Lopezed! When A Commission Ignores The Rules, A Judge Steps Up To Grate The Gate

Washington Park gated
Holy crap, when did Washington Park become a gated community?

Bridgeport’s Historic District Commission has been Lopezed. Some have been lasered, some tasered, some Lendered (paging Jon Lender, Hartford Courant) but nothing like an unpacking by retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez who stepped up on behalf of former City Councilman Bob Halstead whose passion for historic preservation in the East Side’s Washington Park collided with the lack of due diligence by the agency provided with true oversight that has led to a dubious gated community. So on this Labor Day weekend, grab a cup of joe and enjoy the laborious work of a legal expert for the common guy needing help. Lopez commentary and letter to commission follows.

Bridgeport City Government is a wonder to behold!

Every time you deal with a Board or Commission you come face to face with the futility, frustration and fatigue that accompany any attempt to gain satisfaction from City Hall.

Recently, I was introduced to Bridgeport’s Historic District Commission #1. There are two Historic Districts in Bridgeport. The other one is the Stratfield Historic District.

The result of this experience was futility, frustration and fatigue.

My odyssey began when I agreed to provide assistance to former City Council member Robert Halstead, a native Bridgeport resident who has a passion for historic preservation. Robert Halstead not only ‘talks the talk’ he ‘walks the walk.’

Putting his money where his labor of love is, Halstead purchased property in the Pembroke Historic District. He has owned the property, which has a Kossuth Street address and faces historic Washington Park for many years.

Recently, a neighbor secured a permit from the City of Bridgeport to install a driveway along with a gate and a curb cut.  Because the property is located in a Historic District, a Certificate of Appropriateness should have been obtained from the Historic District Commission #1.

Unfortunately, city officials ignored this prerequisite. They issued the permit and the driveway, the gate and the curb cut were installed.

After I was contacted by Halstead, I contacted the various city departments involved in the issuance of the improper driveway permit. They unanimously agreed that no permit should have been issued without a Certificate of Appropriateness. In fact, as if speaking with one voice, they verbally admitted that the City had ‘dropped the ball.’

Having gained an admission of negligence, but having received no satisfaction, Halstead asked to be put on the agenda for the next meeting of the Historic District Commission #1.

In preparation for the meeting, I authored a three page position statement outlining the factual history of the improper permit, the applicable law regarding historic districts and Robert Halstead’s request for relief.

Historic District Commission #1 is chaired by Stuart Sachs, a trained architect. According to the City of Bridgeport web-site, his term on the Commission expired in 2006, and he has never been reappointed during the ensuing decade. There are four other members of Historic District #1 and one alternate member. All appear to be serving expired terms.

The meeting of July 9, 2018 convinced me that I will never buy a home which is subject to the whims of a Bridgeport Historic District Commission.

Contrary to popular myth, historic districts are not beautification boards, garden clubs, or conventions of old house lovers. They are, at bottom, zoning boards, authorized by state statute. They govern what affected property owners are permitted to do with their property.

As we waited during the meeting for Halstead’s matter to be heard, a property owner was requesting a Certificate of Appropriateness. The individual, who owns property near lower East Main Street, was asked about the details of her planned renovations. Commissioners expressed concerns with the appropriate types of nails to be used as well as the type of siding.

The owners were respectful and endured all of the questions and acquiesced to the Commission’s preferences.

Bridgeport should be encouraging residences who seek to enhance their properties, thereby increasing the Grand List. But instead of asking ‘how can we help,’ the City through Historic District #1, erects roadblocks and micro manages other people’s property.

Fortunately, I was about to discover just how hollow and meaningless any threats issued by the Historic District Commission are.

When it was our turn to speak before the Commission, I submitted the prepared memorandum and asked the Commission to grant relief to Robert Halstead. Since everyone in the City Hall bureaucracy acknowledges that no Permit should have been issued, I thought it would be a simple matter for the Commission to correct the error.

Silly me!

Chairman Sachs, after objecting to my ‘lawyerly’ submission, boldly announced that the Commission has no enforcement powers. When I pointed to the unambiguous language in the applicable state statute (Connecticut General Statutes section 7-147h(a)), the Chairman oozing arrogance, stated that former Bridgeport official Bill Minor had told him that no City employee was empowered to enforce orders or correct violations. In other words, this commission believes that it operates under rules it cannot enforce.

