Washington Village project assailed in DEEP public hearing

Martha Dumas talks to
Martha Dumas talks to Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) Hearing Officer Janice Deshais on Monday in the South Norwalk Community Center.

Update, 1:40 a.m. Wednesday, video added. Includes Cesar Ramirez, Bruce Morris, Carleton Giles, Mike Mushak and Leonard Dancy.

NORWALK, Conn. – Arguments pro and con were made Monday night, with a $30 million federal grant hanging in the balance, during a Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) public hearing regarding the Norwalk Housing Authority’s plan to rebuild Washington Village in its area of South Norwalk, which is known to flood.

The hearing, held in the full South Norwalk Community Center multipurpose room, featured members of Mount Zion Baptist Church protesting that the flood mitigation efforts planned for the proposed $106 million housing development, partly funded with a large chunk of public money, would send any flood waters their way, endangering their property. Others pointed out that DEEP was not told of the covenants that restrict Ryan Park to recreational uses, while city officials talked of the public good that would come from the development’s construction and attempted to refute some of the accusations or suspicions coming from those who requested the public hearing.

The issue is the Connecticut Department of Housing’s request for an exemption in DEEP’s flood management regulations for the project. DEEP was prepared to issue the exemption without a public hearing, but Friends of Ryan Park President Ganga Duleep submitted a petition that nixed that intention, as state statutes require a hearing in that event.

Duleep is largely focused on the part of the application that outlines dry egress for the project, which was requested by DEEP. The application specifies a raised path, about 5 feet high, that would cut through the park and be suitable for emergency vehicles.

Duleep said drivers would see this path as an easy shortcut, making the park unsafe for children. But Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Tim Sheehan said the plan laid out in the application is “but one example,” as that is what DEEP had requested – an example.

“Ultimately I would anticipate that we are going to hear a variety of options and I think that at the end of the day there will be a recommended option that will be incorporated in that plan that will be presented, again, to the city,” Sheehan said. Sheehan explained that whatever master plan is developed by the committee entrusted to that task would then go through the Recreation, Parks and Cultural Affairs Committee and then the full Common Council.

Not only that, but “There has been a lot of discussion that this has become a private developer’s park. That is completely inaccurate. It is a city park and it will remain a city park,” he said.

hearing officer Janice Deshais
Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) Hearing Officer Janice Deshais listens during a public hearing Monday at the South Norwalk Community Center.

The project must meet specific criteria to be approved for an exemption, hearing officer Janice Deshais said. It must serve the public good and must not cause injury nor damage to property, she said.

Engineer Joseph Canas said that not building the development would likely cause injury, as the first floor of Washington Village is now at 8 feet above sea level and the 500-year flood plain, which is the standard at play, is 15 feet. The first floor of the new development would be at 16 feet above sea level, so everyone would be safer, he said.

Right now there is no dry egress, he said. The effort to create dry egress could take a number of routes, he said.

The idea, DEEP civil engineer Sharon Yurasevecz said, is to show that dry egress can be done.

“We know there has to be some development in flood plains. We can’t just say it can never happen. But we want to make sure that when there is development in a flood plain that there is no harm to life or property,” she said.

But others said the proposal to raise the intersection of Day and Raymond streets is a problem. These concerns were expressed most colorfully by the Rev. Carleton Giles, a former Norwalk Police community officer now serving as minister of transition for Mount Zion.

“We are very concerned that any raising of the intersection would cause flooding to occur on our property and maybe even into our church, not only 96 South Main, but also 8 Raymond St., where we also own a building. In our religious tradition we have baptism by immersion. We have a pool in our church that we fill with water when we want to baptize. We want to make sure that we can only do it when we want to do it, not when we don’t want to do it,” he said.

More poignant were the comments from Linca Jefferson.

“When were letters sent out to any of the neighbors or any of the people who live in this area? ” he asked. “… It’s like we don’t exist. There’s water going to come onto Mount Zion’s property no matter what is said and we all know it. When the project is finished they’re going to say it’s your problem, Mount Zion, to get rid of the water.”

But Daisy Franklin, a member of the Fair Rent Commission and resident of the neighborhood, said there had been plenty of community involvement in the project from its inception.

“I put fliers in the mailbox at Mount Zion. I don’t know what happened if they didn’t get it but I put it in the parsonage,” she said.

