Judge Radcliffe: No Housing Growth On Community Garden

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.



  1. Thank you for the comments, Jeff, et al. I look forward to the day expensive legal recourse is NOT the only means for our populace to find justice. (I also won a case against the City Blight Office in 2014.)

    As the Judge mentioned, there is a well-used popular children’s playground on this parcel. Not mentioned is this is in the worst flood plain, lowest point, probably in the City. On the other side of their mouth, the City is talking flood remediation (a $10 million HUD grant has already been approved) for the South End.

    Had this plan been allowed to move forward, it would have been the third South End community garden approved for elimination by the ZBA in concert with the Bridgeport Neighborhood Trust (BNT)/POCO partnership this year! BNT completely ripped out the garden at Columbia Court! Enough is enough!

    So yes Jeff, hopefully this is a new day under a new administration in terms of neighborhood planning and revitalization to benefit community interests and the Bridgeport taxpayer as a matter of course.

  2. Jeff Kohut, this is great news. Judge Radcliffe ruled the city cannot zone land for residential use if it is going to be used for people from Bridgeport commuting to Stamford? This is truly amazing!!!

  3. Bridgeport residents are lucky to have someone sitting as a judge here in the person of Judge Dale Radcliffe. In just two recent cases Bridgeport has received the benefit of his decision with the $400,000 driveway and now this case. Judge Radcliffe has put a spotlight on important issues from which we all benefit, thank you Judge.

  4. Judge Radcliffe’s decision–by virtue of its painstaking application of state statute to the facts of the case–will serve to deter the further misuse of Bridgeport land and infrastructure, and in this manner, discourage the financial, political, and environmental abuse of the people of Bridgeport. Thus, over-development of the city as a “housing hub,” and the contraindicated location of polluting and infrastructure degrading, low-tax-yield development will be discouraged in no small way by this decision.

    Following is a link to Judge Radcliffe’s razor-sharp decision. This decision is so clearly stated, it is capable of educating just about any layperson in regard to the basic rules of zoning-appeal decisions. It is truly brilliant in its simplicity, and I felt a link to it should be provided for those interested in the zoning-appeal decision-making process.

    This decision illuminates just how much the appeals process has been abused in Bridgeport for the gamut of land development purposes over the past several decades. See link–

  5. Jeff, Judge Radcliffe was also very impressive in how he presided over this case in court. I also am truly impressed by this decision. Thank you for your expertise in posting.

  6. A citizen cannot sit through many Zoning Board of Appeals meetings before it dawns on them through the dialogue of Board members, public parties looking for variances to standing rules, and counsel for the parties, including neighbors of the property on which such changes are being argued, that HARDSHIP IS A REQUIREMENT FOR THE GRANTING OF VARIANCES. And ECONOMIC PROBLEMS are not to be counted in finding HARDSHIP.
    What the associated developers neglected to state or prove was the major defect of their case. And it also appears to be a defect of the initial ZBA decision at the same time. Efficient and profitable use of dollars are part of most planning processes although the general public is not currently made aware of the dollar assumptions, the profit potential being sought, or the public costs or expenses specific to the desired changes as a matter of course. Too bad. Perhaps $$$ values can become more prominent in notices of agendas for some City meetings going forward. Time will tell.

  7. *** This is a win-win for the average city taxpayer and their neighborhood. However many of these community gardens are only as good as the folks tending them from late spring ’til fall. There are some gardens that produce wonderful amounts of produce and then there are those that start out with a bang in the beginning and are abandoned by mid summer as it gets hot only to produce weeds! Many times if it were not for the older generation tending these gardens, they would go by the wayside for sure. However the overall message this decision sends is a good one, no doubt. ***

  8. Mojo,
    Aren’t you talking about human nature? Lots of things start with a bang. It is less usual for that explosive momentum to continue or be sustained. Perhaps older generations had their hands in the soil as kids, or are more health conscious about fresh vegetables and aware of how produce is grown or protected from predators so as to avoid chemicals.
    Isn’t it true of parks as well? How many people are regularly using the relaxing green space on a regular basis? Time will tell.


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