Afternoon Update: Where do you want your ship to come in?
East End City Council members Jim Holloway and Andre Baker want to relocate the Bridgeport Port Jefferson Steamboat Company to a new ferry terminal in their neighborhood. That would be a nice addition to the East End, no? But at what cost to downtown?
Holloway and Baker submitted a resolution to the Committee on Economic and Community Development and Environment urging the relocation that is supported by the ferry company, but opposed by many in the business community that want to keep it right where it is downtown to maximize the economics from the hundreds of thousands of passengers that move through the terminal. Holloway and Baker cite a 2003 study by a marine consultant that recommends a new location. The resolution states …
Whereas, the study concludes that a new terminal site elsewhere in the port area is justified based on staging area capacity, estimated (in 2003) to need an area nearly four times larger than the current site
Whereas, the study states that the preferred location for a new terminal would be on the north side of the harbor (East Side/East End of Bridgeport), resulting in operational efficiencies and improved traffic flow between I-95 and the ferry terminal.
Be it resolved that the Bridgeport City Council endorses efforts by the Bridgeport Port Jefferson Steamboat Company to relocate ferry operations to the north side of Bridgeport Harbor.
Council members on that committee are Angel DePara, Bob Curwen, Lydia Martinez, Michelle Lyons, Anderson Ayala, Warren Blunt and Evette Brantley. They are expected to take up this issue Tuesday night before sending it for a full council vote. Most of the time how the committee votes the full council votes.
Nancy Hadley, former city development director who lives downtown, opposes relocation. See her reasons below in a letter to City Council members.
Dear President McCarthy and Councilpersons,
I live downtown in the City Trust building. I just signed my third lease. I am writing you in strong opposition to the proposed Sense of the Board Resolution supporting the proposed relocation by the Bridgeport/Port Jefferson Steamboat Company (BPJSC) to the east side of the deep water port. The BPJSC is proposing to relocate its entire operation to a portion of the Coastline property on the east side of the harbor and use the existing South End Port Authority Terminal during the remainder of their lease for emergency docking only. The resolution before you states in the final WHEREAS clause that the TRITEC study recommends the move in part ‘for improved traffic flow between I-95 and the ferry terminal’. Ladies and gentlemen, I believe that this proposed relocation would be detrimental to Bridgeport’s economic development future. Bridgeport needs to find ways to capture the economic spin-off from those passengers either before they hit I-95 or entice them to come back for an extended visit and spend money in Bridgeport’s existing entertainment and restaurant venues. We need to capitalize on the fact that they stop in Bridgeport. I encourage you to vote AGAINST the proposed Sense of the Board Resolution 21-09.
Additional points to consider:
1. The Intermodal Transportation Center has been the bedrock of Bridgeport’s economic future for over two decades. The confluence of transportation modes; train, bus, ferry, car, truck, and bicycle is one of Bridgeport’s key strengths.
2. The newly adopted Master Plan of Conservation and Development reinforces the Intermodal Transportation Center as a key economic driver and critical to the goal of reducing Bridgeport’s carbon footprint 10% by 2020. This sustainability goal relies on intermodal transportation to reduce congestion.
3. The new Downtown Village Zone contained in the zoning regulations that were adopted by the Planning and Zoning Commission on November 30th will take effect January 1, 2010. This new zone focuses on creating a transit-oriented, sustainable, pedestrian friendly funky downtown with a variety of incentives to build on the bedrock of intermodal transportation and waterfront recapture. Bridgeport has two competitive edges over the other cities in Connecticut; its 22 miles of waterfront and its intermodal transportation components. Bridgeport must do everything it can to strengthen those assets. Encouraging the BPJSC to move its operation across the Harbor negates one of our competitive edges.
4. The 2006 DSSD Downtown Master Plan and Action Strategy recommended key strategies to improve the terrible traffic congestion around the Arena, Ball field and Ferry Terminal. One of the key frustrations of the ferry boat company is the City’s lack of implementation of those traffic improvement recommendations. The TRITEC study cites this traffic congestion as detrimental to the ferry boat business. Please, eliminate this business concern and help the downtown and South End businesses and residents. The City Administration must ORDER the Police Department to implement the traffic recommendations; install better signage, develop early warning grid-lock technology linked to the website eBlasts; and establish a traffic control division sensitive to customer service at the Police Department that implements the 2006 traffic flow recommendations. We know how to fix this problem. We have known for years. We just need the Police Department to follow through on those 2006 recommendations.