Franklin said she is in favor of the project even if she has looked out her window and seen Ryan Park looking like a river.

An abundance of notes are taken in the second row
An abundance of notes are taken in the second row of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) public hearing Monday in the South Norwalk Community Center.

Although NHA Deputy Director Candace Mayer said community input had been solicited, Duleep said that was only partially correct.

“When people come here and say that 98 percent of the residents here approve of anything that was planned or done we say that maybe that 98 percent of the residents of Washington Village may have done that but nobody else who lives in this neighborhood had any clue as to what was happening here,” Duleep said.

Martha Dumas said she had stopped to offer her opinion at one community outreach event and there had been very few South Norwalk residents around.

Susan Carlson of the Friends of Ryan Park presented photos of children playing in Ryan Park. The kids had learned about gardening and yoga in the park as part of a summer camp, she said.

“It was interesting when they played Wiffleball because they didn’t know how to take turns. That basketball court got used like crazy. This is not available anyplace out in the neighborhood. Green grass. Badminton. When did they ever learn about badminton before?” she said.

“Although some seem to think that Ryan Park is just used for the drugs and the dealers, and young men that just want to hang out, it is not, as you have seen with the pictures. … Legally, we can’t have a soccer field or a baseball Little League field, but the kids still enjoy hitting the bat or kicking the soccer ball,” Dumas said.

SuAnn Marshall said she grew up in the neighborhood and brings her nieces and nephews to the park to play. “There isn’t even a bathroom there. That’s a public park. Where are the kids going to the bathroom?” she said. “… Whatever you do for the city, do it with the community in mind. I am all for anything, but you talk about it but you don’t do anything about it.”

Second Taxing District General Manager John Hiscock delivered a message.

“The Second Taxing District cannot support any plan which utilizes any part of the new Ryan Park for a use which is incompatible with the restrictive covenant requiring that the park be used exclusively for recreational purposes only,” he said.

Concerns for property included the cars of future residents, as they would be parked on the flood level. Chris Potts of the Friends of Ryan Park said the idea that’s been circulated to tell residents to put their vehicles in the Maritime Garage is ill-conceived, as they would take up more than a third of the space there.

“We talked to the head of the Norwalk Parking Authority; he was surprised to hear of this plan because he hasn’t been informed of it yet. I don’t think everything has been taken into account when you hve been told plans are in place,” Potts said.

Emma Tilley
Mount Zion Baptist Church Emma Tilley listens to a speaker the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) public hearing Monday in the South Norwalk Community Center. “When it starts to flood where is the water going to go? On our property,” she said.


State Rep. Bruce Morris (D-140) called the project a once in a lifetime opportunity to do something for the neighborhood children who are at risk, as the Choice Neighborhoods grant funds far more than construction. That includes greater educational opportunities for the children, he said.

Mayor Harry Rilling attended the hearing for about an hour, but left to attend a Traffic Commission meeting before the opportunity to speak came. Morris said he was asked to deliver a message – Rilling supports the project, he said.

Former Zoning Commissioner Mike Mushak offered a rebuttal to some of the comments. While he has been concerned about gentrification, the Redevelopment Agency is working to keep residents where they are with infill development, he said. The project is designed to New York City flood resilient standards.

“Resiliency is the key word,“ he said. “This project could bounce back very quickly. I think it’s smart. I 100 percent support this project as designed. I think a lot of thought went into it.”

Opponents suggest that the plan be flip-flopped, to put the park along Water Street and the buildings where the park is.

“HUD Choice Neighborhood grants target distressed housing developments in neighborhoods. Sites outside the neighborhood would not meet these criteria,” Mayer said. “While other sites were researched, there were not enough urban core sites with comparable amenities available and there wasn’t enough publicly owned land. Assembling land would have cost substantially more than elevating the buildings out of the flood plain. Norwalk would most likely lose the incredible $30 million grant if the project was moved outside of the neighborhood. A private developer would happily and promptly do market rate housing on this site and gentrify the neighborhood for generations.”

The hearing will continue Friday in Hartford, as DEEP questions those who testified Monday and studies the evidence provided by Duleep.

