Parks Commission Shoots Down Solar Field Proposed For Seaside Park

Finch solar park
From last October, Mayor Bill Finch announces the public-private partnership with United Illuminating that will bring solar power and a fuel cell farm to a long-ago closed city landfill site.

UPDATE: The City Parks Commission Monday night voted unanimously against the solar field at Seaside Park. City Council vote on this issue will not take place Tuesday night. Two dozen city residents, including City Councilman Rick Torres, attended Parks Commission meeting urging a no vote. City Councilwoman Sue Brannelly spoke in favor of project. Can city officials find a way to bypass Parks Commission vote?

Madeline Dennis Raleigh who moderates the Bridgeport In The Know website and Black Rock Bitches Facebook page has issued an appeal “to stop the United Illuminating solar project from being built at Seaside Park. We do not need to industrialize Seaside Park.” The City Council was scheduled to vote on the proposal that includes thousands of solar panels at its meeting Tuesday night, 7 p.m. A public hearing will also take place Tuesday. The votes were expected for passage, prior to rejection by the Parks Commission.

Last October Mayor Bill 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. The planned project consists of 2.86 MW of Solar Photo Voltaic and 2.8 MW of fuel cell energy, according to the mayor. The green energy project will generate tax revenue for the City, and cut down on UI’s dependence on fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions for citywide UI customers. The project is estimated to pay nearly $7 million in tax revenue under the terms of a 20-year agreement.

Black Rock councilman Rick Torres has voiced opposition to the proposal claiming the west end of Seaside Park is not a proper location. He has also expressed concerns about what thousands of solar panels will look like across the harbor from the vantage point of his Black Rock and West End constituency. Councilwoman Sue Brannelly has also voiced concerns about the visual impact. From Madeline Dennis Raleigh:

You can show up & speak at the public hearing Tues 2/18 at 7 pm at the start of the City Council meeting at City Hall Council Chambers. The project may be voted on for final approval that night. This may be the last chance to stop the project if enough people show up and speak out! You can contact your city council person before Tues night and tell them you oppose the UI solar facility at Seaside Park. For their contact info, go to

Yes, solar energy is a great thing, but do you want a UI facility taking up 50 acres of land set aside for a 365 acre park? The amazing coastal land was given to the people of Bridgeport by PT Barnum. Yes, there is a landfill there now, but there are ways to make an old landfill into a beautiful park. It can be a long, expensive process, but it’s been successfully done in many places across the country, currently at Fresh Kills Park in Staten Island. Details on that one here: Funding is available for a Bridgeport cleanup of the Seaside Park landfill. There are many other abandoned places in Bridgeport for such a facility. More info on the project here: and

We do not need to industrialize Seaside Park. We do not need UI building energy facilities in a precious park that is on the National Registry of Historic Places and that was designed by the famous Frederick Law Olmsted. Help save Seaside Park for future generations! This may be our last chance to stop this.

Full council agenda here.



  1. The proposed Solar Power Plant planned to be built on the landfill section of Seaside Park appears to be yet another example of this city administration deciding to circumvent public and city council members’ access to plans and full information regarding the process to select this site. On the heels of Driveway gate, the lack of transparency about this project raises some serious concern for the citizen of Bridgeport.
    The city has identified seven other sites not in a public park area suitable for this solar plant. The 2011 Parks Master plan does not seem to support the most recent decision to place the power plant in or near a park.
    The most recent Bridgeport parks master plan on the city web site:
    Stakeholder statement in the mater plans states–
    The survey also showed that users understand the value of the City’s unique, large park assets, voting that the top three parks for focused improvements are Seaside, Pleasure Beach, and Veteran’s Memorial Park. Building off the survey feedback, Parks Master Plan Public Forums were held in the summer (August 10, 2011) and again in the fall (October 12, 2011).

    There is no solar panel field in this presentation, but a city attorney has in the last few days announced there is another Park Master Plan, always providing for a solar field in Seaside Park. My question is, where has this plan been as the public presentations and city web site since 2011 have not had the Seaside solar plant on the public plans.

    At the public hearing, city officials named seven other sites available for the power plant. I understand the logic of choosing this site. If the power plant proves viable, it will produce income for the city, to offset the estimated $10,000 per year to monitor the air and water quality of the landfill. It was also noted the reports of what is released into the air and water is within acceptable emissions. It would appear the landfill is slowly healing itself. The first step in building the solar panel fields is to strip the landfill of every plant that is helping the landfill to heal. In this case, is the cure going to kill the patient? With projected revenue of $350,000 per year for 20 years, less $10,000 to monitor and a population of 146,000 citizens, that’s $2.32 per person per year. What has the city accomplished for us with the triple property tax increase in the last ten years we citizens have endured? Is the projected income really going to balance the books and be used to halt or even reduce our tax increases?

