Rowayton activists looking to get attention of neighbors, Malloy

Motorists pass a sign hung at Witch Lane Park Tuesday by Rowayton activists Lisa Thomson and Carolyn Chiodo
Motorists pass a sign hung at Witch Lane Park Tuesday by Rowayton activists Lisa Thomson and Carolyn Chiodo


NORWALK, Conn. – The party appears to be over, but two Rowayton residents have taken a step to protest a $2.8 million road construction project that was recently given its final approval by the Common Council.

Lisa Thomson and Carolyn Chiodo have put up a sign at Witch Lane Park — where signs are routinely hung on a fence — that bears the words “STOP WASTING TAX $$$” beneath an image of a train. This is in reference to the expected project to lower Rowayton Avenue in the area of the railroad bridge.

Rowayton Avenue protest 20140225-Norwalk Council 022514 017
A sign hung at Witch Lane Park Tuesday by Rowayton activists Lisa Thomson and Carolyn Chiodo.

“It’s about protesting what we consider wasted tax dollars and the faceless bureaucracy of not being bothered to stop something once started or the excuses made between government agencies in a bankrupt state!” Thomson wrote in an email. “We’d like to get … Malloy’s attention to the matter.”

The council approved a construction contract for the project on Jan. 28. This followed years of discussions; the project itself was approved two years ago with little public comment.

The road alterations will follow recommendations worked out between Norwalk’s Department of Public Works and the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CDOT). The bridge was rebuilt using thicker steel to support a wider expanse, resulting in less clearance underneath. The work was paid for with federal and state money. Now, the state would require Norwalk to repay $500,000 if the road project is not completed, DPW Director Hal Alvord said.

The project is supported by Councilman David McCarthy (R-District E). Asked about the protest sign, he said, “People put signs up there all the time.”

Chiodo declined comment.

Thomson explained:

“We don’t think people in the area know what is going to happen to that country road in a few months and we wanted to increase awareness.  The fence has historically provided that public venue.

“We think the project is a waste  of money.

“In light of two other bridge underpasses in the area, with considerably  more traffic  — the Post Road in Darien with its flooding or the Washington Street bridge in SoNo — we think that state tax dollars could be better spent. This project looks way over-engineered and is a waste of money. We just wanted to express that opinion.

“It seems the biggest reason Norwalk officials caved in on this was because it would have had to pay back $500k to the state in work previously needed and done.  But this latest phase of work isn’t needed or at best way over-engineered. It’s like we’re being held hostage. Somebody is making money on the taxpayer’s dime.

“Our bankrupt state government is the largest employer in Connecticut  and it pretty much does at it pleases — with little to no accountability.  The loss of businesses and employment in the state and in Norwalk pretty much ensures that the average residential taxpayer  has no say in how our tax dollars are spent and government bureaucrats do as they like.

“It just makes us mad and we wanted to express our dissatisfaction and increase awareness, so that other boondoggles like this don’t occur.  Hopefully, it’s not too late for the folks in East Norwalk.”

That last comment is a reference to the plans to widen East Avenue, and lower the roadway under the railroad bridge there.


20 responses to “Rowayton activists looking to get attention of neighbors, Malloy”

  1. John Hamlin

    It seems like it’s too late to put a stop to this project. If it goes through and the community doesn’t like it, they should insist that the City employees and the politicians who pushed it through are held accountable.

  2. Carolyn Chiodo

    Money is tight with two kids in college, my taxes have almost doubled since I bought my house and when I see this type of spending it makes me wonder WHAT ELSE?

  3. David McCarthy

    Carolyn…this project doesn’t use any more city money than a few thousand (~6k) for tree replacement and the staff time of the administering engineer. The rest is paid for by the state and federal government, so this has no bearing on your property taxes.

    As to the project being a waste, I don’t find that to be true. Installing sidewalks, and even adding bike lanes, are a reasonable and valuable thing to do. Repaving the road is going to be great, and taking 18 inches off of the hill will improve visibility greatly.