Written comments can be submitted by Jan. 2 to [email protected]


25 responses to “Washington Village project assailed in DEEP public hearing”

  1. John Hamlin

    No question that a rebuilt Washington Village could be a vast improvement over the blight that’s there now. But simply tearing it down and putting it back up on stilts shows a lack of foresight and a lack of planning. There are lots of other places to build low/affordable housing projects in Norwalk (or surrounding towns), no reason to segregate them in SoNo, and it’s insane not to start transitioning land near the shore to a higher tax use. Can’t we do better?

  2. Oldtimer

    The issue at this meeting was a request for an exemption from a state law prohibiting building in a flood plain. Was any good reason for such an exemption presented ? It is not clear how much the construction would need to be moved to keep it out of the flood plane and make an exemption unnecessary, If there is enough land at Ryan Park, it sounds like a very simple solution to build on the park and move the park to the present location of Washington Village.

  3. Piberman

    Are Rep. Morris and Mayor Rilling the only elected public officials who support rebuilding public housing in a flood plain among industrial use neighbors ? Is this the best that Norwalk can do ?
    Or is this convoluted project the “real face of Norwalk” towards its least disadvantaged residents and their children ? Even in an election year. Where are the Democrats ? In hiding ?

  4. Scott Kimmich

    There are reasons for the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to regulate against building on flood plains. The state, as well as the Federal government, wants to protect people, property, the environment and the economy.
    When an individual asks for a waiver to build on a flood plain, he is the one who is on the hook for flood insurance and liabilities.
    When a project such as this asks for a waiver, who is going to be responsible for paying the flood insurance and any liabilities incurred, let alone the damages to the structures themselves? If it is the taxpayers who will pay, then we should take great care on how we plan the project.
    I understand that great care has been taken to make sure that the structures will be out reach of tidal flooding and even surges from hurricanes and northeasters. The watch words are resiliency and sustainability. These measures should be planned to resist the 100 and 500 year floods.
    In mid October , the Union of Concerned Scientists published a new study showing that tidal flooding will triple in fifteen years and will even be six times more frequent in thirty years. Should these new data change what has been planned? Shouldn’t we rather be safe than sorry?
    We Friends of Ryan Park suggest that the new site should be pushed as far inland as possible to avoid the threat of flooding and to reduce the overall cost of the project.
    We also believe that this whole rebuilding project should be part of a larger plan that makes our water front more of a recreational area than it is today, without sacrificing its commercial nterests and in fact enhancing them. While other communities are embellishing their waterfronts to bring in tourists, it makes sense that we do the same.
    Finally, for years the city has failed to remedy the regular tidal flooding of Water Street, and we strongly believe that this new project makes sure that proper measures, including functioning valves on the storm sewer outlets be installed;, and that this should be a condition before proceeding with the park.
    If the waiver with the present plans is approved, we definitely believe they should definitely not include the so-called elevated escape path that would bisect Ryan Park.

  5. srb

    If Washington Village isn’t rebuilt it isn’t going to be razed and the people scattered it’s just going to deteriorate more and more and more, with a repair here and a repair there. Maybe in 20 or 30 years there’ll be another opportunity to get something done. The homes will still be at an 8 foot BFE and susceptible to flooding. The damage that will be borne by the next flood will come out of the public coffers. There isn’t another plan, if there was another plan it should’ve been put on the table long ago. The current plan took several years to put together. You can complain about concentrated poor housing, expensive automobiles, taxes that balance out negative and it being flood prone. Stopping the project won’t resolve any of those issues but simply geometrically expand them (not the expensive automobiles that simply D. Trump/A. Bunkers bigotry and hyperbola). Getting something positive done is far better than aiming for perfection and getting nothing done. As Bernard Baruch the investor once said, I made money by never selling at the high and never buying at the low. Don’t suffer the paralysis of analysis

  6. Mike Mushak

    Berman’s comment is ridiculous. I agree with srb. This project never would have happened if this much property had to be purchased. The misinformation floating around here is stunning!

    I heard people question the motives of the project supporters last night, but I have to question the motives of many of the opponents as they seemed to be grasping at straws in their zeal to find reasons to oppose the project. What is their real agenda?

    Ryan Park is partially in the flood plain and would have needed a waiver also.

    Ryan Park is less than half the size of the existing Washington Village site. Squeezing all those units and parking onto that site is impossible unless you create a high rise which is not a model for Choice Neighborhoods as it is harder to manage and keep secure.