    I am in favor of renewable energy. I have driven a Prius for over 11 years because they emit the least toxins into the air we all breathe. UI confirmed the solar plant will not reduce the use of the coal plant by any measurable amount. One of the most important benefits would be the ability to either reduce the use of, or close the coal plant. This will not happen when the solar plant is in full operation. If the coal plant were to close, and there were no other site appropriate or available, I would gladly sacrifice and encourage every citizen of the city to support the landfill section of Seaside Park for this project. Neither is the case.

    I fully support the Mayor’s BGreen initiative. Our recycling program, while great in theory is poorly executed. Our garbage is picked up twice as often, in a can twice as large as the city-provided recycling can. How does this really promote recycling?

    Is the placement of the solar energy plant in our Public Park, rather than in our zoned industrial area another in a great in theory idea, poorly executed?

    1. Jennifer Buchanan appears to be blaming the current administration for circumventing public policy. She is incorrect. Black Rock has ample representation on the City Council and she should look there for help. Her desire to reduce coal usage–while admirable–is inconsequential to the Black Rock situation.

      1. Not sure what you mean by public policy. As to reducing use of the coal plant, at the public meeting reducing and closing the plant was cited by many as one of the most important benefits of the solar plant, which is not true. This is not a Black Rock issue, this is a citywide citizens’ issue.
        Many thanks to Rick Torres and Bob Halstead for forcing the public hearing and awareness–and Madeline Dennis for promoting this on her media outlets.

      2. Sue Brannelly spoke publicly in support of this project, then voted no in contract committee because information she asked for was not provided. So who is responsible for not providing information requested by city council members?

        1. While some City Council members request information, others acquire it through a process called situational awareness. It serves their constituents well, gives them original talking points, advances their learning curve and is faster than a FOI ultimatum.
          Letting others use your recipe is a great way to make friends and increases your chances of winning.

  2. The solar energy project seems to have been introduced to the City by UI on a mission to participate in providing 10 Megawatts of energy from sources alternative to oil, gas and coal. They reviewed sites that worked for them in their market territory, several of them in Bridgeport, as well as one in New Haven and the long-term process of moving from concept to reality is underway.

    From a financial viewpoint, the guts of the benefit for the City of Bridgeport is derived not from lease or rental of park acreage, but from the value of depreciating taxable business property in the form of fuel cell plant and solar panels. (The higher our mil rate rises, the more funds will be generated from such business property.)

    Using parkland for such purpose seems counterintuitive even if such park had been a dumping site for years before its closure. Assuming most of the settling process has taken place already and methane issues are slight, then there appear to be ways of reasonably remediating this land for light recreational use consistent with the rest of the park.

    It is worthwhile to understand UI is currently the second largest City taxpayer with over $210 Million of taxable assessed value. What will the transition from burned fuels to alternatives mean to the City of Bridgeport in terms of BGreen? Has the Mayor promoted a public discussion of what that transition means to the City? Isn’t such a discussion important today? No one is defending the coal plant due to health related issues. Does it have a timeline for closure? What will that mean to property taxes? The dynamics of the Seaside Park Solar installation appear to indicate a slightly higher monthly payment by each homeowner for the cost of development, no lower rate in the near term anyway for the megawatts added to the network, and an opportunity for UI to lower its income tax profile possibly.

    And for the moment the spotlight has been off the particular fuel cell technology that would be part of this project. However, with technology development happening so quickly, are we sure the investment of land and City support is for the highest and best technology available today? In light of all of these questions, what makes the Park property such a great choice? Time will tell.

  3. Finch’s fundamental mistake throughout this whole process has been a lack of transparency. Not even the city council was told how the site would look and they had to ask for renderings. Much of this could have been avoided. And Finch contradicts himself by proposing a Parks Master Plan and then not honoring what people have said in the master plan. So that is a good point, Jennifer. If he continues this he is going to embarrass himself and look bad in front of business partners and the like. He will have plans in line that seem ready to go and they will then be met with opposition by constituents only because the information is made available late. This is embarrassing, why make yourself look bad, you lose credibility this way. I am sure the UI people are thinking this.

  4. The landfill project and the sale of Harding High to Bridgeport Hospital are two projects Finch has tried to keep under wraps for a long period of time. Why? Where does the council stand on these items?
    I have one question. why are we only getting $350K a year? What is the earning potential of this project?
    A message to Bill Finch. Bill, you have screwed up everything you have touched, go slow on these projects, get public input and keep the council informed.