State law clearly says, “Regulations and orders of the Commission … shall be enforced by the zoning enforcement official or building inspector, or by any such person who may be designated by ordinance.”

Furthermore, the Commission is authorized to bring suit in Superior Court to restrain, correct and remove any violation.

After the meeting, I followed up with the State of Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development. This is the state agency charged with the oversight responsibilities of Historic District Commissions, per Connecticut General Statutes section 7-147c (g). I wrote to Mary Dunne, Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer. She wrote to Mr. Sachs, reiterating the authority of the Commission to enforce its orders.

In light of this enabling legislation, I doubt that even the Bridgeport City Attorney would tell the Commission that it has no enforcement powers. If the Commission votes to bring suit to correct or restrain a violation, the City Attorney must represent it.

At its next meeting, the Commission did not have a quorum. Informally, the Chairman continued to maintain that Robert Halstead has no remedy, despite being presented with the language of the statute and the unambiguous facts.

Hopefully, our City Attorney will explain the statutory powers enjoyed by the Historic District Commissions. Although Robert Halstead is not a Ganim administration favorite, I am confident that even Ganim’s loyal city attorneys will not opine with a straight face that no enforcement powers exist.

However, we must remember that, this is Bridgeport, and as it was stated in the classic Animal Farm by George Orwell, “some animals are more equal than others.”

Lopez letter to commission on behalf of Halstead:



Robert Halstead is the owner of 582 Kossuth Street, a row house located within the Pembroke Historic District. The row house is occupied by a tenant.

In early June 2018,  Mr. Halstead became aware of certain changes that were made to the adjoining property located at 584 Kossuth Street without the issuance of a Certificate of Appropriateness in violation of Connecticut General Statutes Section 7-147d.(a).

This section of Connecticut law states in relevant part that “No building or structure shall be erected or altered within an historic district until after an application for a certificate of appropriateness as to exterior architectural features has been submitted to the historic district commission and approved by said commission.”

The changes to the property include the installation of a driveway, among other changes. The driveway was installed using material that includes nails and other dangerous items. Furthermore, the installation of the illegal driveway was defective in that a jagged concrete edge was left on the curb by the person (s) installing the driveway. As a result of the defective installation, damage has been caused to the property and person of the tenant in 584 Kossuth Street.

In addition, officers of the Bridgeport Police Department have given parking tickets to cars parked in front of this illegal driveway, to the detriment of Mr. Halstead and his tenant.

On April 27, 2018, the City Department of Public Facilities approved a “Sidewalk, Curb and Driveway Permit” to the owner of 584 Kossuth Street. The Permit states that “Permission is hereby given to Homeowner, Myrna Silverio to ‘Remove and Replace Driveway Apron/ 584 Kossuth Street/Barnum Avenue.’

According to information and belief, the Office of the City Engineer approved the issuance of the permit without consideration of the legal requirements of a Historic District. Based on the approval of the City Engineer, the Division of Permits and Licenses of the Department of Public Facilities issued the permit in violation of state law and local ordinances.

Connecticut General Statutes Section 7-147d. (d) states that “No area within an historic district shall be used for industrial, commercial, business, home industry or occupational parking, whether or not such area is zoned for such use, until after an application for a certificate of appropriateness as to parking has been submitted to the commission and approved by said commission.”

Mr. Halstead contacted the Historic District Commission Chairman and other building officials in an effort to obtain a remedy to the violations.

On June 14, 2018, the Clerk of the Historic District Commission sent a letter to Mr. and Mrs. Jose and Myrna Silverio, the owners of 584 Kossuth Street. The letter advised the owners of the violation and requested that the owners file a submission to the Commission on or before June 26, 2018. The letter further advised the owners that the Commission would hold a meeting on July 9, 2018 and the submission should arrive in time for that meeting.

On June 27, 2018, the undersigned appeared at the Zoning Office and was told that no submission had been received by the Commission regarding this matter.

