Does Halfway House Proposal Have New Life?

A proposed “Community Benefits Agreement” between the developer of a controversial 120-bed halfway house for male offenders and the South End Neighborhood Revitalization Zone will be the subject of a community meeting Tuesday 6 p.m. at the University of Bridgeport Student Center faculty dining room. The benefits agreement guarantees a $50,000 charitable contribution if the project is approved.

The proposed agreement between developer Sal DiNardo, owner of 48 Norman Street and 828 Railroad Avenue near the border of the South End and West End neighborhood revitalization zones, and Carl McCluster, chairman of the South End NRZ, is available on the SENRZ website McCluster is pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church in the South End.

Community Solutions Inc,, operator of halfway houses for transitioning offenders, has leased the property from DiNardo. CSI is appealing the Bridgeport Planning and Zoning Commission’s rejection for a one-year extension of a “previously approved special permit and a coastal site plan approval.” Attorney Chuck Willinger, a land use specialist, has carved out the proposed Community Benefits Agreement between the project developer and the SENRZ.

Emails circulating among a variety of neighborhood activists and city officials wonder if this latest twist to the halfway house plan will soften the views of opponents.

The benefits agreement will guarantee a “minimum of $50,000 in charitable contributions to the SENRZ within the aforesaid one year time frame. The developer will further guarantee that the SENRZ will receive, on an accumulative, annual basis, the sum of $25,000 in charitable contributions for each phase of the CSI development.”

The halfway house proposal has been the subject of several heated community and land use meetings.



  1. Sounds like out-and-out bribery. The NRZs in reality have no power, so why the $50K? What is the NRZ going to do with $50K? Sounds like a legal way for someone to get paid off. I hope the people of the South End are too smart to fall for this scam.

    1. The NRZs began to be established in different Bridgeport neighborhoods to counter blight and encourage local-based viewpoints on economic development during the Fabrizi years. Mayor John was a regular and ardent booster for what could be accomplished through these neighborhood representative programs. A preliminary community planning process was normally followed by the creation of a broad-based community Board that would become responsible for putting into action the short-, mid- and long-term parts of the developed NRZ strategic plans.

      NRZs, once established and recognized by the City Council, could take on 501c3 status and thus receive funds from grants and contributions and then use them for broad-based charitable purposes. However in most cases, the Bridgeport NRZs have been funded solely as a last stop for HUD-CDBG leftover funding. This is encouraged and overseen by the City Grants process annually, reviewed by Citizens Union Council appointed representatives, and then adjusted by City Council members before they vote their approval. Most annual CDBG funding that is targeted for NRZ type econ development and anti-blight appears to be used by the City OPED department for blight efforts, formerly under the direction of Tom Coble, as well as City administration and supervision of grants and programs, rather than funding more substantial neighborhood hopes and dreams.

      In the current year, of the City’s total amount (several millions of annual and previously unused and now redeployed CDBG funds) $44,473 times 6 active NRZ programs or about $265,000 will go directly to five of the eligible programs, primarily for sidewalk reconstruction. (One neighborhood only offered programs that would have used up all the money in one neighborhood and thus leave nothing for others. So a decision for sharing what was made available by the Citywide NRZ group was made.)

      When this Halfway House Zoning conflict first appeared last fall, meetings at University of Bridgeport as well as at St. John’s Church demonstrated an almost unanimous resistance to the placing of one additional Fairfield County serving house for exiting offenders (in addition to the seven such re-entry facilities already in Bridgeport). More important to many, this program was to be twice the size of anything existing currently in the City. Why would Bridgeport be the logical location for an added facility when only 40% of the population to be served comes from Bridgeport, and yet more than 85% of the beds are already located in Bridgeport???

      So opposition formed unanimously among the various NRZs and Michael Voytek was retained through individual contributions mainly, to present an Intervenor status that has a right to understand the dialogue between the Court system and Bridgeport Zoning.

      Within the past two weeks, Reverend McCluster presented the SENRZ proposal to the Citywide NRZ meeting, recusing himself from this vote. The decision of the NRZ representative was to reject the CSI proposal unanimously that evening, understanding fundamentally nothing had really changed with the CSI proposal since last fall, with the exception of the potential for a financial windfall by SENRZ.

