NEIGHBORS STICK IT (BACK) TO NAGI! 

On 12/2/14, Ms. Ahuja *APPEALS* Zoning Board's approval of Nagi's take-backs!
("MAPLE RIDGE" GOES BACK TO 17 CONDO'S & A 90-KID DAY-CARE...)
Email: info@stopnagi.com, or call 203-724-5629. Note: Please do not print this home page; it is now well over 200 pages long. Also, this site's hit counter has soared from 42,027 on 11/05/14 to around 45,500 by 12/20/14! (Thanks, Nagi...)

12/20/14 Update:
Every Which Way But Right

(Not the new turn-arrow sign--the City's way of doing things...)

A neighbor called yesterday to tell me about the City’s—or perhaps Nagi’s—latest bone-headed move in the official “Maple Ridge Off-Site Traffic Improvement Program.” (Speaking of: you might have noticed that the stop sign on Bradley at High Ridge was temporarily taken down a few days ago. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance photograph that potential debacle, since I was on my way to work. By the time I got home, someone had replaced it. Fortunately, most of the local residents knew better anyway, so no one sailed out onto High Ridge Road without stopping during the sign’s absence. Where are lawyers when you need them?)

Anyway, my neighbor said that a “turn-arrow sign,” with left- and right-turn arrows, had just been erected at the top of Bradley Place. However, no one bothered to stripe any LINES on the street to accompany this sign. So (according to my neighbor) some drivers were moving toward the left side of Bradley as they drove up the hill to the intersection. And a few cars turning left into Bradley from northbound High Ridge Road almost hit these cars that were approaching the intersection on the wrong side of the road!

Not wanting to miss another potential “lawyer-fest” in progress, I grabbed my camcorder and headed up to the intersection. Although I could have recorded from “Nagi’s” side of the street, I diplomatically chose to stay on the opposite side while hoping to catch a video of a bus or a truck turning from High Ridge into Bradley as a car drove toward it on the wrong side of the road. Here’s the introduction to my noble effort:


My recording session was quickly interrupted by Nagi and his son, Jeff, who came outside to convey warm greetings of holiday cheer to me. If you listen closely, you can hear Nagi saying something about having me arrested. And it’s a good thing you can’t hear everything that Jeff said. (They’re such wonderful neighbors...)

(BTW, Nagi must spend most of his day looking out the window for me....)

Now, I have to say that the fellow in the green jacket (I don’t know his name) seems to be the most level-headed employee at Nagi Jewelers. He has always been cordial to me, and he once stopped Jeff from doing, well, whatever Jeff was about to do to 60-year-old Joe Grosso back in 2011. (You can re-live the gory details in the video of Joe’s 11/10/14 speech to the Zoning Board—check out my 11/29/14 update, below.)

Then, a few minutes after Nagi’s level-headed employee coaxed Nagi and Jeff back into Nagi's jewelry store, Nagi’s right-hand man, Ted Sierpina, apparently called the police to report a “suspicious person” videotaping Nagi’s store with nefarious intent!

(As an aside, you might remember Ted from a few years ago, when he spoke as a resident in support of Nagi’s project at the 11/10/11 public hearing. Of course, Ted never bothered to tell the Zoning Board that he is also Nagi’s employee. But the public knew better, and someone actually shouted out “He works for Nagi!!!” after Ted’s speech. No it wasn’t me….)

Anyway, the police showed up just as I was about to capture a great video of a long line of traffic piling up on Bradley Place. As you can see, I immediately turned off my camcorder when the first squad car approached:

(As an aside, it’s probably not smart to point a video-camera or a cell phone at police officers during such an encounter. As the saying goes, just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” Check out Chris Rock’s comedy routine, How Not To Get Your _ss Kicked By The Police [warning: contains foul language], for more helpful pointers here.)

The two responding Stamford police officers politely asked me what I was doing, and I told them that I was capturing video footage of the rush-hour traffic problems at the intersection. Of course, I also gave them a rendition of my “Nagi Parking-Gate Massacree”—with full orchestration and five-part harmony and stuff like that—and I explained that the ONLY time I pointed the camcorder in Nagi’s direction was when I heard him shouting his “holiday greeting” to me from across the street. They later informed Nagi about the outcome of their investigation, and, after confirming that I was apparently not breaking any laws, they allowed me to continue recording. I finally packed it in after the sun began to set. (However, as “AH-nuld” said: “I’ll be back…”.)

OK, now that we’ve shared those neat videos, I'll show you (via photos) exactly why three 10-foot lanes on Bradley Place will NOT work without: (a) widening the road sufficiently; (b) installing a traffic light; or (c) both.

Here’s a drone’s-eye view of the current two-lane intersection of Bradley Place at High Ridge Road. I have marked a few points of interest:



Now let's compare High Ridge at Bradley with a drone’s-eye view (at the same zoom level) of the three-lane intersection of Cedar Heights Road at High Ridge Road, just up the street from Bradley:

As you can see, Cedar Heights Road is substantially wider than Bradley Place is at its intersection. (I’ll obtain actual measurements as soon as I can get a volunteer to watch my back against Nagi and his kid, “Mister Manners.”) Also, note that the stop line on Cedar Heights is located much further back from the intersection. And there’s a traffic light with a “No Turn on Red” sign there to prevent drivers in the left-turn lane from creeping past the stop line when the light is red. All of these safety features prevent cars on Cedar Heights from obstructing the path of large vehicles that may be turning right onto Cedar Heights from High Ridge.

Looking at these intersections from closer to street level, note that the “Ridge Plaza” shopping center on High Ridge at Bradley has a row of cars and SUV’s parked RIGHT UP TO the property line, along with sight-blocking “sandwich boards” ON the City right of way. (BTW, this is why there is a Zoning regulation prohibiting parking spaces closer than 10 feet from the property line. Anthony Masciarelli filed a complaint about this problem with the City, but the City—in its typical fashion—never addressed the complaint. And THAT is why Stamford’s taxpayers spend so much money defending lawsuits against the City: our officials just don’t get it….):




Now compare  the “line of sight” (how far a driver stopped on the side street can see traffic on High Ridge Road) for Bradley with that of Cedar Heights Road, shown below. As you can see, there are no parked cars or SUV's to obstruct the line of sight in front of the “Cedar Corners” shopping center on High Ridge at Cedar Heights:


Now, remember that—in spite of Nagi’s empty promises—there is STILL no traffic light on Bradley...and there will not be one in the near future, either. In contrast, both CVS and Trader Joe’s up the street had their traffic lights installed in only a matter of months. Why? Because CVS and Trader Joe’s PAID for those lights. (Nagi wants a light, but he doesn’t want to pay the entire $250,000 cost of installing one. He’s waiting for the state DOT, or possibly the Ahuja’s, to pick up the slack for him. So don’t hold your breath waiting....)

Despite these obvious problems, the City is moving full-speed ahead in its quest to turn High Ridge at Bradley into a virtual demolition derby. How do I know? Some of you sent me Mayor Martin’s assistant's canned response to your complaints about “Parking-Gate.” (BTW, thanks!) Here it is:

___________________________________________________

Dear xxx,

Thank you for your email to Mayor David Martin. The Mayor has read your email and asked that I look into the matter and respond.

Several neighbors in the Bradley Place neighborhood have contacted the Mayor regarding concerns about 1) the width of the turning lane; and 2) Mr. Osta's use of what may be city-owned property for parking. As to the turning lane, the City's traffic engineer has determined that a 10' width for the turning lane is adequate since this predominantly serves a residential neighborhood and is consistent with recommendations from the recently completed High Ridge/Long Ridge Corridor Improvement Study.

The purported use of city property by Mr. Osta for parking is a more complicated matter, and the Mayor has asked the Land Use Bureau to investigate and report back to him. Once the Land Use Bureau has finished researching this issue, this Office will notify you of the findings.

Thank you again for contacting Mayor David Martin, and please feel free to contact me again if you have additional questions.

Val

Valerie Pankosky
Executive Assistant to Mayor David R. Martin
203-977-5088

_____________________________________________________________________________

Let’s refute the Mayor’s statement about the safety of Bradley Place’s three future 10-foot lanes. As the “short-bus-turning” video, above, clearly shows, we already have a problem with larger vehicles turning right onto Bradley, even with two 16-foot-wide travel lanes there. (Remember that the City recently widened the road by a “generous” two feet.) So there is NO WAY that three 10-foot lanes will be safe for a full-sized school bus, or, worse, a tractor-trailer making that turn—despite Traffic Engineer Mani Poola’s claim to the contrary. (Come on, Mani…you STILL can’t even figure out how to synchronize our traffic lights!)

And Mayor Martin’s reference to the “purported use of City property by Mr. Osta for parking” gave me a chuckle—at least until I read his proposed solution. As you can see, he has asked the Land Use Bureau to “investigate” this “complicated matter” and report back to him.

But who RUNS the Land Use Bureau? Why, it is none other than “Nagi’s Human Rubber Stamp,” Norman Cole! (Mayor Martin, this is even worse than letting a fox guard a henhouse….) After all, Norman is the same City official who forwarded residents’ complaints about “Maple Ridge” directly to Nagi in 2011, the same official who disappeared for a week before the public hearing—and the same official who, for the past 4-1/2 years, has ignored a 2010 memo that he received about this issue from the Engineering Department! So I don’t get a warm and fuzzy feeling about the integrity of Norman’s “investigation” of Nagi’s apparent encroachment on the City right of way. (Do you?)

Now, I have to give Mayor Martin credit for everything he has done to make our City boards more accountable to the public. (His video recording of board meetings is a wonderful step in this direction.) So I’m hoping that his decision to allow Norman Cole—of all people—to “investigate” Nagi was simply misguided. I understand that the Mayor might not be up to speed on everything Nagi has attempted to do here during the past six years. (BTW, thanks to Anthony Masciarelli’s newspaper-clipping archive, we’ll soon be taking an interesting “Walk down Nagi Lane” in a future update.) But the Mayor must be made to understand that Norman Cole is the LAST person for this job.

(Also, Mr. Mayor, as for the “investigation” itself, please refer to my “Parking-Gate” update, below. I have already done most of the heavy lifting here for you….)

In the meantime, WE can continue to urge certain City officials to turn the City’s traffic-nightmare-in-progress into something safer for both our neighborhood AND for everyone using High Ridge Road by:

(1) filing a complaint via email to Zoning Enforcement Officer James Lunney III about Nagi’s parking lot’s apparent encroachment onto City property (see my previous update, below, for details),

and

(2) filing a complaint via email to Director of Operations Ernie Orgera about the City’s shoddy two-foot lane widening job on Bradley Place. (To put this in perspective, Nagi apparently glommed twice as much of the City’s right of way (four feet) for his parking lot as the City has used to widen the street! How insulting….)

You can also pass this website around to your friends, put it on Facebook, or do anything else you'd like to spread the word and have fun at Nagi's expense. (Yes, your hits do make a difference; Google "Nagi Jewelers" and see what pops up on the site list...)

And you can bet that I will be up at the intersection capturing video evidence of the collisions and near-collisions that are bound to happen after the City necks Bradley Place down to three 10-foot-wide lanes. The lawyers are going to have a ball with those videos. (And best of luck in court to Mani Poola in defending the City’s crock about Bradley Place being "safe" in this deplorable condition….)


12/13/14 Update:
"Parking-Gate!"

(Yes, another scandal in our fair City...)

Pop quiz:  What do Wayne Margarum, Robert Aillery, and Nagi have in common?

On May 31, 2012, Wayne Margarum (owner of Margarum Refuse, a trash-hauling firm) was arrested and charged with defrauding the City out of more than $300,000 in dumping fees by allegedly padding the empty weights of his garbage trucks during the City’s annual truck-weighing survey at the scale house. As of this writing, his case is pending in court.

On November 13, 2014, Robert Aillery (owner of Stright Sewage Disposal, self-explanatory) was arrested and charged with stealing more than $100,000 worth of city services by allegedly dumping seven million pounds of sewage from his business into the City's sewer system via an 8-inch pipe in his garage. As of this writing, his case is also pending in court. According to the Advocate article, the Stamford police worked “tirelessly and diligently” for 18 months (!!!) on this investigation.

In contrast, Nagi (general manager of Sedulous LLC, the entity that owns Nagi Jewelers) is a member of Stamford’s business elite, who—to the best of my knowledge, anyway—has never been arrested. So what could he possibly have in common with a trash collector and a septic-tank cleaner with pending criminal cases?

The answer is that Wayne, Robert, and Nagi each have (allegedly) used City property to benefit their private enterprises. The difference between Nagi and the others (beside the fact Nagi doesn’t get his hands dirty at work) is that Nagi has been able to continue to use City property without any repercussion whatsoever—despite a 5/21/10 memo from Deputy City Engineer / Transportation Director Edward Gentile to Norman Cole (who, at the time, had been the City’s Principal Planner) regarding Nagi’s previous “Maple Ridge” application. As you can see, Concern #1 here was:

“The property owner/applicant shall rectify any and all ‘encroachments’ to the City right of way along the south side of Bradley Place.”

Unfortunately, the Engineering Department's concern must have gotten “lost in the shuffle” during the past four-plus years. (Say it ain’t so, Normie!)

Also (as previously noted on this website), one local resident, architect Anthony Masciarelli, repeatedly filed this complaint with City officials both before (click here) and after (click here) the Zoning Board’s November 10th, 2014 public hearing. During the hearing—in an apparent response to Masciarelli’s complaint—Nagi’s attorney, John Leydon, presented the Zoning Board with a variance that seemed to allow Nagi to use City property for his north parking lot. (As you will see, Nagi appears to have paved nearly four feet of City right of way for part of seven diagonal parking spaces in his lot.)

Before we go on, though, we need to discuss the difference between a “variance” and an “encroachment.” (Hopefully Mr. Cole is reading this, too.)

Variances

Zoning regulations contain minimum “setbacks” that prevent a property owner from placing a land improvement closer than a set distance back (get it?) from his property line. If the owner wants to create, say, a parking lot closer than this distance, he must apply to the Zoning Board of Appeals for a “variance.” If the Board grants the variance, the owner could pave his lot as far as UP TO his property line—if the variance specifies this—instead of only to the minimum setback (commonly 10 feet away from the property line).

Encroachments

In contrast, let’s say the owner wishes to pave his parking lot PAST his property line onto his NEIGHBOR’S property. Here, NO variance can legally allow him to create such an “encroachment” onto another's property.

Still, such encroachments do occur, sometimes accidentally and sometimes intentionally. In fact, there is a legal doctrine called adverse possession that allows a person to lay claim to another’s property if he uses it openly and without interruption for 15 years (at least in Connecticut). However, if you read the end of the linked article, you will see that adverse possession CANNOT be used to claim property owned by a municipality, such as the City.

Now, if no one complains about an encroachment on City property, the City probably won’t do anything about it. But, if a complaint IS filed (such as Mr. Masciarelli’s complaints about Nagi’s guard rail on the City right of way), the City should correct it. Actually, in fairness to its taxpayers who play by the rules, the City must correct it…especially when failing to do so can expose the City to legal liability (as we will see shortly).

With these facts in mind, let's check out the north parking lot at Nagi Jewelers:

Here we see Nagi’s steel guard rail with Bradley Place to its north and Nagi Jewelers' diagonal parking spaces to its south. We see the curb at the edge of Bradley Place, a narrow strip of grass that is City property, and the paved lot. But isn’t all of this paved lot on Nagi’s property? Well…..

Fact #1: Although the paved roadway on Bradley Place is only 30 feet wide (go ahead and measure it…I did), the legal width of the street is 50 feet. The unpaved 20-foot portion of Bradley Place is divided equally (10 feet outward from each curb), and it’s called the “City right of way.” It is legally owned by the City of Stamford, which reserves it for improvements such as sidewalks (as on the north side of Bradley Place), or for widening the roadway (as on the south side).

In fact, the police can ticket your car for parking on the City right of way! As you can see, a person who parks his car within 10 feet of the paved road can be fined $60 for doing so. (No, I’m not suggesting that the cars in Nagi’s parking lot should be ticketed—I’m only pointing out that the City clearly asserts its ownership of this 10-foot strip.)

To confirm Bradley Place’s legal 50-foot width, check out Map 8755, created in 1968 by Rocco V. D’Andrea, Inc. for the "Merritt Realty Company." (Zoom in on the PDF to see the 50-foot width of the street.) If you have lived here long enough, you remember the Harry Bennett Real Estate building at 828 High Ridge Road, where Nagi Jewelers is today. Well, Harry Bennett was the principal of Merritt Realty, and, in fact, Nagi purchased 828 High Ridge Road from Mr. Bennett’s trust on 10/22/01. Now, check out Item #3 on this deed—it’s VERY important….

After some dedicated searching, I managed to locate the zoning certificate mentioned in Item #3. It was buried in a bound book of old variances, in the records vault below the Town Clerk’s office. Here it is:

Zoning Certificate from the City of Stamford, dated September 7, 1967 and recorded in Book 1114 at page 461 of the Stamford Land Records.

THIS is the variance that Nagi's attorney, John Leydon, smugly presented to the Zoning Board on November 10th as the Board members (except Barry Michelson) nodded in unison like bobble-head dolls. But none of them apparently had a chance to read the variance carefully before Chairman Tom Mills squirreled it away into the record. As you can see here, it specifically applies:

for variance of Sec. 12-A so as to waive the ten-foot street line parking requirement in order to permit the existing parking spaces to remain as constructed in 1963 for premises situated at the south-westerly corner of Bradley Place and High Ridge Road.

Former Stamford Zoning Enforcement Officer James Sotire (think “the Norman Cole of his day,” if you get my drift) granted this variance to Harry Bennett with the following provision:

“that a permanent metal barrier at least 12 inches high is installed along said property line [emphasis added] bounding Bradley Place.”

OK, so the “metal barrier” (i.e., Nagi’s guard rail) is installed “along said property line,” correct?

Well, technically, it is—but, then, so is the paved roadway on Bradley Place! (The pavement is also “along” the property line; it's simply 10 feet north of the line.) But, as you will see below, Nagi’s barrier is certainly not on “said property line”—it’s on City property. And this is precisely what Anthony Masciarelli has been complaining to the City about for years. Unfortunately, since Nagi is a politically connected member of Stamford’s elite—as opposed to a mere working stiff, like garbage-collector Margarum or septic-tank-cleaner Aillery—the City has ignored Mr. Masciarelli’s  complaints instead of checking into them or (Lord forbid!) taking the appropriate enforcement action in response.

Here’s more proof that the guard rail is in the City right of way instead of on the property line: Check out Map 14167 of “Maple Ridge,” created on 3/24/14 by Rocco V. D’Andrea, Inc. for Procurement LLC (which Nagi owns, and which owns “Maple Ridge”). For clarity, I have also scanned the relevant portion of a larger printout of this map below. It will be of great interest to you (and, eventually, to the City's Law Department):

I have highlighted the area within the City right of way, as well as Nagi's north property line. Note that Nagi’s 104-foot-long guard rail (shown as a solid line with small, evenly spaced circles representing its mounting posts) is situated between Nagi’s property line and the asphalt curb on Bradley Place—clearly within the City’s 10-foot right of way. Also note the small sign near the top of the map. That sign had been sitting across the property line over the City right of way from when it was installed years ago. (We'll talk more about it below.)

Need more proof? No problem: here’s a recent photo (taken on 11/23/14) of the surveyor’s pin marking the northwest corner of the Nagi Jewelers property lot:

Below is a photo of the sign (noted above) that advertises Nagi’s tenant. Again, examine the close-up of Map 14167 to see that this sign used to be oriented so that part of it was on the City right of way.



But Nagi recently (and wisely) had this sign moved to just behind his property line. As you can see below, the sign is now located where it—and, by extension, Nagi’s parking spaces—should be (repeat after me): "BEHIND Nagi's property line, which is 10 feet south of the curb on Bradley Place."

So the Million-Dollar Question is: Just how far is Nagi’s parking lot encroaching onto City property? Well, let’s simply take a tape measure and see. Here's the 10-foot mark of a tape measure centered directly on the asphalt curb on Bradley Place. (Remember, again, that the City right of way is 10 feet wide.):

And HERE is where the end (zero mark) of that tape landed on Nagi's parking lot:


As you can see, Nagi’s lot (including the guard rail) appears to encroach northward OVER FOUR FEET into the City’s right of way. And it has been this way since around 2002, when Nagi widened his north driveway while renovating his newly purchased property.

Actually, I remember the lot when Harry Bennett still owned it. (I moved here in 1988.) The driveway was narrower back then, and the grass strip was wider. In fact, I actually found a VHS home video that I had taken 23 years ago, on 12/11/91. Here’s a TV-screen capture from this video:


Look at the size of that Express Mail box on the grass, with all kinds of room to spare. (BTW, remember mailboxes on the street?) See out how wide that strip used to be? And this makes sense, since Harry Bennett had been allowed by Mr. Sotire’s variance to pave his parking lot up to—but not beyond—his north property line. (Only the guard rail, not the parking lot, was encroaching "along the property line" into the City right of way back then.) Now compare that photo to this one, taken on 11/23/14 (shortly before Bradley Place was widened by a whole two feet):

(The grass strip must have simply shrunken from age--right, Norm?)

For more evidence of Nagi’s “stealth” parking-lot widening, check out this photo. Here, you can actually see the crack running up the pavement where the north edge of the lot used to be when Harry Bennett owned it:

Finally (whew!), below is another view of the surveyor’s pin that marks the northwest corner of Nagi’s property. Line it up visually with the utility pole at the top of the lot (which, as shown in Map 14617, also sits on the property line). As you can see, both the pin and the pole are aligned with the edge of the City right of way, the southern portion of which was paved over for part of Nagi’s parking lot. (Also, note that the crack running along the pavement, shown earlier in a close-up view, lines up nearly perfectly with the imaginary line between the pin and the pole.)

So appears that Nagi—like (allegedly) Wayne Margarum and Robert Aillery—has been using City property for the sole benefit of his private business. (BTW, how many other business owners in Stamford could get away with this for so long? And how many will be outraged to learn that the City has been giving Nagi this kind of preferential treatment despite numerous complaints about it?) Never mind the lost property taxes for this part of the lot—without those diagonal spaces, many of Nagi’s customers would have had to park in his lower lot and walk up his driveway to the jewelry store…an inconvenience that likely would have sent some of them elsewhere.

Despite this fact (and in stark contrast to its “tireless and diligent” investigations of Mr. Margarum and Mr. Aillery), the City is bending over backward to save Nagi from having to relinquish the portion of his lot that belongs to the City! (Are you surprised? I’m not, either….)

And now—thanks to Nagi’s “Maple Ridge” development—the City needs to widen Bradley Place for a third traffic lane. (Remember that the right of way is reserved for such a need.) “Well, OK,” some might say, “Nagi DID widen Bradley Place…by two feet.” Yes, he did…and THAT is the BIG problem here. (Ready for some simple math?)

As I pointed out, the paved roadway on Bradley Place had been 30 feet wide, and it was divided into two traffic lanes (15 feet per lane). Now the roadway is 32 feet wide, but this new width has to be split into THREE lanes—or about 10.7 feet per lane. “Well,” some might say, “most vehicles aren’t 10 feet wide, so what’s the problem here?”

(Time for another map….)