5. The Downtown Task Force (DTF) of which I am a member, voted to support keeping the Ferry Boat Company at the existing Terminal and work to implement the recommendations of the 2006 Downtown Master Plan and Action Strategy. I attach a letter that was sent from DTF to the Mayor dated August 18, 2009. I am proud that there are seven major developers working to make the Downtown and South End strong. For over 15 years, the Ferry Boat Company and the Trefz Company were alone in trying to sustain and grow their businesses in the downtown. Now we have the 1) Kuchma Corporation busy at work growing the very successful Bijou Square entertainment district; 2) Forstone Capital holdings at 100 Fairfield Avenue, the Lafayette Circle properties including Joseph’s Steakhouse, adjacent office building, structured garage and the former M & F Building; 3) the Spinnacker Corporation acquisition of the former People’s bank holdings between State Street and I-95 including upgrade and new tenants in the building across from the Barnum Museum, 4) the Urban Green/Ginsberg Development Corporation’s $85 million investment in City Trust, Arcade and 144 Golden Hill with 180 residential units at 95% +occupancy; 5) the Bridgeport Landing LLC and its new Land Disposition Agreement for Steelpointe Harbor; 6) the former Remington Shaver site on 60 Main Street that is about to receive, after three long years, its Army Corps and DEP permits to begin work; and the 8) Trefz Corporation’s long and valiant patience to see Bridgeport re-emerge. The Trefz family has recently invested millions to upgrade the Holiday Inn and the ‘Rite Aid’ Building. There are now seven major businesses that want to work with the BPJSC to grow all of their businesses and achieve the economic spin-off that is critical to the success of Bridgeport’s Downtown and South End.
6. The South End Neighborhood Revitalization Zone Planning Committee, of which I am liaison from the DTF supports keeping the BPJSC at its current location. Their NRZ Plan will be the subject of a public workshop on January 9, 2010. The draft South End NRZ Plan calls for stronger connections to the Downtown and Seaside Park, eliminate the serious congestion around Harbor Yard as well as support the development at the former Remington Shaver site, and the growth of the University of Bridgeport.
7. The Downtown Special Services District (DSSD) voted to support keeping the BPJSC at its current location. The DSSD also commissioned a Downtown Connections study (attached) which focuses on improvements at several key intersections to link to rail, bus and ferry passengers with the Downtown. Over a million passengers take the ferry boat annually. The economic spin-off between those passengers and the Downtown and South End has not been realized. Please review this study or ask the DSSD to make a formal presentation to the Economic and Community Development Committee before you act on this Sense of the Board Resolution. You will see that there are fairly simple but effective improvements that will connect the ferry, rail and bus passengers with the 32 existing downtown entertainment and restaurant establishments, Steelpointe and Sea-View Plaza. We have much more to offer than the Town of Port Jefferson in terms of retail and entertainment. We just haven’t put the pieces together to market Bridgeport and make the five-minute walk pleasant and signage clear. With the new zoning in place, the time has come. The DSSD and DTF are working hard to make that happen. Please support this effort.
8. I am told that as part of their petition to the PZC, the BPJSC is promising an on-demand, free, shuttle service from the East End to the Downtown and Pleasure Beach. I do not know how such a shuttle service would be enforceable. Without an enforcement vehicle, such a promise would be just that, a promise. We cannot base the economic growth of the Downtown and South End on a promise.
9. In good weather my dog Sophia and I often take the five-minute walk from City Trust, through the railroad underpass, down the boardwalk to the Ferry Terminal. So do other City Trust residents. I sit at a table, read the Sunday paper and talk to the passengers while they wait to take the trip or pick up passengers. Most don’t know that a short five-minute walk will get them to an emerging, vibrant funky downtown where people live, work and play. They need to know. We need to make the DSSD Downtown Connections Study a reality. We need to work to make the ferry passengers stop in Bridgeport more than a connection to the train or bus, or fast track to I-95 to get to the casinos or points along the northeast corner. We need to give them reasons to come back and use their disposable income to shop, eat and attend a show.