    At the meeting one activist said that topsoil erosion from the project (which is predominantly buildings and paving) would be a problem in floods but this same person was pushing for putting Ryan Park on the same site that is all topsoil, clearly a confusing position that is absurd.

    This well-designed project is the best thing to happen to South Norwalk in decades. What I heard last night was mostly a tempest in a teapot. The concerns of most of the speakers will be addressed by the new park design (which is much needed!) and by smart engineering solutions.

    The idea that raising a tiny percentage of land relative to hundreds of acres of flood plain surrounding it will make flooding worse everywhere else ignores the reality of how floodwater behaves, and the idea that removing a tiny area of where that floodwater can sit will somehow make the water higher in other areas is absurd, as this is not like building levees in the midwest that cut off entire flood plains directing water downriver to somewhere else. To suggest that will occur is just not true in South Norwalk.

  7. Haley

    So a huge hurricane is coming. How will the residents be notified? Where will they go? Where will they move their cars to? How will they be alerted that they must move their cars? What if for whatever reason some people don’t move their cars? Will city tow trucks take them away? Who will be responsible for storm damage? Storm deaths and injuries? This aspect of the design of the building is no small thing.
    It seems cavalier to me to house men, women and children in a known path of destruction.

  8. Donald Trump

    SRB has no basis in argument other than to call those he/she/it disagrees with bigots.

    If Bruce Morris is for this project, that is all anyone needs to know.

    Kill it before it kills our city.

    Move it to Wilton or New Canaan where they have plenty of land for the taking.

    For $106 million, you’d be surprised just how much land you can buy and still afford a structure on top of it. Of course, that’s only if Morris’ cronies don’t get their hands on the contracts which is all this is about.

  9. Mike Mushak

    Haley, reverse 911 and email is how they’ll be notified. This isn’t 1938 when that famous hurricane blew out of the ocean with a few hours notice, for crying out loud. We know days in advance, plenty of time to prepare.

    As far as housing people in harms way, if there is a hurricane with 200 mph winds do you think it will matter where anyone is in South Norwalk? I live in SoNo on top of a hill and had more wind damage than water in Sandy but we lost roofs and siding and had higher winds than down on the water.

    These buildings are designed to withstand floods and keep everyone above the 500 year flood level. By your standard of people living in harms way, are you suggesting we completely abandon Marvin Beach, half of Rowayton, a third of SoNo, one third of Brooklyn, all of lower Manhattan, most of Long Island and the Jersey Shore, and half of Florida? Millions live in harms way and we are now building structures to withstand the flooding and storms, which is what these structures do.

    The evacuation process for this project before a deadly storm will be the same as happened all over Norwalk for Sandy, when no one lost their lives in Norwalk and I believe no one was injured. Your fear is misplaced.

  10. srb1228

    what are those people in Washington Village going to do if it isn’t rebuilt? They will continue to live there in an 8ft flood elev.. Not only their cars will be swamped but their belongings too! People are raising issues as if the choice is moving the people in Washington Village or rebuilding. But that’s not the choice. The choice is maintaining the status quo or improving the situation. The same hurricane warnings will exist to notify the tenants whether they’re in the current 8 foot flooding area or whether they rebuild and they line in a 15 foot flood level. Don’t get suckered in by a false choice

  11. John Hamlin

    This project is probably too far down the pike with too many vested interests at stake to reverse course now. And no doubt the proposed project will be an improvement over what’s there. But can’t we do better in future in terms of PLANNING for the waterfront and near waterfront, not segregating low income and affordable housing, and not planning public projects for flood zones? Isn’t it time we relied on expert, experienced planners to plan Norwalk? It really is like watching a car crash or a train wreck.

  12. piberman

    John Hamlin is spot on. Is this the best Norwalk can do ? Rebuilding public housing in the same unappealing place ? Would the results have been better with more competent and recognized planning expertise available to the City ? Different political leaders ? We’ll likely never know. Maybe that’s Norwalk’s trajedy. We’ll never know what we could have become. But more than a few visitors, residents and onlookers will question why public housing built many decades ago in a flood plain amidst an unattractive industrial neighborhood is being rebuilt in the same place. Maybe it’s the same reason that the community and its leaders aren’t keen on learning the sordid financial details of NEON’s failures over many years. Some things aren’t just important.

