Stealing Steel Point Loot

Steel Point
Aerial of Steel Point redevelopment area courtesy Morgan Kaolian

Losing the $11 million federal grant for the Steel Point redevelopment area was like a kick in the crotch to Mayor Bill Finch. Congressman Jim Himes as well. It was Himes who secured the funds last October. On Saturday the GOP-controlled U.S. House said sayonara to the moolah slated for the city. Now what?

Well, if you’re Finch you talk to just about anyone willing to listen to you about the lost funds. You conduct a press conference on it. You zoom to Washington to see about rallying support to have the dough reinstated. Good luck.

On a one-day trip Wednesday to participate in a  U.S. Conference of Mayors event, Finch was also scheduled to meet with representatives from Senators Dick Blumenthal and Joe Lieberman and Congressman Jim Himes’ offices regarding proposed cuts to federal Community Development Block Grant programs, according a mayoral news release.  

These are funds that support the city’s social network, a great way for a mayor to play Santa Claus, particularly in an election year. Finch doesn’t have a high profile development he can call his own, following his election in 2007. Finch supported tax incentives and financing approval for the housing portion of Phil Kuchma’s Fairfield Avenue development that has cleaned up a couple of downtown city blocks, a project that started during John Fabrizi’s administration. Finch and Economic Development Director Don Eversley can point to a few singles, but nothing remotely close to the project now called Steelpointe Harbor, a redevelopment area that has started, stopped, started, staggered, started, sputtered for nearly 30 years. Robert Christoph, managing partner of Bridgeport Landing, oversees the project. And the loss of the $11 million now places the project back into a swirl when it appeared it could actually move in earnest, or at least move some dirt around in an election year to create the appearance of progress to transform the lower East Side.

They may still move some dirt around, but will it be real? Not apparently without the federal dough.



  1. I did not realize the developer was relying so heavily on Federal money. I guess my question is doesn’t he have his own financial backing to move this forward? If not then why did we give him the project? I think there is more to this agreement than we the taxpayers were led to believe.
    I for one had hoped this project was going to go forward but like everything else Bridgeport gets screwed. This project has been on the drawing board for years, why wasn’t there an attempt to get federal funding a lot earlier?

    1. This letter was written in 2009. This project goes back to late 2002 or early 2003 when it was originally awarded to Mr. Christoph. Five years earlier the winning bidder was Alex Conroy. TC–You ask why Federal Funds? Because this is a typical Bridgeport non-deal.

      “Pushing up Daisies”

      I read with interest the newest installment of Bridgeport’s non-epic economic development project, now spelled Steelpointe.

      “We had a site that looked like a junkyard. We have cleaned up the site. We’re here because we believe in Bridgeport.” Robert Christoph, principal of Bridgeport Landing Development LLC, Connecticut Post, September 1, 2009. C’mon Bob, you love Bridgeport because you love your sweetheart deal.

      I propose a new name for another one of Bridgeport’s Litany of Ain’ts.
      Steal Point!

      The above described developer has flipped flopped this project so many times to entities including Midtown Equities and the Rex Realty Group that it strongly resembles a real estate “Daisy Chain.” The city should re-bid the project, breaking it down into quadrants and selling the corresponding quadrant(s) to the highest bidder. Here we are trying to sell the old Black Rock Bank & Trust building for $750k and giving away the rights for 50 waterfront acres, that is now an option deal for $500k, for the same 4.4 million dollar figure from 1997. Whatever happened to that much-heralded 1 billion dollar deal much ballyhooed, by the editorial board of this paper, mayors and the Bridgeport Regional Business Council. And don’t forget that we gave the Pequonnock Yacht Club over 4 millions dollars to sail out of town. I strongly recommend that the Bridgeport City Council reject this latest land gain.

      The developer has made off with too many dollars on the backs of the city taxpayers.
      Mr. Christoph has put up a fence, cut the grass and planted some pretty flowers.

      Let’s call this project what it really is.
      A Pansy Scheme!

  2. “… On Saturday the GOP-controlled U.S. House said sayonara to the moolah slated for the city. Now what?”

    Connecticut being a State with no Republican Senators or Representatives in Congress, is in no position to beg for anything from Washington Republicans. Want a voice in Washington? Send a Republican Senator to Washington. I recommend Scott Frantz or Peter Schiff.

  3. Off the subject but just a bit. I read in today’s copy of the daily rag (CT Post) an article about the sale/lease of city hall, and lo and behold guess whose name pops up? John Stafstrom the city Bond Counsel. Guess who will make a bundle if this deal goes through? You got it, Finch’s #1 adviser, John Stafstrom.
    Before Finch and his band from Sherwood Forest get through there will be nothing left of Bridgeport. The city officials must be in a panic now that they can’t play with the $11 million from the federal government. There go the vacation trips, the new cars and all the other perks this money would have brought in. Shame! Shame! Shame!
    I for one am going to do everything I can to see that this bunch is on the unemployment line come September and November.


