Kayaks Piling Up On Black Rock Beach, Councilman Torres: Grab Your Kayaks, Angry Constituent Speaks Out

Kayaks, canoes on Seabright beach.

UPDATE from canoe owner: We have Only In Bridgeport moments, but then we have Only In Black Rock moments. Black Rock is a cool waterfront hamlet loaded with walkers, runners, bikers, bathers and kayakers. Kayaks and canoes piling up on the small spit of beach on Seabright Avenue is one of the many topics discussed inside City Councilman Enrique Torres’ Harborview Market. In fact, Torres says he has stored the kayaks at his market for folks to pick them up, and has even been accused of stealing them.

Canoes are such a hot topic there was even a for sale sign for one near Seabright.

“I’ve been begging people to pick up the kayaks from the beach but not store them there,” says Torres, a city councilor who represents the district. “I’ve been accused of stealing a canoe. I have my own canoe. Some lady saw a red canoe in my yard and thought it was hers.”


“People feel they have a right to leave them there because they left them there so long,” says Torres.

The kayaks also pile up on the beach, says Torres, because some neighborhood residents have no place to store them, and others leave them there when they move out of the area. Last year the city stored the unclaimed kayaks, but then some complained their kayaks were taken.

Torres says he prevailed upon the Park Department to return the stored kayaks, but now says they might have to store them again to unclutter the beach.

kayaks and canoes
Yet more piled-up kayaks and canoes.

In fact, Torres says he’s storing an aluminum canoe at the market.

“I would love for someone to pick it up. It’s a nice canoe. But I don’t want it.”

Canoe owner Bill Richard wades in:

I am the owner of the Bed race bed designed to look like a canoe that was perched upon our hedges after the race to be seen by all in the parade. If Torres wanted to do the right thing he could have followed whatever protocol the city uses to deal with abandoned property such as cars. Posting the fact he was going to sell the canoes on his Facebook pages does not constitute official public notification. My orange/red canoe was on the beach on Sunday May 18th and was gone by Wednesday May 21. During that three-day period Torres announced they were abandoned and he would be selling them. Coincidence that mine disappeared during this time? I doubt it. I was there last fall on a warm beautiful day when the Parks dept. was loading them into trucks.

I could not gather my kayak and canoe at that time as I was headed to an important medical appointment. I was told I could call the city to arrange a time to come pick them up. I called the city seven times over the next six months. The first time they took my name and said they would call me when they arranged a day for pick up. I was told the same thing six more times. Then they reappear on the beach at the end of April. Both of mine were returned.

I was lead to believe by my conversations with the parks dept they picked them up for the off season. I had no reason to believe there was any problem with them on the beach in season. I had an unpleasant conversation with Torres upon the disappearance of my canoe. First he suggested I should credit him with his effort to have the city bring them back. Then 5 seconds later he says they were there for a year and a half and were abandoned. I said they have not even been on the beach for a month. I asked how he differentiated between the canoes and kayaks he had collected and brought to his Harborview market parking lot he deemed abandoned for auction from the ones still on the beach. He said the ones on the beach are abandoned as well. I said okay then I will go get one from the beach which will replace mine that was missing. He said that would be stealing!

How would that be any different from what he did? According to Council woman Brannelly, Torres was told to stop selling property that did not belong to him. I have not read of any notification in the CT Post or on Torres’ Facebook page (the official way Bpt communicates with its citizens according to him for this issue anyhow) telling people he was wrong and if they were led to believe they were abandoned and acquired one from him or directly off the beach, they are in possession of stolen property and they should return it. My sister may be the person Torres says accused him of stealing ours and leaving it next to his house. That never happened. My sister and I drove by his house, saw a canoe that looked exactly like ours. I called the mayor’s office and told them this along with the rest of my story. I then spoke to people who vouched for the fact he has owned an orange fiberglass canoe for years. No accusation of stealing was ever made by my sister.

The statements I made concerning the canoe on the side of his house were clearly stated by saying “there is a canoe next to his house that looks like mine, perhaps he moved some of the canoes he was auctioning off to his house as his Harborview market parking lot was loaded with them.” I am still waiting to hear back from the city. I spoke to Brannelly for 20 minutes on Saturday 5/24. She told me Torres had no right to do this and there were two problems here. The city was supposed to afford me the opportunity to go collect my boats and Torres had no right to designate them as abandoned and sell them or spread the word they were abandoned which may have prompted some people to go to the beach and help themselves. Brannelly said she would get back to me. She has not. I called her again after Black Rock day and left a follow-up message. If you have any more information on this I would love to hear it.

Due to the circumstance surrounding the disappearance of my canoe I feel as if the city is responsible. If it had gone missing under ordinary circumstances I would chalk it up to bad luck, the risk I took to leave it there, but not with all that has happened.