Here is Map 10123, prepared on 4/14/78 for Ottaviano and Tehrani (who owned the “Ridge Plaza” shopping center on the northwest corner of High Ridge at Bradley, just north of Nagi Jewelers). You don’t have to be a surveyor to see that the turning angle between High Ridge and Bradley is less than 90 degrees at this corner—in other words, it’s acutely sharp. Also, the “turning radius” is pretty meager for cars making a right turn from a high-speed road like High Ridge (which is posted 40 MPH, but where many vehicles zoom along at 50 MPH or more…right?).

So, as anyone who has made that right turn from High Ridge onto Bradley can attest, it can be difficult for a larger vehicle—such as a school bus carrying children—when there are cars stopped at the top of Bradley. Now, imagine how difficult this turn will become when there are TWO lines of cars stopped side-by-side on Bradley, and when over FOUR FEET of the westbound travel lane is GONE! (Again, when the third lane is striped out, it will have shrunk from 15 feet to only 10.7 feet in width.)

After our street “widening,” when a school bus attempts to turn right from High Ridge onto Bradley, it will probably have to swing wide to the left, then STOP in the southbound travel lane of High Ridge and WAIT for two side-by-side lanes of eastbound traffic on Bradley to clear. But drivers of cars stopped on Bradley won’t even be able to SEE southbound traffic on High Ridge, since the stopped bus will be blocking their line of sight! So we’ll have a “Mexican standoff” involving: (1) a bus full of school children on High Ridge, (2) cars stopped on Bradley, and (3) high-speed traffic whizzing southbound on High Ridge past the stopped bus. (Can you say “crash?”)

Fortunately, there is a bright spot in all this. The mere idea that the City is willing to risk creating this kind of danger to the public for Nagi’s sole benefit might be the ONLY way to convince our City officials to do the right thing—the safe thing—for us.

It turns out that Mayor Martin has a keen aversion to liability, as recently revealed in his urgent push to shift all legal liability for people injured in “slip-and-fall” sidewalk accidents to private property owners, as per the Advocate’s 12/10/14 article, Stamford fast-tracks snow removal law after ruling. (BTW, note that, while our sidewalks must be shoveled by private property owners, they are still owned by the City. Why? Because they are in the City right of way! See how easy this stuff is when you get the hang of it?)

And, so…now that I have worked “tirelessly and diligently” to expose this City scandal and make High Ridge Road and our neighborhood safer for everyone…it’s your turn to do something: *PLEASE email the following City officials* and tell them about “Parking-Gate.” I have composed an email that you can copy, paste and click to send (see below), or feel free to compose your own. Simply click the names below for their email addresses: 

Mayor David Martin

Director of Legal Affairs Kathryn Emmett

Traffic Engineer Mani Poola

Land Use Bureau Chief Norman Cole

Zoning Enforcement Officer James Lunney III

Director of Operations Ernie Orgera

Let them know that, if you or your loved ones are injured in a crash because of the City's decision to put a businessman’s needs before the public's safety, you will sue the City for negligence. (And, with the evidence presented here, your attorney will probably win….) Here's a sample email:

Dear ______,

I am appalled that the City of Stamford has recently widened Bradley Place by only two feet for a third travel lane. This street had been 30 feet wide, giving each lane 15 feet of width. The modified three-lane design will shrink each lane to only 10.7 feet, which will impede large vehicles—such as school buses carrying our children—on High Ridge Road from safely making a right turn onto Bradley Place. (Please be advised that the turning angle between High Ridge Road and Bradley Place is less than 90 degrees from High Ridge Road southbound, and this corner’s width and turning radius are less than those of the three-lane intersection on Cedar Heights at High Ridge, as well.)

I am even more outraged to learn that the City has apparently chosen not to widen the top of Bradley Place adequately because a private business owner, Nagi Osta, is using part of the City’s 10-foot right of way there for the parking lot of his jewelry store! I also understand that, despite several complaints about this encroachment onto City property, the City has not yet corrected the problem. (Why not?)

In fact, it is Mr. Osta’s new development, “Maple Ridge,” that has made a third lane on Bradley Place necessary. He should never have been allowed to use public property to benefit his business in the first place, but now he MUST give back the City property that he paved and has used for his private enterprise since he moved here.

I am, therefore, placing the City of Stamford on notice that, if me or my loved ones are injured in a collision on High Ridge Road at Bradley Place because of the City’s decision to put a businessman’s wants before the safety needs of the public, I will file suit against the City accordingly.

Sincerely,

___________________

You can also contact Advocate City Editor Jonathan Lucas and News 12 Connecticut and let them know how the City treats some of its business owners more “equally” than others. The Connecticut State Attorney General's office might also be interested in our City officials who have implicitly granted a private business the exclusive use of public property, and who have done nothing to stop this activity despite repeated complaints about it.

Finally, if you happen to know Mr. Cole personally, ask him how he sleeps at night....




12/05/14 Update:
"It's Like Déjà Vu All Over Again!"

(with props to the late Yogi Berra)

Yesterday I heard a rumor that an appeal had been filed against the Zoning Board's November 17th approval of Nagi's Application 211-24A (for modification of the Zoning Board's 2011 certification of "Maple Ridge"). As you know, despite impassioned pleas from the neighbors who attended the November 10th public hearing, four out of five Board members allowed Nagi to take back the agreement he made with us three years ago. They gave Nagi 19 apartments instead of 17 condo's, plus three more parking spaces in his lot. (Incredibly, they
also increased the capacity of Nagi's day-care from 90 to 120 children, despite the fact that Nagi did not even ask for the increase in his application!)

The Board's legal notice of its decision was published in the Advocate on November 21, 2014. According to Connecticut General Statute 8-8(b), the Board's decision can be appealed only by an "abutting" property owner within 15 days of such notice. In this case, the 15-day deadline is Saturday, December 6th. So I figured that, if an appeal was filed, it would have been recorded at the Town Clerk's office by now. And, sure enough, it was! I haven't had time to go over it carefully yet, but I scanned and uploaded it for your reading pleasure. Here you go:


As you can see, Ms. Ahuja actually mentions Nagi's agreement with us (Paragraphs 5, 6, and 7). She also notes the fact that the Board voted to approve Nagi's changes
in spite of all of us speaking out against them (Paragraph 9). And I love Paragraph 12: "In approving the application, the Board acted illegally, unlawfully, arbitrarily, upon unlawful procedures, in excess of its authority, and in abuse of its discretion...". (Right on, Ms. Ahuja!)

As you may recall, Gurpreet Ahuja previously appealed the Zoning Board's approval of Maple Ridge three years ago, in 2011. This time around, though, I'm going to throw my support her way in every way that I can. After all, a lot of us also would have appealed if we were physically and financially in a position to do so. In fact, I'm even thinking about starting the "Ahuja Neighborhood Defense Fund" in her honor. (Care to contribute a few bucks to the cause?)


So what does this appeal mean to Nagi? For one thing, he has to stop working on the two additional dwelling units that he is apparently in the process of completing in his south building. (BTW, rumor has it that our Building Official, Bob "Demo" DeMarco, caught Nagi's contractors working on these units and threatened to issue a "stop-work order" immediately. If this is true, I owe Mr. DeMarco an apology. If he can provide proof of this rumor, I'll post it right here on this website. Heaven knows that I have posted enough negative info about him....)

More interestingly, rumor also has it that Norman Cole apparently advised Bob DeMarco that the extra units were a Zoning issue, not a Building-Department issue. If
this is true, then Mr. Cole is even worse than I thought. (Could that be possible?) In any case, the construction on the two units must now cease for the duration of the appeal.

Also--despite Nagi's humongous advertising banner that shouted out "MAPLE RIDGE APARTMENTS" all summer long--the dwellings will have to remain in condominium form of ownership while the appeal is pending.

Finally, the capacity of the day-care will have to stay at 90 (vs. 120) children during the appeal. (Sorry, Mr. Hoffman....) And some neighbors that Nagi has, uh, "disappointed" will be anonymously checking to see that this capacity is not exceeded.

P.S.--While I was at the Town Clerk's office today, I also spent hours poring over Nagi Jewelers' maps, deeds, etc. for my next update. (The Ahuja appeal obviously took top billing for tonight's update.) Anyway, when I returned home, I saw that "work" had already begun on widening Bradley Place for a third travel lane. Unfortunately--at least in the myopic eyes of our City officials--ONLY TWO EXTRA FEET of roadway is all that is needed for 
three entire lanes:



All I can say (at least for now) is, "You've GOT to be kidding, Nagi!"

(Stay tuned....)



11/29/14 Update:
"Let's Go to the Video-Tape!"

I received word a few days ago that the video of the Zoning Board’s November 10th public hearing (which was previously “lost-in-the-shuffle”) has finally been uploaded to the City’s Land Use – Media Archive website for our enjoyment and education! (Rumor has it that a certain City official was confronted regarding the video’s conspicuous absence, and that this official was encouraged to “find” it before our conspiracy theories got out of hand.)

Before I continue, though, I apologize for not telling you about the uploaded video sooner—I have some other “irons in Nagi’s fire” that are taking a lot of time and effort. (Hopefully at least he had a nice Thanksgiving….)

Anyway, after watching our part of the four-hour-long (!) meeting, I was once again impressed by the impassioned, educated pleas for reason that we made to the Zoning Board. Unfortunately, the Board takes the term “public hearing” (vs. “public listening”) literally. Despite hearing our first-hand accounts of Nagi’s broken promises, downright subterfuge, and even disorderly conduct on the part of his minions, the Board failed to listen to us. Instead, they voted to approve Nagi’s plan to gut nearly all of his compromises with us.

Specifically, on November 17, 2014, the Board allowed Nagi to: (1) turn his condos into apartments; (2) add two more units, for a total of 19; and (3) add three more parking spaces, for a total of 85. (Sheesh...) Somehow the Board even voted to increase Nagi’s day-care capacity from 90 to 120 kids, despite the fact that Nagi did NOT specifically request this change in his 211-24A Application for Modification! Fortunately for the residents of Indian Ridge, Nagi wisely withdrew his request—at least for now—to open his driveway to Bradley Place before a traffic light is installed on High Ridge Road. (If you want to learn more, see Elizabeth Kim's 11/22/14 Advocate article, Stamford neighbors angry at business expansion. You can even post your own comments there, so go ahead and vent your frustrations! I did....)

We’ll talk a lot more about Nagi’s application—and related issues that will make Nagi and some City officials squirm—in future updates. But, for now, in the words of sportscaster Warner Wolf, “Let’s go to the video-tape!”

The Zoning Board's meeting / public hearing is broken up into two separate videos, the first one before, and the second after, a 15-minute break in the meeting. And each video consists of two separate views: one of the public (on the left), and the other of the Board (on the right). If you spoke at the podium, you can hear yourself, but your image would be just off the bottom left corner of the left-side video. You can drag the little button on the gray video scroll bar to the time marks shown below to watch any segment that interests you. Have fun!

Video of 11/10/14 Public Hearing - Part 1

39:30 min. – Zoning Board Chairman Tom Mills begins the public hearing on Nagi's “Application Modification 211-24A.”

42:13 min. - John Leydon begins to address the Board.

1:28:52 min. - The public begins its speeches to the Board. (Note that, this time around, all of the speakers were opposed to, and none were in favor of, Nagi’s modifications.) I have indicated the time marks where each of us speaks, and I have copied the relevant text from the Zoning Board’s 11/10/14 minutes of our speeches (typos and all) below each of our names. As you listen, compare what you hear with what appeared in the minutes. (See what I meant about “whitewashed” minutes? I’m sure that Board Secretary Barry Michelson got a lot of pressure from his Chairman to keep the written record of our speeches, um, “non-controversial…”.)

1) Paul Longo (opposed):                        1:28:52 -1:33:13

Paul Longo, 76 Bradley Place, expressed concern about excessive density on this site and the fact this would be the first approval of an apartment complex on High Ridge Road. Agreements were made to reach a consensus on the number of units and the daycare size. He expressed concern that Mr. Osta is now seeking to break every agreement made with the neighborhood.

2) Michael McNamara (opposed):          1:33:18 -1:35:58

Mike McNamara, 21 Bradley Place, said he is a 30 year resident and requests that everyone live with the compromise agreed to in 2011. He also expressed concern about traffic and turning movements. He wants to keep approvals as they are.

3) Jewel Evans (opposed):                      1:36:22 – 1:38:20

Jewel Evans, 290 Sundance Road, expressed concern that the Applicant wants to make these apartments after he told neighbors they would be condos.

4) Eileen Towne (opposed):                    1:38:23 – 1:43:45

Eileen Towne, 74 Snow Crystal, opposes all of the current requests. This project is too big. The driveway access to Bradley Place is a big issue and there is already too much traffic.

5) Stephanie Schwartz (opposed):           1:43:45 – 1:46:24

Stephanie Schwartz, 120 Snow Crystal, expressed concern about traffic impacts of this development on existing neighbors. There is too much traffic now. She urged the board to decline the request to alter access.

6) Neil Caton (opposed):                         1:46:35 – 1:47:29

Neil Cator, 13 Turn of River, said the increased density will lower the value of property and he’s concerned about that impact.

7) Steven Arvan (opposed):                     1:47:34 – 1:51:55

Steven Arvan, 27 Bradley Place, said his number 1 concern is traffic. He’s been a resident for 15 years and the big problem is traffic. The commercial properties generate parking of employees, truck deliveries and parking on the street all day. The Ballet School across the street has shows now that generate more cars than they have parking spaces to accommodate.

8) Dana Origi (opposed):                        1:52:19 – 1:54:50

Dana/Dennis Origi, 22 Bradley Place, expressed concern of their property being devalued; construction, eliminating trees, excessive lighting and excessive business parking are all concerns to the neighborhood. Mr. Origi said he initially supported this development because Mr. Osta promised a tree lined buffer which was never installed. Now, he cannot support the proposed development.

9) Dennis Origi (opposed):                      1:54:55 – 1:59:09

Dana/Dennis Origi, 22 Bradley Place, expressed concern of their property being devalued; construction, eliminating trees, excessive lighting and excessive business parking are all concerns to the neighborhood. Mr. Origi said he initially supported this development because Mr. Osta promised a tree lined buffer which was never installed. Now, he cannot support the proposed development.

10) Samantha Donahue (opposed):         1:59:18 – 2:01:06

Samantha Donoghue, 302 Sundance, expressed concern that the Applicant has consistently disregarded agreements with the Zoning Board and the neighbors and said the traffic light is essential.

11) Flavia Lasalandra (opposed):           2:01:15 – 2:08:29

Flavia Lasalandra, 104 Rolling Wood Drive, said this development was always a concern to the neighborhood with traffic problems and high density. She asks the Board to fulfill its moral responsibility to maintain the neighborhood character for this area. There is too much development along High Ridge Road between the Merritt Parkway and Ridgeway. She’s concerned that the City doesn’t listen to the residents.

12) Peter DeMarkey (opposed):             2:08:40 – 2:11:04

Peter DeMarckey, 2 Wilder Road, agrees that with the other neighbors and he’s concerned that Mr. Osta is breaking all the agreements there were made. Traffic is a major problem. If the buildings are already built, he believes they already contain 9 units, though they have not been approved by the Zoning Board.

13) Anthony Masciarelli (opposed):        2:11:44 – 2:26:39

Anthony Mascarelli, 31 Bradley Place doesn’t support this. He expressed concern that there may have been variances granted and encroachments along Bradley Place since 1965. He has concern about commercial development on Bradley; the new landscaping blocks the siteline; sandwich signs are a problem. The Board needs to look at existing violations.

14) Philip Berns, Esq. (opposed):            2:27:00 – 2:28:29

Philip Beras, 217 Sun Dance Road, expressed concern that Mr. Osta agreed to Plan B and now, he is seeking modifications to that Plan.

15) Joseph Grosso (opposed):                 2:28:52 – 2:31:31

Joe Grasso, 10 Snow Crystal Lane, is concerned they must have already roughed in the additional residential units.

16) Darrell Helsing (opposed):                2:31:47 – 2:35:20

Darrell Helsing, 44 Lancaster Place, new resident to the neighborhood. Mr. D’Andrea said the circular flow of traffic would be beneficial but Mr. Helsing does not believe this will help the existing neighbors.

17) Ajay Ahuja, M.D. (opposed):            2:35:39 – 2:39:20

Ajay Ahuja, 821 High Ridge Road, did not receive a notice and is within 100 feet. He wanted to clarify that Attorney Leydon and Mr. D’Andrea were not correct; he indicated that the traffic signal must be approved by the traffic engineer; they cannot fault DOT. Mr. Ajuha made attempts during the public hearing to forward a traffic study related to the traffic light but had difficulty with internet access. The Board agreed to allow him to send it by the end of the day once he had internet access again.

2:39:51 min. - Part 1 ends with a 15-minute recess after the public hearing.

Video of 11/10/14 Public Hearing - Part 2

(Note that the time counter in Part 2 restarts at 00:00 minutes.)

This part contains a lot of great info. Here are just a few highlights:

04:17 min. – John Leydon begins to answer questions by Board.

15:00 min. – Nagi's surveyor, Leonard DeAndrea, talks about the lane width of Bradley Place. (BTW, his statements are only partially correct, as we will see in a future update.) He says that Nagi plans to widen the south half of Bradley Place by only TWO FEET for an entire third travel lane. (Nagi’s modified curb is already in place on the southwest corner of High Ridge and Bradley, if you care to check this out for yourself.)

*** Future Update Teaser ***  The total width of the City’s right-of-way on Bradley Place is 50 feet, with only 30 feet currently paved. So each lane is now 15 feet wide. Adding only two feet for a third lane will result in each lane shrinking to only 10.7 feet wide. Good luck—especially to trucks and school buses—making a right turn onto Bradley from High Ridge if this is allowed to happen! Fortunately (as Anthony Masciarelli has correctly noted), the north parking lot at Nagi Jewelers contains a 4-1/2 foot wide by 100-foot-long strip of—ahem—“borrowed” City right-of-way, which the City must now reclaim for three sufficiently wide lanes on Bradley Place. (Apparently our Zoning Board doesn’t understand the difference between a variance and an encroachment. More on this to come….)

18:50 min. - Ahhh.... HERE is where you can find John Leydon attempting to choke out an “answer without answering.” As you will see and hear, Board member David Stein poses a very specific question to Attorney Leydon:

“The neighbors—Mr. Longo and others—said that there’s been an agreement, that a compromise was reached, and part of that was closing off access to Bradley Place. Is that correct?”

John's semi-uttered response (as far as I can discern) goes something like this:

“The position of Procurement is that…we were…appealed, and that… we…were…caused to expend considerable expense fighting that appeal and carrying the property, and that we’re now making a request for you tonight.”

(OK, enough fun at John's expense--I have to get back to work on those other “irons.” Stay tuned....)



11/21/14 Update:
Stamford still "Rogue Town"

Click the link above to read Maureen Boylan and Randy Dinter's op-ed piece in yesterday's Advocate.

(And, after Monday's ridiculous Zoning Board meeting, I have to agree with them....)

If you haven't picked up Vito Colucci, Jr.'s book, Rogue Town, you owe it to yourself to put it on your reading list. Vito is a former Stamford police officer who became a cop back in 1969, when Stamford was one of the most corrupt cities in the country. Organized crime figures controlled our city officials like puppets on a string. As Advocate reporter Angela Carella (who is quoted on the back cover of Vito's book, and who wrote about it in The Advocate) aptly noted:

"Corruption so permeated life growing up in Stamford that I knew at the age of 14 that, if your bookie was having 'legal problems,' you still could play the numbers by going to the front desk at police headquarters and asking for Officer Hogan. That and Watergate, then unfolding, are the reasons I became a newspaper reporter." 

Stamford was finally cleaned up (OK, at least somewhat) after former Stamford Advocate reporter Anthony Dolan exposed its seedy underbelly to the public...and to state and federal officials. (Mr. Dolan went on to become President Reagan's chief speech writer, and he won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative journalism for his 75 articles on municipal corruption in Stamford. At that time, he had been an Advocate reporter for only four years....)

Now, Elizabeth Kim has been doing a wonderful job covering the zoning issues that plague the Mid-Ridges--and these are by no means limited to "Maple Ridge"--as well as similar problems caused by other "development pressure" in Stamford. But she is no Anthony Dolan, nor do I presume does she wish to become one. Mr. Dolan placed his life at risk by blowing the whistle on powerful City officials, not to mention the mob, and he paid a price for it. (Read Vito's book to find out more.)

If Elizabeth was a modern-day Dolan, she would be investigating why, for example, Tom Mills, the principal of a contracting business, is also the Chairman of our Zoning Board. Mr. Mills apparently sells windows and other items used in construction projects. From what I am told, he is, and has been, involved in several developments in Stamford. Do we know for sure that none of his company's products have ever been sold to those developers, either directly or indirectly? And what about the dubious actions of our Building Official, Robert DeMarco? Has any reporter bothered to ask the question that every child knows enough to ask: WHY did he do these apparently irrational things? (There are answers here waiting to be discovered, perhaps by some future Pulitzer Prize recipient at the Advocate. Well, at least we can hope....)

Unlike me and my neighbors, Maureen Boylan and Randy Dinter never "made a deal with their Devil." They and their grassroots organization, Save our Boatyard, have continued to fight the travesty that occurred at the other end of town, when Stamford's historic boatyard (formerly Yacht Haven West) that sits on BLT's property was demolished with Bob DeMarco's permission (surprise!), but against conditions imposed by the Zoning Board as well as various state regulations. Ms. Boylan and Mr. Dinter even mention Nagi's project in their op-ed article:

A growing concern among boaters, homeowners, taxpayers and commuters is the constant coddling of BLT by the Mayor's office and special treatment by some city hall departments, specifically corporate counsel. Other developers are eying this and seeing an advantage in simply moving ahead without taking the proper steps for approval. The Nagi development has raised the ire of neighbors. Nagi has broken agreements with the neighborhood and likely proceeded without the actions usually required. Even now the developer in the Woodland Cemetery property which is adjacent to the waterfront is going about his business without the necessary permits or approvals. Add to this the growing frustration of Stamford commuters in the face of Connecticut's bullying tactics over the railroad station and parking garage by the state and developers.

For Mayor Martin to stand by while BLT increases its net worth at the expense of Stamford's citizens and the aggravation of its volunteer boards, shows that Stamford is still a "Rogue Town." There is no question that a lot is at stake between taxpayers vs. developers. It is much more than the anger of the boatyard issue....

Boaters, taxpayers, homeowners, commuters, do not allow developers to become The Rule of Law in the City of Stamford, speak up and have your voices heard!

When I first read Rogue Town, I told my 71-year-old cousin, Ted, that I was glad that Stamford was no longer as corrupt as it was in the '60's. Ted--who grew up here but had the sense to leave this city years ago--replied, "NOTHING has changed in Stamford...it just moved underground." Perhaps he's right. But, as Anthony Dolan wrote in his preface to Rogue Town:

We never know -- we never really know -- what will come of a simple decision to do the right thing. So, even if at times our efforts seem hopeless -- and, of course, there is never a shortage of people willing to tell us that -- we try to do the right thing. We are Americans, after all; as Americans we believe the good guys win. Sometimes perhaps it takes awhile, but in the end the right and the true must prevail.

Amen, Mr. Dolan. Amen.




11/18/14 Update:
"When You Bargain with the Devil..."

"...Breaches of trust happen."

An old friend sent that nugget of wisdom in response to finding out about Nagi's plan to now take back everything he had promised to us in exchange for us stopping our neighborhood protests back in 2011. If you are reading this update, you probably read Elizabeth Kim’s web blog, Stamford Zoning Board approves changes to High Ridge project, in today’s online version of the Advocate. (If not, read it and weep.)