    Just a morning thought.

    I just read the article about firefighters here in Bridgeport and throughout the country die of heart disease at an alarmingly high rate compared to other municipal employees.

    As I understand it, firefighters eat most of their meals at the firehouse in order that they be instantly available when the alarm sounds.

    Much has been said about firehouse chili, meat loafs, pastas and the like. I wonder if the diet contributes when exacerbated by job stress.

  5. yahooy: I would guess to some degree it would have to be said that some of the meals, mainly dinner, may contribute to firefighter conditioning. On a typical schedule firefighters eat dinner at the firehouse 3 out of every 12 nights. I think the eating patterns in the firehouse mirror the eating habits of the individual at home.
    Age certainly is a major factor in these heart attacks. Bridgeport is starting firefighters in their 40s and 50s even when federal firefighters have a mandatory retirement age of 55.
    This city is overboard in their fear of lawsuits as they relate to the fire service. Federal law allows for a maximum age criterion for public safety jobs yet we continue to hire older candidates who would be well into their 70s if they ever reach the 25-year pension minimum.

    1. That’s not right. I cannot support a policy that would permit a fully vested firefighter to be engaged with a projected retirement date well into their 70s. Firefighters and police as well as members of our armed forces are expected to confront harm’s way without hesitation. They are our first responders expected to do the most good with aggressive force to minimize public harm. These are professions for the young and those willing to maintain fitness levels allowing maximum efficiency.

      This isn’t a matter of discrimination. It is a matter of common sense.

      1. yahooy: I have told both former mayor Fabrizi and present mayor Finch (when I was talking to him) that they need to change the entry-level age to a maximum of age 35. This fell on deaf ears. I told them to keep adding these older rookies to the pension system was going to badly hurt the funded pension system as these people will never finish their 25 years and in all likelihood go off on a disability pension. Like I said earlier, the Feds allow public safety to set a maximum age for entry-level people.

  6. The latest of the gifts given to Mr. Cristoph in the form of a new development agreement was done long before TIGER Grants were in existence.
    So no one can say he needed this money to get the project started or finished.
    The city of Bridgeport should simply give him the boot, send him and his bogus development company packing and get someone in who is serious about doing anything on that piece of property.
    Let’s end the practice of defending these deadbeat developers or feign fear of a potential lawsuit. The city has been told 100 times about how excellent the Legal Department is. They helped draw up the contract. Don’t back-peddle and say we cannot defend it in court or else clean house of the incompetent lawyers.
    These developers have no intention of doing anything on that property other than with some other entity’s money or waiting until someone else wants to buy parcels from them to develop. They are simply treating the property like a land bank.
    I have said this for the past 10 years, have spoken and voted against every contract that has been awarded to them.
    but until the voters in the city speak at the ballot box this nonsense will go on until they make the money they feel they are entitled to.

  7. It is quite obvious to me the city and its leaders cannot do anything right when it comes to this project. It’s time to get rid of this developer and his dog-and-pony show.
    Let’s hold off on doing anything for the next few months until we can replace this group of incompetents who are presently in office. This criticism also is for the former Fabrizi administration.
    In either case we will be replacing this group with a new mayor and hopefully more than a few council members. I hope and I know the new mayor will bring in new people and get rid of these unprofessional do-nothings. Hopefully the new mayor will bring in true professionals and not somebody’s brother, sister, aunt, son etc. just because they need a job.

  8. In my opinion Mary-Jane Foster would tell this guy and the fawning members of the CC to take a hike. Bob, I know you have fought this from day one. You warned more than one administration about this deal and now you have been proven right.
    It’s time to elect a business leader to run this city. We have in recent times had a lawyer, a school teacher and a person that cannot hold a job running this city.
    Combined we have gotten screwed on a golf course leasing deal.
    We lost a court case with the Ferry Boat Company and must pay their legal fees.
    We now have City Hall and the annex along with the sewer treatment plant all on the market.
    I think I have been fair and have picked one screwup from each of the last 3 mayors. If you put it all together and named all of the screwups these 3 have brought to the city there would not be enough room on this page to list them.

  9. It is interesting that this grant came up in the Fall. It was not in the equation before then. While I do think it is a bad situation to rescind the grant, I find it interesting that this now kills the project. Before the grant was an apple in anyone’s eye, was the project dead? That is not what Finch was saying. Now he has something to blame his failed strategy on. Leadership–not.


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