  13. dianelauricella

    Ahhh…methinks thou protesteth too much!
    Mr. Mushak, the project as written for this application defies several expensive taxpayer-funded City reports about coastal green space and waterfront planning goals as well as several state and federal guidelines and legislative reports about shoreline resilience and rebuilding within floodplains. Why aren’t you willing to cite them this time?

    Swapping the two sites (current Washington Village footprint with current Ryan Park and nearby parcels) would create a beautiful greenway/landscaped park along Water Street that would allow greater economic development, greater accessibility, greater safe biking and walking connectivity, and a chance for a full soccer/multiuse field.

    I rarely disagree with Mr. Mushak’s landuse and planning opinions but in this case you are incorrect. It is unusual that you are so enthusiastic about this project as written.

    One FACT that is rather important is that raising roads and 5 large buildings so high is exorbitantly more expensive and uglier than using available alternative sites adjacent and uphill from the present Washington Village footprint. Ryan Park is not the only parcel available. These alternatives were and are available, but RDA and NHA staff and others did not want to truly,fully explore these.

    So much easier to ignore viable alternatives when you’re spending other people’s money…

    Also, the Flood Warning system proposed with this application is woefully full of holes…

  14. Mike Mushak

    Planning and Zoning wanted big box stores along Water Street to replace the water dependent uses and marinas (as if they are not a viable industry at all!), and a huge parking garage on the Washington Village site. That is why Mike Greene manipulated the Planning Commission to turn this project down originally, to save the flood zone for retail and parking garages (I wish I was kidding). Forget the idea that big box retail will never get funding here and that the state would never approve big box retail to replace existing water dependent uses. And imagine the traffic! This is one “screw the neighborhood” approach.

    Others want luxury housing on the site and the hell with the Washington Village residents living in moldy tiny apartments now. Just let them complain, who cares. Yet another “screw the neighborhood” approach.

    Still others want 7 acres of city owned land to be abandoned to a new park, and I say abandoned as it will be taken off the tax roles and become another tax burden to maintain when we have a 33 acre park just a stones throw away across the bridge (a 5 minute walk away).

    This last group has an idea that Washington Village, needing 7 acres to qualify as a “Choice Neighborhoods” project with 273 units of market and affordable housing plus parking, will somehow miraculously fit on the 2 acres of Ryan Park. It defies logic and is shocking that anyone would even propose such an option in public. This is yet another “screw the neighborhood” approach as it will result in a huge park with no users at all as we will have moved them all out to some fictitious 7 acre site of “free” land somewhere that is out of the flood plain, somewhere in lala land I suppose.

    So, there you have it, three “screw the neighborhood” approaches. Well wait, there’s another approach that I haven’t discussed yet.

    This last approach I will mention is from the federal government (HUD), the Redevelopment Agency, and the Norwalk Housing Authority, to use federal funds to help build 273 beautiful state-of-the-art market rate and subsidized housing on the 7 acres of city owned land that already exists (free land!), that is in a flood plain along with the rest of the historic neighborhood and a third of South Norwalk. Flood-resilient design solutions make sure there will be no property damage in a flood except for some mud perhaps to be washed out of the parking lots. No one gets screwed at all, and in fact, it lifts up the community and replaces the decrepit Washington Village with a new model of affordable housing, based on decades of social research, that helps break the cycle of crime and poverty that results from concentrated poverty in old-style housing projects.

    Hmmm, which plan will you choose to support? The ones that push the neighborhood out for a bunch of outsiders’ dubious and hare-brained ideas, or the one that uses smart and proven solutions to allow an existing community to better themselves and live in dignity, while boosting the economy of the whole area by bringing in new residents that supports new and existing businesses and helps stabilize an area that has been struggling for decades?

    I know which one I have chosen to support, and I encourage you to do the same. Please stop the nonsense already! The good folks of Washington Village are not pawns to be played with for everyone’s half-baked ideas and their own agendas that are highly questionable. They are real people with real families and they have been in the area for generations, and they deserve our respect and our full awareness as a viable community that will only get better with this Choice Neighborhoods project.

  15. dianelauricella

    It appears that one is truly in LaLa land thinking that in case of flooding, that every one of the 500 cars parked under these buildings will be removed perfectly at the last minute…that everybody will be around to move them…I’d say it sounds like a lot more than mud…sounds like property damage and water pollution.