***UPDATE*** 
Elizabeth also published an article, Stamford neighbors angry at business expansion, on 11/19/14. If you are upset over the Zoning Board's actions--and the fact that Chairman Tom Mills is also a contractor and the principal of Architectural Industries LLC--please leave a comment after the article. You might also wish to email Mayor Martin and express your outrage over this legacy of the former Pavia administration. (BTW, why is Mr. Mills' residence address listed in the Secretary of State's records as 1127 High Ridge Rd. #171 instead of 22 Blackwood Lane? Enter "Architectural Industries LLC" in the "Search by Name" field to see this discrepancy for yourself.)

Anyway, I didn't bother attending the Zoning Board's meeting last night, since the public was not allowed to speak about Nagi's plan, anyway. But you can see and hear the meeting on this video. Advance the video to the 3:08:30 mark for the start of the Board's discussion of Nagi's plan at around 10:30 PM. (That's Nagi and Attorney John Leydon sitting in the folding chairs in front of the Board.)

At around the 3:43:20 mark, you will see that the Board votes 4-1 (against Board Member Barry Michelson, who was the only dissenting vote) to ignore our UNANIMOUS opposition that they apparently heard last week but did not listen to (AGAIN!). (Speaking of...that Zoning Board meeting (11/10/14) somehow never made it to the City's Land Use - Media Archive website. Yet the November 17th meeting showed up the very next day. (Actually, this meeting is posted twice. The video dated "Nov 17, 2014" is the meeting with no sound, while the one dated "Nov 18, 2014" is actually the November 17th meeting with sound. (Hey! I know what happened to the video of the November 10th public hearing.... It wasahem"lost in the shuffle." Right, Tom?)

At this point, the only record of the 11/10/14 public hearing is the whitewashed Board minutes. If you attended the hearing, you will see this for yourself. Where is Eileen Towne's account of what happened to her in front of her home? Where is Joe Grosso's account of what happened to him on High Ridge Road? (All of our emotions are also obviously missing from these brief synopses of our speeches.)

Anyway, after watching the video, it was pretty obvious that Barry Michelson was the only Board member who actually READ and UNDERSTOOD the court cases that Nagi used as excuses for breaking his agreement with us. If Mr. Michelson runs for public office, please give him your support. He has proven time and again that he works for "We, The People."

And, if you see Tom Mills, Rosanne McManus, Bill Morris, or David Stein around town, you might want to ask them.... (Never mind...this is a family-oriented website....)

Coming next: "Parking-Gate!" (You won't believe this one. Well, in "The City That Works," maybe you will....)




11/15/14 Update:
The "Kind" Robber

You might have seen Elizabeth Kim’s article, Stamford developer changes plans again amid protests, in Thursday’s Advocate. Nagi is now trying to convince us that he is “appeasing” his neighbors by keeping his Maple Ridge driveway closed to Bradley Place until a traffic light is installed (as per the Zoning Board’s existing conditions AND his concessions with us). But, in violation of those conditions and his concessions, Nagi still wants to change Maple Ridge” to:

19 APARTMENTS (vs. 17 condos)

A day-care for 120 (vs. 90) children

(Nagi also wants three more parking spaces, but, compared to the changes above, this is small potatoes.)

Nagi is like a robber who orders you to give him your wallet, cell phone, and clothes. After you give him your wallet and phone, you begin to remove your clothes. Suddenly he says, “Oh, forget it—you can keep your clothes,” and he runs away with your wallet and phone. Is he a “kind” robber? Of course not! He’s just not taking everything. Nice try, Nagi, but, as the saying goes, “Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice, shame on US.” And we’re not getting fooled again. Obviously, your word can no longer be trusted.

On a happier note, thank you to everyone who emailed, called, or stopped by for a friendly chat this past week. Some of you lamented that Nagi seems to get whatever he wants because he has our City officials—as one neighbor put it—totally wrapped around his finger. (Well, OK, those weren't the neighbor's exact words. But you get the idea.)

I certainly can’t argue against this point of view. In fact, a few possible candidates for this dubious distinction are:

(Former) Mayor Michael Pavia

(Remember that pitiful election endorsement? The strike-outs are Pavia-endorsed candidates who lost.)

Now, in a stunning coincidence, former Mayor Pavia—who was responsible for “demoting” resident-friendly Zoning Board chairperson Audrey Cosentini and replacing her with Tom Mills—has just announced that he is developing his own housing project at 965 Hope Street in Springdale. (After what I put Mike Pavia through a few years back, I’m surprised that he’s not sticking it up here on Bradley Place!)

Land Use Bureau Chief Norman F. Cole

When I first spoke with Mr. Cole in 2011, he warned me not to tell residents to contact Zoning Board members directly about Nagi’s project, but to have them email Mr. Cole instead. He assured me that he would forward the emails to the Board. Wanting to play by the rules in “The City That Works,” I—like an idiot—listened to him. He promptly forwarded every single resident’s complaint to Nagi, who later responded to their emails “en masse.” (Nagi didn’t even have the courtesy to “blind-carbon-copy” his response, so each resident saw every other resident’s email address in Nagi’s email.) One angry citizen put it so well that I even considered having T-shirts made with his quote:

Mr. Cole’s devious nature was later confirmed when—after still insisting that residents email him instead of the Zoning Board—he suddenly “went on vacation” during the critical week leading up to the 10/24/11 public hearing. Every resident who emailed him received this automated reply:

"I'll be out of the office Monday, October 17th through Monday, October 24th. You can contact Todd Dumais @tdumais@ci.stamford.ct.us if you require immediate assistance."


Building Official Robert DeMarco

I don’t even know where to begin. Let’s just sum up Mr. DeMarco’s more, um, colorfuldecisions:

The demolition of Madonna Badger’s home—a potential crime scene—less than 24 hours after the tragic fire that killed her three young girls and her parents. (The Badger childrens’ estate is suing the City AND Mr. DeMarco over this action, as well as others.)

The demolition of Stamford's historic boatyard in violation of a Zoning Board condition that it be maintained. (Why does the Board bother imposing "conditions" if developers can break them without repercussion?)

The demolition of Nagi’s Revolutionary War-era house in direct violation of Stamford City Ordinance 88-5. (The City and Mr. DeMarco could have been sued over this demolition, but no one bothered. Lucky for them.)

(You can read much more about Mr. DeMarco’s “demo-mania” in my 8/29/13 update and others, below—just search this site for his name.)

Zoning Board Chairman Thomas R. Mills

(who, as you can see, also happens to be a contractor. Hmmm….)

I’ll hold off on Mr. Mills until after the Zoning Board renders its decision on Nagi’s modified application. Although some residents have asked me to take him to task on this site after they sensed his unwavering support of Nagi’s modified plan on Monday, I want to be fair. At least for now.... (Wouldn't you just love to see something like THIS happen here?) 

So…what can we DO about this new surprise that Nagi pulled on us? Actually, quite a bit….

Picket Nagi Jewelers

Several neighbors already volunteered to picket on the sidewalk in front of Nagi’s store during the holiday shopping season. I still have lots of large signs with the classic red-and-black “Stop Nagi” logo. I’m mounting them on broomsticks to discourage, ahem, “some people” from thug-ing us up. And I’m having each one adorned on top with one of three different slogans in bold black letters:

NAGI LIED!

NAGI CHEATED!

DON’T TRUST NAGI!

We’ll have lots of fun chanting slogans, socializing, and driving Nagi crazy at the same time. As you know, peaceful protesting is perfectly legal—in fact, such  freedom of speech is a constitutional right under the First Amendment. And Nagi's store is a PERFECT location: over THIRTY THOUSAND people drive past it every day. Every potential customer who decides not to stop could cause Nagi to lose thousands of dollars in sales. Plus, imagine our photo printed above the fold on Page 1 of The Advocate!!! Imagine News 12 covering our protests on television!!! (Sorry, Nagi....)

Boycott Nagi’s banks

I’m also obtaining info on which bank(s) currently hold Nagi’s millions of dollars in construction loans. I intend to publish how much of the bank’s assets are invested in “Maple Ridge.” And I will let the bank know that Nagi, through his “modified application,” has just placed the bank’s assets at risk. (For exactly how and why, see “Sue Nagi,” below.)

If you have money in Nagi’s bank, you can take it out—and tell the bank your reason for doing so. The couple of tenths of a percent difference in interest isn’t a deal-breaker, anyway. And do you really want your money being loaned to Nagi?

Sue Nagi

This possibility has me shaking my head…at Nagi. After the years of grief he endured with Gurpreet Ahuja, you would think that the last thing he wants is his project to be held up in court—again. If he had just built “Maple Ridge” according to the Zoning Board’s certification, he would have been immune from any litigation. But now, if the Board approves Nagi’s modified application, that approval can be appealed by any property owner within a hundred feet of “Maple Ridge.” And Ms. Ahuja is not the only abutting neighbor who is unhappy with Nagi. (A few days ago, one of Nagi’s other abutting neighbors ranted on for an hour about ALL of the stunts Nagi has pulled. I might share them in a future update.)

And the Ahuja family now has a real incentive to sue Nagi! From the looks of things, Nagi will be allowed to contribute little or nothing toward a traffic light, and they will be stuck paying the entire $250,000-$300,000 cost themselves if they develop their property! If they sue Nagi (again), saving that kind of money can make up for a lot of legal fees. And Nagi has committed the very same errorslack of abutter notification and revising his modified application after submitting itthat he did three years ago. (Didn't you learn anything back then, Nagi?)

To see exactly why the Ahuja's might appeal if the Zoning Board approves Nagi's modified application, let’s analyze Nagi’s comment from Thursday's Advocate article:

“I remain committed to the pledge of the remaining $100,000 toward installing the traffic light on Bradley Place, and if there are other developments to happen on High Ridge in the future, I believe those developers should contribute money toward the light just like we intend to, and make this corner a safe one for everyone.”

The only “other development to happen on High Ridge in the future” that would require a light to make “this corner” (High Ridge at Bradley) “a safe one for everyone” would be an Ahuja-based development. So Nagi is talking in thinly-veiled code: “I’m putting in a hundred thou’ toward a light, but the Ahuja’s have to put in the rest.”

As it turns out, even Nagi’s statement about pledging $100,000 toward a light is simply false. You might be surprised to learn that Nagi is not required to contribute even one penny toward a traffic light! According to the Zoning Board’s Condition #15 in its certification of Maple Ridge, the $100,000 is for “off-site traffic improvements,” with the remainder (IF ANY) to be spent on a light. (Read Condition #15, then re-read Nagi’s quote, above.)

FYI, here are the “off-site traffic improvements” that Nagi has to make. Think about how much they will cost:

  • Widening (!) and re-striping Bradley Place for a third travel lane (Condition #6). (To make such a lane sufficiently wide, Nagi may have to eliminate his parking spaces on the north side of Nagi Jewelers. We’ll talk more about this issue in my next update….)
  • Posting “no parking” signs on both sides of Bradley Place within 200 feet of High Ridge Rd. (Condition #13)
  • Posting “don’t block the box” signs on High Ridge Rd. at Tally Ho Lane [a.k.a. “Thug Alley”…right, Jeff?], Donata Lane, and Bradley Place. (Condition #13) (BTW, who's going to pay for striping the "box" on High Ridge Road?)
  • Last but not least, Nagi has to obtain a street-opening permit--and hire one or more Stamford police officers (at $70/hour each) for every minute that it takes to perform nearly ALL of the “off-site traffic improvements” listed above (see Condition #19).

Now, I have let Nagi slide on the "hire-a-cop" requirement quite a few times in the past, since I didn’t want to appear to be opposing “Maple Ridge” after our compromise. But, if his modifications are approved, I WILL call the Stamford Police Department each and every time I see ANY traffic-obstructing activity without an officer present at “Maple Ridge.” Heck, just the cost of hiring all of those cops will eat up a good chunk of that $100,000! (Right, guys?)

So Nagi has made a poker bet with a small upside—two more dwelling units, thirty more kids, three more parking spaces, and a driveway opening—and a horrific downside:  the possibility of foreclosure, bankruptcy, and financial ruin (as well as a tarnished reputation). He can do the right thing—withdraw his modified application and be a hero (OK, at least sort of one)—or he can break his promise to the neighborhood and possibly face more financial trouble than he has ever seen before. Will greed and arrogance prevail, or will conscience and good sense save Nagi at the last minute? Stay tuned….


11/12/14 Update:
Neighborhood cries fowl over development

(Click the title link above to read Advocate writer Elizabeth Kim's latest article about our problems with Nagi.)

As usual, Elizabeth has written a fine, well-balanced piece that covers both sides of this whole crazy story. It's late, but I wanted to get her article posted here tonight. I'll have more to say (surprise!) about it shortly.

In the meantime, I do get that Nagi may, in fact, have been granted--through whatever means--the legal right to break his promises to our neighborhood. But, as the old saying goes, "Just because you can doesn't mean you should." It is, after all, the holiday shopping season, and several neighbors are now planning to picket Nagi's jewelery store with big signs like:


NAGI LIED!

NAGI CHEATED!

DON'T TRUST NAGI!

(Happy holidays, Nagi....)

P.S. -- In case you're wondering, the license plate on that gray sedan in the Advocate photo was Connecticut 122-XKV. And the driver "verbally accosted" me right in front of the photographer, who witnessed the whole thing in shocked disbelief. (No, I'm not going to repeat what he said...this is a family-oriented website.)

For the record, the Advocate initially asked me to pose for photos on the sidewalk directly in front of Nagi's store (as I had done three years ago). But my neighbor had just told me that she was verbally abused by two men--coincidentally in the same gray sedan--THEN by a young woman in a red Jeep (Connecticut plate 8AH-LB7...the neighbor took photos) that morning. (If you were at the public hearing on Monday, you heard about these incidents.) So I told the photographer that posing in front of Nagi's store would NOT be wise, and he took the photos on Tally Ho Lane (across High Ridge Road) instead. Also, out of respect for the day-care tenant--a respected member of the community who doesn't need this kind of publicity--I asked the photographer to block the advertising banner in front of "Maple Ridge," so he did that, too.

My discretion apparently didn't matter to the young man in the sedan, who drove over and "verbally accosted" us while Nagi stood in front of his jewelry store watching. (Nagi quickly ducked back inside when I pointed him out to the photographer.) 

P.P.S. -- You wouldn't happen to know that young man and young woman, would you, Nagi?




11/11/14 Update:
"The City That Works"
(but for whom?)

First, THANK YOU to everyone who wrote to the City and/or attended last night’s public hearing on Nagi’s plan to break his promises with “his” neighbors…although I use this term loosely. (Nagi has now proven that he’s not OUR neighbor...if he ever was.) And, if you missed the hearing, you also missed lurid accounts of chicanery, deceit, and even thuggery. (And you thought that public hearings were boring….)

Although I didn’t take a head count, I would guess that around 75 residents showed up, and 20 of us spoke. NOT ONE member of the public supported Nagi’s plan—actually, everyone was vehemently against it. In fact, three residents who had supported Nagi in 2011—Dana and Dennis Origi (see Page 5), and Steve Arvan—spoke out against him last night. They live at “Ground Zero” on Bradley Place near “Maple Ridge,” and here is what Dana Origi told the Board:

Our once quiet, peaceful backyard is now housing Nagi's buildings.  Along with the homes, all the tall privacy trees have been cleared away.  The last year has been awful for us.  The noise, banging, beeping trucks, the constant violation of the city's noise ordinance laws, the dust, the use of Bradley Place for construction parking, the sound of High Ridge Road (which we barely heard before), and the light pollution are just some of the hardships we have dealt with and have to continue to deal with.  Crews have worked 12 hour days almost 7 days a week for the past year.  The upper floors of the apt. buildings just don't look into our bedroom, they look right into our bed.  It is awful!!

(How is that for “Nagi-Neighborliness?”)

Anyway, the public hearing started at 7:45 PM and lasted almost three hours, so a lot of issues were covered there. I can’t go over most of them now, but here's the gist of Nagi’s claim:

As you may recall, Nagi had applied to the Zoning Board in 2010 for a previous version of “Maple Ridge.” It would have contained nine apartments and a day-care for 120 children. The Board shot Nagi’s application down, so he filed a lawsuit against the Zoning Board in 2011.

While Nagi’s lawsuit was pending, he filed a NEW application (see Page 4) for 22 apartments and a day-care for 120 children in 2011. It was this “Maple Ridge” application that I happened to read about in The Advocate, prompting me to attend my first-ever public hearing. It was this application that caused the “Stop-Nagi” movement. It was this application that the Zoning Board later approved (with 27 conditions) in 2011 after Nagi reluctantly struck a compromise with “his” neighbors (NOT!). The Zoning Board even included the terms of our compromise in its conditions. In short, they were:

1) Nagi conceded to build 17 condominiums instead of 22 apartments.

2) Nagi conceded that his roadway connecting Maplewood Place to Bradley Place would not be opened to Bradley Place until a traffic light was installed on High Ridge Road.

3) In turn, the neighbors conceded (reluctantly) to go along with Nagi's day-care for 120 children.

Several days after the Zoning Board approved “Maple Ridge,” Nagi’s neighbor, Gurpreet Ahuja, filed her OWN lawsuit against Nagi (and against the Zoning Board for approving Nagi’s revised application). This lawsuit, like Nagi’s, slowly wound its way through the courts for nearly two years.

Ultimately, Nagi prevailed in his lawsuit against the Zoning Board AND in Ms. Ahuja’s lawsuit against him. So it would now appear that the court has given Nagi the right to build either one of these two "Maple Ridge" developments:

Nine apartments

Day-care for 120 children

(under Nagi’s rejected/appealed application)

- OR -

17 condominiums

Day-care for 90 children

(under Nagi’s approved/appealed application)

We would have reluctantly accepted either one of these developments that the court has apparently granted Nagi. But NOW Nagi wants to “cherry-pick” his favorite items from BOTH applications. Specifically, he wants:

19 APARTMENTS

Day-care for *120* children

(Nagi also wants to open his driveway to Bradley Place without first getting a traffic light on High Ridge Road, although this broken promise has nothing to do with the court decisions noted above.)

If Nagi had built his first application, we probably could have lived with nine apartments and a day-care for 120 children. (I suppose that Nagi can always demolish his newly constructed second building that holds the additional 10 dwellings—after all, he has proven to be quite adept at quick-and-dirty demolitions.)

If Nagi had built his second application, we were (again, reluctantly) ready to live with 17 condos and a day-care for 90 children. But now he’s no longer happy with this choice, either. He wants to have his cake and eat it, too.

Unfortunately, Zoning Board Chairman Tom Mills appears to be actively shepherding Nagi’s plan through, despite the opposition by the neighbors and probing questions from other members of the Board. (A couple of my neighbors even asked me, “Who is that guy?”referring to Mr. Millsduring the hearing. Well, they didn’t actually use the word “guy…”.)

There is so much more to write about, but I want to get this update published tonight. Before I go, however, I’d like to answer a question that Board member David Stein directly asked Nagi’s attorney, John Leydon. Mr. Stein asked John if he had, in fact, struck an agreement with the neighbors. John’s visibly nervous response started with something like, “It is our contention that Procurement, LLC has expended a significant sum of money on this application….” But he never answered the question. Not at all.

Mr. Stein, if YOU are reading these words, here is your answer (please click on the links in blue below):

1) Advocate reporter Elizabeth Kim wrote about Nagi’s concessions with us in this article on November 7, 2011.

2) Connecticut News 12 aired a broadcast of Attorney Leydon formally publicizing our concessions in this video segment from Nagi’s meeting with us at the Harry Bennett Library on November 7, 2011.

(By all rights, this represents an oral contract between Procurement, LLC and our neighborhood. We rest our case....)


11/07/14 Update:
Back to the Trenches

Here we go again. Nobody likes to be fooled, especially by a jeweler-turned-developer seeking to look a gift horse from the Zoning Board (and his neighbors) in the mouth. Apparently Nagi no longer wishes to comply with the concessions that he made with his neighbors so that we would stop protesting his "Maple Ridge" development back in 2011. These concessions (contained in the 27 conditions imposed by the Zoning Board in its certification of "Maple Ridge" on December 16, 2011) are:

Condition #2:   Dwelling units are to be limited to 17 condominiums (vs. 22 apartments).
Condition #3:   Day-care capacity will be limited to 90 children (vs. 120).
Condition #6:   Bradley Place will be widened and a left-turning lane installed at Nagi's expense.
Condition #8:   A landscaping buffer will block all traffic flow between "Maple Ridge" and Bradley Place.
Condition #10: The landscaping buffer can only be removed if a traffic light is installed on High Ridge at Bradley.
Condition #15: Nagi will contribute $100,000 toward the cost of traffic-flow improvements, including the light.

I contacted several homeowners whose properties lie within 100 feet of "Maple Ridge." None of these "abutting" neighbors received written notice of Nagi's "Application 211-24A Modification - Procurement, LLC," as required by Stamford's Zoning Regulations. (Nagi is supposed to present a USPS "certificate of mailing" for these notices to the Zoning Board at the start of the hearing on Monday. But not all of the notices can get "lost in the shuffle," as Chief Building Inspector Bob DeMarco claimed happened to the letters of protest filed to delay Nagi's demolitions. There are too many abutting neighbors who will cry foul if this happens again.)


*** WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW ***

Further down today's update, I have posted a list of city officials and news outlets to contact about Nagi’s latest, ahem, "surprise." If you don’t want to compose your own email or letter, simply copy and paste the text below. (Feel free to change anything you wish, of course.)

Dear ________,

I am opposed to Nagi Osta’s (Procurement, LLC’s) request to the Zoning Board to remove several conditions that the Board imposed when they approved his “Maple Ridge” development in 2011. (Please refer to “Zoning Board Application 211-24A Modification – Procurement, LLC” on file in the Land Use Bureau for details).

First, Mr. Osta now wants 19 apartment units instead of the 17 condominium units that the Zoning Board granted him. This would make his “Maple Ridge” development the first city-approved apartment complex anywhere on High Ridge Road—and it certainly would not be the last. I do not wish to see High Ridge Road become another Washington Boulevard, and this ill-advised precedent would allow more and ever-larger apartment complexes to be built here in the future.

Next, Mr. Osta is now asking the Board to allow vehicle traffic on his new roadway connecting Bradley Place and Maplewood Place, but he no longer wishes to pay $100,000 toward the cost of a traffic light on High Ridge Road (another condition imposed by the Zoning Board). If this is allowed to happen, residents of the “Indian Ridge” cul-de-sac neighborhood off Bradley Place will be severely restricted from accessing High Ridge Road during the morning and evening rush hours. Lack of a traffic control here will inevitably result in dangerous crashes when impatient drivers attempt to turn left across heavy traffic on High Ridge Road during rush hour.

Mr. Osta is also asking for three more parking spaces, possibly so that he can apply to increase the capacity of his future day-care facility from 90 to 120 children. The Zoning Board imposed its 90-child limit to prevent additional traffic congestion and accompanying hazards from 30 more vehicles entering and leaving the day-care facility during rush hour each day. (The neighborhood will already have to deal with the traffic nightmare of well over a hundred cars operated by the day-care's staff, its customers, and the residents/visitors of the 17 dwelling units at Maple Ridge.)

The Zoning Board is holding a public hearing on Mr. Osta’s requests on Monday November 10th. Please keep Mr. Osta from lowering our neighborhood’s quality of life even more than he already has.