    A group of people have met and are meeting again Monday to review what is actually being done, rather than parroting the lies promulgated by those looking to squeeze more money out of the state for the tiny impact to their property, and you are welcome to join them if you actually want to have an impact on improving your community.

    When I see the lengths (and this will certainly provoke a 300 word response from the usual suspect) that the one person who is actually opposed to this project has gone to, I know it is exactly the right thing to do.

  4. Suzanne

    Playing in the sand box, throwing sand in other people’s eyes. Suddenly the added expenses, not reimbursed by the state, including the City’s extra staff work and landscaping (at earth movement, soil preparation and trees, count on finger thick saplings for that project), the sum has somehow been reduced to six thousand dollars. Where are these projections coming from? Mr. McCarthy, your vaguely derisive statement would be much more helpful if an accurate accounting of these projected numbers were itemized and presented to the public. It’s our taxes and we have a right to know.

  5. Oldtimer

    A boondoggle is a boondoggle is a boondoggle. Apparently McCarthy doesn’t understand that State and Federal and Local money all comes out of taxpayer’s pockets. Rowayton homeowners didn’t buy in that area to see the character of their neighborhood changed by boondoggles like this. They like the character of the neighborhood as it is, and pay premium prices, and taxes, to live there. Wasting this much money for a project nobody asked for is wrong and benefits nobody but the contractor.

  6. Carolyn Chiodo

    Taxes are Taxes and Waste is Waste. The cost is approx 3,000,000. in real money. Bike lanes, sidewalks approx 100 feet? Unless you are running the sidewalk and bike lanes the entire length of Rowayton Avenue it is like the bridge to NOWHERE! Are you going to continue the sidewalk around the two blind curves? Sorry Dave, I have to disagree about it being reasonable or valuable.

  7. Mike Mushak

    Nora King recalled the cost to the city from past meetings several years ago when she served on the Council as between 4 and $600,000, which sounds about right when landscaping is usually 10% of a budget of projects like this (10% of 2.8 million is $280,0000), and staff time to oversee a project of this size that will likely take over a year (despite McCarthy’s emphatic claim it will be DONE- d-o-n-e, done, by September of this year) will easily run into six figures. Few realize the scale of this project, which will be obvious when it starts and all the trees and old walls are removed and the grade cut back. And the sight lines currently are double federal safety standards, as anyone can see and I confirmed with photos and measurements. I’d be happy to share those anytime.
    Let’s not forget that McCarthy also claimed that DPW staff time for a single public hearing for the treatment plant held in a drafty cafeteria cost taxpayers “hundreds of thousands” to intimidate the public into silence over a very troubled history of the plant that he calls “award-winning” at the same time the state DEEP had to step in with a consent decree because in their words “Norwalk screwed up”. Then he revised the cost of the hearing down to $50,000″ for staff time for a two hour hearing . This claim was made with no documentation and DPW is ignoring an FOI request for the records, as they probably don’t exist. McCarthy also ignored another FOI request for the 13 accident reports he said he reviewed. We know of 8 that are unrelated to the need for the project, which he held up as evidence after he said he rejected the other 5 out of 13 because they were unrelated, which logically makes the 8 he was waving around relative to the need for the project. Now he says he never said the accidents support the project despite his claim that they did in the Jan 7th meeting. He’s tripped himself up because he just makes it up as he goes along. Same as the mosque flyer that he distributed to get elected by a 3% margin that was full of lies about city policy and positions taken by his opponents.
    Facts don’t really matter to McCarthy it seems if he can score political points against his opponents, as he does again in his comment above, directly referring to Nora King as a liar since she is the one whose property will be negatively affected as well as her property value, which state appraisers confirmed. Does he know no shame at all? Can we assume his unbridled support for this project was related to his political rival being negatively affected by the project instead if any real need for it as there seems to be none based on the evidence? Just read his comment above and the answer to my last question may be more clear.
    Now McCarthy is claiming total staff time and landscaping for this project paid for by Norwalk taxpayers will be less than $6,000! WHAT??? Just one single tree alone costs $750 planted by the city tree contractor, so when we remove staff time McCarthy claims is included in that, let’s say half just to pick a logical number, that leaves a budget of just $3,000, or 4 trees to be planted! Holy crap, Rowayton, you’re getting just 4 spindly trees to replace a veritable forest of mature trees that are being chopped down for this boondoggle! Now that’s one for the file, another famous McCarthyism! I suggest he go back to his buddy Hal before he makes up any other numbers to sell this boondoggle to his constituents. The real truth is landscaping will be about a $280,000 cost to Norwalk taxpayers if we follow the standard formula, which Rowayton deserves of course, but here? Imagine how many footpaths and safe routes to school that would have paid for!

