NORWALK, Conn. – Should Harry Rilling become Norwalk’s next mayor, a task force of South Norwalk’s stakeholders will be formed to find 21st century solutions to SoNo’s problems, the candidate said Friday.
Rilling, a Democrat trying to unseat Republican Mayor Richard Moccia, held a press conference next to a parking kiosk at a Maritime Aquarium parking lot to announce his plan to create a partnership with SoNo business owners, residents and workers with an “open and consistent line of communication” with the mayor’s office. This stemmed from two recent meetings with the stakeholders, he said.
“We’ve agreed to start a partnership with the SoNo business owners and the residents,” he said. “We thought it was a good idea to form a task force of the stakeholders. People who live here, people who work here, people who own businesses here, so that we can determine what things need to happen. It goes back to my premise of not telling people what they need but asking them what they need and then helping them.”
He said he had been told that marketing local events is too challenging.
“It’s very, very difficult to do it with the process that’s in place at City Hall,” he said. “So we want to streamline the permitting process for events so that they can end up getting things done more quickly without jumping through a million hoops.”
The SoNo people had told him they need more street lighting, that the streets and sidewalks are dirty and broken, that way-finding could direct tourists around the area better and that the parking is inadequate and confusing.
The computer systems in the kiosks are “ very complicated,” he said.
“We’ve got to do something about parking to make it more user consumer friendly,” he said.
A man who happened to be sitting on a nearby bench said he agreed, people have issues with the parking.
Norwalker John Long said he is disabled and spends about eight hours a day in SoNo.
“I see a lot of people who are confused about how to pay for the parking, what buttons to push, where to put the little tickets they give you,” he said, motioning towards the kiosk. “You’ll have five or six people that really don’t know what’s going on and one guy in the back of the line that does. He’s getting really anxious to get to the front because he knows what’s going on. … People really get frustrated, they really do. I’m surprised there’s no fights.”
Rilling stood across the street from 20 North Water St., a development under construction, which includes a new parking garage.
Jack Chiaramonte, a Republican Board of Education member who owns SoNo Silver on North Main St., said parking has been an issue in the area for years. It has improved but it still isn’t right, he said.
The parking in the Webster lot became and issue under Democratic Mayor Alex Knopp, he said. There was one gate, with a booth that people had to stop at to pay for parking. It could take 45 minutes for people to get out after a movie, he said. That has been fixed under Moccia, he said.
“It’s improved,” Chiaramonte said. “Why didn’t (Rilling) say anything earlier when he was police chief? He was right up the block for so many years.”
Moccia did not return a request for comment.
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