Halstead Urges Neighborhood Support To Save Community Gardens

City Councilman Bob Halstead, a relentless advocate on behalf of community gardens, is trying to build public support at the Zoning Board of Appeals meeting Tuesday 6 p.m. in City Council Chambers to counter what he says is an assault on community gardens in the South End. To get an idea about what is one of the projects they plan to perform, see this landscape water drainage catalog from a trusted contractor.

Once South End roommates, Halstead and Mayor Bill Finch have had a scratchy relationship in recent years. Halstead writes:

The Mayor is getting $10 million in Federal money to do a flood protection plan for the South End and is also eliminating a lot of permeable surfaces in a flood plain there and replacing them with roofs and parking lots. He establishes a Food Policy Council to eliminate Food Deserts such as the South End and then eliminates two community gardens there, one is thirty years old.

He says he is the Green Mayor yet is removing open spaces and community gardens and creating congestion in a back room deal kind of way, with the Bridgeport Neighborhood Trust and the Housing Authority money talks.

Halstead asserts he researched old committee minutes and discovered a swap was made with the Housing Authority for the Gregory Street garden without any public or committee approval.

In an eblast to neighborhood stakeholders and the media Halstead writes:

When the City formalized the sale of Gregory Street (at a public hearing many of us attended) they justified it based on this deal made previously. Subsequently, the Director of Planning of BHA, Sharon Ebert, promised to keep us in the loop about the garden. The next news I saw was in the Public Notices of the Connecticut Post. It seems very coincidental and suspicious that Barbara Kelly as head of the Bridgeport Community Land Trust, at about the same time, took the Gregory Street garden out of their inventory, with no explanation when questioned.

Bridgeport Neighborhood Trust for some reason is now applying to the ZBA in developing this land that I thought was owned by the Housing Authority.

Regarding Columbia Court. Bridgeport Neighborhood Trust was rejected by the ZBA the last time they applied because they did not own the corner lot needed to widen the street. Since then they have purchased the Columbia Street property. They promised to include a garden in their new plans. They have not. We don’t also know the status of our garden raised beds, shed and water cistern either.

From ZBA agenda:


C-1 (#6) 91-95 & 99 Ridge Ave. – Petition of Bridgeport Neighborhood Trust & POKO – Seeking variances of the residential density requirement of 2,700 sq. ft. of property per residential unit and 10′ of the required 20′ rear yard under Sec. 5-1-3, and also seeking a variance of all 10 of the required on-street parking spaces of Sec. 11-1-2 to permit the consolidation of 3 lots into 1 and the construction of two 3-family dwellings in an R-C zone.

C-2 (#7) 131 Columbia St. – Petition of Bridgeport Neighborhood Trust & POKO – Seeking a variance of the minimum front setback requirement of 15′ of Sec. 5-1-3, and also seeking a variance of all 5 of the required off-street parking spaces to permit the construction of a 2-1/2 story mixed use building in an R-C zone.

C-3 (#8) 123 & 139 Ridge Ave., 576 & 584 Gregory St. & 189 Walnut St. – Petition of Bridgeport Neighborhood Trust & POKO – Seeking variances of the residential density requirement of 2,700 sq. ft. of property per residential unit and the minimum front and side setback requirements of Sec. 5-1-3, and also seeking to waive 25 of the required on-site parking spaces of Sec. 11-1-2 to permit the consolidation of 5 parcels into 1 and the construction of eight 3-family dwellings in an R-C zone.


#1 16, 32, 36, 40, 41, 46, 47 Columbia Court, 120 & 134 Columbia St., & 77 Johnson St. – Petition of Bridgeport Neighborhood Trust & POKO – Seeking a variance of the 2,700 sq. ft. of property per residential unit, as well as, the minimum front, side and rear setback requirements of Sec. 5-1-3, and also seeking variances of the vehicle maneuvering space requirement of Sec. 11-1-10; the minimum parking setback & perimeter landscaping requirement of Sec. 11-1-13 and waiving 5 of the required 32 off-street parking spaces under Sec. 11-1-2 to combine 10 parcels of property into one and permit the construction of seven 3-family dwellings (21 units) in an R-C zone.



  1. Adding value is the work of saints, subtracting value is the work of sinners. When addition exceeds subtraction, Bridgeport gets improved.
    P.S. The Mayor isn’t getting a penny from The Feds, Bridgeport’s South End is getting $10 million for a flood plan. And gardens grow back, oceans rarely retreat.

  2. Local Eyes,
    Saints usually have few material resources and advocate for the poor, the weak and the marginalized. Sinners often hold high office and act so as to maintain that status and power, using resources in their “sole wisdom” rather than in the ways the people might choose, had they the information and a choice presented to them in a democratic manner.
    Sinners attempt to deal in the dark places, to avoid notice when there might be objections to their behavior. The City Council authorizes a City Nutrition Council a couple years ago, it seems. What has happened to the “food deserts” in poor neighborhoods? Has the Council produced any greens, lettuce or ears of corn to feed people in season? The Neighborhood Gardens have.
    The City has participated in lots of “planning” activities. Does the ten million dollars go for just planning or for some actual design and construction? If you work in a food garden, you know gardens do not grow back! Their fertility makes them equally hospitable to weeds and other noxious plants that, like the oceans, rarely retreat without constant work and protection.
    My hat is off to the relentless vision, work and advocacy of Councilman Bob Halstead for doing a lot with a little, particularly where needs are great. Time will tell.

  3. JML’s excitement soars to new levels with talk of saints and sinners! However, he is incorrect to associate sinners with those in high office. Once planted, any garden can be reactivated. The current mayor has planted many trees–he knows how to get his hands dirty. In the South End, he’s preparing for a future that hasn’t even arrived.

    1. LE,
      You originally made reference to saints and sinners. You said saints add value and sinners subtract the same. You seem to think Bridgeport is a net winner. Where is your scorecard? Wouldn’t the Mayor have let the revaluation results from October 1, 2013 be shared with all taxpayers if we were net winners? When most homeowners go to sell their homes in Bridgeport today, they do not feel like net winners. Is accountability a different type of thing in the suburbs? Or are you just teasing us Bridgeport dwellers? Anything new to tell us about sewers, WPCA rates and Trumbull? Any foreclosures in your town for WPCA liens? Time will tell.

  4. This is a blog about winners in Bridgeport. If you don’t think you qualify, you still get to keep your Bridgeport goodies. Besides, if you hold me in such low regard, why would anything I say matter to you?

  5. JML thank you for pointing out the inaction of the Food Council that contrasts to the getting-it-done approach of community gardens in food deserts. LE, look when you go down Iranistan to see the community gardens the mayor is eliminating in the South End, be sure to notice the 50 trees the Green Mayor pulled out and I must point out, the Green Mayor only knows how to get his hands dirty when there is a camera on them!


Leave a Reply