Please, now is not the time for the City Council to encourage the ferry boat company to abandon the Downtown and South End. Now is the time to help the BPJSC overcome their long standing obstacles at the existing terminal and grow its business right where it has been for the last 15 years. Help them do that. Do not send a signal to the Planning and Zoning Commission to abandon the several of the core principles of the City’s new Master Plan and Zoning.
Letters To Pols
The P.T. Barnum Residents Association continues its letter-writing campaign in earnest following a fire that killed a mom and her three children. Still waiting on the official cause of the fire from the FD.
Letter to Congressman Jim Himes
Dear Congressman Himes:
I am writing to you on behalf of the residents of the PT Barnum Housing Complex. As you may know, a devastating fire on November 13, 2009, claimed the lives of a young mother and her three children. This young family was trapped in their apartment and unable to get out in time to save their lives.
A number of dangerous conditions exist in these apartments that contributed to these deaths.
First, these apartments only have one door to enter and exit; they do not have a fire escape or any secondary way to exit the apartments.
Second, the fire alarms in the apartments are not tied into a 911 central monitoring system. The solution that has been offered by BHA , that a temperature control system that was designed and installed to monitor energy should be tied into a central monitoring system that would register the temperature of an apartment, is unacceptable. There must be centrally monitored heat and smoke detectors in each apartment to ensure the level of protection that we need.
We fully support the mayor’s proposal to install a fire sprinkler system in all of the buildings but we cannot wait for the typical long lead time and bureaucratic red tape to allow these hazardous conditions to go unabated.
There has been no meaningful or significant response to our concerns. Our children are having difficulty sleeping due to the fear of another fire in their own home or that of a neighbor and friend. We have been advised by the Fire Department that since the buildings are only three floors rather than high rise apartments, we can climb out of a window and onto the roof or leap out of the window and onto the ground.
These recommendations are unacceptable and we cannot wait any longer.
No-one is listening to us; neither the Board of Commissioners of the Bridgeport Housing Authority, nor the local officials of the City of Bridgeport.
We are writing to you as our representative in Washington. We need your intervention to help us get the Bridgeport Housing Authority and the City of Bridgeport to immediately install a monitoring system that can save lives rather than make noise that no-one responds to.
The only way that you can fully appreciate the dangerous conditions in which we are forced to live is to personally come visit our complex. Step inside one of our apartments and physically look out the window at the pitched roof where we are being asked to place our children as we try to rescue our family one by one. See if you would be willing to try to stand on these roofs waiting to be rescued by the fire department. Spend the night in our community and see how safe you will feel.
It is our understanding that the House of Representatives will be on its Christmas recess soon. We urge you to come visit us then and inspect these facilities for yourself.
We will be waiting for your response. Thank you.
Donna Fewell [president of residents association]
Letter from Donna Fewell to the mayor:
Dear Mayor Finch:
In light of your decision to open up your Task Force on Fire Safety to the public and the press, the members of the PT Barnum Shadow Task Force have accepted your invitation to participate.
At the meeting we attended on November 30th, you were requested to provide a list of the members of the task force which you had previously named. We also requested a list of meeting dates so that we can arrange to be present.
The Shadow Task demands that you designate one third of the seats on the Task Force to the members of the Shadow Task Force. As you know, our Task Force includes residents of the PT Barnum Housing Complex, as well as non-resident supporters. Some of our members have professional expertise in the area of fire fighting and code compliance.
Please advise us of the meeting schedule. We look forward to working with you to develop solutions and concrete proposals to make our housing complex safe.
News release from Congressman Himes and Mayor Finch:
Himes, Finch Announce Federal Funding for Congress Street Bridge
ConnPIRG Study Highlights Importance of Project and Need for Further Investment
After years of neglect and lack of funding, Congressman Jim Himes (CT-4) and Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch announced today that they have secured the resources to demolish the Congress Street Bridge, as a first step to restoring this critical link within Bridgeport. Bridge maintenance and construction are a problem across the state, according to a report issued by the Connecticut Public Interest Research Group, and the Congress Street Bridge epitomizes the detrimental effect non-working bridges have on a city.
“For too long, the inoperable Congress Street Bridge has been an eyesore and impediment to development for the largest city in our state,” said Congressman Himes. “Replacing the Congress Street Bridge is essential, and this is a huge step forward for Bridgeport and the entire state.”