  8. Carolyn Chiodo

    Two years ago it passed with little public comment “WHO KNEW” What I do know is that Tammy Langalis, John Igneri and Mike Barbis (6th TD Comm.) all came out against the project. They represented the town and all agreed it was a waste of tax $$$.

  9. Mr McCarthy,
    I wouldn’t go bragging about the “bike lanes” – if they are anything close to what was done on strawberry hill avenue then you will join the DPW as being the laughing stock of the city. But what is not so funny is that those “lanes” are death traps waiting to happen.

  10. Mike Mushak

    Good point Carolyn. I was at that Common Council meeting two years ago when it passed and recall some public comment against it. In fact, that is the meeting I believe where Kimmel called the project a boondoggle. I wish I remembered the date to share with NON. I believe the comment that there was little opposition came from McCarthy himself, which just shows the power of propaganda even over the press! Like Fox News, McCarthy believes if he says anything often enough, he can make it real. And in this case, he almost succeeded! Check your article NON, as that statement may not be accurate. I just wish I had the date of that meeting to refer you to it!

  11. Carolyn Chiodo

    Just for the record I respect Dave McCarthy and think he is passionate and a honorable person. I voted for him in the last election but I DO NOT AGREE WITH HIS POINT OF VIEW REGARDING THE BRIDGE. I am surprised and do not understand why he is such a big supporter. Being a fiscally responsible Republican his argument regarding taxes and the cost to Norwalk taxpayers is very surprising.

  12. spanner

    Stop wasting money starts

    Not having princess passes for those kids who live within walking distance from schools.No other part of Norwalk provides such luxury,then again its because no sidewalks in some places are not available.Recent story on snow covered sidewalks not done on Highland ave should of shown spots on the street where no sidewalks are.

    No crosswalks poor to no lightng never enough parking at Roton parking on sidewalks illegal,

    Here is one study for (Mikes list)

    An information session was held on Wednesday, April 22, 2009 at the Roton Middle School. Results from the workshop portion of the meeting should be available in the near future. Please contact SWRPA if you could not attend the information session but would like to learn more about Safe Routes to School.I won;t even say how much money was involved fear that I would under estimate.

    What happened to our tax dollars there?

    Rake your leaves to the street Norwalk DPW will pick them up

    Norwalk buys Vac truck just to do the storm water drains.

    Medical emergency feet from its front door no one to respond fire station empty full of life saving equipment,victim dies.

    Respect to NON,s .com room the list will stop here for now.

    Where in Norwalk could this happen?

  13. Joe Espo

    Here we go again: Mike Mushak is making up facts and figures, calling people who disagree with him, like McCarthy, liars or disseminators of lies, and weaving into his argument irrelevant immaterial facts (the mention of Fox News) to assassinate the character of anyone with whom he disagrees, especially republicans. What he doesn’t tell you is that he admits to making a back room political deal with the former republican mayor to ensure his reappointment to the zoning commission and he’s admitted as much here on this blog. Which is why I don’t believe anything he says.

  14. Mike Mushak

    We’ll see, Joe Espo. McCarthy says it will cost city taxpayers just $6,000 to have city engineers supervise a job for a full year, leaving enough left over to plant 4 spindly trees after the Rowayton Ave project is done? FOUR trees? Wow! Those are McCarthy’s numbers. And the 2-hour treatment plant hearing held in a cafeteria that McCarthy said cost $50,000? Really? The lawyers made $25,000 per hour? I want a job like that! And the mosque flier McCarthy distributed that even Moccia’s Corporation Counsel said was bogus, and is now likely evidence against the city in the legal case, somehow didn’t happen, Joe? And you think I am the one lying? Lol! This is getting richer by the moment!

