Park Board Vaporizes Solar Panels, Now What?

Monday night’s vote by the Parks Commission rejecting a plan for thousands of solar panels on the old municipal dump in Seaside Park designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is giving Mayor Bill Finch a lot of gas. This is a mayor who cares deeply about green energy. The vote jeopardizes approval of the city’s 20-year proposed arrangement with United Illuminating that’s estimated to pay roughly $7 million under the terms of the arrangement, including hundreds of thousands of dollars bean counters were expecting to plug into the budget year starting July 1.

City officials had debated internally whether placing the solar field on the old dump required Parks Commission approval. Is the closed landfill in the west end of Seaside Park still considered park land? Apparently so, otherwise it would not have been brought to the park purveyors for approval.

A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled to take place before the City Council tonight at 7 p.m. City Council President Tom McCarthy’s not inclined to bring the matter to a vote by the council that approves municipal contracts in view of the Park Commission action Monday night. The commission voted against any solar panels in city parks. A group of neighbors from Black Rock and the South End showed up at the Parks Commission meeting to urge a vote against the proposal including Black Rock Councilman Rick Torres who’s cited several levels of opposition including lack of information, park land as an appropriate location and aesthetics for his constituency across the harbor.

City officials supporting the agreement must now regroup to find a way to secure passage of the UI agreement. Can they bring it back before the Parks Commission? Or can the City Attorney’s Office provide some legal cover to bypass the Parks Commission?

The mayor appoints parks commissioners with approval by the City Council. Parks Commissioners, according to the city’s website: Mark Marko, James Brideau, James Giles, Banjed Labrador, Frank Mercaldi, Cruz Rosa and Ann Owens.

Last October Finch announced a city partnership with United Illuminating for the Green Energy Park renewable energy project, one of the initiatives proposed in the City’s BGreen 2020 sustainability plan to create jobs, save taxpayers money and fight climate change.



  1. The EPA supports brownfields to solar power:
    when it is in line with community vision/plans. The Parks Commission voted it is not in line with the vision of the Seaside Park Landfill site. UI said the city came to them proposing this site. City attorney Pacacha said the city was not aware the landfill was part of the park until UI completed the title search. For the life of me, I just cannot understand how getting ducks in a row is so difficult for this city. My hope is the city finds a viable site not on city parkland so the mayor can be successful in executing his BGreen vision for his legacy.

  2. First off, mayor green jeans can stick his green program where the sun don’t shine. You can rest assured city attorney Mark Anastasi will try to conjure up a ruling that takes the Park commission out of the picture. It would be incumbent upon the Park commission to consider hiring their own lawyer.
    This latest defeat of a Finch initiative just shows how dumb he and his advisers are. You never bring a project to a vote without knowing the results first. It is obvious no one from the administration talked to the Park board members before the vote.
    My suggestion is for UI to build this project in a Trumbull park. It seems their municipal leader likes the idea and has written a letter stating his support. Mr. Herbst, it’s all yours.

    1. Mustang: Frank Mercaldi is a retired building official for Bpt. He worked for the city for over 25 years. He was never a member of the BFD. Frank is a good guy.

      1. There definitely was a Frank Mercaldi on the BFD and he was a ranking member of his fire company. I know this because I dated his best friend for a couple of years. He used to ride his Harley Davidson Fat Boy over to my house in the summer.

        1. Sally, that may be, I have been retired for 20-plus years. I can tell you from 1969 thru 1992 there was no such person on the FD. He must have come on after I left. In either case the Frank Mercaldi on the Park Board is the one I described earlier.

      1. And there you have it. He would be about 57 now. Folks used to call him Frankie the “Wednesday.” Not entirely accurate because Wednesday is Mercoledi in Italian but it was close enough … 😉

  3. Finch, McCarthy and Anastasi will get this through, come hell or high water, you can bet on that. UI is a major contributor to the Finch campaign, and in this admin, those people get taken care of.

  4. Finch can bulldoze this through and bypass the Parks commission, but risks losing more credibility. If so, he risks being the bully who does not listen to constituents. This can hurt him more. I am guessing he may pause until re-election or find a clever PR way to get this through.

  5. At times the city charter comes in handy to have policy approved. Of course with more than a few city council members publicly stating they only like to support parts of the city charter, I hope this is one they ALL will support.

