Seen and Heard in Norwalk: Unusual closeness, and a bump in the night

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From left: Richard Bonenfant, Friends of Ryan Park board member and candidate for Common Council, state Rep. Gail Lavielle, state Rep. Chris Perone, Ganga Duleep, Mayor Richard Moccia, state Sen. Bob Duff and state Rep. Bruce Morris

NORWALK, Conn. – Here are some items of interest that were seen or heard recently in Norwalk:

Pols in the park: This is big, Mac

Mayor Richard Moccia was among the local politicians gathered in Ryan Park Friday to applaud Ganga Duleep, mother of Councilwoman Anna Duleep.

Why was the mayor applauding someone who has been publicly bashed by Republicans? Because Ganga Duleep is president and founder of the Friends of Ryan Park, which is the only organization in Connecticut to win a $5,000 grant from the McDonald’s corporation.

Out of hundreds of applications, the McDonald’s New York Metro Nutrition Network chose five winners; the money will be used to fund a month-long summer program for children and young adults “encapsulating the goal of providing them the tools necessary to fight the ills plaguing the neighborhood (obesity, diabetes, hypertension, illiteracy and unemployment) and lead to a healthy, productive life via the medium of stress relieving meditative pesticide free organic gardening and outdoor sports coupled with good nutrition for body and mind,” according to a proclamation signed by Moccia.

But state Sen. Bob Duff summed up Duleep’s accomplishments the best.

“Ganga, you and your volunteers, everybody, really have brought this park back to life,” he said. “You put people back in here. You put plants back in here, something that I think a lot of people didn’t think could happen; was unimaginable in a way.”

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Anna Duleep, right, gets a giggle at Friday’s ceremony honoring her mom, Ganga Dupleep, left, in Ryan Park. Mayor Richard Moccia, center, quipped, “In all my years I don’t think I’ve ever heard a council person say ‘Thanks Mom.’”

Anna Duleep said teenagers had enjoyed painting the fence at the park.

“I know how hard it is to get teenagers to smile. … I saw teenager after teenager give my mother a hug because they know how much she cares about them,” she said.

She spoke of the urban environment that is Norwalk.

“Norwalk is sometimes described as a big city and sometimes described as a small town. I like to say we are a small town with the population of a city. … We all wear several different hats and we all know each others’ business,” she said.

Moccia sat with his opponent in the election, former Norwalk Police Chief Harry Rilling, during a friendly, convivial lunch in the park. No Big Macs were served.

Dem candidates keep friends close, opponents closer

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Norwalk Democratic mayoral candidate Harry Rilling and Common Councilwoman Anna Duleep speak Friday night in her campaign for sheriff headquarters, where Rilling and other Democrats will throw parties for a visible Democratic presence.

Rilling and the younger Duleep have come up with an inventive solution to the need for a Democratic campaign headquarters – serious business will be done in the Van Zant Street building that has been the base for Rilling’s campaign, while parties will be held in Duleep’s sheriff campaign headquarters on Wall Street.

That’s 29 Wall St. Republican HQ is at 20 Wall St. According to Google Maps, the two headquarters are 262 feet apart.

Is the bromance over?

Councilman David Watts attended Wednesday evening’s East Norwalk candidates forum to watch Moccia, Rilling and others discuss issues, and for that he is currently driving a rented car.

A 25-ish Moccia campaign volunteer backed into Watts’s car.

The doors are dented, he said, declining to allow a photograph be taken.

Republican Town Committee Chairman Art Scialabba gave his version of events in an email.

“I guess two wrongs don’t make a right,” he wrote. “The volunteer didn’t see David’s car (black or dark blue at night is hard to see) and David’s car was not parked in a proper parking space.”

But there’s more…

NancyOnNorwalk didn’t park in a proper space either – they were all taken. The reportermobile was parked along the chain link fence in the back, in front of the city of Norwalk mayor’s SUV, which was also illegally parked.

He said, she said

Animosity among Zoning Commission members spilled out into the hallways of City Hall Thursday night with an argument that began at last week’s Plan Review Committee meeting.

“You have to know when to stop,” new Commissioner Linda Kruk said to Commissioner Mike Mushak, who had been pushing, again, for answers about the $500,000 Norwalk Transportation Management Plan in relation to the BJ’s Wholesale Club application.

Chairwoman Emily Wilson was moving the meeting along when the little discussion at the far end of the table resulted in an insult.

“I spent several hours researching BJ’s,” Kruk said. It’s a good company that donates generously to the community.

Mushak says he said, “Oh, just what we need, another Moccia yes person.”