On June 28, 2017, Mr. Boucher, Clerk of the Historic District Commission sent an email to the undersigned attaching a copy of the agenda for the Commission meeting of July 9, 2108.

The agenda included an Item C, entitled “Other Business-584 Kossuth Street.”

No information was given to describe to the public, or to the aggrieved party, the reasons that the matter appeared on the agenda. Although a letter was sent to the owners of 584 Kossuth Street, the notice on the agenda is insufficient in that it does not indicate that the property owner has been determined to be in violation of the Historic District Regulations. The public has not been sufficiently informed per the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act.

The Law

Connecticut General Statutes Section 7-147a-m address Historic Districts. Section 7-147(b) permits a municipality to establish, within its confines, an Historic District.

Pursuant to the authority granted to it in this enabling legislation, the City of Bridgeport enacted ordinances to establish several Historic Districts within its borders. Sections 2.98.010 through 2.98.060 of the Bridgeport Code of Ordinances address the establishment of Historic District Commissions in the City of Bridgeport.

The Historic District Commission #1 was established pursuant to this ordinance and has jurisdiction over this matter.

The issue of Historic Districts and the legislation establishing such commissions has been litigated in Connecticut State Courts.

Furthermore, the enforcement powers given to a Historic District are detailed in General Statutes Section 7-147h (a) and (b) and include the imposition of fines.

Section 2.98.030 of the Bridgeport Code of Ordinances states that “The Historic District Commission shall have said powers and duties as are provided for in the Connecticut General Statutes.”


As relief for this violation of the Historic District Provisions, Mr. Halstead requests that this Commission enter an immediate order to the owners of 584 Kossuth Street to remove the iron gates on the property as well as any evidence of a driveway.

Furthermore, Mr. Halstead requests that the designation of the front lawn of this row house as a legal driveway be immediately revoked in light of the failure to obtain a certificate of appropriateness.

The Historic District Commission is asked to immediately inform the Department of Public Facilities that the Permit must be immediately revoked.

This order should be enforced by the imposition of a fine, to be determined by the Commission, for each day that the violation remains in place.

Respectfully submitted,

Carmen L. Lopez, for

Robert Halstead, Homeowner



  1. Bridgeport, let’s get someone who truly cares about all of Bridgeport, Carmen L. Lopez for mayor. Who else in Bridgeport would take the time to research the facts about a house on Kossuth Street address and faces historic Washington Park. This is just another example of Judge Lopez looking out for what is best for Bridgeport. Real leaders lead and Judge Lopez is a true leader and not a follower.

    1. And to further continue the outrageous conduct of the Historic District Commission…

      They have scheduled a meeting to APPROVE this debacle on 584 Kossuth Street that Bob Halstead & Judge Lopez have been fighting against.

      The meeting is as follows:

      Tuesday, September 4, 2018

      45 Lyon Terrace

      Wheeler Room B

      6:00 P.M.

      New Business:

      Application #2018-16 of Myrna Silverio for the APPROVAL of changes made to the property located at the address of 584 Kossuth Street in the Pembroke Historic District


  2. Can someone,anyone name any other Bridgeport resident that repeatedly gives so much of themselves to come to the aide of others?

    Judge Lopez could make hundreds of thousands of dollars per year for her incredible work, however she steps up to help those in need when asked.

    We truly need a Mayor that will properly govern with absolute integrity and transparency.

    I have told some that you know you should run for office when that idea isn’t yours, but is at the urging of those around you.

    I would work day and night to help Judge Lopez get elected.

    This is bigger than what Judge Lopez wants. The people of Bridgeport are calling upon you to lead the City of Bridgeport to greatness. I know for a fact that 21,000 BPS children need you.

    Judge Lopez for Mayor!!!

      1. RT
        What have been the grades and graduation rates that you reference during the past five years? Has anyone kept track of these or other measures of behavior or response that can possibly show trends to the public that cares?

        Assuming that you have such information already, or can secure such going forward, is a brand new $100 Million school building the only variable that you wish to hold responsible for student response? What effect does a flat operating budget that cuts interventionists, counselors, and other critical stafff in order to spend no more than is provided by State and City?

