Make Remington Property A Public Health Issue, Plus: Himes And Barack

Strategy. Anticipation. Communication. Strong department heads. They’re all factors in effective governing.

Every few months we go around and around on this issue: what to do with the former Remington Arms plant on the East Side, controlled by developer Sal DiNardo, that caught fire (again) on Saturday.

The place is a shithole. It’s been a shithole for years. As I’ve written here before, if the city called Donald Trump, Steve Wynn, Bill Gates or General Electric and said we’ll give you this property, ya know what they’d say? No, thank you. Why? Because the clean-up is $5 to $10 million, depending what you do there, maybe even higher.

A few months after Mayor Bill Finch took office in 2007 he announced that there’s a “new sheriff in town” to take on tax deadbeats, and one of those in his scope was DiNardo, someone the mayor had called lots of times for campaigns donations, called him his friend, invited him to his wedding, invited him into his home for dinner, had been a guest at Sal’s beach home in Fairfield many times. The new sheriff was gonna take on Sal. Bill thought it was good public relations value beating up DiNardo. (It’s not personal, it’s just PR, that’s the way the mayor rationalized it.) The mayor was strategically flaccid then, and now he’s forced to say something publicly every time there’s a fire. Wouldn’t it have been nice a few years ago if the mayor had asked himself, will I be dealing with this in an election year?

It’s easy to say take the property in court. The city can do that for back taxes. Okay, what does the city do with it? Nothing. Why? Nobody wants it. The best course more than two years ago, when the mayor opted for show horse over work horse, was to make it more than a tax issue. It’s a public safety and public health issue. That’s what he needed to scream then rather than the PR puffery that went nowhere. Better to have said look Sal, we don’t expect you to transform this place overnight, but at least start taking portions of it down, bit by bit. That East Side site has been a shithole for years, no doubt. Show us some goodwill, we’ll develop performance standards and tax incentives based on progress, but start taking down the monster.

Voters aren’t moved when a chief executive says we’re gonna do this and we’re gonna do that and nothing’s been done. No one’s going to vote for Finch because he has a public spitting match with a developer and it leads to nothing. They want to see some progress. Had the mayor had a workable strategy a few years ago a portion of the eyesore would now be down, and Finch could point to progress heading into an election year instead of regurgitating the same old line.

DiNardo scouts properties few others want to develop in the hope he can buy them cheap, fix them and rent or flip them for a profit. Sometimes he absorbs a tax liability. Sometimes he seeks a tax break from the city. And sometimes he ends up his own worst enemy in how he conducts business like filing a lawsuit against the city several years ago after a fall he took at the municipal golf course. He’s not a sympathetic figure. But he can get stuff done. Turning him into a marketable monster is not going to cure the problem.

DiNardo spent millions of his own money cleaning a portion of the old Bridgeport Brass, received a tax break from the city, and now Bridgeport actually has a tax generator on Housatonic Avenue now occupied by United Rentals. Even if Sal throws up his hands and says okay, take the property, then what? Nothing will be done for years. Now the site will be an election issue because the city didn’t act.

Jimmy’s Obama Calculation

In the fall of 1994 I received a phone call from campaign handlers for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Bill Curry. Lennie, we have good news and bad news. The good news is Clinton’s coming to campaign for us. The bad news is you have to help organize it in Bridgeport. Organizing a presidential visit is a big pain in the ass, Secret Service, advance staff, media. It was exciting but no fun. Why me? I was campaign manager to Joe Ganim, Curry’s running mate. This was roughly two years after Bill Clinton’s election and his polling numbers sucked. No one wanted to be seen with the president. That’s not so unusual for midterm elections.

The Curry campaign made the right decision under the circumstances, they needed Clinton. Why? To raise money. Curry had just come off an upset win in the primary over party-endorsed John Larson and was financially drained. Republican candidate John Rowland had oodles of dough. So Clinton came into Bridgeport and raised loads of dough for the Curry-Ganim ticket at a time no one wanted Clinton around. Clinton, in fact, was pleased at the thousands of folks that showed up at Sikorsky Memorial Airport to greet him. Connecticut, at least, was a presidential draw. Curry didn’t win, lost by a few points, but Clinton didn’t forget Curry. He gave him a job in the White House.

So now, the debate is on (not relative to Dem guber nominee Dan Malloy who’s in good shape with $6 million to spend) but with freshman Dem Congressman Jim Himes who faces a difficult challenge from Republican Dan Debicella. Does Jimmy embrace a Barack visit? If Barack wants to come, do it as a fundraiser. Don’t run for the tall grass. In this environment of financial trepidation Himes is going to live and die on the major initiatives in which he supported the president–stimulus and health care. Running away from Barack translates into Himes running away from his voting record.

If Himes runs, Fairfield County voters will smell a skunk.

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15 comments

  1. I did not realize how bad the fire was until I saw the story in the Post. The photos on the CT Post website that you link to are much better than my little video.

    I always found it more than coincidental that this building structure resembled the big sister on Boston Ave. Was this a smaller previous version?

    Video here of the fire www .youtube.com/watch?v=tUMo0d_UZYU

  2. There is little doubt there are portions of the Remington site that have pollution problems. My question is do we have an independent study of just how much pollution is involved in this site?
    Are we depending on Sal DiNardos remediation company for the report of what contaminants are on the property? Just because a building housed manufacturing does not automatically mean the land under these buildings is automatically polluted.
    Let’s spend the money and have an independent study done on what is and what is not polluted and what are these contaminates. To date we are depending on a flawed study in fact has anyone in the city administration seen the study that proclaimed this a brownfied site? Like I said earlier something stinks here and it’s not the smoke from the fire.