Thank you for your consideration,

______________________

Please send your letter / email to (or call):

Stamford Mayor David Martin:
Phone: 203-977-4150
Email: http://www.stamfordct.gov/users/dmartin/contact

Stamford Land Use Bureau Chief Norman Cole:
Phone: 203-977-4714
Email: http://www.stamfordct.gov/users/ncole/contact

(Unfortunately, Mr. Cole is a highly paid city employee who has proven time and again that he knows who he works for—and it is not us (at least not directly). So don’t expect miracles from him. But feel free to politely give him a piece of your mind. After all, he is partly responsible—along with Thomas Mills (see below)—for approving “Maple Ridge” in 2011 despite vehement opposition from local residents.)

Here are the members of the Zoning Board:

Thomas R. Mills    Chairman (see below for more info)
William Morris                                         Member (D)
David Stein                                              Member (D)
Barry S. Michelson                                  Member (R)
Rosanne McManus                                  Member (R)
Joanna Gwozdziowski                              Alternate (D)

If you know any of them personally, drop them a line. Be polite, but let them know how you feel. (How about “duped,” among other things?)

Your City Representatives
If you are in the 16th voting district, they are:
Steven Kolenberg  and  Matthew Quinones
(If you are not in the 16th district, you can find your representative here.)

The Advocate City Editor Jonathan Lucas:
Phone: 203-964-2268
Email:  jlucas@scni.com

Tell Mr. Lucas that Nagi now wants to revoke the concessions that Staff Writer Elizabeth Kim covered in this article on November 7, 2011. Ask him to have a reporter at the public hearing(s) to document Nagi breaking all of his promises to his (supposed) neighbors.

News 12 Connecticut: They aired this video segment from Nagi’s meeting with the neighbors at the Harry Bennett Library on November 7, 2011. (Yes, that’s me at the podium. Although I never referred to Maple Ridge as “The Nagi Apartment Complex,” I have to admit that it’s a pretty catchy name.)

And last (but certainly not least):

Zoning Board Chairman Thomas Mills
:
Mailing address:
Mr. Thomas R. Mills
22 Blackwood Lane
Stamford, CT  06903
Email:  http://www.stamfordct.gov/users/tmills/contact

Unlike the unwashed masses of the Mid-Ridges, Mr. Mills is also president of
The Blackwood Lane Association, Inc. So you can bet that nothing like Nagi’s “Maple Ridge” will EVER get approved in his ’ hood:


(It must be nice to be a “one-percenter,” Mr. Mills; you get to make decisions that everyone except you has to live with.)
 
Finally, please pass this web address (www.stopnagi.com) on to your friends and neighbors so they can keep abreast of what’s happening, too. 
In the meantime, I’ll be working on updated signs, posters, and labels. See you out in the trenches….

11/09/14 Mini-Update:

Here's an interesting sidebar to the Nagi Saga: I just received an info packet that local architect Anthony Masciarelli sent to each member of the Zoning Board regarding Nagi's public hearing on Monday. Mr. Masciarelli has lived on Bradley Place for nearly 50 years, so he has a wealth of knowledge about the neighborhood. See what YOU think some of about these issues. (Thank you, Mr. Masciarelli, for allowing me to post this info!):

"Nagi-ological" history of events leading up to the present

Letter to Planning & Zoning (5/9/09) re: Nagi Jewelers' north parking lot's apparent encroachment on City property

Eastbound photo of Nagi Jewelers' north lot showing apparent property line and resulting encroachment:


Westbound photo of Nagi Jewelers' north lot showing apparent property line and resulting encroachment:


Letter from Engineering to Zoning (5/21/10) apparently confirming this possible encroachment (see Item #1)

Letter from Traffic Engineer M. Poola (9/29/10) stating that Nagi's $100,000 contribution toward a traffic light should be made when the building permit is issued. (Was it?)

Letter from Planning Board Chair T. Dell (10/6/10) stating that the traffic light installation should coincide with the construction of "Maple Ridge"

Letter from Mr. Masciarelli to Zoning Board (10/17/11) expressing his opposition to "Maple Ridge"




11/05/14 Update:
Promises, Promises

Yes, it has been 10 months to the day (!) since my last update. I really wasn't planning on doing more--but then I received the Zoning Board's agenda for its 11/10/14 meeting (this coming Monday).  As you can see, Item #4 is a public hearing for Nagi's request to negate every single compromise he made with his Mid-Ridges neighbors back in 2011 so that we would stop our protests against his "Maple Ridge" development. He is now asking the Zoning Board to allow him to:

1) increase the number of dwelling units from 17 to 19;

2) change the ownership structure of the dwellings from condominiums back to apartments;

3) open his newly-built roadway between Bradley Place and Maplewood Place to vehicular traffic without first installing a traffic light on High Ridge Road at Bradley Place (at an estimated cost of $250-300K), and;

4) add three more parking spaces to the generous number that the Zoning Board had already granted him.

Fortunately, I still happen to have LOTS of 18x24-inch "Stop Nagi" lawn signs, 8x11 "Stop Nagi" posters, and 3-inch "Stop Nagi" stickers that I kept "just in case." They can be posted everywhere and/or used as props at the public hearing on Monday. Feel free to email or call if you would like some (no charge, of course). Or you can make your own:

CONDOS, NOT APT'S!

NO MORE UNITS!

NO LIGHT, NO DRIVEWAY!

And, if the Zoning Board does happen to approve Nagi's requests (thereby negating what precious little they did to preserve our neighborhood), I might have some interesting info to share with you. (I have been holding onto this, too--"just in case.")

*** FLASH UPDATE ***

I just received an email about "Nagi's Holiday Surprise" from a neighbor who lives near "Maple Ridge," and I'd like to share it with you. Unfortunately, it sums up our feelings about the City's shenanigans all too well:

Not surprised. But why do we even waste our time? This is so ridiculous!  This guy is able to not follow the rules, gets away with it and still comes back for more!!  Why haven't I received a letter to notify me of this change? It probably got "lost in the shuffle." I'll betcha this goes through, as I have no faith in the City. It all falls on deaf ears and works for those with the largest pockets. 

In my opinion, the Board should tell him he is lucky for what he has and send him on his way. 

It took me 6 minutes to get out of my driveway the other day, and it's only going to get worse. 

P.S.-- Here's a photo of the lawn sign. In a spooky post-Halloween twist, the 2011 hearing was held on November 10th at 7PM, exactly like the upcoming hearing! (Just cross out the day, year, and location, and the sign will be ready to roll again.)



01/05/14 Update:
Lost in the Shuffle

(Wasn't that a television show? With a robot?)

No, I’m not referring to my two-month hiatus from these updates—I’m talking about Chief Building Inspector Robert DeMarco’s latest excuse for allowing 808 High Ridge Road to be demolished in total disregard of at least two (and possibly more) letters on file protesting the demolitions.

Much to Nagi’s (and Mr. DeMarcos) chagrin, today’s Advocate featured not one, but TWO excellent, detailed exposés of Nagi’s, um, “unconventional” demolitions. In the first, Martin Cassidys, Preservationists see city missteps in destruction of 18th-century homestead, Mr. DeMarco claims that a protest letter sent via email on September 6th got “lost in the shuffle,” and he didn’t read it until after the house was knocked down. He also claims that he doesn’t recall the entire contents of his conversation with the letter’s author (Wesley Haynes, president of the Historic Neighborhood Preservation Program) during a follow-up phone call from Mr. Haynes.

Still, as unbelievable as Mr. DeMarco’s excuses sound, they pale in comparison to this one:

Justin Shaw, who manages the project for JCS Construction Group which is in charge of the site work, said the firm was not aware of any letters of protest that could have delayed the demolition.”

Ahem...I have a scanned copy of a typed letter dated 10/14/13 (and a hand-written envelope postmarked 10/15/13) that Mr. Shaw—or perhaps someone impersonating him—mailed to Flavia LaSalandra less than one week before Nagi’s houses were demolished. (As you may recall, Flavia had filed a timely protest letter against Nagi’s demolitions, and Mr. DeMarco actually acknowledged receiving Flavia’s letter, unlike his claim regarding Mr. Haynes’s letter.) Mr. Shaw’s letter displays the subject line “RE: Objection to High Ridge Rd. Development.” In the letter, Mr. Shaw—or his impersonator—acknowledges that he discussed Flavia’s objection with her the week before. Yet now he apparently states that his firm was not aware of it.

Flavia does not want me to post this letter, otherwise you can bet that you would see it here. Also, to her credit, she did NOT withdraw her protest letter even after receiving Mr. Shaw's letter. Nevertheless, with Mr. DeMarco in charge of the Building Department, even Flavia’s letter didn’t delay Nagi's demolitions, despite the city ordinance mandating such a delay.

(BTW, the second photo in today's Advocate article was lifted directly from my 10/21/13 update (“R.I.P. 808 High Ridge Road”), below. Although I did not speak with Martin Cassidy, I didn't copyright my website, so anything on it is fair game for the Advocate to use. Actually, I’m quite honored that they chose my photo of 808 High Ridge Road's remains!)

Martin Cassidy’s article was accompanied by Angela Carella’s equally excellent column—Preserving the past has not been the point. Here, Angela notes that Stamford “has never gotten high marks for preserving its past,” and she provides ample historical support for this perspective. She then poignantly portrays Nagi’s demolition of 808 High Ridge Road as follows:

“Still it was not enough to save the 240-year-old Dogherty house at 808 High Rdige Road. The house, built by Revolutionary War veteran Andrew Dogherty around 1770, was ripped down Oct. 21.

The owner of the Dogherty house, Nagi Osta, who owns the jewelry store next door, is building a housing development.

City law requires that a person seeking to demolish a historic building place a notice in the newspaper and a prominent sign on the building. If anyone files a valid objection within 15 days, the demolition is delayed six months.

Wesley Haynes, executive director of the Historic Neighborhood Preservation Program, emailed his objection to Chief Building Official Robert DeMarco on Sept. 6, well within the 15 days. But DeMarco said he did not read the email until the house was torn down. Haynes also called DeMarco, but DeMarco said he recalls the conversation being about something other than the demolition.

‘The house was covered in aluminum siding but the frame was there. It had a massive stone chimney core. It was a heartbreaker to see it come down,’ Haynes said. ‘Andrew Dogherty likely was a tradesman, and there may have been archaeology on the site or in the house for us to explore. It would have given a clear impression of what life was like in 18th century Stamford. But that's all gone now.’ ”

Angela’s column also discusses the proposed demolition of yet another historic property, the one at 545 Bedford Street. Just for fun, click on the photos of that building, but start with the last photo (the far shot) instead of the first. Look carefully for the demolition notice that is supposed to be “conspicuously posted” in front of the building, according to Stamford City Ordinance 88-3(B). Can you see it? I didn't think so.

Now take a look at the second photo (the close-up of the door). Ah-HA! There’s the sign! You really can’t be blamed for missing it, though, since it’s propped on the floor, leaned against the wall, and partially hidden from street view by a large column and railings. (I guess that Nagi isn’t the only sly developer in Stamford.)

But the most intriguing question I have is: Why did an article and a column about Nagi’s demolitions (and Mr. DeMarco’s mis-steps that allowed them) suddenly appear together in today’s Advocate? With Mayor David Martin now at our city’s helm, perhaps something else at the Government Center is about to get “lost in the shuffle:” Mr. DeMarco's job….

 


11/06/13 Update:
Martin Moshes "The Mikes!"

(Time to put in your retirement papers, Bob.)

In a stunning political victory, Democrat David Martin clinched last night’s mayoral race in Stamford, capturing a whopping 50% of the vote against Republican Mike Fedele’s 43% (including 324 votes that Mr. Fedele picked up on the Independent ticket). Interestingly, petitioning candidates Kathleen Murphy and John Zito received 4% and 2% of the vote, respectively—votes that some assert were siphoned mainly from Fedele’s political base.

Remember the “Perot Effect” that helped propel former President Bill Clinton to victory in the 1992 U.S. presidential election? At that time, former President George H. Bush lost not only because of Ross Perot’s presence in the race, but because Bush had alienated his political base during his previous term.

Is this also what happened in Stamford? Some say that, like former President Bush, our own (soon-to-be-former) Mayor Pavia alienated quite a few of his former supporters during his four-year term. And, although Mayor Mike Pavia did not seek re-election, candidate Mike Fedele was perceived by some to be—as one person put it—“Mike Pavia with a different face.” Apparently this association did not fare well with Stamford’s citizens, many of whom had rallied in vain against some of the mayor’s pet projects in the past (Nagi’s “Maple Ridge” being only one such example).

But, in the end, despite out-spending David Martin by over $100,000 for TV ads, a massive mail campaign, and those ubiquitous pop-ups on the Advocate’s web site, Mike Fedele still lost the race. So perhaps money doesn’t buy everything. And perhaps the people will have more of a voice in local politics again. Only time will tell.

Speaking of politics:  Voters in Stamford’s 16th District may have noticed my name on the ballot for the Board of Representatives. To make a long story short, one of our well-known civil servants (who is so widely respected on both sides of the fence that she ran unopposed), persuaded me to join Republican newcomer Steve Kolenberg in his race against Democratic candidates Matthew Quinones and Jonathan Hoffman in District 16. (As an aside, I had joined the Republican Party in 2010 so that I could vote in the gubernatorial primary for—ironically—Mike Fedele. Yes, I really did...)

Anyway, after seeing the litigious torture that our current administration inflicted upon Sal Gabriele for exposing corruption in the city, I had NO desire to get involved in politics. (And—speaking of potential ethics violations—if I was elected to the Board of Reps, I would probably have to shut down this website. I know, I know...I would miss it, too.)

Nonetheless, out of deep respect for the wonderful public servant mentioned above (who personifies the true sense of the term), I reluctantly agreed to allow my name to be placed on the ballot. But I warned her that I would not run a campaign: that is, NO lawn signs, palm cards, phone calls, emails, walking neighborhoods, greeting people at the polls, etc. In fact, I had told only my immediate family and close friends about it. The only real “campaigning” that I engaged in was a brief, semi-tongue-in-cheek bio submitted to the Advocate, mainly to poke fun at the antics of our current administration.

Thus, you can imagine how surprised, humbled, and HONORED (!!!) I was to wake up this morning to this:

2013 Stamford 16th District Election Results:

 

R

Steven Kolenberg

885

28.4%

D

Matthew Quinones

761

24.4%

R

Paul Longo

746

23.9%

D

Jonathan Hoffman

727

23.3%

 

 

3,119

100.0%


So (while I am very happy not to have won the B.O.R. race) I want to thank every one of you who voted for me. You are part of Stamford’s “citizen referendum” against those who (as I said in my bio) mistakenly ignored our will in favor of a few well-connected individuals with deep pockets. And, in this respect, last night’s election was inspirational.

I’d also like to congratulate Steven Kolenberg and Matt Quinones (and all of our other winning candidates, especially Cynthia Reeder) on their new seats in Stamford’s city government. Steve and Matt, both promising and energetic, will bring a nice balance of representation to the 16th District. And the best of luck to Jonathan Hoffman (whom, as I had once said about Cynthia, I’m sure we will see again). It was a very close race for Matthew, Jonathan, and me. (Steve, on the other hand, ran circles around the rest of us.)

Finally, here is a question for Mayor-elect Martin—and for Stamford's Chief Building Inspector, Robert DeMarco:

“Who was Andrew Daugharty?”

According to a recently completed title search, historical records spell his name a few different ways, including “Dogerty.” He was born in Stamford in 1721. He was one of the few Irish immigrants in the early days of the town. He fought in the French and Indian War (1754-1763) and in the American Revolution (1775-1783), serving under the command of General David Waterbury in the latter. Andrew Daugherty died in 1809 at age 88 (a long life for a man, especially at the time). He is buried in Northfield Cemetery here in downtown Stamford.

And he built 808 High Ridge Road and called it his home.

This is why the 90-day demolition delay in our city ordinance for older buildings was increased to 180 days: to allow historians enough time to research these properties and uncover historic gems like this. But the ordinance was blatantly violated by Mr. DeMarco when he issued a demolition permit for 808 High Ridge Road, despite at least two letters on file formally protesting the demolition. (I’ll have more about this in my next update.)

It is said that those who willfully destroy a piece of history will be cursed forever by its ghosts. So Mr. DeMarco may have even more to worry about than his job….

 

10/21/13 Update:
R.I.P. 808 High Ridge Road

(1780-2013)

Wow…I don’t even know where to begin. At around noon today, I received several phone calls with this astounding news:

“They just knocked down the old house on High Ridge Road!”

So, at 12:45 PM, I went up there to check it out for myself. Sure enough, only the chimney of the 233-year-old Revolutionary-War era house at 808 High Ridge Road was still standing. A Servidio backhoe was loading debris from the historic house into a huge tractor-trailer container. Two Stamford special police officers were directing traffic around the site. So I immediately grabbed my camera and took these photos for you:

I later decided that this event was so unbelievable that it needed to be preserved on video, too. So I returned at around 3 PM with a camcorder and shot this brief footage:


(BTW, have you ever seen a chimney that old? Neither have I….)

The obvious question is, was this demolition legal?

If the info that I received yesterday was true, then Flavia Lasalandra was not the only one who filed a protest letter against Nagi’s demolitions. Although my info was third-hand, it is possible that at least eight individuals and/or organizations filed protest letters to Chief Building Inspector Robert DeMarco. (Of course, only Mr. DeMarco and God know the truth here. And, without a successful Freedom-of-Information-Act request for all of Mr. DeMarco’s letters and emails pertaining to Nagi’s demolition applications, Mr. DeMarco will probably take this info with him to the grave.)

Nonetheless, today I received proof via email that one such entity was Stamford’s Historic Neighborhood Preservation Program. (This is no surprise, since 808 High Ridge Road is officially listed as a “Known Historic Resource” in Connecticut’s Historic Resource Inventory.)

For this reason (as I had mentioned over a year ago in my 09/04/12 update), knocking down 808 High Ridge Road first was like knocking out the biggest guy in a street fight—compared to this house, the others should be easy for Nagi to demolish.

Even if Nagi did demolish 808 High Ridge Road without a permit, who is going to arrest him? After all, he did allow our fire department and our police department to use his vacant houses for training on several occasions. (I must admit that this was a brilliant move on Nagi’s part; they don’t call him sedulous for nothing….)

So 808 High Ridge Road is gone. I had believed Mr. DeMarco when he told me that Nagi would have to abide by our city ordinances, just like everyone else. (In hindsight, I guess I was pretty naïve.) Unless Nagi just committed a misdemeanor by demolishing 808 High Ridge without a permit, I have to assume that Mr. DeMarco issued a demo permit (or perhaps five—let’s wait and see), despite Nagi’s apparent lack of proper notification in his signs, letters, etc.

But, although 808 High Ridge went down, something else went up…again. I just re-posted the revealing information about Mr. DeMarco that I had pulled on 9/6/13 from my “DeMarco’s Darned Demolitions” update, below. (Sorry, Mr. DeMarco…first the boatyard, then the Badger mansion, and now this. As they say, three strikes and you’re out.)

P.S.—It might be time for someone like Vito Colucci to write another “tell-all” exposé about our city. Perhaps “Rogue Town Revisited” would be a good title. (Come to think of it, I can probably publish such a book based on this website!)

 

 

10/20/13 Update:
Will Nagi Disobey the Delay?

As you know, the demolitions of Nagi’s “Maple Ridge” houses have been delayed for six months, first by his neighbor, Dr. Ajay Ahuja, then (when Dr. Ahuja withdrew his protest) by another neighbor, Flavia Lasalandra. However, sometime around Friday 10/18/13, the following small signs were fastened with cable ties to Nagi’s semi-compliant demolition notices:

(BTW, note the corrected zip codes on every sign except for 11 Maplewood Place. At least Nagi is trying here....)

And here’s a photo of three yellow backhoes, all set and ready to go:

Thus, it would seem that Nagi’s demolitions might actually start tomorrow! But how could this be? I called Flavia Lasalandra, and she said that she did NOT withdraw her protest letter. Coincidentally, I happened to speak with the executive director of a neighborhood-preservation organization, who told me that HIS organization had ALSO filed a timely protest regarding the demolition of the Revolutionary-War era house at 808 High Ridge Road! And he said that, at that time, Chief Building Inspector Robert DeMarco told him that at least EIGHT individuals had filed protest letters against Nagi’s demolitions. So what’s going on here?

Is Nagi going to knock down his houses without demolition permits (in violation of both state statutes and our city ordinance)? Or has Mr. DeMarco issued permits despite the shortcomings in Nagi’s notifications? (Perhaps Mr. DeMarco is ready to retire and doesn’t particularly care about these issues anymore.) Whatever the case, Mr. DeMarco is certainly not going to tell ME about it (despite the fact that I did pull the contents of my recent update about him).

So, if you want to know what’s going on with Nagi’s demolitions, call Chief Building Inspector DeMarco at 203-977-4161. Ask him how many protest letters he REALLY received....

 


10/09/13 Update:
Flavia Fires a Fastball!


The saga of Nagi’s “Maple Ridge” has taken yet another bizarre turn. Or, to be more precise, two turns. Less than one month after filing a protest letter that would have delayed Nagi’s demolitions until March 2014, Dr. Ajay Ahuja apparently withdrew his letter! (I received this info from a reliable source, although I can’t get a copy of the withdrawal letter from Chief Building Inspector Robert DeMarco. After my unflattering 8/29/13 update about him, I doubt that he will give me the time of day!)

At this point, it might be too late for anyone else to file a protest letter against Nagi’s demolitions. And—if Nagi had adhered to the notice requirements in Stamford City Ordinance 88-3 (see my previous update, below)—this would certainly be true. After all, Mr. DeMarco’s August 23rd legal notice in the Advocate stated that the deadline for such a protest was September 7th, 2013. But, when Mr. DeMarco published that notice, he was under the impression (or so he told me) that Nagi could supply proof that he done ALL of the following:

1)  mailed certified letters to abutting neighbors at least 30 days before September 7th , i.e., by August 9th. (At least one of those letters wasn’t mailed until around September 5th .);

2)  provided a demolition date in the letters (They did not contain such a date.);

3)  posted demolition signs at least 15 days prior to September 7th, i.e., by August 23rd. (The signs were not posted until around August 29th); and

4)  posted a demolition date and full description of each house on the signs. (The signs did not and do not yet contain this info.)

 So, although Mr. DeMarco could still issue his demolition permits based solely on the September 7th deadline published in the legal notice, by doing so he would be willfully ignoring the very city ordinance that he is charged with enforcing. (This is probably not a great idea, especially in light of his other controversial demolitions. But let’s not get into that again….)

Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if Mr. DeMarco issues demolition permits for Nagi’s “Maple Ridge” houses despite the legal shortcomings listed above. After all, he is the Chief Building Inspector, and he does answer directly to the Mayor.

So, now that Dr. Ahuja has withdrawn his protest letter, it looks like Nagi’s demolitions are right around the corner. In fact, two backhoes suddenly reappeared behind 808 and 812 High Road, ready to do their knockdown business. But wait! What did I just hear?

“Not so fast, Nagi!!!,” said Flavia Lasalandra.

That’s right…Flavia had apparently sent her own protest letter to Mr. DeMarco, and (according to Flavia) Mr. DeMarco had accepted her letter in addition to Dr. Ahuja’s letter. So, when Dr. Ahuja inexplicably withdrew his protest letter, Flavia’s letter suddenly became THE big monkey wrench in Nagi’s demolition plans!