        More parent attention at voting time is certainly called for when a Mayor who has been provided plenty of personal educational opportunity as a young man, received. Why isn’t the operation of the educational system with expectations of performance a priority or even better, the priority of Ganim2? What role does race have in Ganim2 failure to address funding education better than he has since his second term? Why did Ganim2 come hat in hand to share his sadness about mistakes he made with a church audience of people of color and fail to talk about his second chance and what he would do for generations of children of color in the City today? Time will tell.

        1. JML is 100% correct. Having a state-of-the-art high school is great, however having the financial resources to fund teachers, paraprofessionals, psychologists, social workers, guidance counselors, programming, etc. is vital.

          1. Maria, it’s not worth your time to reply back to Robert Teixeira, I say this because he doesn’t try to advance a topic.

          2. now this is Ironic people, Ron, Maria said the same thing about you, not to reply to any of your post. LOL 🙂

        2. First let me address the man with many questions with very few answers, JML, and who has and will turn a blind eye to ACCOUNTABILITY, INTEGRITY, AND TRANSPARENCY. While Joe has his privilege whiteness it didn’t prevent him from making mistakes and going to jail. Did it? Yes, Joe when to share his sadness about mistakes he made with a church audience of people of color but why is race being shared by you in regard to education, specially Bridgeport students education? Are you looking for the same accolades Joe seek when he addressed the church audience of people of color? Maria you pride yourself on being a BPS produce who is smart that comes prepared to the BOE meeting and condemn those who don’t. What asset did you received that someone else you went to school with, who had failed or dropped out? JML out of Maria’s own words, being on the BBOE is not about education it’s about controlling the roughly 200 million budgets. What asset dose the student who sits in the front row and pays attention, does their work and homework, over a student who sits in the same room, when they show up, in the back of the class and never does any of the work? Baring being gifted, or developmentally challenged, if one student can get and “A” with the current operating budget then practicality all of students should be able too. Correct? So why are many failing? What are some Bridgeport Schools Failing over others Bridgeport School with the same budget? Please JML let’s not wait for time to tell. Go out and seek those answers for ACCOUNTABILITY, INTEGRITY, AND TRANSPARENCY sake. But I can tell you that’s a much broader issues with many factors and anyone who really cares about Accountability, integrity, and transparency would acknowledge it and not just say the cause for student’s failure is solely because of the school operating budget. Jeff’s more on point in the social economic aspect as to why, but also who and what is being taught contribute to a student’s education. But let’s just take a glance at the BBOE and City Budget. They are roughly the same. BBOE budget is responsible for roughly 19,000 residents, half for the day, weekends exempted. And the mayor is responsible for the other half and weekend of those students and the remaining 120 thousand residents. The Mayor who runs the entire city gets payed 100,000 less then the superintendent. Maria that school is just as important for the teacher than the student. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mTv1Dmu5CYc

          1. Joe Ganim shouldn’t receive $1 in tax payer funds. Joe Ganim is NOT directly responsible for 140,000 residents each and every day.

            Dr. Johnson is directly responsible for 21,000, not 19,000 students, 182 days per year. They are in our school buildings educated and served by 2,800 employees each day.

            Dr. Johnson has the greatest responsibility of any official in Bridgeport. That responsibility is to educate 21,000 children.

            She also has a doctorate degree, unlike Joe Ganim.

            You should know that she took $10,000 less per year in her 3 year contract, gave up a city funded vehicle, rejected life insurance, and she gives a high school student $1,000 scholarship each year out of her own pocket.

            Name one other Superintendent that had done any of these things.

            She is completely centered on the needs of students, and that is what I want in a Superintendent.

          2. 21,000 residents, and 182 days per year. Thanks for clearing that for us. I will differ on your claim about Dr. Johnson being directly responsible for the 21,000 students and their education. I will say the actual teacher in the room has more directly responsibility, but whatever. The comment was directed on budget relation to education. Are there any schools within Bridgeport that are under preforming in regards to students actual education out come compared to other schools in the city, within the same BOE budget. IF so JML, as an accountant, should know basic mate says it shouldn’t be. So if there is it’s out side the of funding Occam Razor 🙂

      1. James Halloway should be fired, A totally fluck up, he walks in the door in the morning and is already drunk, then leaves around 10 ish and goes and drinks some more. Driving while intoxicated in the city car. Fire his ass!!!!

