Simms advocates for South Norwalk youth

Minority Leader Travis Simms (D-District B) meets the public at a recent Mayor's Night Out.
Minority Leader Travis Simms (D-District B) meets the public at a recent Mayor’s Night Out.

Correction 1:57 p.m. Friday, May 16: The original story referred to a grant received by South Norwalk Community Center as one of the reasons money was not available for the boxing program. The SoNoCC grant came from a different section of the grants on earmarked for facilities, according to Common Council President Doug Hempstead. The boxing program was under the “services” heading and was not affected by the SoNoCC grant.

NORWALK, Conn. – Travis Simms knows a thing or two about frustration. The former World Boxing Association super welterweight champion from South Norwalk had his pro boxing career disrupted by problems with promoters, causing him to have his title stripped when he filed suit against the WBA, only to see it returned – sort of – a year later in an out-of-court settlement, when he was declared “champion in recess.” He then fought the “other champion” and won his full title back.

Now Simms is experiencing more outside-the-ring boxing frustration in his bid to run a program for Norwalk’s youth. Simms has been trying, unsuccessfully, to get the city to kick in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding for the program. He’s been knocked down more than once, but he says he has not been counted out.

“I’m going to get it started without the funding and we’ll be back again,” he said. “But like I said, this isn’t the first time that the boxing program has been advocating for CDBG funding. We’ve been doing this since the John Harris boxing club back in the ’80’s. Not one time have we gotten a penny from the CDBG grant for the boxing program. It’s all been operated out of our own pockets.”

Council members, in denying the $46,000 request for CDBG funding, said there just isn’t enough money to go around for all the non-profits that are looking for grant funding to provide services. The money that might have been available for the program instead went to a neighborhood improvement coordinator and the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment program.

Those are both programs that have been running for years. Councilman Bruce Kimmel (D-At Large) tried to get the Board of Estimate and Taxation to take them on in the city budget to free up CDBG money for Simms. BET members said no.

Mayor Harry Rilling said at the May 5 BET meeting that he had worked with John Harris for years and knew what good was done.

“I would strongly recommend that in the future we support some sort of a boxing program in town because I think it is a good idea,” he said. “Mr. Harris ran the program for many, many years and he brought a spiritual component as well. He actually taught the young people a lot more than just boxing. If we were to be presented with something like that, some program that goes beyond just boxing, adds other components, youth development and those kinds of things that Mr. Harris added to his, I would totally support it.”

Simms said his boxing program would have helped South Norwalk youth year round for years to come.

“Boxing brings so many cures to individuals and I think that for them to not support a program like that I just think is disgusting,” he said. “I would love to give kids the same opportunity that I had coming from Roodner Court. … They’re only doing this because I am involved. I am a Democrat and I am on the council. Had I been a guy that wasn’t politically affiliated and I was coming off the street, I guarantee you they would have probably supported me.”

Besides buying equipment, Simms told Councilwoman Shannon O’Toole Giandurco (R-District D) at a recent meeting that much of the grant money would have gone to fund a director for the program. On Wednesday, he said that would have been Fred Kitt, who spoke at that meeting in support of the program.

South Norwalk youth go elsewhere to box every day but Sunday, he said.

“We have a host of fighters that are traveling from Norwalk to Stamford to train, or they have to go to Bridgeport to the Bridgeport PAL to train,” he said. “That’s another thing I tried to talk to Harry about; Bridgeport PAL had this boxing program for over 60 years and these guys are operating now at the old firehouse in Bridgeport on King Street. Why can’t we implement something like that here? Bridgeport never had a world champion boxer. Why don’t we invest in something like that? The city, we have enough money, we have enough property that’s being underused, let’s utilize those properties for something like that. I think it would be a plus and a win-win for the city.

“You know, you’ve got the summer before us,” Simms said. “We have no community center, we have no YMCA, we have no Boys and Girls Club, now what are those kids going to do but hang out on the streets? If you could out a program here to get them off then why not? There’s not one program that’s not really directed toward our kids in South Norwalk.”

The councilman would also like to see the fields at Nathaniel Ely School be utilized “instead of there being crab grass everywhere,” he said. He remembers going there as a kid to watch baseball games, he said.

“I think (Recreation and Parks Department Director) Mike Mocciae needs to rethink his strategies on spreading the city programs around the city instead of always at the beach,” he said. “I would like to see under Harry Rilling someone take the responsibility to honor (former Red Sox player) Mo Vaughn (who is also from Norwalk) … You have a two-time World Series winner, why don’t we have a program or have leagues after somebody like this here to inspire the kids?”