After hearing that news, I called Flavia to get more juicy info for this update. She said that Nagi’s contractor, Justin Cole Shaw (president of JCS Construction) actually called her and politely asked if she would withdraw her letter. According to Flavia, Mr. Shaw said that he is trying to feed his family, and a six-month delay in Nagi’s demolitions will hurt him financially.

Upon hearing this, I pictured barefoot children scrounging around the Shaw kitchen for meager scraps of food in the dead of winter—an image that tugged mightily at my heart strings. Perhaps this is why Mr. Shaw still owes property taxes ($6,585.28 as of 10/1/13) on his company’s headquarters at 44 Homestead Ave. in Stamford’s South End. Could his family possibly be living there, too? I had to know.

I started by reviewing JCS Construction’s ownership data from the Connecticut Secretary of State’s website. (As you may recall, I had posted this info previously.):

As you can see, Mr. Shaw resides at 10 Indian Chase Drive in Greenwich, Connecticut. So I checked Greenwich’s assessment website and located his property tax bill:

Wow…$22,983.92 in annual property taxes for a house? Hmmm….

Note the parcel I.D. on the tax bill: 02-1451. A quick search of Greenwich’s assessment and parcel information yielded the site details of Mr. Shaw’s residence:  a 12-room, five-bedroom, 4,881-square-foot colonial on one acre of prime Greenwich land near the water, all assessed at $2,153,060. And remember—this is only 70% of the property’s market value, which is $3,075,800!

So we’re not talking about a little dirt-floored shack. Here...take a look for yourself:

(There goes that pitiful image of barefoot little kids in winter….)

P.S.—I know, I know: What about Nagi’s unbelievably onerous $7 million construction loan, which he secured on 8/29/13? Although I had promised to cover the loan in this update, the news of Flavia’s letter trumped it. But here’s a sneak preview of a single page from the loan docs.

Note last paragraph on this page. As you will hopefully see in my next update, one of the provisions of this loan is that Nagi completes construction of “Maple Ridge” within 24 months of 8/29/13. Failing to do so triggers one of several “Events of Default.” If such an event occurs, the loan’s entire outstanding balance would immediately become due and payable—and the loan's 4.85% interest rate would shoot up to a “default rate” of 14%! (The interest alone on $7 million at 14% is $980,000 per year—or nearly $82,000 per month.) But there’s a lot more to talk about here, so stay tuned….



09/22/13 Update:
Nagi's Slo-Mo Demo

Well, September 7th has come and gone, but Nagi's "Maple Ridge" houses are still standing...sort of.

As you know, Dr. Ahuja was able to delay Nagi's demolitions for six months simply by submitting a protest letter to the Building Department. (Actually, Flavia Lasalandra said that she submitted a letter, too, but the Building Department insists that they never received Flavia's letter.) If the Building Department eventually acknowledges that letter, Dr. Ahuja will no longer have sole control over Nagi's six-month demo delay. (Note that Dr. Ahuja can withdraw his letter at any time, allowing Nagi to start demolition immediately afterward.) Then Flavia would also have a "piece of the action" for the price of a stamp!

In any case, it appears that Nagi's notifications do not fully comply with the law. Although the Building Department's legal notice stated that the deadline for protesting the demolitions was 9/7/13, Nagi's demolition signs and letters do NOT display this date--or any date at all! According to Section 88-3 of our city ordinances, the proposed demolition date must be included on the signs and in the notification letters. Here's the text of the ordinance (with bolding added for emphasis):

Sec. 88-3. Notice requirements generally.

No permit shall be issued by the Building Department which authorizes any building, structure or part thereof to be demolished until the following notice requirements have been satisfied:

A. The applicant desiring to perform such demolition shall provide written notice of the proposed demolition via registered or certified mail to all owners of property within a radius of one hundred (100) feet of the property upon which the building, structure or part thereof to be demolished is located, all as verified from the most current Real Property Records on file in the Office of the City of Stamford Tax Assessor (or the actual owners of record if otherwise known to the applicant). Such written notice shall be so mailed at least thirty (30) days prior to the date of the proposed demolition and such notice shall contain the street address of the building, structure or part thereof to be demolished, the name and address of the owner of said building, structure or part thereof, and the date of the proposed demolition in bold, italicized lettering.

B. For a fifteen (15) day period preceding the date upon which any building, structure or part thereof which is five hundred (500) square feet in size or larger is scheduled to be demolished, the applicant must conspicuously post upon the premises on which such building, structure or part thereof is located, signage providing notice to the public of the proposed demolition. Such signage shall directly face the street(s) or thoroughfare(s) upon which said premises is located and shall be of the following dimensions: two (2) feet wide and three (3) feet long. Such signage shall further contain a full description of the of the building, structure or part thereof to be so demolished, including its street address; the name and address of the owner(s) of said premises, and the date of the proposed demolition in block letters of at least two (2) inches in size.

To illustrate this point, let's compare a correctly completed demolition sign at 81 Hirsch Road (below, left) to Nagi's demo sign at 812 High Ridge Rd. (below, right):




CORRECT
Notice how this sign contains a full description of the building to be demolished (in addition to its street address), the name and address of the owner of the property, and--most importantly--the date of the proposed demolition.



WRONG
Notice how this sign vaguely describes the structure as a "residential building." (Compare this to other sign's description of a "1936 single-family ranch, 2 bedrooms, 1 bath, 1099 sq. ft.") And there is no date of demolition!

(Although Nagi's sign fails to adequately describe the structure or list its proposed demolition date, the sign actually advertises the JCS Construction Group and even includes the company's phone number....)

After all the trouble that a lack of proper notice (of the continued public hearings and last-minute changes for "Maple Ridge") caused Nagi in the past, you would think that he would be dotting his "i's" and crossing his "t's" by now. Then again, perhaps we shouldn't blame Nagi for these signs; my guess is that JCS Construction had them printed for Nagi. (This would explain JCS's unnecessary advertisement.) I'm sure that Justin Cole Shaw is anxious for a quick influx of "Nagi-Cash," since (as of 9/6/13) JCS still owed $8,687.96 in property taxes on its headquarters at 44 Homestead Ave. in Stamford.

But on to today's topic... Although Nagi must now wait for Dr. Ahuja (and Flavia?) to release their death-grips on Nagi's demolitions, he has not simply allowed his houses to stand untouched. Anyone driving by them on the evening of September 16th would have witnessed a strange sight, indeed. Several firefighters (and lots of fire apparati) from the Turn of River Fire Department were busy smashing out virtually every window in 808 and 812 High Ridge Road! They "vandalized" Nagi's houses from the ground, from ladder trucks, and from everywhere in between. (I wanted to capture some video of this hot action for you, but I was working at the time, and I can't mix business with pleasure...especially where Nagi is involved.)

Nevertheless, I was able to snap some photos of the smashed-out windows the very next day. The first six are of 808 High Ridge, and the next six are of 812 High Ridge:
 













I spoke with a career firefighter about this unusual drill, and he said that many departments discourage their firefighters from smashing windows during training, since the flying shards of glass pose an unnecessary risk to the trainee. But this was surely a blessing for Nagi...after all, every smashed window places the house one step closer to its ultimate destruction.

Speaking of destruction: the blast from the house that exploded at 305 Webbs Hill Road on Tuesday was so loud that at first I thought it came from Nagi's "Maple Ridge" houses up the street (again)! I even called headquarters to see if our department's Special Response Team was training again there (although that would have been pretty dangerous due to the broken glass that the Turn of River Fire Department had left there on Monday). When I saw how the house on Webb's Hill had been obliterated by propane in the basement, I thought, "If only Nagi had heated his houses with that stuff...".

P.S.--I haven't forgotten about Nagi's new $7-million construction loan. (I'm sure that he hasn't forgotten about it, either!) Unless there are other demolition-related incidents in the near future, I'll cover it in my next update. No, really.....


 

09/06/13 Update:
The Ahuja Motto?



When Nagi prevailed on 7/24/13 over Gurpreet Ahuja's appeal (against the Zoning Board's approval of Nagi's "Maple Ridge"...and then her subsequent appeal of the court's denial of her initial appeal), I assumed that the fight was over. And, when Nagi finally posted demolition signs on the properties last week, I figured that the fight was definitely over. But, just when the future appears to be predictable, fate has a way of throwing a really mean curve ball.

Anyway, tomorrow (Saturday 9/7/13) was supposed to have been "D-Day" for Nagi's five "Maple Ridge" houses. (Actually, Monday 9/9/13 would have been the earliest legal demo date, since demolitions are prohibited on weekends.) Alas, it appears that Nagi's houses will remain untouched for six more months!

 
On 9/4/13, Nagi's neighbor, Dr. Ajay Ahuja, filed a formal letter of protest against the demolitions with Chief Building Inspector Robert DeMarco. I actually visited Mr. DeMarco personally at the Building Department this morning after hearing a rumor about that letter. He was kind enough to show me the letter, although he would not allow me to copy it. (He said that I will have to file a Freedom of Information Act request with the city's Law Department to obtain it.)

In case you are wondering...No, Mr. DeMarco had NOT seen my update about him when we met for the first time today. Now I feel bad that he was dragged into this mess simply because of Nagi's "Maple Ridge." So, out of respect for Mr. DeMarco, I have removed the info about him from my previous update. (Sorry if you didn't get to read it.) In the meantime, Mr. DeMarco has assured me that Nagi will have to comply with ALL city ordinances regulating the demolition of his properties, just like everyone else in Stamford does. Thank you for your assurance, Mr. DeMarco.

Anyway, according to the Chapter 88 of Stamford's city ordinances governing the demolition of houses over 50 years old, Nagi must now delay his demolitions for 180 days, or until March 3, 2014. (The Ahuja family's growing reputation for dogged persistence may soon exceed even Nagi's self-proclaimed "sedulousness!")

Actually, Nagi probably knew that this might happen. After all, he apparently never bothered to mail the legally-required certified letters to property owners within 100 feet of his "Maple Ridge" houses. I checked with three of Nagi's abutting neighbors, and not one received such a letter. Remember, too, that the letters must be mailed at least 30 days before the demolition permits can be issued. (Perhaps Nagi didn't want to waste all that time and postage for nothing....)

In any event, Nagi is now stuck with five uninhabitable houses that will no longer generate a single penny of rental income for at least six months. Assuming a conservative average monthly rental estimate of $2,500 per house, this represents $75,000 of lost rental income for Nagi. But even this amount pales in light of Nagi's crushing loan repayments.

Remember that, on 4/24/13, Nagi obtained a 15-year $2 million mortgage against his jewelry store...and, apparently, everything in it. The monthly payments on this loan are $15,006.77, or $90,040.62 for six months. And, if Nagi defaults on a single payment--or even pays his property taxes late--the monthly payments would soar to over $32,200 per month, or $193,200 for six months. (Let's hope for Nagi's sake that he keeps a sharp eye out for his property-tax bills!)

Remember, too, that Nagi also has two mortgages against his home at 90 West Bank Lane. On 5/26/11, he took out a 15-year $688,000 mortgage. And, on 3/6/13, he obtained a 20-year $250,000 mortgage. (BTW, these combined mortgages represent 115% of what Nagi's house--purchased in 1984--is worth. All I can say is, WOW!) I was unable to locate the interest rate for either mortgage, so we'll conservatively assume 3.25%. Using this estimate, the monthly payments for these mortgages should be around $4,834 and $1,418 respectively, or a total of $37,512 for six months.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that the mortgage on Nagi's jewelry store and the mortgages on his home total over $2.9 million. This is close to the $3.1-million total for the People's Bank loan and the CBT-Berkshire loan that Nagi apparently used toward the $3.6-million purchase price of his "Maple Ridge" houses. These loans do not appear to have been extended when they matured in 2012. It thus appears that Nagi obtained his newer mortgages, then used the proceeds to pay off his "Maple Ridge" loans. (This move would be necessary to secure a construction loan for "Maple Ridge," since such loans are normally not available for properties with outstanding mortgages.)

Finally, there are the property taxes for Nagi's "Maple Ridge" houses (as mentioned above). Here they are:

"Maple Ridge" Property Taxes due 7/1/13
808 High Ridge Road $2,464.89
812 High Ridge Road $3,909.56
816 High Ridge Road $2,574.73
820 High Ridge Road $2,855.62
826 High Ridge Road $2,865.79
11 Maplewood Place $3,424.81
TOTAL: $18,095.40


As you can see, Nagi's now-empty "Maple Ridge" houses eat up $18,095 of his total $40,698 six-month property tax bill. [Not shown here are the taxes on his house ($6,478.41) and on his jewelry store ($16,123.69).] Since we happen to be looking at a six-month delay for the demolitions, it will be easy to estimate the total financial impact of Dr. Ahuja's protest letter--which presumably cost the doctor only a few cents for paper, plus a postage stamp.

Adding all of these expenses up, we arrive at a staggering six-month financial hit:

Loss of rental income:   $75,000
Combined mortgage payments:   $127,553
Property taxes on Maple Ridge properties:   $18,095
GRAND TOTAL:  $220,648
(This is over $1,200 per DAY.)


(OWWWCH, Nagi!!!)

Let's not forget Nagi's massive legal fees for the appeals that he became entangled in, salaries and benefits for the  employees at his jewelry store, income taxes, utilities, insurance, etc. I don't know how much profit there is in selling jewelry, but my guess is that it's not enough to meet these expenses. Remember, too, that "Maple Ridge" has been relentlessly hoovering up Nagi's money for over five years, since 2008. How much longer can this continue until he goes broke? (Another developer once told me that it's no longer a matter of how much Nagi will make on "Maple Ridge"--it's a matter of how much he will lose. These figures appear to support that ominous prediction.)

Rumor has it that Dr. Ahuja is using this six-month delay as a "bargaining chip" in some kind of negotiations with Nagi, although I haven't found a way to confirm the rumor. (Talk about Doc Ahuja getting a lot of bang for his buck!)

Heck, the delay is even costing me money! When I started this website on October 8, 2011, I remember thinking that paying an annual fee of a hundred bucks for a website that would be around for only a few months was a waste of cash. I remember making the same remark in 2012, when I renewed the site for another year. And I recently renewed it for a third year. Unbelievable, isn't it? (In hindsight, I should have gone for the discounted five-year web-hosting plan instead.)

What will be the next twist in Nagi's "Maple Ridge" saga? Here's a teaser: I happened to check the records at the Town Clerk's office while I was at the Government Center today. On 8/29/13, Nagi secured a $7 million (!!!) construction loan from Stamford First Bank. But how is he going to pay it back? We'll save the answers for my next update. Stay tuned.....




08/29/13 Update:
DeMarcos Darned Demolitions

(I’d use another adjective here, but this is a family-oriented website.)

It has been a full week since Nagi filed applications for permits to demolish his “Maple Ridge” houses (at least according to the Building Department’s legal notice), yet the demolition notices were not posted until today! (Remember that they must be posted at least 15 days before the demolition permits can be issued.) Here they are, for your viewing pleasure:

 

 

 

 

(Not to be a stickler for detail, but our zip code is 06905, not 06902. Actually, I’d be happy to offer free proof-reading services to Nagi, but he has to send me some drafts before he actually publishes these things.)

Although the signs are now posted, it appears that the legally required notification letters have not yet been sent via certified mail to homeowners within 100 feet of Nagi’s properties. (These letters must be mailed at least 30 days before the demolition permits can be issued.)

Perhaps we should not be too surprised at these irregularities, since they are becoming commonplace here in Stamford. But why? Let’s see if we can connect the dots….


This is Stamford’s Chief Building Inspector, Robert DeMarco, and he is certainly no stranger to controversial demolitions. One of his more memorable decisions was signing 14 demolition permits for the buildings in the former Yacht Haven West boatyard, which BLT demolished in December 2011, apparently in defiance of the Zoning Board’s condition that a working boatyard be maintained on the site.

In fact, the entire BLT/boatyard fiasco has fanned the public’s growing mistrust of Stamford’s current administration. A well-thought-out letter to the Advocate (Cost of BLT licensing) underscores this point. And yesterday’s Advocate article (Developer makes case for boatyard site) even cites Mr. DeMarco’s decision to demolish the boatyard buildings:

Early in the meeting, Freeman parried questions from Planning Board member Jay Tepper about how BLT's experienced land use lawyers could have concluded they would not be called to account for demolishing the Brewer Yacht Haven yard in late 2011 without approval of zoning officials.

The city's Building Department issued valid demolition permits for the 14 structures, BLT officials have said, which were needed to begin environmental remediation of the land.

"I suspect that BLT has sufficient legal analysis that realizes that the Building Department cannot supersede Zoning Board conditions," Tepper said. "It was not the intent of the Zoning Board to allow someone to go in and get a permit and circumvent the procedures."

Tragically, the public’s fear of an administration-gone-rogue was greatly reinforced when Mr. DeMarco ordered the demolition of Madonna Badger’s home less than 24 hours after the 2011 Christmas fire that claimed the lives of her mother, her father, and her three beautiful little girls. The house—and all of Ms. Badger’s remaining belongings—were then hauled off to a landfill, leaving her without a single memento of her family or her worldly goods. She is now suing the carting company that Mr. DeMarco hired to haul away the debris.

Mr. DeMarco is also personally named as a defendant in a related lawsuit filed by the estates of Lily, Sarah, and Grace Badger. Here’s a telling excerpt from the 12/23/12 Advocate article, Madonna Badger’s search for answers:

Badger and her team of lawyers and investigators have spent the last year researching fire investigation procedures, building codes and electrical meters. She has read years of news clippings about Stamford. She read about embezzlements by city employees, and about the scrap metal probe in which no city workers were held accountable, even though afterward revenue from the sale of metals doubled.

It's disturbing "that these people can keep their jobs," Badger said. "I am outraged to find out that in Stamford, Connecticut, you can destroy . . . a protected boatyard and nothing happens." Among city officials, "there seems to be a disregard for . . . what the law says, for what the protocol is."

(Which is exactly the point of today’s update….)

And, on 12/27/12, the Advocate wrote a scathing editorial severely criticizing Mr. DeMarco’s actions and noting that they violated city ordinances, the city charter, and state building codes. Here is an excerpt:

She has reason to be suspicious, especially after learning of the slipshod way in which the demolition was handled. Why did DeMarco not sign a permit for the demolition job until Jan. 10, nearly two weeks after it occurred? Why did an AMEC official sign an affidavit on Dec. 27 saying the work was "authorized by the owner"? Why was Mayor Pavia never asked about the demolition?

(Why, indeed?)

Perhaps Mr. DeMarco had never watched an episode of “CSI” on TV and was thus unaware of the basics of crime-scene investigation. In light of the subsequent revelations about Madonna Badger’s contractor, it certainly would have been prudent to maintain that fire scene for several more days, at the very least.

Whatever the reason behind Mr. DeMarco’s ill-fated decision to prematurely demolish Madonna Badger’s house, we, the taxpayers of Stamford, are legally on the hook for it. Or maybe we aren’t….

Connecticut General Statute 7-101a protects a municipal employee (such as Mr. DeMarco) from the expense of defending against a lawsuit resulting from that employee acting in the discharge of his/her duties. However, if a court finds that the employee has committed a “malicious, wanton or wilful act,” the statute states that the city shall be reimbursed for its legal expenses and shall not be liable for monetary damages resulting from the suit. (In other words, the employee would become personally responsible for them.)

Although the words “malicious” and “wanton” do not apply to Mr. DeMarco’s apparent case of demo-mania, “wilful” just might. (Judging from the City’s dismal track record in defending the ethics lawsuit against Representative Sal Gabriele, Mr. DeMarco could be the next person deemed to be responsible for a six-figure legal bill—especially since our current administration might be replaced in November. Sleep tight, Bob….)

Finally, my own experiences with Mr. DeMarco have not been very encouraging, either. Back in October 2011, I went to the Building Department and asked to be notified, per Stamford City Ordinance 88-4(B), of all demolition permit applications for older buildings. A nice member of Mr. DeMarco’s staff regretfully told me that she had never even heard of this law. So, on 10/31/11, I sent an email to Mr. DeMarco stating my request and citing the law to support it. I never received a single response from him. (Perhaps he thought it was a Halloween joke?) I re-sent that email about a week ago, but I haven’t heard a peep yet. (And, after this update, I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for one….)

P.S.—You may have heard five very loud explosions coming from Nagi’s “Maple Ridge” house earlier today. The first one, at around 12:53 PM, may even have knocked out the power to our neighborhood for a few seconds! (I had to re-set my motion-sensor floodlights and microwave as a result, and my absent neighbor’s floodlights have been stuck on since that time.) Four more blasts followed, at around 2:09 PM, 2:22 PM, 2:48 PM, and 2:58 PM. I called headquarters and learned that the booms were likely the result of the Stamford Police Department’s SRT (Special Response Team) running their training exercises in Nagi’s houses!

Although it’s very considerate of Nagi to allow the police to use these houses for training (he did the same thing for the fire department last year), he still has to abide by the laws governing their demolitions. At least this is the way the process is supposed to work in “The City That Works…”.

 

08/23/13 Update:
September 7th is D-Day! for Nagi!

Now that Nagi has prevailed against Gurpreet Ahuja in appellate court, he is moving full speed ahead with the demolition of his “Maple Ridge” houses. I called the Building Department this morning, and, sure enough, Nagi is filing demolition permit applications for all five houses. As you can see below, Chief Building Official Robert DeMarco just published the following legal notice on Page C6 of today's Advocate:



(I also scanned a PDF version of the notice that's a bit easier for you to read.)

Note that Nagi's property at 11 Maplewood Place is erroneously listed in the notice as 11 Maplewood Dr. Also, the legal owner of the properties, Nagi's Procurement LLC, shows only an address of High Ridge Road. Its true address is 828 High Road, where Nagi Jewelers is located. (Hopefully Gurpreet wont file another appeal for improper notice!!!)

In yet another revelation, several signs announcing Nagi’s building contractor, JCS Construction Group, Inc., were erected on the fence in front of the properties. Here are two of them:




Here are close-ups of these signs:





*** Free Public Service Message for Safe Web-Surfing ***

Whatever you do, DON'T type JCS Construction Group's web address (shown on the sign above) into your browser! When I did, I received the following alert from my anti-virus software:



JCS Construction Group's site appears to have been hacked! (Here is a link about the Exploit Blackhat SEO malware.) So we'll have to wait until the site is cleaned up before we can explore it further.

And who is behind JCS Construction Group? A preliminary search reveals that it is owned by Justin Cole Shaw. (Makes sense, right?) The company is headquartered at 44 Homestead Ave. in Stamford. And, as you can see, our city's property-tax records for this address lists the legal owner as "JCS Homestead LLC."

(BTW, note that the City shows $12,759.57 in unpaid property taxes on 44 Homestead Ave. as of 8/2/13. However, this info may not be accurate. If you check the tax assessment info for Nagi's "Maple Ridge" properties, the city's website also shows unpaid property taxes on them for the same date. But our Tax Assessor's office told me that all of Nagi's property taxes were paid on 7/27/13, and that the assessment web site is simply not updated.)

Now, the State of Connecticut lists the following ownership info for JCS Homestead LLC:




Actually, I'm surprised that John Lansiedel Construction was not selected to be Nagi's builder. After all, John was very supportive of "Maple Ridge" at several of the public hearings. (Sorry, John!) In any case, I'll have to do more research on JCS Construction. (Stay tuned....)

