Lopez, On Behalf Of Aggrieved Homeowner, Wins Reversal Of Historic District ‘Fraudulent Application’

Washington Park gated
Gated community reversed.

Following persistence and legal expertise by retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez, the Bridgeport Historic District Commission Thursday night reversed an after-the-fact violation that led to the dubious installation of a driveway with a gate and curb cut at a house facing Washington Park. A certificate of appropriateness should have been obtained because the property is located in a historic district. A lawyer for the City Attorney’s Office, subsequent to Lopez’s inquiry, describes the permit as a “fraudulent application.”

Lopez stepped up on behalf of former City Councilman Bob Halstead, an adjacent property owner, in the Pemboke Historic District on the East Side.

As Lopez noted in a recent OIB commentary, see here, city officials ignored the prerequisite certificate and issued the permit.

Lopez had brought this to the attention of the commission chair who declared it had no enforcement powers. Well it does, confirmed in a letter by a state agency that oversees historic districts in Connecticut.

Thursday night a lawyer for the City Attorney’s Office showed up with an opinion letter validating Lopez’s legal position. The work done there must be removed.

Parking meters, Water Pollution Control Authority collection practices, dubious land use decisions are issues that have caught the attention of Lopez who has faced off and faced down government decisions at the point of a legal bayonet. It raises questions about common folks vulnerable to dubious decisions by government bureaucracy. How often does this happen when they don’t have the legal expertise of a Lopez (who volunteers her time) at their disposal?

Lopez shares her take on the meeting:

And the beat goes on …

Thanks to Lennie Grimaldi, Only in Bridgeport, and Robert Halstead, the role of the Historic District Commission in Bridgeport City Government has been exposed and can now be reviewed and analyzed.

Finally, after dancing the bureaucratic merengue all summer, the Historic Commission took a position and voted on the violation of its rules.

There we were, concerned residents and the interested parties, braving thunder and lighting, flooding and winds, seeking relief from plain and unambiguous city error.

Four members of the Commission took their seats and cast the audience a serious look as the Chairman Stuart Sachs, proceeded to open the meeting.

All of a sudden, like an apparition in one of those old movies, a member of the City Attorney’s Office stood up and reported that he was asked by Chief City Attorney to attend the meeting to present the Commission with a City Attorney opinion, and copies of the application for the driveway permit and the Permit.

Attorney Michael Jankovsky, a recent hire in the City Attorney’s Office, was the designated hitter for the game of governing, known as Bridgeport municipal government.

He distributed a copy of an email he sent to Dennis Buckley and Paul Boucher on July 26, 2018, a few weeks after I submitted my Position Statement to the Historic District Commission. Attached to his email was his opinion letter, also dated July 26, 2018.

As soon as the Commissioners received their copy, they naturally took time to review the contents. A copy of the opinion is attached for the reader’s review.

Is it just me, or is there something out of order, to have a City Attorney opinion, such as it is, distributed to the staff of the Zoning Department and not distributed to the decision makers, the members of the Historic District Commission?

Well, it was just one of those only in Bridgeport moments!

No sooner had Attorney Jankowsky distributed his momentous opinion, than he disappeared from the meeting, just like an apparition.

Well, the opinion simply states what we all knew; the Zoning enforcing officer has authority to enforce the Historic District standards.

Did the opinion instruct Mr. Buckley to enforce this violation with action?

No, it did not!

Mr. Jankovsky recommended that Mr. Buckley serve an order to comply on the offenders. He didn’t advise him to take action, did not instruct him to take action, but instead, recommended that he take action.

Many times during the Commissioners’ deliberations, they expressed a need for legal advice and guidance. I am convinced that the commissioners were genuinely trying to rule according to the law and reach a just decision.

Many times they appeared confused about the law and what the limits of their authority actually were.

They struggled with the language needed to make a clear ruling.

It was clear that the Department of Public Facilities and all of its various divisions, had made a serious mistake and should be held accountable. Sadly, it was also clear, that the Chairman “did not want to go there” and cast blame on a City Department. Someone else can do that, but not the Historic District Commission.

The Commissioners should have been able to ask their legal counsel, but sadly, they cannot rely on the City of Bridgeport’s $5 million per year legal department.

The City Attorney’s Office is too busy telling City Council members what to do, how to vote and what is acceptable to their real client, the Mayor and his team of advisors.

This peek into an important land use board’s process only provides additional evidence for the taxpayers of this City to demand that the Office of the City Attorney be held accountable for its duties.

It is remarkable that the Commission actually voted to notify the owners that the illegal driveway must be removed due to the clear violation of the law.

Now, the question remains, will Dennis Buckley enforce this ruling?