21 responses to “Simms advocates for South Norwalk youth”

  1. anonymous

    Glad to see Rilling step up to get PAL, the Norwalk Police Athletic League, support.

  2. lightning

    People would rather say no not our taxpayers money, as if South Norwalk don’t work. They pay taxes too. Which means that tax monies should come back for the people in South Norwalk. The Summer youth job is nice and after school program BUT it’s not going to scratch the surface of anything great for youth of South Norwalk.

  3. EastNorwalkChick

    Mr. Simms should reach out to the community for support to get this up and running via fund raisers….I think he would be surprised to see how many people in Norwalk would support this worthwhile endeavor…once established, the Council may then lend their support next budget go round.

  4. Casey Smith

    “I think (Recreation and Parks Department Director) Mike Mocciae needs to rethink his strategies on spreading the city programs around the city instead of always at the beach,”
    Well, it sounds like all the work that has been done at Ryan Park doesn’t count.
    The City is in desperate need of more athletic fields and if Recreation and Parks could manage to stretch the budget to add Nathaniel Ely in, I’m sure they would. They are responsible not only for all the City parks, and the beach, but for the school fields also.

  5. Oldtime Volunteer

    “We have no community center” ??? What about the South Norwalk Community Center and Carver Center? I remember the John Harris program well and perhaps Mr. Simms could learn from how he operated, which was without city money. The Common Council should examine their Ethics code and say that no member should be coming before them OR using their influence asking for funding their own organization. This is just wrong. There is funding available if program creators go through the effort and present a good case, with credible budget and policies.

  6. @lighting,
    You ARE joking, right? EVERY youth program sponsored by the taxes of the ENTIRE city of Norwalk ALWAYS ends in sonorwalk for all those kids who by the very words of a grandmother in sonorwalk, unsupervised and unwanted kids.

    Those in so norwalk do very well taking from the kids in the other parts of the city.

  7. Bill

    @lighting, South Norwalk gets double back what they put in. Parents in other parts of town have to pay out of their pocket for the same programs South Norwalk kids get for free. Give me a break. Enough is enough, get your own money to pay for your programs.

  8. Bruce Kimmel

    Nancy, there is a mistake in your article: The $100,000 for the South Norwalk Community Center came out of the Facilities portion of the grant, not from the Public Service portion of the grant, which was capped at $146,000. The facilities portion of the HUD grant was larger. The Simms application came under the Public Services, thus, it was not directly competitive with the SoNoCC facilities grant.

    1. Mark Chapman

      @Bruce Kimmel

      The correction has been made and noted at the top of the article. Thank your for calling it to our attention.

  9. Norewalk Lifer

    Hold on here, the comment about unsupervised and unwanted kids is deplorable, I have been a long long resident of South Norwalk, from the days that Aitoro’s was on Ely Avenue to now.

    The kids of South Norwalk deserve a decent and productive summer program, there were many people who volunteered over the decades to help create safe and rewarding environments for a lot of kids,

    The truth is, sending a message from our good fortune to those kids gives them incentive to give back; only the most cynical and miserable would deny that.

    I think Simms has hit upon a good way to encourage kids in South Norwalk to take another path; boxing teaches discipline, it teaches good sportsmanship,

    Any of you going to deny that the one of the most well known historical spots in South Norwalk, Donovans, didn’t have a legacy of boxing champions on it’s walls? any of you remember the 16 mm tapes of boxing matches being shown on a Saturday night at that bar? I remember seeing those.

    Look rally all you want about taxes, and tax dollars, but don’t call yourselves part of a community, because if it’s all about your own comfort, your own protective inclinations of what you hold to be a prosperous and well developed existence in this town, then look into yourselves and ask;

    Am I living in a community, or am I just here to sleep and shop?

  10. concerned student

    Thanks Norwalk lifer you hit the nail on the head.
    A boxing program teaches time management, and respect.
    And who said it was for south Norwalk only, just because it would be south Norwalk based?
    If the children living in south Norwalk parents could afford to pay for extra curricular activities for their children it would have already been done, hence the request for money sent here by the government to make sure programs like this happen.

  11. Ms Ruby McPherson

    Norwalk Lifer, yes you are right, I grew up in South Norwalk and even back then we had to march, and fight to get things in South Norwalk. I remember what should have sent South Norwalk Youths to a conference in DC,but instead youth from uptown and Silvermine went as we found out later unfortunate. It sound like any and all opportunity for South Norwalk just won’t happen. If the community of people are renter and low income, this is why and it also seem like the up scale population would like it to stay. Beware eventually people can’t take any more and it will move out probably in a negative way. So if we can provide positive programs and conversation we need to make it happen and also the MAYOR that we elected with his promises to work for all of Norwalk hold him accountable.
    The youth of South Norwalk need thses opportunities and just like any area a place in their community.

