Open letter: Help South Norwalk children, not a developer

The butterfly area in South Norwalk’s Ryan Park, dormant in winter Wednesday. Photo by Nancy Guenther Chapman

By Ganga Duleep, president, Friends of Ryan Park

NORWALK, Conn. – The following is an open letter to Parks and Recreation Director Mike Mocciae and Norwalk Common Council members, specifically Jerry Petrini (R-District D), and Nick Kydes (R-District C):

Please consider this an open letter to you. It is my understanding that the consultants who are working on the Washington Village renovation intend to present their ideas for redesigning Ryan Park to “the Recreation & Parks Commission” on Dec. 19. Some of you may not have been on the Common Council in 2009 when I presented my ideas for Ryan Park’s design to the Recreation & Parks Committee for approval. My daughter was. Ask Annapurna or (former council member) Rich Bonenfant what we discussed at that meeting.

Please extend the same courtesy to the Friends of Ryan Park 501(c)(3) that you are apparently extending to the Redevelopment Agency, Housing Authority, and their paid consultants. I am respectfully requesting that if you are going to watch a presentation by these consultants for redesigning Ryan Park, you make equal time on your agenda for a presentation by Ganga Duleep, PhD, President of Friends of Ryan Park and Ruby-Bronze Advanced Master Gardener. Mr. Kydes, I would also like to address the Planning Committee at your earliest convenience before you sell city-owned land, worth several million dollars, to ANYBODY for one dollar!

I shall be happy to share my ideas for how Ryan Park can take full advantage of the light-industrial zoning historically designated in that area. My designs don’t cost the taxpayers a dime and could help the city generate money for the benefit of all Norwalk’s children. One easy way to make sure the poor residents of Washington Village don’t get slammed again like they did by Hurricane Sandy is to relocate Washington Village to another site in the “Choice Neighborhood” range, such as the Webster Lot. Isn’t that far simpler (and cheaper) than trying to “flood-proof” the land near Water Street? Who is going to pay for all those feats of infrastructure? If the “Choice Neighborhood” is such a large chunk of South Norwalk, why are the bulk of our taxpayer-funded resources being directed toward the lots with the great view of the water? What do those Norwalkers who can ill afford a “market-rate” penthouse overlooking the water stand to get out of this deal?

I tour children’s gardens all over the country, and we could very easily follow Camden’s example. Their 4-acre “horticultural playground” is a natural fit with its nearby aquarium and generates money, year after year, for the benefit of Camden’s children, not some developer. The Philadelphia Eagles donated money for their Butterfly House and continue to help Camden attract tourism dollars. Nobody had to sign over title to that Butterfly House to those millionaire sports stars; the good PR was payment enough. They use these gardens to teach little children about science (with lessons aligned with the New Jersey standards) and special-education teenagers valuable vocational skills (they have jobs working with tourists at this park).

After all, Ryan Park is not a South Norwalk park; it is a Norwalk park entitled to the same good treatment that Cranbury Park gets. It should remain for the benefit of ALL Norwalkers.

Chris Potts will be presenting my three attached preliminary designs at the Ryan Park workshop at the police station on Dec. 4. I shall return to the U.S. nine days hence. I look forward to presenting my ideas to the Recreation and Parks Committee on 19th Dec. Please add Friends of Ryan Park to the Dec. 19 agenda. Please also add Friends of Ryan Park to the agenda for the next Planning Committee meeting after Dec. 14. Whatever you all decide to do with our land, please don’t sell it out from under Norwalk for a paltry dollar! The residents of Washington Village, as well as every other Norwalker, deserve better.


Ganga K. Duleep, Ph.D.


2 responses to “Open letter: Help South Norwalk children, not a developer”

  1. Anna Duleep

    UPDATE: Per my colleague, Recreation, Parks, and Cultural Affairs Committee Chairman Jerry Petrini, both Ms. Epps (and her consultants for the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative) AND my mom (for Friends of Ryan Park) will present alternative conceptual designs for Ryan Park to our committee on Dec. 19th. My colleague, Planning Committee Chairman Nick Kydes, has agreed to discuss Mom’s ideas with her when she returns to the U.S. and seems willing to consider putting her on the agenda for the January Planning Committee meeting. I should also clarify something that was asked and answered at the Dec. 4th Ryan Park workshop (at the Norwalk Police Department). While Ms. Epps and many members of her team are being paid (by the Housing Authority and Redevelopment through their planning grant I think), the actual drawings for Ryan Park were done by a South Norwalk landscape architect (Eric Rains) for free. Kudos to Mr. Rains!

  2. Diane C2

    Anna, congrats on sticking with this to be sure all stakeholders and park stewards are recognized and heard. Any plan for the park in the absence of robust, diverse and open-minded dialogue would be unacceptable.
    Looking forward to seeing all the submissions in more detail and really understanding a vision for the park (vis a vis, Master Plan, if appropriate).

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