  15. Debora

    East Norwalk,

    A similar project (actually two projects) is coming to the East Avenue railroad bridge and roadway. The roadway is to be lowered and the bridge widened. The two projects have been tied together to make it similarly expensive to undo either.
    The Public Works committee voted down the rights of way agreement with the state.
    Before the character of East Norwalk is changed forever, and business is disrupted for months or years, you should make your voices heard.

  16. Don Chiodo

    A Republican walks into bar and runs into a Democrat.

    The Republican says,”You guys are right we need shovel-ready projects to help stimulate the economy.”

    The Democrat looks at him and says,”Not if it means my taxes are going to go up.”

  17. Mike Mushak

    Don Chiodo, funny joke highlighting the insanity of this! I would say the Democrat would ask in a logical way, why then do you propose a shovel-ready project that doesn’t actually fix anything that’s broken and no one wants, but just lines the pockets of a few contractors?
    No doubt the station area needs some improvements, but not an over-engineered $3 million boondoggle. I figured everything that needed fixing could have been done for $300,000 without lowering the road for 800 feet. We could have still lowered the uphill side of the road under the bridge 6 inches over 30 feet to improve clearance, and added new sidewalks around the station where needed.
    Oh, and that same $300,000 would have also provided Rowayton and West Norwalk the footpaths and bike lanes on the entire 3-mile Rowayton/Richards Ave. corridor from Fillow St in the north to Cudlipp St on the south end, past the train station, as recommended in $600,000 worth of taxpayer-funded expert studies that have been ignored, and that would connect schools, colleges, businesses, transit, and communities with a safe walkable and bikable corridor. Now that’s a shovel-ready project that would actually make a difference!

  18. Joe Espo

    @Mushak: Once again you make up facts and assumptions out of whole cloth. Prove them! Justify your claims!
    Gives us the basis for your statement that infers that the project cost Norwalk $3 million.
    Tell us how you figured that everything that needed fixing could have been done for a mere $300,000 without lowering the road for 800 feet.
    Tell us more about how we could have still lowered the uphill side of the road under the bridge 6 inches over 30 feet to improve clearance, and added new sidewalks around the station where needed – for the same amount of money.
    Tell us how that same $300,000 would have also provided Rowayton and West Norwalk the footpaths and bike lanes on the entire 3-mile Rowayton/Richards Ave. corridor from Fillow St in the north to Cudlipp St on the south end, past the train station. (That’s closer to 4 miles, btw)
    I’m particularly interested in how $300,000 would cover 3+ miles of road construction, planning and labor costs, fuel, machinery and materials- gravel, asphalt, or concrete- rights of way, signage, crosswalk and boundary striping, traffic control, barriers and borders, landscaping and design, etc. for $14/ft; $42/yd. That’s not even enough to lay down a 2 foot wide strip of cheap carpeting along that same path.
    I’d also like to know how you’d manage to convince about a half-dozen city and state agencies that the double-yellow lined roads should be norrowed. Who pays for re-painting the shifted centerline? All for $300,000?
    I’m also be interested in why you missed the opportunity to submit your proposals and plans to the Planning Commission, or Redevelopment, or your own Zoning Commission or DOT at anytime before the road construction project was approved?

    Lend us your guidance and wisdom.

  19. Suzanne

    “Taxes are Taxes and Waste is Waste. The cost is approx 3,000,000. in real money. Bike lanes, sidewalks approx 100 feet? Unless you are running the sidewalk and bike lanes the entire length of Rowayton Avenue it is like the bridge to NOWHERE! Are you going to continue the sidewalk around the two blind curves?”
    Carolyn Chiodo

    “A boondoggle is a boondoggle is a boondoggle. Apparently McCarthy doesn’t understand that State and Federal and Local money all comes out of taxpayer’s pockets.” Oldtimer

    “Nora King recalled the cost to the city from past meetings several years ago when she served on the Council as between 4 and $600,000.” Mike Mushak quoting former Council member (and not made up.)

