Black Rock Council Candidates Question South End Eminent Domain

Rick Torres and Phil Blagys, Republican candidates for City Council in Black Rock, share this commentary challenging the legislative body’s role in a proposed land deal.

Here we go again. The Bridgeport’s City Council appears to have acted once again on behalf of the connected rather than on behalf of the law. The Mayor and the City Council’s Economic Development Committee attempted to use “eminent domain” to benefit Sal DiNardo, a well-known developer who wants to purchase property adjacent to land he currently owns in the South End.

The Connecticut Post story from September 23rd, describes how the mayor along with the City Council’s Economic Development Committee acted on behalf of Mr. DiNardo in a plan to take the property in the South End currently owned by a British Company. It is unclear to us as to why the city has any role in this at all. After all, Mr. DiNardo is a private businessman and the owners of the property are also private. If Mr. DiNardo wants the property he should acquire it through a normal property transaction.

However, even if this case technically meets the threshold established by Kelo vs. New London, (and this is questionable at best), it is worth noting the words of former United States Supreme Court Judge Sandra Day O’Connor who wrote in her dissenting opinion:

“Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms.”

It is also worth noting that the private property seized by the city of New London remains vacant today, some eight years after this decision, as the very development for which it was taken never materialized.

At the very least, when private property is threatened by government, a public hearing should be scheduled to allow all affected parties an opportunity to make their case known. In this instance, according to the CT Post, this initiative originated in the Mayor’s office and the plan was then approved by the City Council’s Economic Development Committee without the actual owner ever being apprised. We would like to know City Councilman’s Steve Stafstrom’s views on this matter as he sits on this very committee. Why was this a legitimate case for applying eminent domain? Was the owner of this property kept in the dark regarding this plan as reported by the CT Post? And, if so, why? It seems to us that Justice O’Connor was truly prophetic when she wrote “the beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process.”

We stand for openness and transparency in government. Whether the deal involves a driveway in Stratford or land in the South End, it is vital that they do not avoid the scrutiny of the city’s taxpayers. And we firmly believe that private property must be protected both from onerous taxes as well as government overstepping its bounds. No matter what your opinion of this company’s treatment of their property in the South End case, it seems clear that this was an egregious extension of municipal power to benefit a long-term donor who also currently owes millions to the city in back taxes. This kind of behavior needs to stop.



  1. *** Not knowing all the “facts involved” concerning this land deal nor where the city council members from the 131st district and the nearby South End community residents that is Seaside Village stand on this proposal, it may not be so far-fetched as it sounds. Many abandoned industrial sites in Bpt sit by year after year as eyesores without any city ideas or private investors interested in getting them back on the tax rolls as “productive venues” because of the cost of demolition and contamination site cleanup issues. Obviously in the end, DiNardo is a businessman looking to make money on such type deals but if the abandoned property is able to be put back on the tax rolls and a productive business with job availability gained that is enviromentally friendly and its future use is transparent and accepted by the nearby residents, is it not a win-win for all involved in the end? As I remember years back this unkempt abandoned property in question was of interest to the city of Bpt, the nearby Sikorsky Aircraft Co. and Sal DiNardo (not in written order) but attempts to find and deal with the possible British owners at the time was not successful. In the past there have been other same-type industrial sites like this where developments were put back on the tax rolls and jobs gained; like at a United Rentals and an ABC supply building site in Bpt. Maybe after all the facts and info on this site is put on the table and made transparent to all interested, a deal like this may prove to be worthwhile, but if the Finch Admin continues to do things undercover like they’re used to doing, then there will always be taxpayer doubt and unanswered questions! ***

  2. Don’t forget Downtown North. Another fine example of abusive use of eminent domain. The state of CT can legislate curbs if it chooses to but probably won’t because these abuses favor the chosen ones. Oh wait a minute. Sal DiNardo, isn’t he the brother of State Party Chair Nancy DiNardo?

