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Norwalk political notes: ‘POKO’ goes to trial; Indian-Americans meet with Rilling

Mayor Harry Rilling with Indian Consul General Randhir Kumar Jaiswal and GOPIO-CT Delegation, March 4 in Norwalk City Hall. From left are Viresh Sharma, Mahesh Jhangiani, Jayashri Chintalapudi, Ashok Nichani, Dr. Thomas Abraham, Rilling, Consul General Jaiswal, Deputy Consul General Dr. Varun Jeph, Srinivas Akarapu, Prasad Chintalapudi, Dr. Sudhir D’Souza and Prachi Narayan. (GOPIO-CT)
Michael Weissbrod of Crosskey Architects shows off changes to the design for Wall Street Place, during a Zoning Commission meeting in December 2020.

NORWALK, Conn. — Some Norwalk political notes for you:

  • Zoning appeal of Wall Street Place goes to trial
  • Indian Consul General visits Rilling
  • A way to send Darien a message?

 

Milligan gets day in court

Tuesday saw a court trial in a lawsuit filed by Jason Milligan against a City body – a trial, not a hearing, a trial with an outcome expected soon.

Or relatively soon. One can hope.

Milligan is seeking to overturn the Zoning Commission’s approval of the plan to restart construction on Wall Street Place, sometimes called “POKO.” Attorney David Rubin, representing the embattled real estate broker, accuses the Commission of “spot zoning” in approving the Citibank-sponsored revised plan for the infamously stalled mixed use development, because the area’s zoning regulations had changed after construction stopped and an exception was made for what might be considered a non-conforming plan.

Wall Street Place is approved for six stories, although the new regulations say four are allowed in the neighborhood.

Attorney Peter Nolin, representing developer JHM Group, said “this was not done to skirt or void the law” and a regulation was passed “with all due consideration” to grandfather POKO in.

The legal point-counterpoint took up a day in Stamford Superior Courtroom II, with Judge Charles Lee at the bench as the trial was held remotely and broadcast on YouTube.

“I appreciate the quality of the arguments today,” Lee said at the close of the trial, in which he suggested multiple times that perhaps a variance would have been a better route to approving the project.

He said, “I’m going to reserve decision and I look forward to dealing with it.”

Milligan is involved in embroiled in multiple lawsuits with the City and other public parties. Most notably, Milligan was sued by Redevelopment and the City after he bought five “POKO” properties in May 2018 in defiance of pleas that he not to go through with the transaction, considering that the Land Disposition Agreement governing the parcels specifies that Redevelopment has the right to approve a new “redeveloper” for the land. Milligan maintains the LDA is invalid.

A trial in that case has been pushed to September.

Mayor Rilling in conversation with Indian Consul General Randhir Kumar Jaiswal and GOPIO-CT Delegation at the City Hall. (GOPIO-CT)

Encouraging businesses from India

Indian Consul General Randhir Kumar Jaiswal and Deputy Consul General Dr. Varun Jeph met with Mayor Harry Rilling on Friday to hear about Norwalk’s business friendly environment, “including availability of office space to attract new businesses from India,” a news release said.

“Indian companies, especially in the IT sector, have been starting outfits in the USA and hoping that some of them could consider Norwalk as a destination. Consul General Jaiswal also suggested that companies from Norwalk could also consider India as a destination,” the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin-Connecticut Chapter (GOPIO-CT) reports.

Indian Americans have been settling in lower Fairfield County for three decades and most new arrivals are in IT (information technology) or healthcare, GOPIO-CT states.

GOPIO-CT officials attended the meeting with Rilling, the news release reports.

“The delegation also emphasized the need for having a Cricket game ground for the new immigrant groups from South Asian nations, Caribbean, South Africa, Australia, England, Australia, New Zealand and East African countries. Such an initiative will make the city a more welcoming place for immigrant professionals from those countries,” it said.

“There was also a suggestion that the Norwalk Community College should be connected to an Indian institution with similar programs. This will be explored further,” it added.