    Mr. Espo, You have read selectively and incorrectly. The TOTAL cost of the project is supposed to be around 3 million dollars, monies supposedly provided by the state and federal government. The working thumb rule for landscape costs is 10 percent of the overall costs of the project or $300,000 (this “rule” can be found referenced by the ASLA and countless online resources estimating landscape costs for a construction project.) This amount would not account for the staff time costs from the city of Norwalk to assist in implementing the project. Therefore, the TOTAL cost to the city is going to be something somewhere north of $300,000. This makes Mr. McCarthy’s revised estimate of $6,000 as the total cost to the City somewhere in the range of ridiculous.

  20. Mike Mushak

    Wow Joe, you almost had me on that one! All the work has been done already, paid for by taxpayers (including you, surprise!) at a cost of $590,000, in two major studies done over the past 4 years.
    You can see the plans here, with $90k 2011 Norwalk Pedestrian and Bikeway Plan,
    http://ct-norwalk.civicplus.com/DocumentCenter/Home/View/2115, on pages 14 and 34, and in the $500k 2012 Norwalk Transportation Management Plan, chapter 3, as seen here: http://www.vhb.com/norwalktmp/pdf/final/Chapter%203-1%20-%20Demonstration%20Locations.pdf, on pages 23 and 28. The cost estimates in the study include major intersection work and a roundabout at Rowayton and Flax Hill, which I did not include as it is not necessary for bike lanes and sharrows at this time.
    First of all, bike lanes are just paint on the street, about $15,000 per mile. The bike lanes would go on Richards, from Fillow in the north near Fox Run school, to just south of Staples and 95, where the road narrows at Reynolds Farm. At that point where the road narrows and there is no room for bike lanes, they would transition to “sharrows”, or share the road symbols and signs, the same as we have on Beach Rd. The sharrows would go all the way down to Cudlipp past the train station. As the studies show, new sidewalks will fill in the two short gaps on Richards just north of Walmart in front of the office buildings, and one block between Redbird and Woodchuck, and then the crucial segment from the station down to Cudlipp that the community has been begging for for decades.

    Based on national standards, the total cost for new bike lanes and sharrows on that 3 mile segment would be $40,000, and the sidewalks to fill in the gaps would cost $83,000. That’s $123,000, leaving $177,000 to fix the station area.
    Since the bridge replacement and widening which already happened, and has been paid for, fixed the sightline issue to the south of the station entrance, that left the issue of the road to the north, where there is no problem to fix actually. The current sightlines from a seated height in a car at the station exit, which I measured using federal DOT standards available online, are 330 feet or 22 car lengths, over double federal safety standards at the speed limit of 25 mph which is 150 feet, and the safe breaking distance is 90 feet. There is no need to lower the road for 800 feet, which was designed by some engineer who was high on something.
    So, I think the road does need lowering 6 inches or so at the uphill side of the bridge because the road slopes up at that end, making for uneven clearance under the bridge. That 6 inches can be accomplished in 30 feet of shaving the road down (a 1.5 % grade change over that distance which is hardly noticeable)so there is a smooth transition.
    I would not move the station entrance to the north as this plan does, a complete waste of time and money that will reduce precious parking spaces, and I would just add sidewalks from the bridge into the north station parking lot, and fix the 30 feet of retaining wall that is crumbling with a dry-laid fieldstone to match (that would be about $3,000 for the wall repair.) Funny that crumbling wall was used in recent meetings to justify spending $3 million!
    So, everything I just proposed for the station would have used up the balance of $177,000, give or take of course, and with the $123,000 to make the 3-mile safe bike and pedestrian corridor to connect the busy college, Fox Run school, train station, and communities and businesses, we end up with a grand total of $300,000 instead of $3 million (including the $2.3 million contract, plus the approved $230,000 as 10% contingency for overruns which is always used up, and $4-600,000 in unreimbursable city taxpayer cost for city staff time and extensive landscaping, which was the original number discussed 3 years go in meetings.)
    Have a nice weekend, Joe.

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