    Many of those that want to explore alternatives that are really, REALLY available are not of the “screw the neighborhood” mindset. Those that have tried to offer alternatives are real people too.

    There are 4-5 parcels that total more than the requisite 7 acres in and around the Ryan Park neighborhood within a block or two.

    If anything, many fair-minded people in Norwalk believe that the Washington Village citizens have been treated as pawns by some of the taxpayer-paid staff, fearful that if they express concern about this project they will lose their replacement apartments. Check out what the standard of “in good standing” really means….

    Yes, we can engineer anything, especially with other people’s money, but if you do not have to do as intense a flood mitigation project, why do it?

    C’mon, no need to get personal and insulting.

  16. Mike Mushak

    I am so sorry. I was completely unaware of “4-5 parcels” of vacant city owned land that total more than 7 acres within a block or two of Ryan Park, that are not in the flood plain. Please provide specific addresses. I can’t find it on Google Maps.

  17. Oldtimer

    She didn’t say “city owned”.

  18. Mike Mushak

    Can we please have the citations in the “taxpayer-funded studies” that say this project should not be here? I can’t seem to find them, except of course Planning and Zoning’s references that we should have big box retail and public parking garages here!

    I am appalled that this community and especially the good people of Mt. Zion Church have apparently been deliberately manipulated by outsiders using fear and lies about this project for their own agenda to kill this project at all costs. Mt Zion Church is much higher than Ryan Park and the proposed elevations that will result. There is absolutely no physical way on this planet (unless water suddenly decides to flow uphill) that the work for Washington Village and Ryan Park will make Mt Zion Church flood. A storm of that magnitude that would flood the church on South Main would also flood most of South Norwalk at that point including dozens of other churches that are much lower than Mt Zion, and nothing short of the miracle of the parting of the seas by Moses would protect them at that point.

    There is absolutely no way that raising any grades in Ryan Park or on the surrounding streets will make flooding worse for Mt. Zion Church, unless they were all in a contained bowl completely separated from the flood plain that covers a third of South Norwalk and basically the entire Long Island Sound . It’s like floating a rubber duck in a half filled bathtub and pretending it will cause the tub to overflow. It defies logic that the displaced floodwater will flow uphill and just go over to Mt Zion’s property and solely affect them and not become mixed with the millions of cubic feet of floodwater that is flowing in from the Sound in a hurricane covering hundreds of properties in the very same way Mt Zion is affected.

    Water seeks its level always and does not pick on specific properties to affect in a watershed that is millions of acres in scale and includes the entire Sound and all of its flood plains.

    There is simply no way Mt Zion Church will get protected from that extremely rare 500 year storm (one chance in 500 years) as well as St Joseph’s across the street, and the hundreds of properties and businesses in SoNo that are at the same elevation that Mt. Zion is (including the Webster Lot which is within the 500 year flood zone but is one location where stubborn opponents think the project should go which proves how clueless they are) and all of lower Washington Street. If they would like to, they can push for a multi- billon dollar levee along the entire waterfront of South Norwalk displacing hundreds of properties and businesses, but we know that will never happen.

    So, I respect the good folks of Mt Zion Church but they have been misled with fear and misinformation, which in my mind is a grave violation of common decency and community standards of responsibility. I would like to know who exactly was responsible for this. Shame on them for stooping this low and to try to pit neighbor against neighbor for their own self-serving agenda.

  19. Mike Mushak

    Old Timer, of course she meant city owned. Everyone has agreed that the financing for this project would never have worked and the HUD grant never accepted if the project had to go on privately owned land that had to be purchased. But let me rephrase that, where are the private owned as well as city owned 7 acre vacant parcels within a block or two of Ryan Park? Or does she think eminent domain would work here? Would that be St Joseph’s ? Mt Zion? St Paul’s? Calvary Baptist? The Community Center? I just can’t figure out where all that land exists in SoNo above the flood plain near Ryan Park that she said is there, ripe for the taking. Please help me on this!!!

  20. Don’t Panic

    Nobody is trying to “kill” this project. There are real concerns about using millions of dollars of taxpayer funds to build in a flood plain when alternatives exist. Concerns about evacuating property (cars) during a flood are real concerns. So are concerns about using a public park with restrictive covenants in a way that violates those covenants (especially if it significantly diminishes that park’s normal usage).