So the legal notice for demolition is finally in the newspaper. But I'm still waiting for demolition notices to be posted on signs in front of each property, as required by law. (The JCS Construction Group signs, like the DEMOLITION sign that preceded them, do not qualify as such.) And I assume that Nagi has also mailed out certified letters to all of the property owners within a 100-foot radius of "Maple Ridge," but I haven't confirmed this yet.

And what about good old 808 High Ridge Road? This 233-year-old house—which survived the cannonballs of the American Revolution and over two centuries of time that followed—is now slated for a fall to the wrecking ball. (There goes its official listing on the State Register of Historic Places….)




08/18/13 Update:
But Where are the Demo Permits?

If you were on High Ridge Road during the past few weeks, you probably drove past my co-workers directing traffic at several street-opening projects in front of Nagi’s “Maple Ridge” houses. Nagi has finally cut off each house's water, gas, and sewer lines (as well as power and phone lines, cable service, etc.) so that they can be demolished. A couple of days ago, a construction fence was erected around the perimeter of the properties:




Here's the same construction fence extending around the corner in front of 11 Maplewood Place:




Yesterday, a sign containing only the word "DEMOLITION" was fastened to the fence at 816 High Ridge Road:







Finally, check out the backhoes and dump truck behind 808 High Ridge, all chomping at the bit for some action:


Unfortunately (at least for Nagi), one very important item is missing. Well, five items, to be exact. Each property (808, 812, 816, and 820 High Ridge, plus 11 Maplewood Place) requires a separate demolition permit from our city's Chief Building Inspector, Robert Demarco! (I called the Building Department on Friday 8/16/13, but they said that no demo permit applications have been filed yet for any of Nagi's properties.)

More importantly, before these permits can be issued, Nagi must complete all of the following tasks. (The info below is copied directly from the City's 2013 Demolition Forms Packet.)

1) Letters of notification must be mailed out CERTIFIED to all adjoining property owners (within a 100 sq. ft. radius) that an application for demolition has been made with a copy of the map of abutters from the Tax Department.

(Yes, everyone, this does include the Ahuja family.)

2) A copy of the letter mailed out to the property owner, the certified receipt, list of abutters, and copy of abutters map must be provided to Building Department.

(Perhaps you'll get to see this letter in a future update to this website.)

3) A sign 2' wide x 3' long with 2" block letters must be posted on property fifteen (15) days prior to demolition facing the street or thoroughfare. Such signage shall contain a full description full description of the building/structure including its street address, the name and address of owner(s) and date of the proposed demolition (Please submit a picture of the sign with application).

(Obviously, Nagi's "DEMOLITION" sign in front of 816 High Ridge Road does not meet this requirement.....)

4) If structure is more than (50) years old and over 500 square feet, it must be advertised in The Advocate by the Building Department and a fifteen (15) day waiting period after advertisement must elapse before the Chief Building Official can OK demolition. If protested, a ninety (90) waiting period falls into effect.

(This 90-day waiting period was actually doubled to 180 days by Stamford City Ordinance #1124 back in 2011. Apparently no one in the Building Department has bothered to update their forms accordingly.)

Finally, if the building is close to the property line (as 808, 816, and 820 High Ridge Rd. might be), a sidewalk shed may be required. (I had talked about this in my 08/26/12 update, Too Close for Comfort?, below.) See what I mean?:

The laws (Connecticut General Statutes and Stamford city ordinances) are very clear on these requirements for demolition. As I mentioned in my 10/22/12 update, Section 29-414 of the state's demolition code states that:

 Any person who violates any provision of this part shall be fined not more than five hundred dollars or imprisoned not more than one year or both."

So we're not talking about a mere speeding ticket here. Nagi may be sedulous, but he's way too smart to risk the potential consequences of an illegal demolition.

 

08/01/13 Update:
Gurpreet Ahujas Super-Appeal is Dead!!!

Hold onto your hats, everyone, for this is the biggest “Nagi-News” to come down the pike in over a year. First, here’s a brief recap of the events leading up to today’s bombshell:

Remember that the Zoning Board approved Nagi's latest “Maple Ridge” application on 12/12/11 with 27 conditions (restrictions) attached to their approval. But then, just as Nagi was about to pop the champagne corks, his neighbor across the street, Gurpreet Ahuja, appealed the Zoning Board’s approval in Superior Court on 12/29/11. Gurpreet’s appeal was later transferred to the land-use court in Hartford, where Judge Marshall Berger dismissed it on 1/4/13. (Nagi’s attorney, Eliot Gersten's, “rope-a-dope” strategy really paid off for Nagi here.)

However, Gurpreet—apparently never one to quit—then filed a petition for certification in Connecticut’s appellate court system on 2/12/13, seeking to appeal Judge Berger’s dismissal of her appeal (a “super-appeal,” if you will). Which finally brings us to today’s news…

On 7/24/13, the appellate court denied Gurpreet's petition for certification (to appeal Judge Berger’s dismissal of her appeal). In other words, Gurpreet's appeal (of the Zoning Board's approval of Nagi’s Maple Ridge) is dead in the water. So—after more than five years of defeats and false starts—Nagi can FINALLY start to build “Maple Ridge.”

But will he?

Remember that Nagi has his own appeal—of the Zoning Board’s rejection of his previous “Maple Ridge” application—pending in court. And (according to the court’s website) Nagi has recently put a lot of legal effort into thwarting Gurpreet’s motion to intervene (MTI) in his appeal. (Although Gurpreet’s MTI was rejected by Judge Taggart Adams on 5/30/12, she appealed the judge’s decision—and her petition for certification for this appeal was granted by the appellate court.) But why would Nagi want to keep pursuing his appeal when he now has the approval to build “Maple Ridge?”

Because Nagi might not want the deal that the Zoning Board gave him on 12/12/11, that’s why! Let me explain....

Nagi’s previous (rejected) “Maple Ridge” application was for nine apartments and a day-care for 120 children. In contrast, Nagi’s current (approved) application is for 17 condos and a day-care for 90 children.

Let’s assume that the apartments and the condos in Nagi’s applications would each rent for $2,000 per month. So the 17 condos in Nagi’s current application would gross $16,000 more per month than the nine apartments in his previous application.

BUT the cost of full-time day-care in Stamford apparently ranges from $1,800 to $2,100 per month. So the 30 additional children in Nagi’s previous day-care application would gross between $54,000 and $63,000 per month—nearly four times the gross from the additional rental units in Nagis current application!

More importantly, I understand that many national day-care franchises are not interested in any facility that does not accommodate at least 120 children (which is probably why Nagi asked for this number in the first place). There are already several smaller day-care centers along High Ridge Road (Bright Beginnings and Bright Horizons, to name just two), with many more in Stamford. (Not to mention Dr. Ahuja’s rejected application for a 150-child day-care center directly across the street from Nagi’s store….)

So Nagi just might keep on pursuing his appeal of his previous “Maple Ridge” application instead of taking the “bird-in-the-hand” of his accepted application. In fact, Nagi is currently attempting to convince the court to rule on his appeal before Gurpreet’s other appeal (of her rejected MTI in Nagi’s appeal) is heard in appellate court. There is apparently a hearing scheduled for this issue on 8/22/13. (Are you confused yet? Don’t worry...you’re not alone. I really feel sorry for the poor judges saddled with this fiasco.)

And what about Dr. Ahuja’s appeal (of the Zoning Board of Appeals’ rejection of his day-care application)? As far as I can tell, it’s still tied up in court, with only a conference scheduled on October 24th. And remember that the court has granted Nagi’s motion to intervene in Dr. Ahuja’s appeal, so this is likely to be a long fight, as well. In other words, we’ll have a lot more news to cover in the future, so stay tuned….




07/21/13 Update:
Was Tricia Busted for Speeding?

I apologize for not updating the website sooner, but there is almost nothing new to reportjust another conference call scheduled for Nagi’s appeal on July 23rd. (The last one took place on July 3rd.) I would assume that these calls involve Nagi and/or his attorneys, the City, and the judge. But the actual trial for Nagi’s appeal is on hold yet again.

And (speaking of delays) Judge Mintz entered a new scheduling order in Dr. Ahuja’s appeal on July 2nd. As you can see, this order dictates deadlines for various briefs to be filed, etc. When I read it, I had an eerie sense of “Ahuja vu.” (Sorry—I couldn’t resist….) Didn’t Judge Mintz already issue an order just like this one? It turns out that he did, almost a year ago to the date. That previous order shows deadlines for the same events, with a pre-trial date of 8/29/12. However, in the meantime, Nagi was finally granted his motion to intervene in Dr. Ahuja’s appeal last month. So now all of the briefs in Dr. Ahuja’s appeal have to be filed again.

You can see that, among other stipulations, Judge Mintz’s latest order states: “THE CASE WILL BE SCHEDULED FOR THE 10/24/13 ADMINISTRATIVE APPEALS CALENDER TO ASSIGN A WEEK CERTAIN FOR THE CASE.” I’ll believe this when I see it….

Actually, I was so desperate for news that I started just plugging names into Google in the hope that something interesting would materialize. And, lo and behold, something did, although not directly related to the appeals.

You probably remember Tricia Reville’s letter to the Advocate, in which she praised Nagi’s “Maple Ridge” project and condemned the condition of his houses on High Ridge Road. (We can’t really argue with Tricia here, although—to Nagi’s credit—he has consistently kept the lawns trimmed after I posted unflattering photos of his houses in my last update.)

Anyway, it looks like Tricia may have been caught speeding [click here if the first link doesn't work] on May 7th by a Connecticut state trooper on a limited-access highway. (Since the ticket was for a speeding car, over 70 MPH, let’s at least hope that it was on a highway!) Now, I’ll admit that this could be another Tricia M. Reville. But her name and age are the same as the Tricia who wrote the letter and who has also posted other goodies on the web. (Search this page for “Reville” to see some of them.)

If this is “our” Tricia, the judicial website reveals that (1) she has pleaded not guilty to the charge, (2) she is apparently representing herself, (3) she has been in court in New Haven twice, and (4) her next court date is July 29th.

Interestingly, this speeding charge [C.G.S. 14-219(c)(1)] is not a misdemeanor, so Tricia was issued a mail-in ticket instead of being summoned to court. She therefore had a choice to either mail in the fine or to plead not guilty...in which case she would then be summoned to traffic court. (Admittedly, the mail-in fine is not cheap, starting at $218 and going up to $449, depending on speed and whether or not the violation took place in a construction zone). If Tricia had elected to pay the fine, her payment would have been considered a plea of “Nolo Contendre” (“no contest”), and no points would have been assessed against her license. (This info is printed on the back of every ticket, but few people bother to read it.)

By pleading not guilty, Tricia is now forced to “roll the dice” in court. If the judge dismisses her speeding charge, she will have "only" lost a few days at work (although this is an inconvenience in itself, as are the trips to New Haven). If she is found guilty of this or a lesser charge, she will have to pay a fine and may also have points assessed against her license. (Insurance companies just love this, since they make a ton of money on premium surcharges as a result.) And, in the worst-case scenario, if she misses a court date, the judge can actually suspend her license and/or issue a warrant for her arrest! So let’s wish Tricia luck here. (And let’s also hope that I find a more relevant topic for my next update….)


P.S.After posting this update, I had a wonderful idea: if Tricia is representing herself in court, perhaps Nagi can step up to the plate and provide her with an attorney from his vast legal pool. Compared to litigating the complexities of the "Maple Ridge" and multi-Ahuja appeals, fighting Tricia's traffic ticket would be a piece of cake. After all, Tricia went out on a limb for Nagi when she wrote her letter for the last Zoning Board hearing. So, c'mon, Nagido the right thing!

 

06/21/13 Update:
Doc Ahuja Pulls a "Nagi!"

(He files, fails, appeals—and files again!)


Happy first day of Summer! I know that it’s been only two days since my last update (some of them have taken three weeks), but this news is so incredible that I have to share it with you now. A concerned citizen just forwarded the Stamford Planning Board’s agenda for its upcoming meeting at 7 PM on Tuesday 6/25/13. Take a look at Item #7 on Page 2 (“ZBA Appl. 050-13 — 831 & 833 High Ridge Road”). Does it sound familiar? It should, because it’s a revised application for Dr. Ahuja’s day-care center, which the ZBA had soundly trounced on 3/28/12. (See my 3/30/12 update, Z.B.A. to Ahuja:  NO WAY, Ajay!!!, below, for details.)

As you know, on 5/3/12, Dr. Ahuja appealed the ZBA’s trashing of his initial day-care application. I had mentioned that Dr. Ahuja’s trial date is June 27th, but it turns out that only a conference is scheduled for that date. If Dr. Ahuja’s appeal takes as long as Nagi’s appeal has taken, Dr. Ahuja will not see his trial until at least October 2014. (Note that Nagi’s appeal was filed back on 2/7/11, and he is still waiting for his trial almost 2-1/2 years later. In fact, Nagi’s trial, which was scheduled for 6/19/13, was postponed once again, and now only a conference call is scheduled for 7/3/13.)

So Dr. Ahuja’s patience with our court system must also be wearing thin, since he is clearly desperate enough to follow Nagi’s blueprint for “ Maple Ridge” to the letter! That is, Dr. Ahuja has filed a new day-care application at the same time that he is appealing the denial of his previous application in court. For Nagi at least, this has proven to be a recipe for disaster.

If you have been following this website, you can easily predict the future of Dr. Ahuja’s re-submitted day-care application. If the Zoning Board of Appeals caves in and approves it, Nagi is simply going to appeal the ZBA’s decision—just as Gurpreet Ahuja appealed the Zoning Board’s approval of Nagi’s re-submitted application. In fact, Nagi has already copied Gurpreet’s tactic by filing a motion to intervene in Dr. Ahuja’s appeal.

(Of course, Dr. Ahuja’s latest move will make my job of updating this website much easier: I can simply copy my earlier updates, substitute “Nagi” for “Ahuja” and vice-versa, and upload them! Crazy, isn’t it?)

** NEWS FLASH! ** I just received a revised Planning Board agenda for the 6/25/13 meeting. As you can see, Dr. Ahuja's day-care application has mysteriously disappeared from the list. (Perhaps he is having second thoughts?)

And what about Nagi's development? (After all, this site is primarily about "Maple Ridge.") Remember that it’s been well over five years since Nagi began acquiring his “Maple Ridge” properties on High Ridge Road and Maplewood Place. The exorbitant sum that Nagi paid for these admittedly run-down homes ($3.6 million), as well as his crushing loan and legal costs, must finally be getting the best of him. I just checked Nagi’s lawns this morning, and (once again) the grass is nearly a foot high! Take a look for yourself:





(If Nagi doesn’t do something about these front yards soon, we’re going to call them “Tobacco Road…”.)

The deplorable condition of Nagi’s properties stands in stark contrast to his promise to me during our 10/4/11 meeting. Here it is again, for your listening pleasure:

“I care about the properties, and that’s what you want!”

(Pssst…Nagi…I’ll bet that I can find a kid who will mow all of your front lawns for only $25. Drop me a line if you’re interested….)

 

06/19/13 Update:
Judge lets Nagi Intervene in Dr. Ahuja's Appeal!

Everyone is buzzing about the National Security Agency's newly revealed drag-netting of our phone records, Internet browsing, and nearly every other form of electronic communication that we engage in. Of course, I have to wonder what they think about Nagi's $2,500 sewer-use bill. After all, that was a massive amount of water that went down the drain at 808 High Ridge Road. Were Nagi's former tenants experimenting with "fracking"...or was something more ominous taking place there? (As the government always reminds us, "If you see something, say something!" I'm just sayin'....)

But I digress. Although we are now awaiting the outcome of Nagi's trial (which was scheduled for today), the big news is that Judge Robert Genuario just granted Nagi's motion to intervene (in Dr. Ahuja's appeal of the ZBA's rejection of his day-care application)! And Judge Genuario also overruled Dr. Ahuja's objection to Nagi's MTI. As you can see, the good judge notes that Nagi has the statutory right to intervene, since he filed his motion in a timely fashion and his property is close enough to Dr. Ahuja's proposed day-care. Judge Genuario's order gives Nagi legal standing as a co-defendant with the City in Dr. Ahuja's appeal. So now any proposed back-room settlement between Dr. Ahuja and the City must also be approved by Nagi. (In other words, Dr. Ahuja...fuggedaboudit!)

Now, you may remember that, way back on 3/12/12, Dr. Ahuja's ex-wife, Gurpreet, filed a motion to intervene in Nagi's appeal against the City. But (unlike Nagi's MTI) Gurpreet's MTI was rejected by Judge Taggart Adams! In contrast to Judge Genuario's four-line order, Judge Adams detailed his decision via five pages of legalese and supporting case law. (To be fair to Judge Genuario, he may have a similar "memorandum of decision" in the works.) Gurpreet later appealed Judge Adams' decision in Connecticut's appellate court system, and her appeal is still waiting to be heard.

So, while one judge denies Gurpreet's motion to intervene in Nagi's appeal, another judge grants Nagi's motion to intervene in Dr. Ahuja's appeal. It would thus seem that the judge shopping that I alluded to in my 6/1/12 update really does pay off. (Nice job there, Nagi!)

You may also remember that another judge, the Honorable A. William Mottolese, had previously granted Nagi's motion to intervene in Dr. Ahuja's appeal back on 7/30/12. But Judge Mottolese's later vacated this order (along with every other order he had issued) and recused himself from the case because the judge lives in our neighborhood and realized that a day-care on High Ridge Road could "impact vehicular traffic," i.e., adversely affect the judge's commute to work. (We can't fault him for this opinion, can we?)

But could Nagi have inadvertently "shot himself in the foot" by winning his motion to intervene in Dr. Ahuja's appeal? After all, Nagi fought hard to avoid being deposed by Dr. Ahuja, and he recently won that fight. (See my previous update below for details.) Since Nagi now has legal standing in Dr. Ahuja's appeal, he might again become fair game to be deposed. (You may recall that Gurpreet Ahuja had the humiliating experience of being deposed by Nagi's attorney, Eliot Gersten. You can find a redacted version of Gurpreet's 92-page deposition in my 7/27/12 update, "Gurpreet Bares All!" But be forewarned that, due to its size, it takes awhile to download.)

So we just might get to read the juicy details of Nagi's deepest secrets after all. Stay tuned.....



06/12/13 Update:
Nagi Gets the Right to Remain Silent!

I can’t believe that we’re nearly half-way through June--the sun is warm, the air is balmy, and air-conditioners are  humming. So it must be time to re-check the status of Dr. Ahuja’s appeal!

(As you may recall, Dr. Ahuja appealed the Zoning Board of Appeals’ rejection of his application to build a day-care center across the street from Nagi’s proposed “Maple Ridge” development, and Dr. Ahuja’s trial date is scheduled for June 27th. That date was actually assigned back in the dead of winter—see my 1/25/13 update: Judge to Ahuja: See You in June, Doc!,” which appears on this page far below today’s update.)

Like our sultry weather, the court battles between Nagi and the Ahuja family are really starting to heat up. Let’s re-cap with a brief summary of events leading up to today's “Nagi News:”

1) On 12/12/11, Nagi’s latest “Maple Ridge” application was approved by the Zoning Board with 27 conditions, allowing Nagi to build 17 condo units and a day-care center for 90 children.

2) On 12/29/11, Nagi’s neighbor, Gurpreet Ahuja, filed an appeal against the Zoning Board’s approval of Nagi’s latest Maple Ridge application.

3) On 2/22/12, Gurpreet Ahuja also filed a motion to intervene (MTI) in Nagi’s appeal against the Zoning Board for rejecting his previous Maple Ridge application (which was for 10 apartments and a day-care for 120 children).

4) On 3/28/12, the Planning Board unanimously rejected Dr. Ajay Ahuja’s application for a separate day-care center directly across the street from Nagi’s “Maple Ridge.” (See Page 5 for details.)

5) Taking his cue from Nagi, Dr. Ahuja appealed the ZBA’s and PB's rejection of his day-care application on 5/3/12.

6) On 6/1/12, Gurpreet Ahuja provided a deposition to Nagi’s attorney, Eliot Gersten, regarding her motives in intervening in Nagi’s appeal. (Gurpreet had previously been served with a subpoena to provide this deposition.)

7) Taking his cue from Gurpreet Ahuja, Nagi filed a motion to intervene in Dr. Ahuja’s appeal on 7/17/12.

8) Taking his cue from Nagi, Dr. Ahuja served Nagi with a subpoena to provide a deposition on 9/12/12 regarding his motives for intervening in Dr. Ahuja’s appeal.

Now, here’s where Nagi’s and the Ahuja’s strategies diverge (and where today’s update begins). Instead of allowing himself to be deposed (i.e., relentlessly interrogated) by Dr. Ahuja’s attorneys, Nagi challenged Dr. Ahuja’s subpoena on 9/7/12 by filing a motion to quash (or nullify) Dr. Ahuja's subpoena.

(Apparently, Gurpreet Ahuja was not aware that she could have filed a similar motion to avoid being deposed by Attorney Eliot Gersten.)

On 4/18/13, Judge Alfred Jennings Jr. granted Nagi’s motion to quash Dr. Ahuja’s subpoena! So Nagi now has the right to remain silent—i.e., not to be deposed—regarding his motives for intervening in Dr. Ahuja’s appeal. (Oh, well.... A lot of us were really looking forward to reading that deposition....)

In his decision, Judge Jennings ruled that Dr. Ahuja did not adequately prove that Nagi’s MTI in Dr. Ahuja’s appeal was either a sham or frivolous, so Dr. Ahuja did not have any right to grill Nagi about his motives for filing his MTI.

(Note that Nagi’s MTI states that Dr. Ahuja’s day-care would drastically reduce the value of Nagi’s property and his enjoyment of it. But remember that Nagi’s own experts had previously testified at the Zoning Board hearings that Nagi’s day-care would not impact the value of our neighboring properties—an inconsistency that Dr. Ahuja has called “hypocritical and facetious.”)

Note that the trial for Nagi’s appeal is scheduled for one week from today (6/19/13)! Note, also, that the court has  scheduled a hearing for Dr. Ahuja’s appeal on the day before Nagi’s trial (6/18/13). If Nagi wins his appeal, he will be allowed to build 10 apartments and a day-care for 120 children.

I have heard that national day-care franchises require any prospective facility to accommodate at least 120 children. And remember that the Zoning Board lowered that number to 90 children when they approved Nagi's current "Maple Ridge" application. So Nagi may actually want his previously rejected version of Maple Ridge more than the currently approved version that Gurpreet Ahuja has appealed. And, by this time next week, he may very well get it.

Will “The Irresistible Force” (Nagi) forge a last-minute compromise with “The Immovable Object” (Dr. Ahuja) before Nagi's trial? Or will the Osta-Ahuja court battles heat up even more?  Stay tuned…..


06/02/13 Update:
Au Revoir, Audrey.

I just read Elizabeth Kim's Advocate article (After 16 years, zoning board member forced to step down) about former Z.B. chairperson Audrey Cosentini getting knocked off the board for, well, for doing her job. I had first written about this sad situation on February 17th. (See my "Audrey, Please Say it Ain't So!" update, below.) Now that it has come to pass, I hope that the citizens of Stamford realize what they have lost with Ms. Cosentini's involuntary departure.

Way back on 10/26/11, I had posted the stated purpose of Stamford's Zoning Code. (You can find that post under the "Rowdy Days!" link in the black banner at the top of this page.) In case you missed it, I have re-copied it below with key phrases bolded for emphasis.