  3. LET THE RECORD SHOW that the same day Mr. Grimaldi dissed The Mayor of Bridgeport for his inaction concerning Remington Arms, major parts of that building were demolished!

    THAT BUILDING WILL COME DOWN BEFORE THE SUN DOES–and I’m talking about Monday, August 30, 2010 …

    and TOMORROW was invented for work that isn’t finished today. I’m not a spokesperson for anyone but myself, but I’d be surprised if Mayor Finch didn’t play a role in today’s decision.

    Learn more here:
    www .wtnh.com/dpp/news/fairfield_cty/demolition-remington-arms-plant

  4. Sal DiNardo does nothing on the up and up there is always an angle to his dangle. This will cause the city of Bpt plenty. When you shake his hand check to see if you have all your fingers. Also saw how Bob Curwen already started to make excuses for Sal in yesterday’s story how the taxes owed on this property were owed before Sal became a principal in this deal Sal knows all before he puts his fingerprints at the scene of the crime. The city will pay for the demo he will stall for payment city will make a deal downward he comes up with clean site for less. Remember everyone Sal’s needs get Sal’s money.

    1. Remember that Curwen actually works for Sal DiNardo. It is my opinion he should recuse himself from any decisions made by the city and the common and I do mean common council.

  5. When you’ve gotten the smoke from the weekend fire out of your lungs, here’s a little something to help you spit up your morning coffee.

    What fantasy-stricken city official came up with this? If this video draws ONE person to the city, he/she will go screaming back home and warn 1,000 people about the truth!

    www .youtube.com/watch?v=_tXPAIB1fog

    1. CT Post reports of land use controversy, court actions at multiple levels, and appeals seemingly at an end this morning on Mr. Sal DiNardo as “gentleman farmer” in Greenfield Hill. The actions go back a number of years between town officials and the gentleman farmer and lawyers have had multiple days in court. Now it costs $500,000 to pay for a vision unshared by neighbors and unbacked by the bulk of regulations.
      I guess you win some and lose others?

      Regarding John Gilmore’s video, was it produced with taxpayer funds??? Is there a practical vision of where to employ it??? And for those of you who have asked where the Mayor is … he’s gone fishing!!! … in season? and licensed? Of course …

  6. Bravo on the new Bridgeport video. Finally a positive message that will run on TV networks and Cable channels. The last one was the great BMW ad that ran a couple of years ago. Could we PLEASE rally around this positive message! I for one would like to end the summer on a positive note.

  7. Checked out the Bridgeport Youtube that John Gilmore seems to find so negative and see things the exact opposite.

    Seaside Park, Capt’s Cove, Beardsley Zoo, Black Rock, nice restaurants, etc were all featured in that video. Excellent production values as well.

    Is John Gilmore saying after people spend a day at Seaside Park or dining at Ralph & Rich’s, they go screaming in to the night to warn others?

    Many, many times I have been with people from out of town at various events and places in Bridgeport and heard them say “I never would have thought this was Bridgeport.”

    Maybe Mr. Gilmore should tone down the cynical Front Page newspaper cliche a bit.

  8. The trouble with the video is all the expectations drawn from the images flashed onto the screen are undermined by what a viewer will see BEFORE and AFTER getting to the scene in the video.

    The different images in the video do not add up to the collective experience of getting to the site described. Flyfishing in the Pequonnock River north of Beardsley Park, for example, doesn’t really describe Bridgeport because there are one or two fishing holes in the city. (I’m pretty sure that’s where that shot is.) The city has good urban parks, but a cast from a fly rod does not make Bridgeport an Adirondack resort.

    From a media perspective, it is pretty easy to tear the video apart for offering inaccurate “snapshots” of the city.

    Gilmore’s reaction to the video is not Front Page at all, Frustrated. It is the reaction of eyes who have worked in communications. It’s my reaction as well. People with media experience can make bluefish bait out of the video in five minutes. I was a General Assignment reporter in my ill-spent youth. I can give you Front Page if you like! I know a couple PR guys in town who can do it too and they never worked for newspapers.

    Actually, I disagree with John. City taxpayers may indeed think they got their money’s worth out of the video. It is well done. Like all good advertising, the video tries to sell the sizzle. The reality is liable to be more like a bucket of dishwater dumped from the back porch of a third-floor tenement. The ad is a failure because it cannot deliver the experience described.

  9. Hey Jim how are things in Pennsylvania? Why don’t you comment about where you actually live? I know because no one here gives a shit.
    It may be a bit overblown but it is a good video. You want to go into whats wrong here let’s go into what’s wrong in the ‘burbs. Stratford, Trumbull, Fairfield. What you are writing here is the same shit you wrote when you reported for the Post all negative. I guess you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

  10. Gilmore and Callahan
    I totally disagree. It is a solid commercial and the positive spirit Bridgeport needs. Lighten up and enjoy a drink tonight at cafe Roma.

  11. Himes voted to increase discretionary government spending by 22% but now talks about favoring a 1% spending reduction.

    Himes voted with Nancy Pelosi over 95% of the time, but now talks about being “independent” because he votes against her almost 5% of the time on largely symbolic or procedural matters.

    Himes measures his virtue by how much of your money he can spend. This might have worked during the bubble era, but our families cannot afford Himes anymore.

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