NORWALK, Conn. – The schism in Norwalk’s Common Council chambers Tuesday evening involved laughter and strident pleas to respect Norwalk’s history in a matter involving a street on which no one yet lives.
The Common Council fight over whether to rename a short East Norwalk road – upon which two houses may be built, maybe three – lasted about 30 minutes and included a childhood memory regarding a Civil War general, the mayor breaking a tie that didn’t exist and the restart of a roll call vote after a council member seemingly became concerned that perhaps his fellow Republicans weren’t voting the way it was expected.
Mapmakers might now get it right: it’s not Sherman Place, it’s not Colonial Place, it’s Morgan Place, a result of the 7-6 vote that followed the latest – and last – debate on the topic.
Case closed. Finally.
Todd Bryant of the Norwalk Historical Preservation Trust, a resident of Morgan Avenue, got the ball rolling when he addressed the council during public participation, urging that the 280-foot stretch of road behind the Norwalk Inn be renamed something that would maintain its connection with Norwalk history, although he was fuzzy on what that had been.
“In all the maps that I could find, it was either named Sherman Place or Ynnaf, my favorite name for this road, because the area belonged at one time to Fanny Hoyt, and Ynnaf is Fanny spelled backwards. I’m suggesting we turn it back to Ynnaf, but I know that won’t happen.”
He had been bombarded by emails from surprised neighbors, he said. All would prefer Sherman Place, a reference to either Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman or his mother, a Norwalk native.
“I just discovered from Mr. (Hal) Alvord that the little piece of road which we thought was Sherman was, in fact, renamed by the council in 1988 to Colonial, something I couldn’t find in my research,” he said.
Department of Public Works Director Alvord blasted that, after being questioned by Councilman Mike Geake (U-District B).
“The name was not changed in 1988,” he said. “What I told Mr. Bryant before the meeting was that, in 1988 — Sept. 27, actually — the Common Council of the city of Norwalk accepted Colonial Place as Colonial Place from where it started on Morgan Avenue to its dead end.”
If it was never named Sherman Place. Yahoo and Bing did not get the memo. Call up Colony Place and you’ll see Sherman Place right there.
Google has it “right.” But, funny thing, put in Sherman Place and you’ll get a photo of Toilsome Avenue, which is nowhere near the East Avenue area once occupied by Sherman’s mother.
That’s the problem, according to Councilman David McCarthy (R-District E), chairman of the Public Works Committee, and others. Emergency responders will go to that other Sherman Place, or vice versa. The wrong one could be a disaster.
Why change the road name? Here’s the thing. If you keep it Colonial Place and allow new houses to go up, the numbering system on the street will be, well, all screwed up.
The solution to this problem would be to name it Gen. William Sherman Court, Nick Kydes said over and over again. There would therefore be no confusion with Sherman Place. After all, he pointed out, the city has been dealing with Newtown Terrace and the neighboring Newtown Avenue, as well as Newtown Court, for all his life.
Kydes remembered an elementary school teacher he knew as a kid. “Miss Sherman” lived down the road, made kids lemonade and played the piano for sing-alongs. She had two swords over her fireplace, he said. One had been her great-great grandfather’s — Gen. William Sherman — while the other had belonged to her grandfather, Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, one of the great generals of the Civil War.
“The Sherman name in Norwalk is an old name, a well-established name,” he said. “I would like to see this road named after Gen. William Sherman. … I don’t think it’s an issue of safety if you call it Gen. William Sherman Court.”
Councilman David Watts (D-District A) said he was late to the party on this issue, but, “I’ve been inundated with calls just today.” He wanted to table the motion.
McCarthy said the issue had been to the council for a previous vote and been sent back to committee. So it had been discussed in committee twice, with residents of the neighborhood present.
The solution was a compromise: name it Morgan Place, but put up a historical marker in honor of the Shermans.
Kydes was given the honor of making a motion to table.
With Councilwoman Anna Duleep (D-At Large) absent, laughter erupted as the 14 votes came out 7-7, and eyes went to Mayor Richard Moccia, the tie breaker.
Moccia quickly voted against tabling it.
Council President Doug Hempstead (R-At Large) pointed out that the motion failed simply by being tied.
Moccia smiled and waved a hand. “I didn’t want to sit on the fence,” he said.
So the vote on the proposal proceeded.
After five votes, McCarthy stopped the vote.
“Point of order, Mr. Mayor,” McCarthy said. “Are people voting correctly?”
McCarthy questioned Hempstead and Councilwoman Michelle Maggio. “You voted no?”
“We both voted yes,” Maggio answered.
“Oh, you both voted – oh, never mind,” he said.
Voting to change the name to Morgan Place were Hempstead, Maggio, Sarah Mann (R-At Large), Carvin Hilliard (D-District B), Bruce Kimmel (D-District D), Jerry Petrini (R-District D) and McCarthy. Voting against it were Watts, Fred Bondi (R-At Large), Warren Pena (D-At Large), Miklave, Kydes and John Igneri (D-District E).
Councilman Michael Geake abstained.
“I don’t care what you call it,” he said.