Superior Court Judge Dale Radcliffe has rescued a community garden program in the South End from an affordable housing development. Former City Councilman Bob Halstead, active in the community garden program for decades, was among a group of people spearheading opposition. They hired land use attorney Chuck Willinger to file a lawsuit. OIB commentary contributor Jeff Kohut shares his view why the judge’s decision is a victory for the city.
The decision by State Superior Court Judge Dale Radcliffe to rule against a Bridgeport Planning and Zoning Board decision granting New York-based, residential housing developer POKO approval for the development of land that has served as a community garden in the South End for 30 years was a victory for Bridgeport and all Bridgeporters.
Judge Radcliffe’s decision sends a strong signal to Bridgeport community activists that they do, indeed, have the attention of the seats of power in the State of Connecticut. Judge Radcliffe’s decision also gives notice to the forces in lower Fairfield County that would dictate Bridgeport development policy for the advantage of lower-Fairfield County communities–to the detriment of Bridgeport–they will no longer be accommodated by those sworn to uphold the law and protect the rights of all citizens of Connecticut.
While the Connecticut Post article of 12/5/15 (p A3) declares that “Judge’s ruling win for garden,” it was far more than that. The Judge’s ruling will serve to energize the broad-based activist communities of Bridgeport in their efforts to protect critically-located green and public spaces, as well as large, undeveloped green parcels in the city. It will also serve to energize those activists who would seek to direct development toward the highest economic and environmental uses for all of the available parcels of land in the crowded confines of the most populace–and poorest, in real terms–city in the state.
It is clear that Stamford/Greenwich (lower Fairfield County) wants Bridgeport to serve as the “housing hub” (read “servants quarters”) of Fairfield County, such that an expanding, Bridgeport, low-wage workforce is on-call for the high-value tax base maintenance and lifestyle maintenance needs of lower Fairfield County, allowing those communities to avoid the expense and social difficulties associated with maintaining such a workforce. But now a clear signal has been sent by Judge Radcliffe–in resonance with the results of Bridgeport’s November municipal elections–that “the party’s over” for the state’s elite communities in Fairfield County, and Bridgeport will demand–and receive–its due deference as the state’s largest city.
Thus, just as the Ganim win last month served as the Bridgeport lion’s roar heard across the country, Judge Radcliffe’s ruling has served as confirmation that the efforts of the Ganim Administration to redeem Bridgeport’s legacy as the political center and fount of prosperity of our state will have the support of those in power that want to see true prosperity and democracy restored in Connecticut.
The next sign Bridgeport is truly on the comeback trail will be the removal of Stamford city councilman David Kooris from Bridgeport’s Economic Development Department. This absurd situation, the positioning of an elected official from Bridgeport’s chief economic rival as Bridgeport’s economic-development director, could have only happened in the Twilight Zone of the bile-green administration that sold our city’s human, economic and geographic/environmental resources to the LOWEST bidders making the best back-room deals. (Hence, the reckless land and tax-abatement giveaways to recycling, power plant, and workforce housing developers during the previous administration. It is also interesting to note in this regard New York-based POKO has been poking around Bridgeport for several years, trying to take advantage of our difficult straits to cash in on Hartford- and Washington-promoted, Stamford-serving, workforce housing development. One such proposed development for the Trumbull Gardens-Whiskey Hill-Lake Forest area, was rejected by the community when POKO balked at including amenities such as a library, drugstore, and police substation space in their plans. They wanted a cheap, easy, tax-abated route to a big-profit development. Ironically, a community garden now sits on the site.)
So I would say “Congratulations!” and “Kudos!” to long-time Bridgeport activist Bob Halstead, Judge Radcliffe, the Ganim Administration, and all the other residents and friends of Bridgeport who have drawn a line in the sand for those who would continue to exploit and abuse the City of Bridgeport and its people.