Kruk says he called her a “brainless Moccia rubber stamp.”

Unfortunately, the truth does not lie in a recording of the meeting, as Wilson’s voice drowns the conversation out.

Kruk and Mushak angrily argued about it Thursday night, the voices audible to those attending the Oak Hills Park Authority nearby.

“You don’t know me yet,” Kruk said several times.

“If you have been treated like I have been treated by Republicans … ” Mushak said several times.

“You stomped all over me when all I wanted to do was quell the anger in the room,” she said.

Balloons are us

Happy face balloons dip in the wind Wednesday at a press conference calling into question many aspects of the application for a BJ’s Wholesale Club.

BJ’s opponent Diane Lauricella thought she had a great idea for a Wednesday afternoon press conference – happy face balloons to illustrate just how tall the store would be if built.

Lauricella, Anna Duleep, Nancy Rosset and Lynn Detroy laughed when they released the balloons as press cameras clicked, as they hadn’t taken the wind into account. The balloons only got up to the proper 30-foot height briefly.

The effort became moot within an hour, when the BJ’s application was withdrawn.

Lauricella and Diane Cece had been involved in organizing resistance to the application, with whispered conversations in City Hall with concerned residents who had attended Plan Review Committee meetings. Those conversations led to other meetings, which they kept under their hats.

They’re not divulging details, but Duleep and Lauricella talked about a Monday night meeting of the Norwalk Association of Silvermine Homeowners, attended by about 100 people, to discuss the results of their research into the application.

Word is opponents were doubly relieved the application was withdrawn. They were planning to burn much midnight oil overnight getting ready for the Zoning Commission hearing on the topic, which was canceled.

A shout out to a foe

Oak Hills Park Authority members were talking about the need to market the course, lamenting that all they get is negative publicity, when OHPA Chairman Bob Virgulak made a suggestion, according to several witnesses.

“Maybe we should have Diane Lauricella do our marketing,” he said. “She’s in the paper every day.”

NEON board member ponies up

Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) board members were being informed recently of the costs for their upcoming day-long retreat when member Susan Weinberger interrupted to voice an objection.

“I am very uncomfortable about having NEON, with their financial issues, pay for it. Can’t each one of us pitch in a little money? I don’t even think $100 should be incurred by NEON,” she said.

A staff member had been talking about $100 for rent of a Stamford facility, and having lunch catered.

Board member Mike Berkhoff ended the discussion.

“I’ll cover it,” he said.

Board member Jack O’Dea then said he would “double it,” to pay for the food.

Dancing in the streets…

… and in the parking lot, the park, and now the Bijou Theatre.

Tim Currie’s Motown Review Band (sic) popped up this summer with a concert at, of all places, Currie’s Tires on West Avenue. Its debut was so well-received that another show was scheduled, which led to an appearance at the Oyster Festival.

Next up? Another freebie at the West Avenue tire shop Oct. 5, and a shot as opening act for the 10-piece Generation Blues Band at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11, at Bridgeport’s Bijou Theatre.

Correction 1:10 p.m.: Duleep and Lauricella did not say they organized Silvermine homeowners.

Tim Currie’s Motown Review Band plays at the Oyster Festival.


11 responses to “Seen and Heard in Norwalk: Unusual closeness, and a bump in the night”

  1. Spanner

    Great picture of the old school crowd.Be nice if you could use the same picture after the next election showing them all retired it would be in the best interest of the city if they all left polictics.

  2. RU4REEL

    What a hypocrite moccia is, he has been all over Ms. Duleep for Wall St, has never offered her ANY assistance with Ryan Park and here he is photo op. Shameful. Please let us NOT be fooled AGAIN on election day. If you are not sure just ask Ms. Duleep yourselves.
    Nice try Art but your guy was illegally parked too!

  3. Bruce Kimmel

    The Norwalk Association of Silvermine Homeowners, NASH, has been deeply involved in the BJ’s issue for months. They are the ones who put together the meeting at the Silvemine Tavern. It is difficult to believe that Lauricella and Duleep would take credit for that meeting. I certainly hope that is a mistake.

  4. M Allen

    The Mayor was presenting her with a Proclamation for a public good deed, not just attending a photo op. Hopefully she can put as much effort into her property on Wall Street. I’m sure we can rustle up another proclamation for that as well.
    The parking Wednesday was bad. A lot of people were parked improperly, but it was a fairly large crowd for the site. It was dark and accidents happen. Just remember: if more cyclists had chosen to ride their bikes to this event, this accident could have likely been avoided. I didn’t see one bicycle outside. Shocking. 🙂

  5. @Bruce,
    It’s a mistake. I’ll fix it.