Stay tuned …

Jankovsky July 26 opinion letter to Zoning Administrator Dennis Buckley:

I am in receipt of your Request for Legal Services, dated July 10, 2018. City Ordinance 2.98.050 provides that the Department of Land Use Construction Review (LUCR) shall be the enforcing agency for the Historic District Commission. City Charter Ch. 19, Sec. 1 defines LUCR as consisting of the “the planning and zoning authorities of the city, building department and any other agencies responsible for historic preservation and land use regulation activities.” As LUCR includes the zoning department, the zoning enforcement officer has authority to enforce Historic District standards.

Furthermore, General Statutes 7-147h provides that the Historic District Commission itself may institute an action in Superior Court. The Court can order violations to be corrected or removed, as well as, issue fines set forth in the statute.

In addition to the Historic District violations, it also appears that the owners filed a fraudulent application for a curb cut, claiming that they intended to replace a driveway, when none had previously existed. Finally, the new driveway may have resulted in other zoning violations, such as exceeding allowable lot coverage. I recommend that the zoning enforcement officer serve an order to comply regarding all issues.



  1. I was there last night. The Historic Commission conducted themselves quite professionally.

    They were receptive to Judge Lopez’suggestions and recommendations.

    Judge Lopez even assisted them with crafting the letter being sent to the home owner regarding the violations.

    Judge Lopez really takes issue with government disrespects the very individuals they are supposed to serve. She doesn’t like to see those in power abuse that power.

    Once again, Judge Carmen Lopez is who we need as our next Mayor. “Carmen Lopez for Mayor” needs to be the drumbeat of Bridgeport.

  2. I personally think it’s well-intentioned, however, premature to conjecture what Judge Lopez may or may not be interested in in the future. For 40 years I’ve called her friend; her core instincts have always been to challenge the bullies and support those who would be left without recourse. Had it not been for her generosity of heart, mind, and an impeccable character, we would still be living with long-standing situations endured by the residents of Bridgeport. She stepped up, used her God-given gifts, and changed issues from wrong to right. Perhaps it’s only a matter of time before the residents and the good-guy/gal politicians will realize that she’s irreplaceable, and will say a “Hail Mary” that the Judge remains involved.

  3. Once again Judge Carmen Lopez has used her time and talent for another win for the residents of Bridgeport. I agree with both Maria and Lisa, first I would love to see Judge Lopez I’m the race for mayor ONLY if that’s what she feels comfortable doing but no matter Judge Carmen Lopez MUST be at the table when that discussion starts in the very near future to lend her vision and ideas for the future of Bridgeport.

  4. *** The gate must be removed because the correct paperwork & money for the permit(if approved) was not payed to the city, etc. A historic neighborhood in which parking is limited due to the park across the street, many of the houses are in disrepair & owned by slumlords that don’t want any type of home repairs that changes the look of the old dilapidated do very little out-side of the homes. But the city’s laws are there to help the neighborhoods in question, no? ***WHAT SAY YOU?***

  5. Mojo, thirteen vacant properties were restored there in 2000 and have been kept up ever since. There are no “slumlords- only financial institutions who keep just a couple of vacant properties in foreclosure limbo

  6. This has been a terrible process that I never should have been forced to go through.
    Public Facilities did not do their job.
    Holloway and Ricci are old buddies and they each thrive on the political system as is with no regard for the public welfare

    Now neighbors have to be pit against neighbors because the City did not do their job
    Carmen was brilliant. Extremely thorough in bringing this one home. It’s unfortunate that it was necessary to begin with.

    1. ‘City attorneys are too busy telling council what to do… how to vote… etc….. on behalf of the “real client” ‘ etc. .
      A big THANK YOU to Her Honor Judge Lopez……..again!!!!
      I would just add that they are not the only ones who are told what to do at City Hall AND if issues were not exposed in the news or here on Lennie’s blog THEY would even try to get over on the judge as well. If the recent editorials on Defilippo and Willinger were printed earlier it may have helped some people understand the liquor issue better. As the Zoning commissioner admitted, in the end: they still don’t understand exactly what they voted on. Unfortunately most on that board voted as ‘they were told” and totally disregarded the many who came before them to oppose. Yes I know, this is my issue of interest and some are tired of it but the reason I keep bringing it up is because it is not over yet. More to come.

      1. And by the way- Defilippo is a good example of a common council elected official that would absolutely not be told how to vote on something. Correct no????!!!!!!

  7. Washington Park and the are around it has some of the most magnificent architecture than any other area of the city. The potential is amazing , yet the word gentrification is only acceptable to the very people that pay taxes. It is still amazing that in the past 50 years only a handful of people took advantage of these historical gems.

    In 1984, My attorney, then Mayor Tom Bucci , appointed me to the Historic Blackrock Commission. It was a lot of work- But We always did our due diligence. I hope one day that Washington Park will become as magnificen as it’s sister park – Wooster Square in New Haven- Just spectacular!