    Chapter 12. of Bridgeport City Charter
    Section 13. Sale or lease of park land.
    No parks or park land belonging to the city shall be sold or capital leased unless such sale or capital lease is recommended by the board of park commissioners and approved by a two-thirds vote of the entire membership of the city council, both bodies having conducted a public hearing prior to taking any action. Any such approval may be disapproved by the mayor, in the manner provided in Chapter Five of this charter.

  6. Mayor Finch, the first thing you should do after the failed attempt to pass the UI proposal through the Park board is fire all your advisers stating with Adam Wood and Andy Nunn. You can throw Mark Anastasi in there also. For years you have used intimidation, threats and outright firing to get your way. You have finally run into a board that said no. As guardians of the Parks the Park board voted the right way for Bridgeport.
    Number 1 rule in politics, do NOT put something up for a vote before you know the results. This time you got slapped in the face and your previous bullying did not work. I will say this one more time, READ the freaking Charter.

  7. If the State wants UI to come up with 10 Megawatts of alternative energy at two locations in its market area with the expense born by all its ratepayers …
    If UI wants to place 5 Megawatts in a Solar Facility in Bridgeport on land otherwise not able to sustain any other productive activity in exchange for some Federal tax credits available to the Corporation …
    If Mayor Finch wants to put an additional “GREEN” project on the City’s resume and in turn bring some new dollars into the City (NOTE: The funds for this project are not based on lease payments as much as they are on the value of personal business equipment like the solar panels and the fuel cells, which would not necessarily change with the choice of another site–so $7 Million, if that is what is committed to is still possible, but the timing is probably not for next year) …

    What’s the problem? Egg on your face because the SUN DEAL was not a slam-dunk DONE DEAL? That is a problem when you are counting your chickens before the eggs have hatched, isn’t it?

    Why doesn’t the Mayor try educating folks generally rather than when a deal is on the line. Educating Bridgeporters about industrial contamination, brownfields and methods of reusing former dump and dirty properties. (It would support a better understanding of what potential exists on the GE property, the Seaside Park dump site, and other troubled sites.)
    Perhaps he could move on to GREEN projects for a small City since we are often reminded of our 17 sq mile size. Is a fuel cell of any technological variety a better choice than a solar installation for a reason of more megawatt potential per acre? I don’t know but members of the Council who spend their stipends (our tax money) to go to conferences where these matters are discussed ought to be primed and ready to take these matters seriously and share current answers with the voting taxpaying public. No? Time will tell.

    1. Actually, UI only has to provide the energy, they are part of a multi-state buying bloc, so they can actually purchase the energy from other class I providers in the bloc … however, they will lose the ratepayers paying 100% to build the facility and the profits on the power they provide from facilities in state … oh yes, and the nice 30% Federal Grant for building the site–again–shareholder profits the ratepayers subsidize.

  8. *** Not being aware of the solar proposals or up on the inside info concerning the actual agreement, I personally was on the fence concerning this B-Green plan. However, I respect the Park Commissions decision against this administration proposal and assume there was either something in the language of the agreement, also just the fact it was to be located in the Park’s area turned them off! Back to the drawing board for Finch & Co. and time for some arm twisting as well because they’re not going to just roll over on a possible $7 million deal. Maybe the solar panels deal would be much more accepted along with the Plovers at Pleasure Beach by the Parks board, no? ***

  9. How about a wind farm? Those massive turbines you see miles away from the highway (mostly outside of CT). They are more aesthetically appealing than a solar farm. Place a few on Pleasure Beach, a few at the landfill site, we live on the water for God’s sake, let’s harness the power of the wind.

  10. Sue said on the record tonight if the vote had been called she would have voted no because of the Park Commission vote. We will all be watching how she votes once this is put forward for a vote. We all know this will happen only when McCarthy is sure he has the votes to pass this horrible contract. A great point made tonight, the city is 100% liable for any current or future issues with disturbance of the landfill. Since the city is self-insured, and if 10 years from now a worker becomes ill due to working on the landfill site, we are liable. It is frightening what this city will risk for a few pieces of silver.

    1. Sue also chastised the people who spoke in favor of this project. She stated where were you last night at the park board meeting? Brannelly has got you people in BR bamboozled. She will vote Yes if this ever comes to a vote. You guys made a mistake reelecting her.


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