Retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez responds to a Connecticut Post article–Bridgeport, Sacred Heart at odds over student population in North End–with suggestions to alleviate “the student invasion of North End neighborhoods in recent years.” She is an alumna of the university.
I graduated from Sacred Heart University (SHU) more years ago than I care to admit. At that time, the mission of SHU was to provide the benefits of a Catholic education to working-class families in the Greater Bridgeport Area, primarily as a commuter college.
Dr. Michael W. Higgens, in a report entitled “1963 … Year One of the SHU experience” provides some history of the founding of the University. According to the report, which can be found on the SHU website, Bishop Walter W. Curtis, the first chairman of the Board of Trustees of the University “saw the new college as very much a Diocese of Bridgeport entity.”
I received a good education which prepared me for law school and a career in the law.
I used to say, I was a “proud” Sacred Heart Alum.
However, having read Brian Lockhart’s October 11, 2019 article in the CT Post and having witnessed first-hand the student invasion of North End neighborhoods in recent years, and SHU’s indifferent response, I must say I am not as “proud” of my SHU pedigree as I once was.
The article is a testimony both to the frustration of beleaguered North End residents and taxpayers, and the arrogance of the University, which seems to have abandoned an original mission statement which was founded on principles of care and concern for Bridgeport families.
This arrogance and disdain for the people of Bridgeport sadly demonstrates that a “Catholic” university has learned little from the revelation that even Princes of the Church preferred clerical cover-ups to pastoring a flock in need of nurture.
But that is another story.
The CT Post article addressed the situation of student renters, whose presence has disturbed the quiet enjoyment of homeowners in Bridgeport’s North End.
Deb Noack, the SHU spokesman, revealed the university’s callous indifference to the plight of the North end residents in the article. Ms. Noack, heralded money spent by students in Bridgeport and smugly proclaimed that SHU students are “now part of the North End fabric and are here to stay.”
Meanwhile, City officials have failed to significantly address this situation, and instead have resorted to election-year rhetoric and posturing. This does nothing to explain the absence of meaningful action by the City of Bridgeport.
What is called for immediately is a concerted effort employing the resources and the authority of both the City of Bridgeport and Sacred Heart University.
What is NOT needed is political grandstanding, by politicians in search of votes, or the smug sanctimony of the SHU hierarchy.
Sacred Heart can take action to address this crisis. The university should not be permitted to play Pontius Pilate and wash its hands of a problem which its growth and expansion has created. It is simply inaccurate to say that the University is powerless to address this situation and here is why.
Sacred Heart should, if it does not do so already, require students, as a condition of student enrollment, to file a copy of any lease agreement with the University.
Furthermore, all students living in rental housing should be required as condition of enrollment to sign a document that they are in compliance with occupancy requirements contained in the Bridgeport Zoning Regulations. Access to this material should be made available to zoning officials of the City of Bridgeport.
The Bridgeport Planning and Zoning Commission can also be proactive, as suggested in the CT Post article.
The definition of “household” could be amended, however any change in the Zoning Regulations would be futile and cosmetic, without enforcement by the Zoning Enforcement Officer of the City of Bridgeport, Dennis Buckley and his staff.
In the article, long-serving City Council member Michelle Lyons was quoted as saying that there are “five, six, eight students in a house.” If true, this situation is a violation of Bridgeport’s existing zoning regulations. Instead of concentrating exclusively on the University, perhaps Council member Lyons should address her criticism to the Bridgeport Zoning Department and seek additional funding for enforcement of existing regulations.
Efforts to address the problem cannot stop with simply amending the Zoning Regulations; money and resources should be dedicated to enforcing our zoning laws.
We all know that laws, in the absence of enforcement, mean nothing. Passing a law, in and of itself, has never solved a problem.
Council member Lyons, along with Council member Pete Spain have sponsored a new ordinance outlawing the parking of vehicles on one’s own property. This ordinance is shamefully abusive to law-abiding residents and does nothing to seriously address the problem.
The City Council might also consider increasing the fines for zoning violations, in order to put pressure on the property owners as well as the students.
In order to accomplish any of these reforms, however, the City Council must ignore any advice given by our City Attorney’s Office, which is sure to say that anything substantive cannot be done.
Most importantly, residents must keep up the pressure after Election Day November 5, 2019.
A special thanks to the CT Post for highlighting this issue.
there are zoning laws on the books that should be enforced NOW – and that should have been enforced in the past. Joe Ganim was too busy traveling the state trying to become governor. Michelle Lyons and AmyMarie Vizzo-Paniccia are doing anything but what they’re supposed to be doing – representing the residents of the 134th City Council district. Meanwhile Sacred Heart University keeps silently taking over the North End. How many student deaths in overcrowded student rental properties will it take for Lyons and Vizzo-Paniccia to stand up to Ganim and INSIST that current zoning laws be enforced???