  3. The Port Authority is on the verge of bankruptcy or at least that is what the city claimed a short while ago when there was talk of bailing them out.
    Now the city wants to take taxpayers’ money and put it at risk with the PA. The city needs to do a lot of explaining before this proposal goes anywhere.

  4. I seem to be missing something, doesn’t Sal owe 10 million dollars to these sacred “tax rolls?” I would also like to know if the current owners of said property have paid or will soon pay their taxes. In which case Bpt would be giving a taxpayer’s property to a non-taxpaying leech. Too bad there weren’t one of those car wheel locks the city puts on unpaid taxed cars that the city would put on that “wheeler tax cheat” Sal the slick.

    1. Black Rockin,
      I attended the CC session where this “eminent domain” HEARING was discussed. With Mayor Finch as moderator (though his tone and questions were more prosecutorial than moderate, causing Sue Brannelly to challenge his words and actions that night), the attorney for the property owners claimed his clients were effectively out of the loop and were not currently in negotiations with Mr. DiNardo.
      As the attorney left the meeting, I spoke with him briefly and my first question had to do with the property owner tax payments. He declared without qualification they are fully and currently meeting property tax payments.
      I participate in Black Rock and Citywide NRZ meetings regularly. While the City has these local groups who have invested time and energy in strategic planning for their respective neighborhoods, it is clear much of City planning is top down and not communicated to these groups. What was done to inform the South End NRZ of City action on eminent domain? If they were informed and in favor, why were they not part of community support?
      For that matter, how is a supposed four-year study on locating a new police firing range in the West End coming as such a surprise to the West End NRZ and to the parents of Caesar Batalla school who raised the issue on Monday evening at the BOE? If the City administration is doing full homework, why is it not sharing the info and showing its concern for real community concerns, rather than announcing initiatives and then having to fight the pushback, creating ill will along the way? And if you can answer that one, you will find a way to better represent the people. Time will tell.

  5. *** There’s no doubt as soon as the interested party is revealed as Sal DiNardo, red flags go up because of his relation to the State Dem. Party Chair and his past dealings with the city and other industrial sites in the city and state. Whether good or bad history concerning some of his economic development plans and deals, bottom line is he is a businessman looking for different ways to make money on these types of sites. And from past and present info concerning these types of deals, it seems there are not too many other local or outside interested developers willing to take the gamble of turning over these contaminated industrial sites hoping to make some type of money years later. In this land deal, no citizens or businesses are being displaced which happens sometimes in eminent domain cases. And if the city is transparent with the citizens of the South End and city taxpayers concerning all the facts in the deal, and it passes all the government hurdles, then it can be a good deal for all involved in the city of Bpt, no? ***

  6. Eminent domain has been abused, starting with Tedesco at the foot of the Rte 8 connector and continuing with Joe Ganim with downtown.
    And Sal DiNardo, Nancy DiNardo’s brother, Chuck Willinger (whose mother is a DiNardo and cousin to the previous two), Sonny Lenoci (another DiNardo and the developer of Stop and Shop on Madison Ave that is now empty (the former Dewhurst Dairy)) are all involved with the eminent domain issues.

  7. Here is another question for the 130th candidates to ask. Where is the money for the purchase coming from? Will the city be bonding for it? Will the city be internally borrowing the money from capital funds that are laying around waiting to be used? Will they be using operating revenues in violation of the charter and ordinances relative to the city’s general revenue funds?
    Has the city sought and received written sign-off on any of these questions from the city Bond Counsel?
    Paging Steven Stafstrom. Paging Steven Stafstrom.
    We might be able to cut through some of these questions if Steven simply lets us know what Uncle John has to say. Or maybe he can check at the law firm that employs him and the bond counsel.
    If would seem at this time Councilman Stafstrom should recuse himself from sitting in or taking part on any discussions relative to this matter.
    This has to be a conflict of interest.