  6. dianelauricella

    This will teach me not to skip NON in the early morning!
    Just before lunchtime, I read a portion of NON “Seen and Heard” column of the Morning Newsdown and my heart sank. On Weds. during a press conference, we mentioned that Silvermine had pulled together a fabulous community meeting, and I did not imply or state that I organized it or caused it. People that really know me know that I would not do that. It appears that again there has been a correction made at 1 pm in the copy read here now that still does not reflect what that Weds. press conference was about and who helped.
    For the Record: The 3 pm press conference occurred before notice of the BJ application withdrawal or the area Councilmen Letter to the Editor was published. Many in the coalition could not attend due to work and other obligations. Myself, Lyn Detroy the President of Coach Run Condos and Nancy Rosett attended. All coalition members were valiantly preparing for what would be a long public hearing the next night. The Wednesday press conference was divided up into three sections: 1) Titled “Oh Where Art Though, Due Diligence?”,Concern about why this application was allowed to occur in the first place and concern over the lack of due diligence and proper guidance by the staff at City Hall at many levels; 2)Titled “Come out, Come Out, Wherever You Are”, where we mentioned that, except for Councilwoman Duleep and a brief tweet from Senator Duff, those elected and appointed officials that were privately stating that they did not think this application had merit, were not publicly saying anything and were keeping a low profile while we citizens were scurrying around as volunteers trying to prepare credible information for the Thursday public hearing. 3) Titled “Bulky, Bulky Building”, We wanted to illustrate the height and bulk of this building and the sheer size of this project in relation to a negotiated 8-foot fence at Laura Raymond Homes with balloons. We actually did take into account that the wind could be a factor, but we were on a timeline and could not change the press conference date.

    The Norwalk Coalition for Sensible Development(the Coalition)was formed in order to combine the efforts of many neighborhood associations including NASH of Silvermine, Save Cranbury, CNNA and individuals that were working on their concerns for months, if not years. I acted as the moderator for this phase, and tried as best I could to keep members in the loop. We knew we were stronger together than apart, even though the administration and the developer’s representatives tried to divide us using several clever tactics. We met several times over the course of two months and exercised a challenging collaboration of many different voices with the same goal. A beautiful thing indeed! The press conferences were organized to assist getting our message out under some very trying circumstances, and we knew that the applicant had hired a professional PR firm.

    Please do not take away the wonderful collaboration that occurred. We are still planning to get together to celebrate the Coalition’s work and to prepare for the next phase of this challenge.

  7. dianelauricella

    One additional note: Councilwoman Anna Duleep also attended the Wednesday press conference.

  8. Suzanne

    As recently as June 2013, the meeting minutes for OHPA said there was nothing but positive “buzz” about Oak Hills in the community. Likewise, some success had been achieved in marketing the course through some “social media” sites. The Park was approached by a popular radio station WEBE to barter reduced green fees for a special event in exchange for free advertising. Once again, in a big whine from Mr. Virgulak, none of this is mentioned nor exploited for the good of the Course. A joke is made, a crack, but any good ideas toward a comprehensive marketing plan? Nothing, during his long, long tenure as chair of the OHPA. It seems as though some of the staff are taking the situation into their own hands with some success – why not support that and build on that? The negative outweighs the positive possibilities and once again the OHPA disappoints.

  9. Avatar

    Re:Oak Hills marketing plan, word is one of the newer commissioners who coincidentally is running for Common Council hasn’t delivered on her promise to share her expertise in this area. In spite of the mayor’s suggestion that he likes to appoint non-political qualified folks to boards and commissions, it looks like this appointment was designed to tee up a run for office. We’re left without a marketing plan but lots of illegible lawn signs.

  10. Suzanne

    It takes more than one person to build a successful marketing plan. Expertise exists with many in Norwalk, a land of countless professionals, often employed in the great firms in New York City for just this purpose. If one person does not work out, you go onto the next one. Mr. Virgulak has had plenty of time as has the rest of OHPA, in EIGHT years, to find expertise to fix this problem and create marketing success. Instead of focusing on what they don’t have, it is long overdue for the OHPA to find what it is they need and quit complaining about it. The will to do the right and progressive thing has to be there – apparently no such will exists under this OHPA.

  11. John Frank

    With Bob Virgulak’s record of felony convictions, including one for stealing from the 2nd district commission, it is hard to understand how he got appointed, and how he keeps his broker’s license.
    With his record at Oak Hills where they seem to have real problems staying afloat without extra money from the City, it is hard not to wonder if he isn’t back to his old tricks there.

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