    1. *** ZZZZzzz… *** Walk through this historic neighborhood & park after dark; Due diligence my eye! And I agree with Halstead about Holloway & Ricci always half-stepping through there city jobs. However, just drive by any of the streets that surround Wash. Park & look at the houses there, then decide that other than seeing some old looking houses, weather you think that the owners who mostly rent out these houses instead of living there are taking out all the over-priced city permits & hiring state approved contractors to keep them looking as nice as they look today? An historic neighborhood where many of the houses are in disrepair located in a high crime drug infested area & god forbid that you put up a gate that’s not old victorian looking in style and have gone through the proper money procedures. I respect the way judge Lopez looks out for many citizens & property owners, business people, etc. in Bpt. but this win just doesn’t feel so right! ***WHAT SAY YOU?***

      1. Mojo, this City spark is closed at night as are all other City parks. There is a stable population of renters surrounding the park in rents made affordable by the Low Income Housing Tax CreditHistoric Tax Credit and other subsidies such as CDBG of $457,000. The park itself? New hoop courts, restored comfort station, restored Victorian Bandstand, new lamp posts, sidewalks, water park, rose garden and much new landscaping including many trees
        These improvements were driven by programs and people who cared about historic Victorian architecture
        The improvements and rejuvenation have caused uses of the park such as kids playing, dog walking, guitar playing, baby walking, jogging, religious revivals, jogging, walking, basketball games and cooling off sitting on the new benches
        Many improvements made by homeowners, investors, non profits – especially the Habitat row houses on William Street, the Vaz investment on William St, 305 Knowlton Artists , etc etc and newsidewalks and trees
        Mojo and Auerbach, don’t make me have to come over there again!

        1. *** The park entrance is locked & no bums or drug deals happen till sun-rise, I forgot. How did this blog go from disrepair victorian houses to what new basket hoops, splash park for the kids & new benches for the seniors in the park. CDBG is a joke, tax credits for owners that don’t live on the properties & a stable population of welfair or disable renters in 2 & 3 family homes turned into rooming house apts. Thanks for the up-date! ***

          1. But CDBG on this particular project won the National HUD Best Practices Award n Kansas City and 38 units of family housing created by a stable population who live there now and is managed by Alpha Community Services. I’m there all the time working and there are no drug deals happening at night and no massive ODs such as the New Haven Green!

  8. To exert enough force in the right direction to create the desired momentum in one of Bridgeport’s “inert” commissions is truly Historic! Congratulations to Carmen Lopez and Bob Halstead of causing one of those events in events in nature with almost “0” probability of happening! (Kind of like actually accomplishing “cold fusion!”)

    Now; if I were an attorney with Carmen’s acumen,
    chutzpah (the praise-worthy kind!), and undaunted, righteous spirit, I might think in terms of starting a for-profit or non-profit school for the training of voluntary/appointed and paid municipal personnel — boards and commission members, and non-public-safety enforcement officers — in the approach to understanding and performing their sworn duties… Clearly, there was a lack of awareness and understanding of function and duty at the commission and professional/enforcement levels in Bob Halstead’s situation (of course, there are deeper levels at play where the lack of knowledge and understanding were probably secondary in role, regarding the evolution of this situation…).

    In any event, Congratulations Carmen and Bob!

  9. *** If the Dems. had not held out for the rest of the hidden paperwork on kavanaugh the commission holding the meetings would of never known he’s been lying on a few past personal influenced decisions concerning an ex- fed. judge by the name of Charles Pickering who was a bad apple & forced to re-sign during the Bush-Admin. And theres more to come on a few more trip-wires that Kavanaugh has been lying about! Can this man be trusted to do the right thing & be neutral on important Supreme Court cases? ***WHAT SAY YOU?***

  10. On topic.

    I am pleased that Bob Halstead’s passion and Judge Lopez’s articulate approach to issues has appeared to address an issue.

    Their efforts have provided clarity. It clarifies that the Zoning department enforces Historic District guidelines and Public Facilities must be aware of those guidelines when issuing permits.

    Let’s hope that this clarification is not forgotten.

  11. So let me get this straight….Someone spent money to improve a house on the East Side, then a councilman who’s not even from that district decides he doesn’t like the improvement and gets an ex superior court judge to intimidate a bunch of volunteers.

    “It raises questions about common folks vulnerable to dubious decisions by government bureaucracy.” I really appreciate the work she has done, but this just stinks of over reach. No some poor schmuck has to take down a gate because Halstead doesn’t like it? Gimme a break.

    1. *** Mr. Halstead apparently owns property in that area that he rents & took exception with the gate not being victorian in style & a make shift driveway curb. And he must of investigated if any permits were gotten? Drive by that area sometime & see the beautiful historic district, no? ***

  12. Let me take you guys back to school
    Drive by and inspect this yourself- see if this is an “improvement
    Cars parked in front yards in historic districts are blight and trashy
    Take it to the people in City Hall who did not do their jobs
    Just because people are low income doesn’t mean they can’t live in a place that looks nice as it has since 2000


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