  5. *** What say the residents of the 131st district or their council members on this solar panel agenda? No one really knows since no one has had any type of info on the plan and its pros or cons. But then again, I don’t think the 131st council member’s phone nor mail has been overwhelmed with interest from their constituents on the subject, no? Besides, it’s part of the Mayor’s B-Green fantasy for Bpt so it will have enough votes to pass whether Black Rock likes it or not! I myself do not know enough info on the plan to be for or against it at this time, either. *** Sitting in the Dark ***

  6. For those interested in this topic, there is a must-read article on the front page of Friday’s New York Times business section with the headlines “A Huge Solar Plant Opens, Facing Doubts About Its Future.”
    Now mind you, this is a five-square-mile farm in the Mojave desert but there are several underlying stories about the project. A few points that were made:
    1) It took four years and thousands of workers. And although this is massive in comparison to Bridgeport’s, the subsidy to complete was also. It may sit for years without any work and, depending on how the contract is written, without any revenue stream.
    2) The price of rival technologies and other fuel producing technologies have plummeted.
    3) Rooftop solar systems are becoming more desirable and affordable.
    4) The technology here is a solar thermal plant that includes towers to hold water to create steam. The energy is much more predictable and programmable so as to stabilize voltage. These towers are 339 feet into the air. And again part of this is simply due to the massive size of this plant, that does not preclude a need or desire in the future for some type of similar structures.

    Other concerns might be why aren’t the profits going back into Seaside? At $350K a year, shouldn’t access be free? Should facilities be free? Shouldn’t excess funds go back into Seaside improvements rather than the general fund? Who owns the methane if it becomes profitable and/or marketable in the future?

    And to the members of the council, insist on a final contract for approval. You can approve a MOU to keep the project moving forward but without the final contract, you would be shocked at the changes that might creep into the deal between now and when a lease is signed.

  7. Bob,
    To your point three, many of the challenges to solar economics have to do with the transmission of the power once it has been generated in clean fashion. Therefore smaller projects (like home, school or commercial building) where the energy is used locally without significant transmission make good sense. Can we get to good sense on the project at Seaside Park? Time will tell.

  8. According to Exhibit D of the proposed ground lease between the City and UI, “For the avoidance of doubt Landlord shall not have the right to approve authorize and/or otherwise consent to any Fundamental Alteration and Tenant shall have no obligation to notify Landlord of any reconstruction relocation or expansion of a Generating Facility that requires a
    Permit or other action by a Governmental Authority.” In other words, UI could change the appearance of the solar project from what is now contemplated without any input or control by the City. Bridgeport doesn’t have to keep giving away the farm, does it?

  9. Sheepthrills, this is what we get when we elect people like Finch. People need to pay attention to what is going on. If they had paid attention, Finch would not have been reelected. One of the biggest failings Finch has is his choice of advisers, Nunn, Wood, Rosario, Stafstrom and a few others. They put him on the spot time after time and he ends up looking like he has terminal dumb ass.
    One more thing, five years ago I could have (and should have) sold my house for approx $290K. Today I will be lucky to get $150K and to round this out my taxes have gone up every year for the past five years.

    1. I would not include Rosario in that bunch, the others are cut from the same cloth. Rosario is simply an employee who does his job as his employer sees fit. When they cross him on this State Rep. thing he too will see how good their words are.

  10. This project is a done deal, the public hearing is just lip service, Finch has most of this council at his beck and call, there aren’t enough council members with the balls to go against what Finch wants, plain and simple.
    Just noticed the park board voted against it tonight, that won’t make a difference tomorrow night, this project will go through. Bridgeport is a mess with no relief in sight. Is it too much to see a damn rendering of this??? Why all the secrecy???

  11. Some Black Rockers like the concept of renewable energy but not if it’s in their backyard (NIMBY). Others think 1000 solar panels would make Black Rock look hip, with-it, progressive and modern in a way it doesn’t have today. The symmetry of those panels, their placement atop Barnum’s landfill, the contribution to the grid Black Rockers would be making, would give an overarching look to the area, worthy of many photos.
    History tells us Black Rock was once home to pirates and other well-mannered ship captains. Let’s steal the sun’s power and applaud mankind’s ability to do so. It would be beautiful.

  12. Well Loco Eyes, the Park commission voted no solar panels in any parks in Bridgeport, not the residents of Black Rock. Maybe UI will try one of your parks now, your selectman wrote a very nice letter of support for putting the solar plant in our parks, so I would assume he would embrace them in your parks also.

  13. The Park City Park Commission’s unanimous decision on solar panels delays the future and deprives Bridgeport of a tax-producing, media-inducing option that could raise property values, lift spirits and enable Bridgeport to take the next step towards a green future. It is unwise to dismiss progress and I hope it backfires as a political strategy.

    1. ACF, you know the score and always play to win. Accordingly, this time I’m gonna get a helmet with a chinstrap. This way when you drop me from my ankles it won’t hurt my head like last time.

  14. This will pass tonight, question is what life or death scenario will Finch/McCarthy use to get this through? They used the “blood on your hands” line for the airport debacle. Perhaps they can use the “the future of mankind is in your hands” to plow this through … haha, what a circus this town has become.

    1. According to the Charter, sources tell me, they cannot bring it forward tonight. It needs to pass the Parks Commission vote in order to bring forth to City Council. The first of the criteria has not been met (Parks), so the second (City Council) is moot right now.

  15. Raise property values, lift spirits. Who are you talking about? I would recommend a visit to any corner off East Main street and ask some of the locals their opinion regarding the solar panels. They will not have a clue what you are talking about.


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