  3. It’s been a long time since the majority of boards and commissions in Bridgeport have worked effectively, for the benefit of our citizens… In the same vein, it’s been over a century since the City’s government has functioned effectively for Bridgeport municipal progress — about the time when our tax-base growth trend halted and started to roll go into reverse…

  4. Why is it so difficult for our appointed boards and commissions to simply follow the law? Why don’t they excercise their authority? Why are so many apoointees so completely incompetent?

    Why do we allow this level of ineffective governance in Bridgeport? We truly need to unite to change our unethical, incompetent, and sleazy leadership.

    1. Are there existing Boards or Commissions with a requirement for any pre-existing knowledge or experience of the subject matter at hand? For most that I consider, the answer is NO.
      If you get on one of those NO-requirement Boards or Commissions, what type of training is routine, delivered and monitored? I believe that the answer is NONE. Unless the delivery of the past 12 or 24 month of minutes is looked at as training,perhaps?

      Finally, does any Board or Commission evaluate its own behavior or expose itself to outside evaluation as Mayor Ed Koch of NYC used to when he asked: “HOW AM I DOING?” That leaves the public in the dark, the work of each group relatively secret, and the opportunity for all type of corruption has fertile soil. Time will tell.

  5. Again, Judge Lopez to the rescue! It’s disgusting that at the level of a Historic District Commission, incompetency rules again. I served when the ordinance governing the Stratfield Historic District was enacted way back then. If memory serves we had quality, vigilant commissioners who worked towards assisting owners of this type of real estate; to understand and comply. John Olson and Mike Freddino are two that come to mind. Commissioners and council members serving that area as well as invested City employees and appointees should work together to make it work. Shame on Jimmy Hollaway, Dennis Buckley, and every council member, including the Council President. Praise and admiration goes to Bob Halstead for his commitment, tenacity, and a true passion for all things of nature and history. He never waivers. The true humanitarian, legal genius, and a woman whose generosity of mind and spirit knows no bounds is Judge Lopez. In this time of chaos and apathy by the City Attorney’s Office, some Zoning employees, and the “dropped the ball” Hollaway, she’s a gift from heaven.

  6. James Holloway spent nearly 20 years on the city council and as the issuer of permits for roadway work (sidewalks are part of the roadway), and he ignored historic district guidelines.

    This is nonfeasance.

  7. Publicly and personally I thank Judge Lopez for her commitment of time, altruism, abilities and neighborliness in helping me and also having a great shot of actually reforming the system. Never easy….

  8. *** I would vote for Judge Lopez or M. Moore for Bpt. Mayor, though I don’t think they would be interested in that sometimes thankless job at this stage in their life’s & careers, no? ***What say you?***

    1. Mojo, I thought that way before but not any more because I feel that it’s to you and me and others to support and to push for this to happen. We just can’t push someone out there to run and then not work hard to make it happen and it doesn’t have to be a choice of either one because there is role for both of together because a fight between which of these exceptional individual because that would Ganim back into office and that’s something that Bridgeport doesn’t need again. Joe Ganim had his second chance now it’s time to move on to advance and uplift Bridgeport instead of the business as usual with Joe Ganim and Mario Testa and for these 10 DTC district leaders who only march to the orders of Ganim and Testa.

  9. Like most of us that post on OIB I am extremely grateful for the intervention of Judge Lopez on this and other issues that affect the residents of Bridgeport. Having said that I am very concerned that the honorable judge has to continually use her legal expertise to do what the elected officials should be doing themselves.

  10. I love to read Judge Lopez’s commentary. She has a knack for dumbing things down while keeping to the facts and law. What’s most alarming is the way that in the face of such obvious violations and being presented with facts by someone who has researched and done all the leg work, they still have a rebuttal and excuse take corrective action. This city’s leadership is pathetic, and it trickles down to its mindless employees who do just enough not to get terminated.

    We need a change of leadership and new voices for this city. November 2019 can’t come fast enough.


Leave a Reply