      I guess I am curious as are others as to what you call an offer to the SENRZ by a private party to make a “charitable” contribution to an entity, when the actual exchange of funds is conditioned upon certain benchmark accomplishments. Is that charitable in the sense of IRS terms, like a free-will offering with no strings attached? Or does it seem more like that Latin phrase, ‘quid pro quo?’

      More sorting out will happen on Tuesday evening at the SENRZ meeting. Time will tell.

  2. Can anyone tell me where I can get a hold of a full-body condom in case I go to any of these meetings with Chuck and Sal?
    As we used to ask in the service, what’s the difference between a condom and the Air Force? Nothing, they both give you a sense of security when getting screwed.
    So what’s the difference between a “Community Benefits Agreement” drafted by Check Willinger and funded by Sal DiNardo, and a condom?

  3. When private development occurs in distressed urban neighborhoods, there are often ancillary impacts: some positive, some negative. Nationally, a community benefits agreement has evolved as a solid document to define the good and the bad impacts and how the developer can help the community overcome those issues. Remember, the communities that use these CBAs are those where the city’s tax revenue cannot provide an adequate level of services or they can’t bond for the capital improvements to help mitigate the neighborhood impact. An example of a great CBA would be the developer providing the job training funding or scholarships to the training school to help the neighborhood residents gain the skills to apply for the jobs at the new facility. Another benefit could be providing an on-site or nearby daycare center so the children of the residents are cared for while the neighborhood residents work at the facility on second and third shifts. There are lots of community benefits that have been negotiated around the country, BUT …

    The important threshold is whether the proposed land use is good for the community. If the proposed use isn’t good for the community then the development of a community benefits agreement should not happen. Period. It should not be a way for a developer to pay money to compensate for a use that shouldn’t be there in the first place. Why this is important is because the development that is built is long term, therefore the impact is long term. Money is very short term. Money can’t make something good out of something that doesn’t belong. The NRZs have to keep their eyes on the long-term goal. That is why their neighborhood plans went to the City Council for approval.

    In my opinion the proposed 120-bed facility for returning convicts is the wrong use for the proposed property. NO amount of money will change that fact.

    The border of the South End NRZ and the West End/West Side NRZ is on Norman Street, right in front of this facility. Yes the property is in the South End NRZ. However Went Field is across the street from the facility, and is in the West End/West Side NRZ. Went Field is a very active neighborhood park with lots and lots of children.

    This draft community benefits agreement makes absolutely no sense to me. The proposed land use is wrong therefore there shouldn’t even be a draft CBA. If you look on the SENRZ’s website you can read the legal brief that was filed with the Court by Attorney Voytek. The case is in the Court because the PZC denied the petition last year. Attorney Willinger on behalf of Community Solutions Inc. appealed the PZC decision. The NRZ leadership committee retained Attorney Michael Voytek to intervene in the Court to support the City’s PZC decision to deny the petition.

    My head hurts when I think the Court process is still underway to make sure that industrial building isn’t renovated to house the 120 returning convicts, yet the SENRZ is considering, by itself, without the West Side NRZ, a Community Benefits Agreement in support of the facility. There is something wrong with this picture. I hope the SENRZ tears up the draft CBA after the meeting tomorrow night.

    I also hope the NRZ’s will work cooperatively when a proposed development is within 500 feet of their borders.

  4. *** The borderline between the South End NRZ and West Side NRZ is Norman St. This alone should make it a decision between “both” as well as a money “split” should it pass by Zoning; 85% Bpt residents pending pre-release back into the city they’re from. How many workers will be from Bpt? Public transportation and closer for family members to visit rather than out of town? Supervision by staff, PD, etc. of the area? If not in my backyard then where? Will it be a temporary lease of the building should things not work out? Sign of the times, where’s the neighborhood TC on this and its handpicked political local reps? *** WELCOME TO ZOMBIELAND ***

    1. Well Mojo, this wouldn’t be the first time you’ve run interference for DiNardo. I’m referring to the tax deal he got in the South End you sponsored in front of Council Committee.