An appropriation of $500,000 was passed by the U.S. House this past Thursday, and the Senate approved the agreement yesterday. The bill, now on its way to the President’s desk as part of the Comprehensive Appropriations Act of 2009, will finalize the resources necessary to demolish the Congress Street Bridge. The appropriation will be used in addition to $1.8 million in Recovery Act funding secured earlier this year.
The Congressman has requested funding for the reconstruction of the bridge through the Transportation Authorization Act of 2009, which awaits action in Congress. Congressman Himes and Mayor Finch met with Transportation Chairman Oberstar earlier this year to reinforce the importance of this funding request. The City of Bridgeport also applied for a TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant, a competitive grant supported by Congressman Himes, and Senators Dodd and Lieberman. The awards for these grants are expected sometime next year.
“This funding allocation, together with the stimulus funding the City received from President Obama, will allow us to take the crucial first step in demolishing this longstanding eyesore that has cut off the downtown from the rest of the City for nearly a decade. I made it a priority at the beginning of my administration to allocate funds to complete the design for a new bridge, which will being jobs and hope to our community and unite the City once again. I want to thank our entire legislative delegation – Senators Chris Dodd and Joseph Lieberman, and our Congressman Jim Himes – for their hard work in making sure that Bridgeport was included in the funding allocations.”
As Congressman Himes and Mayor Finch made their announcement today, ConnPIRG thanked the pair for their work and highlighted the success as an anomaly in the current transportation funding climate. A new report, Greasing the Wheels: The Crossroads of Campaign Money and Transportation Policy, released by ConnPIRG earlier this month, reveals that the nation has 73,000 crumbling bridges, 358 of which are in Connecticut. But year after year startlingly few federal transportation dollars go to fixing them. In 2008, for example, just a few months after the tragic Minneapolis bridge collapse, Congress directed only 74 of the 704 highway projects earmarked in the transportation appropriations bill to repair or maintain a bridge, tunnel, or overpass.
“The Congress Street bridge is an incredible symbol of the neglect of Connecticut’s and our nation’s bridges. We have a political system that frequently favors new highway construction over necessary bridge repairs. The total amount of taxpayer funds earmarked by members of Congress in 2008 for highway projects was nearly $600 million,” said Jeff Musto of ConnPIRG. “To give a sense of the scale of these funds, the same money could have brought 20 structurally deficient bridges per state or two bridges per Congressional district into a state of good repair that year. The hard work of Congressman Himes and Mayor Finch to secure funding for the Congress Street Bridge is the exception that proves the rule. We applaud them for their successful efforts—their leadership on this provides an example for other elected officials throughout the country to follow.”
More Bishop Lori Stuff From The Hartford Courant
A support group for survivors of priest abuse is asking a national Catholic review board of lay people to investigate Bishop William F. Lori and his handling of sexual abuse claims against two active priests, including the former second-highest ranked official in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport.
“We are writing you today to express our concern that two Bridgeport priests Monsignor William Genuario and Monsignor Frank Wissel – are still active in the ministry, after two allegations against each have been brought to the attention of the Diocese of Bridgeport,” said the letter from Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP).
Last week The Courant reported that in 2004 the Bridgeport Diocese paid two men $40,000 not to file lawsuits against the diocese after they came forward with claims that both Genuario and Wissel had abused them when they were teenagers. The two men signed a written contract agreeing not to sue the diocese in exchange for the payments.
Genuario is a member of the Diocesan Tribunal which handles such things as annulments, but he was the Vicar General, second in command to then-Bishop Walter Curtis, when the abuse allegedly took place. Wissel, who told The Courant the allegations against him were “ridiculous” is currently the Pastor at St. Mary’s Parish in Greenwich.
The Bridgeport diocese would not answer specific questions concerning complaints against Genuario or Wissel.
Instead, diocesan spokesman Joseph McAleer issued a statement last week saying: “Monsignor Genuario is a retired priest who assists part-time at the Marriage Tribunal. He is a priest in good standing.”
“Per its policies,” the statement said, “the Diocese removes from ministry any member of the clergy credibly accused of sexual abuse. The Diocese takes seriously any allegation of sexual abuse, and immediately notifies law enforcement of any accusation received. Every allegation is carefully examined by a competent lay review board. If an allegation is deemed credible, the Diocese removes the priest from ministry.”