    The fact that a waiver is required from federal regulations should encourage us to use an abundance of caution in advancing this project as it is currently conceived.

    Suggesting that the concerns expressed are an attempt to kill the project is reductio ad absurdum. Telling the “opposition” that they don’t know what they mean or don’t know the facts is infantilizing.

    If a private developer wants to assume the insurance risk of building in a flood plain, that’s their business. If a developer using tax-payer funds is imposing that risk on the tax-paying public, that’s ours.

  21. Mike Mushak

    Don’t Panic, read the article again. Sites outside the immediate neighborhood would not have qualified for HUD financing. Properties close by researched an their weren’t any large city owned properties except the existing Washington Village site and surrounding blocks.

    The point was made that flood insurance would be heavily discounted because of the height of the housing units above the 500 year flood plain ( not the 100 year, but the 500 year, a huge distinction in FEMA’s eyes), and the flood proofing ad all utilities, stairways, and elevators.

    The social and economic benefits of this project far outweigh a slight increase in flood insurance due to its location.

    I also tired of hearing that hurricanes requiring the moving of the cars will just suddenly arise without warning. That was not the case in Sandy, and evacuations worked and no one was hurt in Norwalk, and most folks got their cars to higher ground with plenty of time to spare.

    I am shocked that some folks continue to make false claims here. What is their agenda?

  22. Don’t Panic


    Norwalk can’t even get cars off the street for snowstorms. It’s not the cost of the flood INSURANCE that is of concern–it’s the cost of the CLAIMS. When those claims are paid out, they still come out of taxpayer pockets. This is Federal flood insurance, no?

  23. Mike Mushak

    Don’t Panic, these are two different issues. Snowstorms involve cars that belong to the general public that are hard to track down unless they are done individually. Also, after decades of not enforcing snow emergency routes, Norwalkers have gotten lazy about it. . The first reverse 911 call I got about parking on a snow route was just last year, although they may have been going out earlier but thats the first time I ever heard it.

    At Washington Village, you will have a captive audience with every vehicle registered with the management company which is located on site. There is also an on site security system with cameras and staff. I am only guessing but I bet that when any tenant signs their lease they will probably be told that they cannot make a claim to the insurance company if they are warned to move their car and they don’t.

    This whole moving of the cars business is a red herring in my mind. We even heard a commenter say that it would be “last minute” warning. Trust me, any storm that approaches the 100 year level that would reach these parking lots would be predicted days in advance. In Sandy, we were able to evacuate most of the flood prone areas of the city and no one got hurt or killed, and property damage was only widespread because most houses weren’t lifted yet, which is now happening rapidly as flood insurance will be next to impossible to get if you don’t. Most folks also got their cars out of Sandy’s path.

    I guess what I am so upset about is a bunch of outsiders coming into our SoNo community and spreading fear based on wrong assumptions and even deception, about a project that we have been waiting years for, and will lift the community up and help the entire city. The ideas to flip the park, move the project somewhere else, or build luxury housing here are all half-baked ideas that do not stand up to any scrutiny, yet folks are hanging onto them as if this project hasn’t been well-planned, vetted, and designed to withstand floods and work well from the beginning. HUD would not have awarded the grant if it did not make sense. Yet all these amateurs are carrying on as if no one ever thought about any of these issues before or sought out alternatives. They did, and it is beyond arrogant to show up late and throw out all these baseless accusations that anyone working on this did not have the best interests of the community in mind.

  24. srb1228

    And if they don’t rebuild Washington village the claims will be any different. They’ll still live their but will be more vulnerable and they’ll still park their cars on the same streets. It’s not like Washington Village is going to disappear, it’ll just continue to deteriorate.
    Fed flood insurance does not skyrocket because of lost cars, moreover when people don’t move their cars in a snowstorm it’s because they are putting their convenience ahead of others. The car is unlikely to get damaged. If they don’t move their cars in an anticipated flood they know their cars will get destroyed. I think most people moved their cars (and themselves) when Sandy was approaching.

  25. Kevin Di Mauro

    My understanding is that this project will much different in terms of who will actually be living in this area. In addition to subsidized housing, it will also include market rate units.

    If I were looking for market rate housing, I would definitely avoid an area that needed “dry egress” and have the possibility of a need to relocate my car in the event of flooding.

    I’m in agreement with Diane Lauricella.

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