the painting.

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