  12. The youth in so norwalk has ALL the programs that is subsidized by all taxpayers money and yet ONLY so norwalk benefits – There are NO programs in any other part of norwalk paid for by our taxes for our kids – our kids sacrifice for what the parents in so norwalk cant or wont do.

  13. Norewalk Lifer

    Stuff and nonsense Lilly Deacon, I ran a basketball league that invited kids from EVERY neighborhood to play; and they did, the ones that took it the most serious were the kids from South Norwalk, why? because it was a community spirited endeavor;

    Kids from every part of town took part in it and they had fun; they learned the most precious of lessons, how to formulate a synergistic movement in order to reach a goal for the team.

    These programs aren’t closed to kids from other parts of town, the only part of Norwalk that is closed is the minds of those who look at South Norwalk, and see only poverty, crime, and controversy; Almost I feel sorry for others in other parts of town; they are missing out on the other side of South Norwalk; the community spirit, the stories, the families and yes, the good nature of those parents who try, REALLY try to build a place where their kids can grow up safe, happy, and well rounded.

    Please do not preach to me about taxes; I pay some of the highest taxes in the city, and if my tax dollars, help my neighbor’s kids gain access to an opportunity that can build their spirit.

    Here’s a refreshing view on that; then my tax dollars are well spent, certainly better spent on that, than on a traffic light, or a sign at the beach, Hell everyone knows it’s the beach!, it’s got water and sand.

    Seriously, I don’t have a problem with these programs, I have a problem with those who have no idea what it meant to live in a community.

    You can get everything you need from a hotel if that were the case; maybe that’s an avenue for those who don’t think this is a great town.

  14. Norewalk Lifer

    Ms. McPherson, my first lesson in good manners came from a woman who watched all us “latch key” kids on Ely Avenue; Mrs. Tatum, Mrs. Tatum watched each of us walk home each day from Columbus School, she watched us go into our houses, and “timed” us. To this day, I don’t know how that woman was able to keep track of all of us.

    My Dad who ran a dry cleaners, made sure kids were safe on the street; our back yard was a play ground.

    If you came out of your house, too fast, Mrs. Tatum would call you over and ask “how did you get your homework done so fast”?

    That was a community, that was a family that lived on the same street; I doubt, seriously doubt today that many can say they experience this.

    I had the good fortune of having a “Mrs. Tatum” in my life, I grew up, made a success, and came BACK to South Norwalk, so I could pay back my debt to Mrs. Tatum; I, too, watched a lot of latch key kids in South Norwalk.

    Today, they visit me with their children, they are grown now, and it’s a typical family reunion; I spoil the little ones, and the kids who were “sassy and smart alecks” now admonish their kids to “show some respect”.

    Funny how things that you pay forward, come back again and pay you back.

    That’s the South Norwalk I know.

    Norewalk Lifer

  15. @Norwalk Lifer:
    The ones that took it the most seriously were from south norwalk was because it was held in south norwalk.
    Okay so you are saying there was once ONE basketball program that was offered to the entire city but STILL held only in south norwalk – yup – rest my case.
    This entitlement these parents feel for their kids being paid for by everyone else and only their kids benefiting is deplorable (mcpherson/NL)
    And as for the unwanted and unsupervised comment – don’t kill the messenger – this came from one of south norwalk’s own grandmother…

  16. Norewalk Lifer

    @lily deacon

    You seem to have a limited understanding of South Norwalk, and I feel obliged to set the facts straight.

    That basketball program is alive and well, and kids from all over the city enjoy it, it’s less expensive than many others; and THAT’s the draw, parents can afford it. There is no entitlement, you misrepresent the words, And I’ll add that South Norwalk, draws a lot of visitors who add to the city coffers; we take pride in our part of town, always have. The Norwalk Oyster Festival does draw a lot of revenue, so does the Sono Arts Festival. Tell me, what other part of Norwalk has such celebrations? The Greek Festival is the only one I can think, Oh! of course, the St Anne’s Feast, yes, many come from NY, NJ and other places to attend that, right?

    South Norwalk is still special, because there is still a community there.

    I could care less about the grandmother who made the statement, but I find the repeating of such a statement irresponsible and juvenile. One does not talk about other’s kids like that. It’s ridiculous, and you are branding a whole body of youth with these words, don’t hide behind someone else’s words when you use them; they become yours at that point.