  8. And for the candidates in the 130th can you please find out:
    1) If the city/PA plans on selling the property to Sal or leasing? I have seen both terms used but they are definitely not interchangeable. If the city or the PA owns and leases this is even more disastrous. Someone might argue it provides the city/PA with a new revenue stream but we might (will) get stuck with environmentally contaminated property all to the benefit of Sal.
    2) Sal used to own environmental remediation companies. Will there be language that says no deal can include any cleanup performed by a company owned/controlled completely or in part by a Sal DiNardo company? He might accidentally charge himself too much money for the cleanup especially if he gets some sort of credit for the amount of money he spends.
    3) If the property is to be sold, how will the selling price be determined? At a minimum it should be the final acquisition cost as approved by the courts plus any and all direct costs incurred by the city including the time of city employees spent on the project, plus a minimum 10% conveyance fee.
    4) The city has alluded to the fact Sikorsky Aircraft is interested in a road abandonment that will increase the size of their footprint in the South End. Does the city have an MOU (Memorandum Of Understanding) signed by the company spelling out the terms of the deal? If not do they at least have something in writing that addresses how much the company will pay the city for this swap at least as a reimbursement for the city to build a new road through the acquired property as well as an understanding this will immediately increase the taxable value of the property in the South End?

  9. Sorry, Stevie A. I know you hate it when I am so anti-development but one man’s development opportunity might be another man’s kickback (legal or not; cash or campaign contributions) opportunity.

  10. Mojo,
    The United Rentals property was owned by Sal DiNardo. He cut a deal with the city to forgive all of the back taxes he owed on the property to develop this. Sal and the city abused a state law that allows for a tax abatement on abandoned properties that are acquired for the purpose of development if the property is environmentally remediated. In this case one of Sal’s LLC’s “abandoned” the property and another one of Sal’s LLC’s acquired it. And one of Sal’s other companies performed the remediation. Great example of how to do things WRONG!

  11. *** Meanwhile with the United Rentals property, jobs were developed, after deal property taxes are current and continue active on the tax rolls, the property is worth much more money and it turned out to be a good deal for the city. Mr. DiNardo is still keeping his fingers crossed on either breaking even or making a nice profit in the near future, since these are not overnight get-rich-quick type of deals! Now whether some things might have been done inappropriately in certain stages along the way, it’s yet to be proven by the authorities and therefore merely rumor, no? *** The industrial site redevelopment road to recovery may be questionable at times, but so far the few outcomes we know of have been and continue to be good for all involved! *** IT IS WHAT IT IS, YO! ***

  12. Mojo,
    The city could have foreclosed on the property and taken it from Sal legally.
    Then they could have sold it to someone for the value of the unpaid taxes and developed it just as Sal did, if that is what you think is good.
    Back taxes paid, property back on the tax rolls.
    But do we really think an equipment rental facility is the best use of waterfront property on the cusp of downtown??? I wouldn’t think so. I would expect a much higher and better use than that. But what do I know.

  13. *** BOBBY BABY, waterfront? More like toxic wastefront, no? And yes the city could have foreclosed on it without signs of any “real” interested developers looking for dirty industrial sites to buy for its back taxes, to then spend a fortune to clean up to state code standards. All with plans to hopefully turn it around in the near future for a profit and overall benefit to the city! Not many developers of that type in Bpt, let alone in the State of CT. You don’t get something good for nothing without taking a gamble now and then, especially when it comes to urban economic development in Bpt. *** “DIRTY INDUSTRIAL SITES AUCTION” IS NOW OPEN FOR BIDDING BY SERIOUS BUSINESS PERSONNEL ONLY! ***

  14. Is this the blighted building I am looking at right now out of my window at the corner of Gregory and Lafayette? The one I toured with Councilwoman Denese Taylor and a handful of concerned South End residents? The infamous “British Diamond Dealer” property?

  15. *** Not 100% sure but I would say “no!” The property in question is on South Ave. in the South End heading towards Seaside Park. In between a new-looking Supply building site that belongs to DiNardo and the Sikorsky Aircraft building. It’s been sitting there idle for years and there seems to be some type of water or sewer contamination coming from that site if memory serves me correctly that may be affecting Seaside Village. ***


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