The purpose of this Zoning Code is to encourage the most appropriate use of land; to conserve and stabilize the value of property; to provide adequate open spaces for light and air; to prevent and fight fires; to prevent undue concentration of population; to lessen congestion on streets; to facilitate adequate provisions for community utilities and facilities such as transportation, water, sewerage, schools, parks and other public requirements; to promote health, safety and the general welfare; and to that end to designate, regulate and restrict the location and use of buildings, structures and land for agriculture, residence, commerce, trade, industry or other purposes; to regulate and limit the height, number of stories and size of buildings and other structures hereafter erected or altered; to regulate and determine the size of yards and other open spaces; and to regulate and limit the density of population; and for said purposes to divide the city into zoning districts of such number, shape and area as may be deemed best suited to carry out these regulations.....

Now can someone please tell me which part of the Zoning Code Audrey Cosentini failed to embrace? (Yeah, I couldn't find any, either.) As I said to Elizabeth Kim, Ms. Cosentini will be missed by nearly all of us.

On a brighter note:  if you have always wanted to develop something big in Stamford--like perhaps an amusement park, or even a casino--now is the time. As for me, I'm thinking about getting together with my neighbors and combining our properties to build a little day-care center. Maybe we'll call it "Maple Ridge West."



05/24/13 Update:
Nagi Struts His Stuff!

(on the dance floor and in court)

On Saturday, May 18th, Nagi brought the house down at Curtain Call’s Dancing with the Stars fund-raiser at the Palace Theatre. (That’s Nagi at the far right of the group photo.) Unfortunately, I missed this grand event (tickets were $125 each!), but Lou Ursone of StamfordPatch covered it very nicely in the article above. (I have to give Nagi credit—he must have some incredible dance moves!)

Speaking of clever moves: I just saw an update on the court’s website for Nagi’s appeal, so I drove right down to the law library—this time with exact change—to get the latest scoop for you. And, boy, is it a doozie!

Let’s start with a quick refresher:  On 2/7/11, Nagi filed an appeal (above) of the Zoning Board’s rejection of his previous “Maple Ridge” application. That application, which was presented to the Zoning Board on 12/6/10, was for nine apartments and a day-care center for 120 children.

Then, while Nagi’s appeal was pending in court, he filed a second “Maple Ridge” application for 22 apartments and a day-care for 120 children. The Zoning Board held four public hearings on Nagi’s second application between 9/26/11 and 11/10/11, ultimately approving a scaled-down version (consisting of 17 condominiums and a day-care for 90 children) on 12/16/11.

On 12/29/11, Nagi’s neighbor across the street, Gurpreet Ahuja, filed an appeal of the Zoning Board’s approval of Nagi’s second “Maple Ridge” application. She based her appeal mainly on two issues: 1) that the Zoning Board’s failure to post notices for two of the four public hearings mentioned above violated Stamford’s city ordinance; and 2) the Zoning Board’s modification of the traffic pattern in Nagi’s application (by eliminating the driveway between Maplewood Place and Bradley Place) amounted to a “material change” that should have required a new application.

In addition to her appeal, Gurpreet also filed a motion to intervene (MTI) as a co-defendant with the City in Nagi’s previous “Maple Ridge” application. She apparently did this to prevent Nagi from making her appeal moot by settling his appeal of his previous application. (And, in fact, such a settlement was later thwarted by the existence of Gurpreet’s MTI.)

Gurpreet’s MTI in Nagi’s appeal was rejected by Judge Adams in Stamford Superior Court, so she appealed the judge’s rejection to Connecticut’s appellate court. The appellate court granted Gurpreet’s petition to appeal, and she is now waiting for this appeal to be heard. And this appeal (of the judge’s rejection of Gurpreet’s MTI) is now holding up Nagi’s appeal (of the City’s rejection of his previous “Maple Ridge” application).

So, on 3/8/12, one of Nagi’s attorneys, Brenden Leydon, filed an Objection to [Gupreet’s] Motion to Intervene. And, on 10/22/12, Attorney Leydon also filed an Objection to [Gurpreet's] Application to Appear and File Amicus Brief. In these objections, Attorney Leydon vehemently argued against Gurpreet’s MTI, in part because she had waited to file it until well over a year after Nagi’s appeal was filed. However (as mentioned above), Gurpreet filed her MTI to prevent Nagi from making an “end-run” around Gurpreet’s own appeal.

Note that, in his 10/22/12 objection, Attorney Leydon states that any appeal of a board’s failure to comply with an ordinance (such as the Zoning Board’s apparent failure to comply with Stamford’s ordinance requiring notices of additional public hearings) shall be taken not more than one year after such failure. He implies that Gurpreet waited more than a year after the Zoning Board’s failure to comply with the city’s notice requirements to file her MTI. But this is not true—Gurpreet filed her appeal on 12/29/11 and her MTI on 2/22/12, and the public hearings in question occurred on 9/26/11, 10/6/11, 10/24/11, and 11/10/11. Here, Attorney Leydon seems to have confused Nagi’s appeal with Gurpreet’s appeal. (And who can blame him?)

But now for the “doozie:” in a complete reversal of his previous position, Attorney Leydon withdrew his objection on 5/23/13 and has now asked the court (via a Motion to Implead) to ALLOW Gurpreet to intervene in Nagi’s appeal!

Attorney Leydon’s Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion to Implead basically states that Gurpreet should be allowed to intervene immediately so that Nagi’s appeal can go to trial on 6/19/13, as scheduled. And, in the event that the court does NOT grant Gurpreet’s MTI, Attorney Leydon has also filed a Motion to Proceed with Trial Regardless of Nonparty Appeal. (Here Attorney Leydon basically argues that Gurpreet’s MTI appeal of Nagi’s appeal should not delay Nagi’s trial.)

As an aside, note that, although Attorney Leydon’s motions are dated 5/25/13, the court’s website shows that they were filed on 5/23/13. (I guess that he’s looking forward to the holiday weekend as much as we are!)

If the court grants Attorney Leydon’s motions, then the trial for Nagi’s appeal will take place less than a month from now—in Hartford, the home turf of Nagi’s other attorney (and brother-in-law), Eliot Gersten. And, if I am correct about the Gersten family’s influence in Hartford’s legal inner-circles, this trial could prove to be a “slam-dunk” for Nagi. (Apparently Nagi’s brilliant moves are not limited to the dance floor….)

(Next:  Why Nagi WON’T be “strutting his stuff” in Dr. Ahuja’s appeal.)

 

.

05/10/13 Update:
Nagi's in the (Borrowed) Money Again!

As you know, I have been checking the Town Clerk’s office for the fate of Nagi’s $3.1 million in loans from People’s Bank ($1.4M) and CBT/Berkshire Bank ($1.7M). As you can see from the latest loan documents on file, the People’s loan was due on May 1, 2012, and the CBT/Berkshire loan was due on December 31, 2012. If these loans are paid off, this fact should have been recorded with the Town Clerk. But it hasn’t, at least not yet.

I had previously been searching only for info related to Nagi’s “Procurement LLC,” so I finally decided to perform a more careful search of Nagi’s personal loans and mortgages. And, bingo!—I found more money.

On May 26, 2011, Nagi and his wife, Elizabeth, took out a $688,000 mortgage with The Washington Trust Company against their home at 90 West Bank Lane in Stamford. (Please note that, in the name of fiscal austerity, I have only copied the most relevant pages of this 15-page loan document. Unlike the law library’s printing charge of only 10 cents per page, the Town Clerk’s office charges a whole DOLLAR per page!)

Remember, too, that, on March 6, 2013, Nagi and Liz took out an additional $250,000 mortgage against 90 West Bank Lane. So their home—which they purchased in 1984—is now mortgaged for a total of $938,000.

As an interesting aside, the city’s current assessed value for Nagi’s home is $571,540. This represents 70% of market value, or $816,486. So Nagi’s home is now mortgaged for 115% of its market value (at least according to the City’s assessment figures).

Connecticut General Statute 36a-261(h) of our state’s banking regulations generally limits a home mortgage to 90% of the home’s value. So Nagi’s house is apparently “underwater” at this point. (Note that Nagi’s $688,000 mortgage represented only 84% of his home’s value, but the additional $250,000 second mortgage brought the total to well over the 90% mark. Of course, Nagi may have pre-paid a portion of his first mortgage prior to taking out the second one, so this may not be an accurate assessment.)

So we have accounted for nearly $1 million in funds that may be used to pay off the $3.1 million in loans from People’s Bank and CBT/Berkshire. But what about the rest of the money?

You may recall that Nagi has at least one other limited liability company beside Procurement LLC. In fact, his first two Maple Ridge property purchases were made under his “Sedulous LLC.” (As you can see from Note #4 in the spreadsheet, "sedulous" means "persevering and constant in effort." And its ablative is "dolus," or trickery, from the Greek "dolos," or cunning. A very apt name for Nagi’s LLC, in any case….)

When I re-searched the Town Clerk’s computer for “Sedulous LLC” last week, I finally hit “The Mother Lode!” On April 24, 2013, Nagi’s Sedulous LLC obtained a 15-year $2 million mortgage from Stamford First Bank. Now (in another interesting twist) the property on this mortgage is NOT any of Nagi’s “Maple Ridge” properties—it is Nagi’s jewelry store at 828 High Ridge Road!

(Again, please note that I have copied only the most interesting pages of this 40-page loan document. At a buck per page, can you blame me?)

It turns out that this is a pretty scary mortgage, to say the least. For example, section 4.1 (Events of Default) specifies that, in the event of a “default”—which includes such trivial oversights as failing to pay property taxes—the loan’s annual interest rate will skyrocket from an adjustable 4.15% to a whopping 18%!

(Note to Nagi: If I were you, I would personally deliver your July 1st property-tax payment to the Assessor’s Office on the sixth floor of the Government Center. It could be well worth the trip!)

Another way for Nagi to default on this loan would be to miss one of its $15,006.77 (!) monthly payments. Fortunately for Nagi, the loan payments will apparently be withdrawn directly from his account with Stamford First Bank. (Nagi’s account number actually appears on another page that I intentionally did not copy.)

But will this $2 million be used to pay off some of the loans on Nagi’s “Maple Ridge” properties, which are located next to Nagi Jewelers? It sure looks that way! Note that subsection (a) of Section 2.3 (“Use of Loan Proceeds”) on Page 30 of 40 states that:

“The Maker covenants and agrees that the proceeds of the Loan shall be utilized to refinance the Premises (as defined below); to payoff an additional loan on an adjacent property to the Premises and for closing costs.” (bolding emphasis added.)

Finally, note the following covenant at the bottom of that same page:

“The outstanding balance of the Loan shall at no time exceed seventy-five (75.00%) percent of the “as is” appraised fair market value of the Premises, as reasonably determined by the Lender’s appraiser.”

Perhaps The Washington Trust Company might wish to consider including a similar restriction in its future mortgage agreements….

(Coming next:  Nagi Dances With the Stars!)

04/19/13 Update:
Nagi’s Day-Care is on the Market!

(Click the link above to see Nagi’s commercial listing for “The Day-Care That Isn’t There.”)

As I type this, the world is reeling from the horrific bombing at the Boston Marathon and the city-wide manhunt for the bombing suspect still at large. I can only hope that, despite the heavy events of the day, you will enjoy this update.

Yes, you read the ad above correctly: Nagi is advertising a commercial day-care center at 808-826 High Ridge Road that is “immediately” available for lease! The ad even includes the same artist’s rendering of “Maple Ridge” that Nagi presented to the Zoning Board in September of 2011.

As you can see, the leasing cost for Nagi's day-care is $38,500 per month ($462,000 per year). This is probably at least three times the amount of rent that Nagi was collecting for the houses on these properties, most of which are now vacant, anyway. In light of the mountains of interest on Nagi’s loans and his stratospheric legal costs, he can surely use the money.

However, a prospective tenant will have to spend a little more than $38,500 per month for this Mid-Ridges gem, since it is being offered as an “NNN lease.” (NNN stands for “Net Net Net” or “Triple Net.”) Under this arrangement, the tenant must pay (1) the property taxes, (2) the insurance, and (3) the costs of maintenance on Nagi’s day-care center, in addition to the rent itself. (You can read more about triple-net leases in the Wikipedia link above.)

Aside from the significant triple-net costs, there is one other problem: the day-care center doesn’t even exist! In fact, the property still looks pretty much like this:

And—more importantly—both of Nagi’s “Maple Ridge” applications are still tied up in court! (It would be a brave day-care tenant, indeed, to bet the farm against these odds....)

You may recall that Nagi’s neighbor, Gurpreet Ahuja, filed a motion to intervene in Nagi’s appeal of the Zoning Board’s denial of his previous “Maple Ridge” application. Although Gurpreet’s motion was denied by the lower court, she was later granted certification to appeal that denial in Connecticut’s appellate court system. Her appeal is still pending.

In fact, Nagi’s trial date for his appeal was recently pushed back AGAIN, this time from April 17th to June 20th—not coincidentally, a week before the June 27th conference for Dr. Ahuja’s appeal. (Note that Nagi’s trial had previously been scheduled for January 28th before it was pushed back to April 17th.) In all likelihood, this is due to Gurpreet’s outstanding motion to intervene in Nagi's appeal. (Nagi’s trial cannot take place until Gurpreet’s motion is finally settled one way or the other.)

As you know, Gurpreet had also filed an appeal of the Zoning Board’s approval of Nagi’s latest “Maple Ridge” application. And, although the lower court dismissed this appeal, Gurpreet then filed an appeal of the dismissal! Her petition for certification for this appeal is also still pending in court, with no further updates appearing on the docket.

Can Nagi be so confident that he will prevail over both of Gurpreet’s appeals in Hartford? Perhaps he is. I have been told not to underestimate the power and influence of Nagi’s in-laws, the Gerstens, in Hartford’s appellate court system. Nagi’s brother-in-law, Attorney Eliot Gersten, is representing Nagi in these appeals. And Nagi’s late father-in-law, Charles Gersten, was clearly a “mover-and-shaker” in Hartford’s legal inner-circles, as well. So (just as with the Zoning Board’s pre-ordained approval of Nagi’s project in 2011) perhaps Nagi holds all of the chips in this game, too. We’ll see.

On a more humorous note: someone sent me a link to a great marketing ad called NAGI will pay your Taxes. As you can see, Nagi has offered to pay the sales tax on any purchase made at his jewelry store through 5 PM on April 20th. I was happy to see that Nagi's financial situation has improved so much that he can now afford to pay other people’s taxes. It’s certainly a far cry from the days of the City’s liens on Nagi’s properties at 808 High Ridge Rd. and 816 High Ridge Rd. for unpaid sewer-use charges. (Both of those liens were later removed after the past-due charges were paid.)

But where is Nagi’s new-found money coming from? Stay tuned….

 

03/26/13 Update:
Nagi: "The Loan Arranger?"

First, please accept my apologies...it's been a whole month since my last update! (Believe me, Flavia Lasalandra has been keeping track here. She sent an email today to wish me a happy Easter--and to gently remind me that she has been diligently checking my website every few days....)

To tell you the truth, I have had a difficult time analyzing Gurpreet Ahuja's latest appeal of (deep breath!) Judge Berger's dismissal of her appeal of the Zoning Board's approval of Nagi's latest Maple Ridge application. Gurpreet's appeal cites several court cases as precedents, and these court cases, in turn, cite *other* court cases, ad nauseum. (I would really NOT want to be the judge(s) charged with settling this legal morass!)

Gurpreet's latest appeal raises the total number that we are tracking to FIVE! (Go ahead, count 'em.) And they have become so overwhelming that I'm going to hold off on my legal analysis for now. Instead, let's talk about money.

Remember that Nagi borrowed $1.4 million from People's Bank and $1.7 million from CBT. These loans--both of which had already been extended three times--were due in May of 2012. I have been checking the Town Clerk's office regularly since then for updates, but nothing appeared in the computerized records system. I was about to give up when I finally came across two extensions for Nagi's CBT loan:

$1.7 Million CBT / Berkshire Bank loan extension #4 (dated 6/13/12, extending the maturity date to 8/31/12)

$1.7 Million CBT / Berkshire Bank loan extension #5 (dated 9/28/12, extending the maturity date to 12/31/12)

(As you can see, CBT apparently merged with Berkshire Bank, which took over Nagi's loan.) Of course, we don't know what happened to this loan after 12/31/12, nor do we know the fate of the People's Bank loan at all. I'm not sure if banks have a legal obligation to file their loan documentation in a timely manner, but this clearly doesn't seem to be happening--at least not in the case of these loans from CBT/Berkshire and People's Bank.

Now, in contrast, The Washington Trust Company managed to file Nagi's $250,000 mortgage on his residence (90 West Bank Lane) only two WEEKS after Nagi and Liz Osta secured this open-ended line of credit on 3/6/13! (I guess that Washington Trust is more on the ball in this respect.)

Getting back briefly to the morass of appeals: the trial date for Nagi's appeal is only three weeks away, on 4/17/13. However, I'm not sure if this trial will actually take place, since Gurpreet's *other* appeal of (even deeper breath!!!) Judge Adams' rejection of Gurpreet's motion to intervene in Nagi's appeal of the Zoning Board's rejection of his previous Maple Ridge application...is still winding its way through the appellate-court system.

And, finally, the next court date for Dr. Ahuja's appeal is "only" three months away, on 6/27/13. (Remember to re-check the judicial website after you have turned on your air conditioners this summer....)

02/26/13 Update:
She's BAAAAACK!!!

On 2/12/13, Gurpreet Ahuja appealed Judge Berger's dismissal of her appeal against Nagi's project!

I had been wondering why Nagi has not begun construction on "Maple Ridge," despite his recent victory against Gurpreet Ahuja's 12/29/11 appeal (of the Zoning Board's approval of his project). Rumors had been circulating that Gurpreet might go on to appeal the dismissal of her appeal to Connecticut's Appellate Court, but I hadn't found anything to substantiate those rumors...until now.

During this past weekend, I saw an intriguing update in Gurpreet's appeal. This update, #138.00, dated 2/13/13, is described as a "petition for certification." I remembered seeing that same term last June, in Gurpreet's appeal of Judge Adams' rejection of her motion to intervene in Nagi's appeal. That petition was finally accepted by Connecticut's Appellate Court on October 24th, about five months after Gurpreet filed it. So I decided that a long-overdue trip to Stamford Superior Court's law library was in order. I stopped by the courthouse after work yesterday, expecting to copy maybe a dozen or so pages....

What I didn't realize was that Gurpreet’s newest petition for certification (which costs 10 cents per page to copy) was 81 pages long! Unfortunately, my bag of coins was 10 cents short, so the law librarian had to break my $20 bill for the $8.10 copying cost. (BTW, you never want to unnecessarily inconvenience a law librarian.)

To make matters worse, I initially printed Gurpreet’s petition directly from the link on the judicial website. (Unlike what we see at home, the law library’s computers contain links to each document filed with the court.) But, after the petition printed out, I saw that the top inch of every page--and thus the first line of text--had been cut off, making the entire printout worthless. (The law librarian wasn't too happy about *that,* either.)

I finally had to download a PDF version of the petition, then use Adobe Reader to print the file using the "shrink-to-fit" option. But now the reduced printout was too small to read when scanned at 8-1/2" x 11". So I spent Monday evening manually trimming about an inch from three sides of all 81 pages, reducing the printout down to 6-1/2" x 8-1/2." I then scanned the reduced printout using the “custom paper size setting” to make it more readable. I hope that it helps. (The things that I do to keep you informed and entertained!)

Anyway, in hindsight, it looks like Nagi was right by not going ahead with "Maple Ridge"...at least not yet. At this point, Gurpreet's appeal is like the indestructible T-1000 robot in the movie Terminator 2. Just when you think that it is melted away, it suddenly resurrects itself!

If you click the link to Gurpreet's petition at the start of this update, you will see that it is only 11 (vs. 81) pages long. This is because I scanned the petition without its 70 pages of attachments for now. These attachments are listed in the petition's Appendix. Some of them already appear elsewhere on this website, but I hope to fill in the gaps during my next update. I will also talk about the legal issues behind Gurpreet's petition at that time.  Stay tuned...


02/17/13 Update:
Audrey, Please Say it Ain't So!

(See Elizabeth Kim's 2/16/13 Advocate article:  Shakeup on City's Zoning Board)

While perusing the Advocate during breakfast this morning, I nearly choked on my English muffin when I read Elizabeth Kim's latest article. Apparently Mayor Pavia is "giving the boot" to former Zoning Board chairperson Audrey Cosentini (whom the Mayor had previously demoted from her chair position and replaced with the more developer-friendly Tom Mills). Despite that relative loss of influence on the board, Ms. Cosentini remained a vocal critic of anyone who would disregard Stamford's City Charter (which, like Ms. Cosentini, is being tossed out the window and replaced with something a little more "flexible"). Now, much to the delight of developers everywhere, Ms. Cosentini's voice will finally be silenced. (I imagine that Zoning Board member Barry Michelson's head will be next on the Mayor's chopping block.)

I have never personally spoken with Ms. Cosentini, but I feel as if I know her, nonetheless. Her "tell-it-like-it-is" attitude was a refreshing change from the business-as-usual politics that dominated our city in the past. Therefore, in her honor, I have updated my Board Minutes link to include ALL of the Zoning Board's and Planning Board's public hearings related to Nagi's project. You can find many of Ms. Cosentini's nuggets of wisdom enshrined within those minutes.

I will have more to say about the Zoning Board shakeup, but I have to get to work today. But stay tuned....

P.S.-- At 6 PM on Wednesday 2/20/13, the Ferguson Library on Broad Street is sponsoring a wine reception, presentation, and book signing for Vito Colucci, Jr. and his new book, Rogue Town, which exposes the rampant corruption that once strangled Stamford. Tickets for this event are only $15 and will benefit the Library. Hopefully our fair city will never again see times like those that Mr. Colucci ultimately exposed. Hopefully....


02/10/13 Update:
Judge to Dr. Ahuja: Lawyers are not Prisoners!

(Although some of us probably wish that they were...)

I had wanted to talk about the slow-motion dismantling of Nagi’s Revolutionary-War-era house at 808 High Ridge Road. Its “newest” layer of white plank siding—which probably dates back to the middle of last century—has been mainly stripped away, exposing a layer of dark-brown shingles beneath it. (See the photo in my previous update, below.) Could this be the beginning of Nagi’s new “Mid-Ridges Colonial Americana Museum,” or is 808 High Ridge Road being demolished one board at a time?

But our discussion of Nagi’s 233-year-old house will have to wait, for a new twist in those pesky court appeals by Nagi, Gurpreet Ahuja, and Dr. Ajay Ahuja just popped up on the state’s judicial website—this time in Dr. Ahuja’s appeal.

As you may recall, Dr. Ahuja appealed the Zoning Board of Appeals’ rejection of his application to build a day-care center across the street from Nagi’s proposed “Maple Ridge” development. And—predictably—Nagi filed a “motion to intervene” (MTI) in Dr. Ahuja’s appeal.

To refresh your memory here: If the court grants Nagi’s MTI, this will allow Nagi to be a co-defendant with the City in Dr. Ahuja’s appeal. Thus, any proposed settlement between Dr. Ahuja and the City would also have to be approved by Nagi. (This is the same tactic that Dr. Ahuja’s ex-wife, Gurpreet, employed when she attempted to intervene in Nagi’s appeal against the City.)

In response to Nagi’s motion to intervene, Dr. Ahuja wants to have Nagi deposed (that is, formally interviewed in a legal setting), in much the same manner that Gurpreet Ahuja was deposed regarding her MTI in Nagi’s appeal.