    Kids are kids, leave them out of the argument.

  17. @Bill
    “..Enough is enough, get your own money to pay for your programs.”
    WOW, we DO use our OWN money to pay for OUR OWN children…
    Yes, all those fairs and festivals sponsored by churches and groups in norwalk are one day fairs – big deal – they aren’t what we are talking about anyways – no where near what the offspring of so norwalk get from our taxes than what any program is sponsored OUTSIDE of so norwalk.
    As for talking about these kids like that – that grandmother made that statement in a public forum to GET MORE MONEY for so norwalk programs for kids who are kicked out at 1am by parents who don’t want them and what about all the kids who are unsupervised during the summer? Sorry – that statement is powerful and makes an impression on just what is going on with our tax money and the population of so norwalk and how the city has to take care of their kids – sorry – but that is the truth and sometimes it hurts.

  18. Norewalk Lifer

    @lily deacon, that is not the truth, and that’s what makes the comment so pathetic, I’ll leave it at that. You insult many people with this comment.

    And I have not resorted to this kind of discourse.

    Don’t preach to me about one day events, the truth is I don’t see nearly as many people in outlying parts of town taking action to better the town for all.

    In fact, to me, the areas where people complain the most about finances and taxes are where the kids seem to have the least amount of supervision, and have parents who have failed to teach what community is all about.

    To be honest? I wouldn’t trade my sweet little home in South Norwalk for any offering from other parts of town; the neighborhoods just aren’t up to snuff.

    Lastly, when you decide to become part of a community, let the rest of us know.

    Your insistence to repeat a statement as if it were manna from heaven, really makes me laugh, and causes me to think “typical”.

    Yes indeed.

    Norewalk Lifer

  19. Of course you wouldn’t trade your sweet little south norwalk – it’s too easy to live there with all the programs that your kids get for free off the backs of the rest of norwalk. The rest of NOrwalk is grand and our communities DON”T rely on the TAXES of OTHER NORWALKERS – see you DONT know what you are talking about – AT ALL.
    As for knowing anything about me (like being part of a community) you don’t know anything at all and you are talking out of the wrong side of your body.
    And to repeat that this grandmother – FROM south norwalk – complaining that the kids get kicked out at 1am because the parents don;t want them there and all of them are unsupervised during the summer and run around like wild animals will only become REALITY this summer when these statements come true…
    Then if these unsupervised and unwanted kids bang down your house – you will be the first to complain.

  20. Norewalk Lifer

    @ lilly deacon, you really don’t know what you are talking about, at all.

    The kids, that were raised in my house, in South Norwalk were from all parts of South Norwalk, Harbor View, Meadows Gardens, Monterrey Village, Washington Village, they did their homework, they played football, they even held a fundraiser for the Manna House in my front yard, and were successfully able to not only raise money for the shelter, but also have a great time.

    They celebrated Christmases with us, they dressed up my husband on Halloween and dragged him along with them on their forages for candy. I have one daughter, I always fretted she would grow up alone, privileged, something I never experienced on Ely Avenue, she has many brothers and sisters now, she is in college, she is quite successful.

    Those kids that went onto college, jobs, military service, are now married, with their own kids, they bring their kids to my house, I get to spoil the little ones, the kids I helped and had the absolute honor to watch grow up, admonish me for being “too lenient”.

    Imagine that, imagine having 35 – 40 kids remember you as someone who helped, made them laugh, made them think, made them understand that when you don’t know the name of a person, you dehumanize them, sure it’s easy to sit back and cite the words of someone you probably wouldn’t even open a door for IF you encountered them

    This is what I mean by not trading South Norwalk, I’ve never seen this in East Norwalk, West Norwalk, Rowayton, sure I’ve seen a lot of like minded bonding, and yes, during the worst of times, people tend to band together and help each other.

    If my neighbors in East Norwalk were the unfortunate victims of a terrible event, I’d help, Same goes for West Norwalk, Rowayton.

    But here in South Norwalk? I wouldn’t trade the wonderful memories I have of these great kids, these great humans, this great community for the nicest quietest lot of land anyway else in town.

    And it’s that simple, in so far as your comment about “subsidies” are concerned, know this, more than likely I could buy and sell many in this town. I choose not to.

    No one who does not need a helping hand should get one; it takes that hand away from some who does.

    Now, as for talking out of the wrong side of my body? one must be familiar with such an action in order to project it.

    Norewalk Lifer

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