GOPIO-CT members meeting with Rilling were:

  • GOPIO International Chairman Dr. Thomas Abraham
  • GOPIO-CT President and serial investor Ashok Nichani
  • GOPIO-CT Executive Vice President Prasad Chintalapudi, also Vice President of IT Company Panzer Solutions
  • Laser Systems President Viresh Sharma
  • GOPIO-CT Secretary Prachi Narayan
  • GOPIO-CT Treasurer and IT Consultant Srinivas Akarapu
  • IT Consultant Mahesh Jhangiani and his wife Yashasvi Jhangiani
  • The Rev. Sudhir D’Souza, pastor of Norwalk’s St. Philip Catholic Church

 

“GOPIO-CT has assigned a four-member committee to brainstorm the idea of reaching out Indian companies with the Norwalk City officials and India’s commercial attache in New York,” the release said. Assigned with the task are Norwalk residents Akarapu, Jhangiani, Narayan and D’Souza.

“Over the last 16 years, GOPIO-CT, a chapter of GOPIO International, has become an active and dynamic organization hosting interactive sessions with policy makers and academicians, community events, youth mentoring and networking workshops, and working with other area organizations to help create a better future,” the release said. GOPIO-CT “serves as a non-partisan, secular, civic and community service organization – promoting awareness of Indian culture, customs and contributions of the Indian Diaspora through community programs, forums, events and youth activities. It seeks to strengthen partnerships and create an ongoing dialogue with local communities.”

 

Donate to Darien, make a point

The Darien Chamber of Commerce is collecting donations to help a Darien family who has lost everything due to a devastating house fire.

A Norwalk resident alerted NancyOnNorwalk to this, saying, “This is a great opportunity for Norwalk to show the people of Darien, who voted against taking in 16 Norwalk students into the Darien school system, to show what it means to work together.”

The Darien Board of Education voted 5-4 recently not to participate in the Open Choice program next fall, although Darien Superintendent of Schools Alan Addley supported the idea, thereby refusing to accept 16 Norwalk kindergartners into Darien’s four elementary schools in September. Open Choice was expanded in the last legislative session to include Norwalk, in a move spearheaded by State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25) and State Sen. Will Haskell (D-26).

Darien residents Heather and Trask Pfeifle, their four children and pets are safe and unhurt after the fire, The Darien Chamber of Commerce states.

Suggestions for helping are:

  • Venmo:  @heather-pfeifle
  • Gift Cards:
    • Visa Gift Cards, etc.
    • Town Wide Gift Certificates (at DR Bank)
    • Darien Sport Shop, Gap, Old Navy, Rosie, Whim, Shoes N More
    • Palmers, Whole Foods, Four Forks, Browne & Co., Michael Joseph’s, Uncle’s Deli, Scena, Subway, Roost, Shake Shack, The Goose, Bodega, Butcher Shop, etc.
    • Any ideas of your own are appreciated!
  • Delivery of Gift cards:
    • can be delivered safely at the Kelly residence – 37 Knollwood Lane
    • emailed to [email protected]

Comments

4 responses to “Norwalk political notes: ‘POKO’ goes to trial; Indian-Americans meet with Rilling”

  1. Jason Milligan

    The City authorities have continually bent , and broken the law in the attempt to resuscitate the disastrous POKO project and they broke the law when they steamrolled the 2019 Redevelopment Plan through.

    The big question to answer in all of the lawsuits is whether it is okay for powerful people to break the law?

  2. John Levin

    I just wish to add: besides hundreds of amazing amenities and special features, Norwalk has a Patel Brothers grocery store on Connecticut Avenue. EVERY business should want to locate here!

  3. Tysen Canevari

    What happened to the bakery that was supposed to open where my three sons was? Should we expect another mural on the building? Wall Street is like a kindergarten kid building with blocks that keeps getting knocked over by his buddies! Travesty

  4. Piberman

    Do City leaders have any “strategies” for reducing Downtowns’s 10% poverty rate by bringing in good jobs ? Or is low wage/low tax Big Box the best we can do ? Why is there so little enthusiasm for bringing a 4 yr college to Norwalk that will train City residents for good jobs ? Every CT City has as 4 yr college and large office buildings. We have neither. City Hall just not interested in creating a real Downtown with good jobs ? Looks that way.

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