Bill Richard



  1. This looks like a problem the CT Post could tackle, Andy. Tide in or tide out, wearing a protective flotation device or not, I would bet even a rookie reporter could make a good story out of this. No big-money issues, shots of the Sound might have CT Post readers from Greenwich to Milford thinking it was their neighborhood. Maybe get a kitten in the picture, too. (And an oft-vilified Republican City Council person performing public service regardless of the color of the kayak? Wow!!!) Time will tell.

      1. Black Rockin,
        Funny thing about that Yale degree you often mention, but the post above was ‘tongue in cheek’ if you hadn’t noticed, and was meant to agree in tone with Andy Fardy’s commentary on CT Post coverage of serious Bridgeport concerns and the real problems I try to cover about City finances, governance issues and Charter or Ordinance violations or irregularities. Where is your attention, commentary, willingness to contribute? Are you stuck in Black Rock or do you pay Bridgeport taxes like the rest of us? Time will tell.

  2. I propose the Common Council form a study committee that can then recommend construction of a storage locker for said kayaks and canoes. Give a no-bid contract to a preferred construction firm. Of course we will need a locker attendant, which job can be given to a relative of one of the committee members. Problem solved.

  3. Who cares? I always thought they looked nice there in the weeds, sorry, sea grasses … quaint. Problem with laws in a nanosecond. If it’s something only a few people are going to do with no real harm, leave it alone and in the process, leave us alone. No disrespect to councilman Torres, I thought it was just a new yacht club behind the market.

  4. From the CT Post:
    Charter school leader has criminal past
    Linda Conner Lambeck
    Updated 11:28 pm, Thursday, June 19, 2014
    www .ctpost.com/local/article/Charter-school-leader-has-criminal-past-5565800.php

    Great oversight by the State Dept of Ed (SDE) and Commissioner Pryor on this one! Oh wait, the Chief Development Officer (LinkedIn)/Chief Operating Officer (CT Post) of this charter company, FUSE, also is a member of the State Board of Education. Can’t make this stuff up! Only in Dan Malloy’s Connecticut.

      1. Clearly nothing.

        Readers sometimes post new material of arguably greater newsworthiness (I know, tough call here for you, BOE SPY) in the hope even on a summery Friday the content deciders of OIB might move on … we’ll see.

        1. One question. Would this guy be the only person working for the BOE with a criminal record? That would be the in-depth reporting we should see from the Post. I mean, we all know Fabs confessed to committing a felony while he was mayor and still became Director of Adult Ed and was hired by the BOE but he was never convicted or arrested. So does anybody who is currently working for the BOE have a criminal record? How many of those people were knowingly hired with a criminal record? The way this article sounds, the answer should be 0%. I know that is not true. If the BOE is going to fire this guy and his company, are they going to fire all the current employees who have a criminal record? Would you call that a double standard?

          1. BOE SPY,
            As usual, as per your undisclosed assignment on behalf of ConnCAN or ignorance or some related entity, you conflate unrelated things in an attempt to confuse and diminish.

            No one is addressing BOE-employed people who were found NOT to have disclosed felony convictions in their past or to have fabricated their educational/professional credentials. But feel free to do so … if you must.

            I was merely posting the news that broke last night and throughout today about Dr. Sharpe, CEO of Jumoke FUSE.

            Turns out “Dr” Sharpe is not an MD, PhD, EdD, or DivD, or the holder of any doctorate:
            Source: www .courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-michael-sharpe-degree-0621-20140620,0,5954399.story

            Also, he is not an employee of the Bridgeport BOE.

            From the cited Courant.com article posted tonight
            (copyright 2014 The Hartford Courant)

            By VANESSA DE LA TORRE, MATTHEW KAUFFMAN and JON LENDER, vdelatorre@courant.com
            The Hartford Courant
            8:21 p.m. EDT, June 20, 2014
            Sharpe, a Hartford resident, had been living in Oakland, Calif., when he pleaded guilty in 1989 to charges of embezzling more than $100,000 and conspiring to defraud the Bay Area Rapid Transit District, or BART, where he had been the agency’s real estate manager. He served 2 1/2 years of a five-year sentence, and later returned to prison in the early 1990s for a probation violation.

            A few years before that case, Sharpe pleaded guilty in 1985 to two counts of third-degree forgery. Sharpe was accused of falsifying documents used to get a $415,000 rehabilitation loan from the city of Hartford to redevelop an apartment building.

            Sharpe told The Courant earlier this week that his criminal record “was the worst-kept secret in America because I was constantly, when the circumstance presented itself, talking about it and I was not shy about it.” He said he has atoned for his past with the educational work at Jumoke Academy, which top state officials have praised for its test scores.