OMG!!!! One of the best comments that has been during this election cycle, “In order to accomplish any of these reforms, however, the City Council must ignore any advice given by our City Attorney’s Office, which is sure to say that anything substantive cannot be done.” This is where the real power in Bridgeport comes from, they give the legal cover for Mayor Ganim to do what ever he wants to do, the City Attorney’s Office TELLS the City Council what to do and that order comes directly from Mayor Ganim. When Joe Ganim ran for governor it was the City Attorney’s Office that ran the City’s business.
As it’s stated in the author’s comment above, “most importantly, residents must keep up the pressure after Election Day November 5, 2019.”
Do OIB readers see why Judge Lopez should be Mayor?
Real answers to real problems.
The City Attorney’s office would have ZERO influence over her because she knows the law better than all of them combined
Judge Lopez for Mayor!
Then why didn’t she???
Bob, I supported Judge Lopez for mayor before any other candidates said that they were going to run but my understanding was that she decided not to run. When there was talk about Marilyn Moore and Judge Lopez were thinking about running for mayor, I would support which either candidate and I thought it would have been a win win if they ran as a team and hopefully that they would sit down to see what was what but
It is interesting that there are local and state laws in all US states/counties/municipalities, covering all human-needs areas, regulating the creation and occupancy of planned communities/housing subdivisions/multi-family complexes that specify what the developers of such planned human habitat must have in place before occupancy is allowed (e.g., the number of parking spaces, square-footage per occupant, number of bedrooms, bathrooms, availability of utilities, heating and air conditioning, etc….). In this regard, wouldn’t it seem that learning “communities” (e.g., universities) that are actively working a plan to expand the student body of the community to include non-local students, would be legally required to first secure/create adequate living space/services — prior to accepting any number of “transplanted” students to their learning community campus and the larger, surrounding, “host” community(ies).
Indeed; shouldn’t any plans for recruiting non-local students to a “learning community,” such as SHU, be shared for “input” (for state-required, local approval) with the larger community, in which the learning community is situated, as a matter of routine — given the need/prerogatives of the larger community to create/enable appropriate habitation regulations/restrictions that would be logically applicable to the “planned”/proposed population (student body) growth of the learning community.
Enabling legislation, per state statute (if it doesn’t already exist), for this type of requirement(s) for learning communities that recruit non-locally would seem to be overdue for Connecticut such that communities, such as Bridgeport, might be better able to defend themselves against parasitic damage inflicted upon them by avaricious, unscrupulous institutions such as SHU. If SHU were forced to share their plans and submit them for host-town approval prior to actual student recruitment, the SHU assault on Bridgeport neighborhoods and the Bridgeport budget could have been avoided.
Truly, in light of the SHU-effect on Bridgeport, Connecticut should pass legislation that would be retroactively applicable, such that such institutions as SHU would have to reduce their student bodies to conform with to the ability and willingness of host communities to accommodate the residential needs/effects of the presence of the student body on the given community…
Therein, some work for the up-coming GA session and the returning Bridgeport, GA delegation (in conjunction with the new, Bridgeport City Council)…
If Jeff gets a vote for every word he writes he’ll win in a landslide. But that’s not the way it works, is it?
Lennie why don’t you read the CT Post and put something up on the failed downtown development or is it too anti-Ganim?
It’s not only the zoning laws that are being broken. There are established building and fire codes that regulate residential occupancies, who, and how many, is just the beginning. I suspect from the statements here, the codes are being subverted all over! These occupancies just need to be inspected by the City Departments!
Hey Nick, you are a expert on this issue so what steps have to be taken, who has to start the process, does the fire department have the manpower to perform this task and what are the penalties for failure to act?
Well thanks for calling me an expert Ron, but I forgot way too much to be an expert…I think! Maybe the problem is no complaints are going to the Fire Marshal’s Office on these occupancies, which are mostly single-family homes. If not, the Fire Code only handles multi-families (concerning residential occupancies) unless there is a complaint. The Fire code mandates the local Fire Marshal “SHALL” inspect 3 families and up, one and two families not so. Also, dorms and rooming houses, which these single-family homes might be if too many occupants are living there, or, more than 4 unrelated occupants, if I remember correctly. Bottom line is, if the FM isn’t aware that the single-family building is being used as something different, they don’t go. Maybe a current Fire Inspector can confirm. The building department also has similar codes to follow, not sure on their mandate to inspect certain occupancies!
Nick,thanks, what you wrote a huge majority of the residents in Bridgeport have no knowledge of what you stated and as you stated the Fire Marshall division more than likely have not been notify of this housing problem. When I was a Lieutenant and our crew were doing mobile inspection for smoke detector and we had to follow the fire code that you spoke about. One of the first clue of a issue how families and residents were living in a house was a large number of mailbox with different games. Another problem we would encounter was we were unable to inspect because no would answer the door. Although we were checking to see if the units had working smoke detector according to the fire code we ere able to find other problems and we would forward that information to the Fire Marshall Office. It so important that the Fire Marshall Office inspect these units for to many that I won’t list like the exits, are there two ways exit. You Nick you still got it.
It’s too much work!!!
Bohannon argue against tossing the election. Seems his argument is so what’s with a little mistake in address?
I said before and I’ll say it again. You have different rules and different depts reviewing the legitimacy of AB’s vs petition signatures. That’s a big problem.