      1. *** Simply put, it is what it is! These returning inmates of which 85% are Bpt residents will be released into the community sooner or later. If not Bpt then where? Let the district residents decide, and then zoning like they did in the South End for the DiNardo deal, also the ECDC committee, followed by the final vote (2 times) by the city council. Know the facts first before crying foul! ***

        1. Mojo,
          The ‘facts’ quoted in the fall which I have repeated are only 40% of the exiting Fairfield County population are from Bridgeport, not 85% as you suggest. Can you provide an update on the information? It is a factor in placement of such programs, but one that is not helpful if the true number is below 50% with so much capacity already in Bridgeport. Let us know, please. TIme will tell.

  5. This is what it looks and sounds like–it’s “quid pro quo” as the question asked by BEACON2. It’s more like a ‘quid pro quote,’ a quote of $50,000 made by a pro like Carl McCluster.
    I first met Carl McCluster around 1997. McCluster came to me to support him in a proposal to develop the old Park City Hospital on Park Avenue. I supported him all the way and he received funds to move the project forward. Nothing happened, except for the fact McCluster used the funds for something else and could not account for the money. Nothing was ever heard as to the final outcome of the missing funds issue. Lennie, care to investigate? I would not trust the guy with a nickle I find on the street.
    I spoke at the Charter Revision Hearing–you didn’t read that on the CT Post–last week and I threw the idea of my concept for selecting the members of the Charter Revision itself.
    I proposed the following: The mayor selects one expert in Charter Revision; the remaining 6 members to be picked by a lottery process. Allow anyone–who meets certain requirements–to enter their name. Let’s say 50 names are entered, pick 24 first; reshuffle the 24 and pick 18; reshuffle the 18 and pick 12; reshuffle the 12 and pick the final 6.
    I propose the same lottery system here. Let Mercy Learning Center and other non-profits in the areas covered by the SENRZ and the West Side to enter into a lottery for a chance to get two tries for a $25,000 donation from Community Solutions Inc.
    If McCluster doesn’t agree with such a lottery, that should tell you what his real intentions are and he should not be allowed to participate in the lottery. I’ll pick the winners to make sure there is no cheating.

    1. If you are still figuring out how to split up the money, go back and read Nancy Hadley’s comments. What has changed from last fall when CSI and owners presented the same proposal???

      What if the DiNardo family decided another community need of that neighborhood would contemplate a Youth Center and go about developing it like Wakeman/Burroughs on Fairfield Avenue? Wouldn’t that look like real charity? Wouldn’t that serve both South End and West Side-West End NRZs well? What was proposed for that particular real estate if anything in the original South End NRZ strategic plan??? Were the property owners involved in the charette and planning process??? Look forward to hearing the answers. Time will tell.

  6. The good pastor McCluster has been bought
    The good pastor McCluster has sold out
    Will the South End NRZ call for his resignation? Perhaps better to keep your enemies in front of you … because he is no longer your friend …

  7. $50,000 … is this the going rate for the destruction of a community? Beware of setting precedents.

    I find this to be utterly reprehensible. I remember at the rally preceding the P&Z meeting Mr. McCluster leading the charge of “Enough Is Enough” from the top step at City Hall. Am I to understand the new war cry will be $50K is enough?

    The fact the parties involved are willing to offer this money in exchange for support should signify an admission this project will be a detriment to the West End and the rest of Bridgeport. We mustn’t allow Bridgeport to continue to be the path of least resistance for these community-devastating projects. I’d like to reiterate Bridgeport is already shouldering more than its share of the county’s rehabbing felons. The last thing we need next to one of our largest parks where our high school students have athletic practices is the largest halfway house in the state. 120 convicted felons under one roof is a bad idea anywhere but to house them directly in front of where our kids play cannot be tolerated, certainly not for less that it would cost to station one police officer there annually.

    We must stand together as we did the last time this atrocity was brought to P&Z; with a new slogan perhaps, We are not for sale!

    Cisco Borres

    P.S. Doesn’t Mr. DiNardo already owe the city back taxes? Maybe he should use that $50K for that instead.


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