            A spokesman for New York University said Thursday that no one with Sharpe’s name or birth date received a degree from NYU in the six years after Sharpe graduated from Norwich University with a master’s degree in family counseling in 1997.

            Internet archives show that Sharpe, who became Jumoke Academy’s CEO in 2003, was listed as “Michael M. Sharpe, Ed.D.” on the charter school’s website as far back as February 2004.

            In January 2009, a brief biography on the site claimed that Sharpe had a Ph.D. from NYU.

            Family Urban Schools of Excellence, or FUSE, was created in 2012 as the management organization that oversees three Jumoke Academy charter schools in Hartford. Sharpe is now CEO of FUSE, which also manages Dunbar Elementary School in Bridgeport and Hartford’s Milner Elementary School, although city school officials are considering ending that partnership.

            FUSE also received state approval this year to run Booker T. Washington Academy, a new charter school in New Haven set to open in coming months.

            Since Jumoke Academy’s founding in 1997, the charter group has received $53 million in state grants, said Donnelly, the state education department spokeswoman. “Jumoke has been subject to annual independent audits,” she said, with no problems uncovered.

            FUSE also is expanding to Louisiana; a new charter school in East Baton Rouge is expected to open this summer. FUSE’s application to Louisiana officials described its CEO as “Dr. Sharpe.”

            Other published documents that refer to Sharpe with the erroneous credential include the memorandum of understanding between the Hartford school system and the charter group for Milner School; the state-approved turnaround plan for Milner; and FUSE’s winter newsletter from a few months ago.

            And he was referred to as “Dr. Sharpe” in a statement Wednesday from Donnelly, who said that Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor had been unaware of Sharpe’s criminal record until The Courant began asking questions early this week.

            There are no indications that state or city officials ever verified Sharpe’s credentials or ran a criminal background check.

            Sharpe said Friday that he does not always correct people who call him “Dr. Sharpe.”

            “I’m probably not as aggressive with individuals who keep saying it,” he said.

            Copyright © 2014, The Hartford Courant

          2. BOE–I see your point, this guy’s case was from 1985, but the charges were serious and I have no problem with him having to answer questions about it now. But people can be reformed and move beyond the past. Hell, I think one or two OIB contributors are in this category.

            Andy Fardy had a nice Op Ed piece here on OIB about the responsibility of the newspapers, in particular the CT Post and their duty to their readers.
            I think your issue (and mine) is the CT post writer who ran the story on Sharpe’s history has been covering the board for years and not once has reported the same for BOE member(sv)who also have some issues with the law in their past. That person is no longer on the Board, but they gave that member a pass. And no, they were not felonies, but they were very serious actions that called into question whether or not that person was suitable to represent the schools.

  5. According to my friend Councilman Rick Torres, “People feel they have a right to leave them (canoes & kayaks) there because they left them there so long,” says Torres.

    While these people may be in violation of some obscure city ordinance and hence do not have a “right” to leave their canoes & kayaks on or near the beach, the fact they’ve been doing it forever seems to indicate most Black Rockers–myself included–and the city do not see this as any big deal.

    I for one enjoy seeing them as I go by on my morning runs. Our City Council members have many serious matters to deal with but kayaks on a beach is not one of them.

  6. BOE SPY,
    Please, there are huge differences between an individual being given huge amounts of money and discretionary spending authority with a criminal past while apparently lying about their educational credentials AND some BOE employee having some sort of criminal past.
    But if you know of any BOE employees who lied about their educational credentials please name them now and I will stand with you and demand they be terminated.

    1. What about a school security guard with a possession with intent to distribute conviction? Talk about the fox guarding the henhouse. Which one would tend to pilfer a few buck before getting caught and which one would ruin a few lives?

        1. Not my job. They have the personnel records. They know.
          I saw a video once of an administrator assaulting two kindergarteners. The name is Carmen Perez Dickson. So start standing. If they did nothing about that what makes you think they want to do anything at all? To their own, anyway.
          The point is there are two sets of rules or standards, one for the BOE and one for the charters. Who is in the ‘right’ depends on what ‘side’ you are on. Personally, I think this Sharpe guy is not a good choice but your rant on ‘too cheap to do a background check’ is nonsense. The BOE does those checks and hires the people anyway. So what makes more sense, to skip the check and save the money or do the check and ignore the results? Didn’t the city get sued a few years back for hiring a firefighter who was a felon and subsequently firing him?

  7. Furthermore, let’s not forget the Bridgeport BOE Has nothing to do with charter schools. As a matter of fact according to the lawyers they do not even have a simple say as to whether we want charters or not. This is the state of Connecticut’s responsibility and it is their desire to provide the cheapest educational opportunities possible; especially in the state urban centers.
    Too cheap to do background checks.
    Too cheap to verify educational credentials.


Leave a Reply