And so, employing the all-too-familiar “tit-for-tat” legal strategy that has dominated throughout these appeals:

1) Nagi, filed a motion to “quash” (i.e., declare invalid) Dr. Ahuja’s motion to have him deposed;

2) Dr. Ahuja filed a memorandum of objection to Nagi’s motion to quash;

3) Nagi filed a motion for extension of time to respond to Dr. Ahuja’s memorandum of objection, and, finally;

4) Dr. Ahuja filed an objection to Nagi’s motion for extension of time!

Believe me, I realize that all of this is pretty darn confusing. But keep in mind that we are dealing with only Dr. Ahuja’s appeal here. The court, in contrast, has to deal with three appeals (four, if you count Gurpreet’s appeal of Judge Adams’s denial of her MTI in Nagi’s appeal)! And all of these appeals are intertwined on several levels, which makes their adjudication even more complicated than an advanced calculus equation. This is why judges get paid big bucks.

Of course, judges are only human, too. And, if all of this legal wrangling is confusing and frustrating to you, imagine how it feels to the poor judges who must unravel the intricate details of, and interrelationships between, these appeals, then render legally binding decisions on them!

And so it appears that just a tiny bit of frustration may have leaked through Judge Alfred Jennings’ latest order in Dr. Ahuja’s appeal. On February 5th, Judge Jennings issued an order granting Nagi’s motion for an extension of time (item #3, above) and another order overruling Dr. Ahuja’s objection to Nagi’s motion (item #4, above).

As you can see from Judge Jennings’ last order, he provided a logical and reasonable explanation for his decision, even citing the relevant case law for it. But you just have to love the second sentence in his explanation:

“The practice of law is not a sentence to prison.”

In other words, Judge Jennings wants Dr. Ahuja to understand that the court allows reasonable delays in the judicial process for vacation plans, personal emergencies, and the like. (Actually, I don’t see any problem with Judge Jennings granting Nagi’s motion for an extension of time here, since Judge Douglas Mintz had already issued an order to schedule June 27th as the next court date in Dr. Ahuja's appeal!)

Judge Jennings then goes on to add one more admonishment: “All briefs shall stay within the five page limit.” I can understand this, too. There are currently thousands of pages of legal documents—motions, briefs, orders, memoranda, etc., plus all of the documents from the zoning applications themselves—that the court must take into account in each of these appeals. (These aren't murder trials, after all….)

So where does this leave Nagi? Well, I also saw that the court just re-scheduled the trial for Nagi’s appeal on April 17th. (The trial had previously been scheduled for January 28th, but then mysteriously dropped off the docket just before then.)

And what about Gurpreet Ahuja’s appeal against the Zoning Board for approving Nagi’s application? Although Gurpreet’s appeal was dismissed on January 4th, the rumor is that she would appeal the dismissal. While there has not yet been any confirmation of another appellate-court petition by Gurpreet, the fact that Nagi has not withdrawn his appeal tends to support this rumor.

Spring is on its way, so I imagine that Nagi and Dr. Ahuja are each vying for a true legal victory in time to take advantage of the construction season. Most of Nagi’s rental houses now appear to be unoccupied, which suggests that he may be preparing to file demolition permits for them. Will the court delay Dr. Ahuja’s day-care appeal long enough for Nagi to get a jump on the market by building “Maple Ridge” first? Or will both projects continue to be tied up in court? At this point, I wouldn’t place a bet on either outcome. But I will hopefully continue to be here to bring the news to you as it happens. Until then, please stay safe and warm….

 

02/04/13 Update:
Demetrios Meets Three of Us

(Sigh...)

As he had promised during his 2011 campaign, 16th District representative Demetrios Frazis held a neighborhood town-hall-style meeting at the Harry Bennett Library on January 30th. Unfortunately, only three people showed up: Flavia Lasalandra, her husband, and one other neighbor. But you can’t really count Flavia, since she shows up at everything related to land-use issues. And you can’t count Flavia’s poor husband, either, since she obviously dragged him along. So that leaves exactly one person who responded to Demetrios’ email.

Now, if you happen to be an advertising/marketing person, you know that this is still a pretty good response rate: about 10% of Demetrios’ “target audience” of 11 constituents. I actually thought about attending the meeting, but I wondered what kind of turnout Demetrios expected after emailing his notice to only 11 people. Unless he had promised a $100 bill to everyone who attended the meeting, I was sure that his email would not spread very far.

As an aside: Demetrios, please check out the “blind-carbon-copy” option in your email software; it will prevent future recipients from seeing each others’ addresses in your email. Actually, Nagi made the same mistake back on 10/5/11. At that time, Stamford’s Land-Use Chief, Norman Cole, provided Nagi with emails from every resident opposed to Nagi’s “Maple Ridge” project. Nagi, in turn, replied to these residents en masse, and some of them forwarded Nagi’s email to me. (You can click my Words with Nagi link, above, for the details.) Obviously, the opposing residents were not pleased with their email addresses being sent to, and then broadcasted by, Nagi. In fact, I even considered making this T-shirt with one resident’s remarks about the whole fiasco:


I’m not really knocking Demetrios here—at least he made an honest effort to fulfill his campaign promise (unlike many politicians). But, if he wants better results next time, he’ll have to do more to get the word out.

In my case, I had distributed thousands of flyers (2,549, to be exact) to our Mid-Ridges neighbors over a three-week period, walking for over 39 hours (and thus probably 70-80 miles) in the process. I also distributed hundreds of signs, posters, and stickers, and I started this website, too. And the results were absolutely amazing. For the first time in as far back as anyone could remember, we packed the cafeteria at the Government Center so much on 10/24/11 that the City actually had to suspend Nagi’s public hearing that evening!

As a special mid-winter treat, here is a never-before-released photo of the crowd forming in the cafeteria shortly before the meeting was suspended:

(Actually, I had taken several more photos before one of Nagi’s supporters expressed her disapproval at being photographed at the public hearing. Maybe she didn’t like her make-up that evening...I don’t know…)

Of course, Nagi—being no stranger to marketing and advertising himself—employed some of the very same methods. He handed out really neat orange “I Support Maple Ridge” buttons to his supporters at the 10/24 public hearing. He emailed residents to address their concerns. (OK, this one could have been handled better—see above.) And he even walked all over the neighborhood distributing his own flyer to promote his November 7th meeting at the Harry Bennett Library! (This was where Nagi announced the compromise with residents that Attorney John Leydon and I had brokered. Unfortunately, Nagi should have delivered his flyer to the Zoning Board members, too—none of them seemed to know much about our compromise at Nagi’s public hearing on November 10th.)

Heck, Nagi’s public-relations staff had even invited Cablevision’s News 12 to Nagi’s November 7th meeting at the library, and they actually showed up! If you missed Cablevision’s broadcast of the meeting, you can find it here. (BTW, I just love the newscaster’s description of Maple Ridge as “the Nagi Apartment Complex...”.)

Coming next:  Nagi's house at 808 High Ridge Road is skinned alive!




 

01/28/13 Update:
Demetrios to Meet With Us!

I wanted to talk about today’s scheduled trial for Nagi’s appeal that mysteriously morphed into a “status conference” and was just as mysteriously called off completely at the last minute (!!!), but...

I just received word from Flavia Lasalandra that our 16th-District representative, Demetrios Frazis, is holding his very first “town-hall” meeting with his constituents! It will be at the Harry Bennett Library (115 Vine Road) from 5:30 to 7:00 PM on Wednesday, January 30th. (Our other 16th district rep, Sal Gabriele, may be there, too, but he has been very busy lately trying to get his mountain of legal fees reimbursed by the City….)

Anyway, here is Demetrios’ mass email (OK, it was sent to a very small mass of constituents--11, to be exact):

Dear Constituents,

I am emailing you again in reference to our first 16th District Meeting to be held at the Harry Bennett Branch of the Ferguson Library on Wednesday, January 30 between the times of 5:30 - 7:00. This and the proceeding meetings are designed to function as an important advisory role in dealing with land use and zoning matters, the City budget, municipal service delivery, and many other matters relating to their communities' welfare. Being that I do not possess emails of all constituents, I encourage all recipients of this email to spread the word to your fellow neighbors. Together we can make a difference.

Sincerely,

Demetrios Frazis

(Hey, Demetrios—I feel slighted! Did you lose my website’s email address? It's right at the top of this page!)

In any case, zoning and land-use matters have apparently become a hot topic here in Stamford. For more proof of this, check out the following Advocate articles, both from January 26th:

Questions surface over alternative boatyard site

Here, reporter Elizabeth Kim (who has become an expert at keeping us apprised of Stamford’s gaggle of development projects) reveals that history in Stamford sometimes repeats itself. Witness the following quote:

The call for the city to buy the land at 205 Magee Ave. came from none other than former Mayor Dannel P. Malloy.

Back in 1999, Malloy found himself once again caught between a high-profile developer and a community vigorously opposed to the project.

[So.... How often has this theme been repeated over the years?]

And then we have Angela Carella’s equally scathing article:

Angela Carella: Time for a developers' Hippocratic oath?

Here’s my favorite line:

Whatever they find, it's clear that Stamford is a destination for contractors trying to evade the law.

(Why does this observation somehow remind me of Vito Colucci’s book, Rogue Town?)

Angela’s ends her missive with this prophetic statement:

Unlike physicians, who swear to uphold the ethical standards of their profession, "there is no Hippocratic oath that developers take," Pechie said. "Maybe it's up to the public to decide whether it's the developer's fault. Maybe it's up to Stamford."

Amen to that, Angela…Amen to that....

 

01/25/13 Update:
Judge to Ahuja:  See You in June, Doc!

In our civil court system, there are “continuances” (i.e., delays in court proceedings), and then there are, well, CON-TINUANCES! Let me explain.

The court often grants a continuance to any litigant who asks for one, with or without a reason. And, while there is no hard-and-fast rule, 30-day continuances are common. I have seen them granted in both Nagi’s appeal and the Ahuja appeals on several occasions. But I had never seen a five-month continuance—until now.

I just checked Dr. Ajay Ahuja’s appeal (of the ZBA’s rejection of his day-care application) to see how the hearing on Tuesday 1/22/13 had gone. It turns out that Judge Douglas Mintz has now ordered a continuance of Dr. Ahuja’s appeal…until June 27th! As I type this update, snow is falling outside and the temps are well below freezing. It’s hard to believe that Dr. Ahuja’s appeal won’t see a courtroom again until we are cooling off in swimming pools and using air conditioners! (Thus, it would appear that someone in the judicial system does not like Dr. Ahuja very much.)

This near-record-breaking continuance was requested by either the City or by Nagi. (Both are listed as defendants on the court’s website.) In any case, even if Nagi starts building “Maple Ridge” soon, we are apparently not going to see two day-care centers sprouting up simultaneously like twins on High Ridge at Bradley.

Speaking of “Maple Ridge,” it has now been 21 days since Judge Marshall Berger dismissed Gurpreet Ahuja’s appeal (against the Zoning Board for approving Nagi’s project). There is still nothing on the court’s website about Gurpreet appealing the judge’s decision, so it’s possible that Nagi may have finally shaken his “Ahuja Curse” more than a year after it began on 12/29/11. But the judicial website is not always updated in a timely fashion, so I’m going to keep checking it before declaring Gurpreet’s appeal to be dead in the water. (So will Nagi, I’m sure….)

On a related note, I heard that Attorney John Mullin recently resigned from his job as Stamford’s Assistant Corporate Counsel. (You may remember that Attorney Mullin had been heavily involved in the appeals, but then mysteriously dropped out of the picture.) In light of the City’s messy legal battles over the BLT boatyard fiasco, the demolition of Madonna Badger’s house, and (of course) the “Osta-Ahuja Wars,” I can understand why running for the hills might have been a viable option for poor Attorney Mullin. (Best of luck to you, sir, and may you end up in pastures greener than Stamford.)

Finally—speaking of Stamford—there is a newly published book about our fair city that may, or may not, relate to all of this. It is called Rogue Town, and it was written by former Stamford police officer and well-known private investigator Vito Colucci. I just ordered it on Amazon, and I can’t wait to give it a read. (Check out the book’s description and you’ll see why.)

Have a great weekend, and let’s see what the next week brings!

01/26/13 Mini-Update:
P.S.—Just as I was falling asleep after posting last night’s update, I remembered Judge Berger’s reason for transferring Gurpreet appeal and Nagi’s appeal from Stamford up to Hartford—where he later dismissed Gurpreet’s appeal. (I had written more about the judge’s order in my 10/5/12 update, below.) At that time, Judge Berger actually stated that these appeals were transferred "for the efficient operation of the courts and to ensure the prompt and proper administration of justice," in accordance with Connecticut statute 51-347b(a).

So…how is that “prompt and proper administration of justice” working out for you, Doctor Ahuja?

(Yep...I thought so….)


01/21/13 Update:
Three More Days

As you know, Gurpreet Ahuja's appeal (of the Zoning Board's approval of Nagi's project) was dismissed on January 4th. She can still petition to appeal this dismissal in Connecticut's appellate court, but she only has 20 days from that date to do so. I have been checking the court's website, but nothing appears to have been filed yet. If Gurpreet doesn't appeal, Nagi will be free to start building Maple Ridge as approved by the Zoning Board last December. Gurpreet's deadline is only three days away, so Nagi must be biting his fingernails right now.

And there is another court date that might cause some concern for Nagi: a hearing at 2:00PM tomorrow (1/22/13) in Dr. Ajay Ahuja's appeal (of the Zoning Board of Appeal's rejection of his application to build a day-care center across the street from Nagi's proposed "Maple Ridge" development). You may remember that Nagi filed a motion to intervene in Dr. Ahuja's appeal. (Well, can you blame him?) But, in response to Nagi's motion, Dr. Ahuja apparently filed a motion to depose Nagi. This would allow Dr. Ahuja to ask Nagi a lot of probing questions (in the same manner that Eliot Gersten deposed Gurpreet Ahuja after she filed her motion to intervene in Nagi's appeal). As we can see in Gurpreet's deposition, these questions can be very personal, indeed. (Ouch, Nagi!)

And--last but not least--Nagi's appeal against the Zoning Board (for rejecting his previous application) is going to trial a week from today--on Monday 1/28/13! Now, you may wonder why this appeal is still active, since Judge Berger made Nagi's previous application moot by dismissing Gurpreet's appeal against Nagi's current application. But note that, if Gurpreet appeals Judge Berger's decision, Nagi will want to keep his previous application alive. (In fact, if the court grants Nagi's appeal of his previous application, he will get a day-care for 120 children instead of the 90-child limit that the Zoning Board imposed when approving Nagi's current application.)

BUT...remember that Gurpreet has filed a motion to intervene in Nagi's appeal. And, when Judge Taggart Adams rejected that motion, Gurpreet appealed the judge's decision in appellate court! So Nagi's trial on Monday cannot even proceed until Gurpreet's appeal of Judge Adams's decision is heard, and that could take months!

Wow...even I am getting confused by this complex legal chess game. And I can't even begin to guess what will happen next. But, as soon as it does, I promise to do my best to explain it (if I can, that is). Wish me luck....


(Click the link above to read Kate King's 1/7/13 Advocate article about Judge Berger's ruling in favor of Nagi.)

Kate King did a nice job filling in for the Advocate's regular land-use reporter, Elizabeth Kim, who, unfortunately, was feeling a bit under the weather. (Feel better soon, Elizabeth!) Kate actually interviewed me for over 10 minutes, but she decided to keep my quote short and sweet. (I was hoping that she would have included my little quip about still waiting for our turning lane on Bradley Place....) So the article makes me sound more diplomatic than I actually was. To show you what I mean, here's a comment from an anonymous individual named "Gooseweasel" (who has also commented on me in the past):

Gooseweasel
10:04 PM on January 7, 2013
Paul that's it? Happy 2013?? Have you lost all your spunk???????

OK, Goose (whoever you are)--I know that the quote makes me sound like a dish-rag, but you don't have to rub it in. Also keep in mind that I did make an agreement with Attorney John Leydon not to oppose Nagi's project in exchange for the concessions that John and I hammered out back in November of 2011. And, even though over a year has transpired since then, I intend to keep my side of the bargain for as long as Nagi keeps his.

That being said, I have spent literally hundreds of hours researching and publishing LOTS of juicy info on Nagi''s project and the three appeals that it has spawned. (Or is it four appeals? Even I have lost count by now....) This easily qualifies me for an honorary degree in "Nagiology," if such a field existed. Also, I have to admit that it's been a lot of fun (especially posting Nagi's sewer-use bills on the Web!). But is it really and truly over? Only Gurpreet Ahuja knows for sure, and she's not talking...at least not yet....

01/04/13 Update:
Judge Dis[mis]ses Gurpreet's Appeal!

Happy New Year, everyone! For Nagi, it looks like 2013 is starting out on a far better note than 2012 did. Today marks six days after the one-year anniversary of Gurpreet Ahuja’s 12/29/11 appeal of the Zoning Board’s decision to approve Nagi’s Maple Ridge project. And (are you sitting down?) Judge Marshall Berger has just dismissed Gurpreet’s appeal! Although we are now a few days past New Year’s, champagne corks must be popping all over Nagi’s place.…

Actually, sometimes it’s almost wrong to be right. Just as I had predicted the Zoning Board’s approval of Nagi’s project, I also mused in my 10/20/12 update (below) about the probable outcome of Attorney Eliot Gersten's rope-a-dope strategy. I’ll bet that the Ahuja legal team had no idea that Gurpreet’s appeal would eventually be transferred right to Eliot’s front door in Hartford. Talk about an advantageous change in venue....

Anyway, I reviewed Judge Berger’s 11-page decision, and he put a good deal of thought into it. The first part rests on the judge’s interpretation of the phrase “more than one public hearing.” Now, being a mere layman, I would believe this phrase to mean two or more public hearings held on separate dates. Thus, according to my long-standing interpretation, Nagi’s application required four public hearings in 2011:  September 26th, October 6th, October 24th, and November 10th.

But—as we learned from former President Bill Clinton’s definition of “sexual relations”—words are always open to interpretation.

Let’s get the small stuff out of the way first: Page 2 of Judge Berger’s decision correctly notes the date of the October 24th hearing that was cancelled due to overcrowding. But then Page 4 shows that date to be October 26th. (This is trivial, but I wanted to show you that I did read the judge’s decision pretty carefully.)

Now, on to the important issue of “more than one public hearing…”.

On Page 5, Judge Berger cites the case of Roncari Industries, Inc. v. Planning and Zoning Commission. This case noted that Connecticut General Statute 8-3 does not require publication of additional notices when a hearing is continued or rescheduled. However, on Page 3, Judge Berger had already noted that Stamford’s planning and zoning issues are governed by the Stamford City Charter, not by the General Statutes.

And, as Judge Berger further notes, Stamford’s City Charter states that “If more than one public hearing is considered by the Zoning Board to be necessary or advisable, additional hearings may be held upon due notice, as herein set forth…” [italic emphasis added].

Judge Berger’s premise is that the phrase “more than one public hearing” does not refer to a continuation of a public hearing, but rather to an entirely new public hearing. Although I have tried, I’m having a hard time getting my head wrapped around this concept. Specifically, I’m trying to imagine a situation where a zoning board would see the need to schedule an entirely new public hearing for an application after it has held an initial public hearing. (If you can help me out here, please send an email—I really do want to understand this line of reasoning.) But let’s move on….

Judge Berger then tackles the second portion of Gupreet’s appeal, which addressed the changes that Nagi made to his application in response to our concerns—i.e. blocking off the driveway to Bradley Place, reducing the number of units from 22 to 17, and, most importantly (at least to me), making the units condominiums instead of apartments. Judge Berger notes Gurpreet’s claim that “because these changes were significant and thus materially altered the proposal, the Board should have published a new notice.” (Actually, I reviewed Gurpreet’s appeal, and I believe that her contention was that such changes require a whole new application, not just a new notice.) But the judge does not agree with Gurpreet's assertion here. (You can read about his reasoning in his decision.)

Finally, Judge Berger addresses Gurpreet’s concern about the impact on traffic caused by closing off the driveway between Maplewood Place and Bradley Place. Here the judge mentions Nagi’s all-knowing traffic engineer, Joe Balskus, who stated at the November 10th hearing that there would be no impact from closing off Maple Ridge’s driveway to Bradley Place. Judge Berger noted that no one had submitted any other traffic study to counter Joe’s assertion. But, to be fair, no one would have had any time to do that—not even the Zoning Board members were aware of the changes until the last public hearing on November 10th. (I remember board member Audrey Cosentini complaining that she did not find out about Nagi's changes until she read them that day in the Advocate!)

As for the traffic impact:  there are only 14 houses on Maplewood Place. It’s hard to imagine that those residents will not be impacted by vehicles entering and exiting Maple Ridge's two remaining driveways on High Ridge Road and Maplewood Place. (But then, I’m not a traffic engineer like Joe Balskus….)

In the end, Judge Berger notes that Nagi was only trying to make his neighbors happy, and that to punish him for his kindness by requiring a whole new application would be “most unjust.” I have to agree with the judge here—after all, I was the person who worked out the compromise with Attorney John Leydon. But, as the old saying goes, no good deed goes unpunished. And it does appear that, if Nagi had never made those concessions in the first place, Gurpreet’s appeal might never have existed.

So, now that Gurpreet’s appeal has been dismissed, when will we see the demolition notices for Nagi’s houses on High Ridge Road? Actually, we still have to wait a little longer, in case Gurpreet files an appeal of Judge Berger’s decision (as she has already done with Judge Adams’s decision). So stay tuned….

12/25/12 Update:
Merry Christmas!

(OK...maybe not. But at least we can try, right?)

Unfortunately, the past year has not been not been merry at all. Last Christmas brought us a terrible house fire that claimed the lives of Stamford resident Madonna Badger's children and parents. Ms. Badger's horrific tragedy was compounded by the immediate demolition and carting away of whatever was left of her home and her family's possessions. She has since filed an intent to sue the City over the demolition, and the financial impact of this decision on Stamford's taxpayers will ultimately be determined in the courts. (I bring this issue up because it may affect how Nagi's demolition applications will be handled by our Building Department. For obvious reasons, I imagine that the process will go very much "by the book.")

In October, Hurricane Sandy pummeled our Northeast coast, killing scores of people and destroying billions of dollars of property, which will take years to rebuild. Then, just as we were starting to recover emotionally from Hurricane Sandy to enjoy the holiday season, on December 14th we were kicked in the stomach by another Sandy: the mass-murder of elementary-school children and teachers by a deranged wacko at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. And, while everyone is still reeling from these senseless shootings, a wack-job and convicted murderer in Webster, NY torched his own house, then shot and killed the volunteer firefighters who responded to put out the fire--on Christmas Eve day.

In the words of the late John Lennon (also, BTW, killed by a wacko) "And so this is Christmas...".

The past year hasn't been very good for Nagi, either. His "Maple Ridge" project is still tied up in court via his appeal against the Zoning Board (for rejecting his previous application), as well as Gurpreet Ahuja's appeal against the same Zoning Board (for approving Nagi's current application). We are now awaiting Judge Berger's decision regarding the merits of Gurpreet's appeal, but this may take months.

The only new development (pun intended) is a hearing scheduled for 10:00 AM on January 8, 2013--not for Nagi's or Gurpreet's appeals, but for Dr. Ajay Ahuja's appeal (against the Zoning Board of Appeals for rejecting his application to build a day-care center across the street from Nagi's proposed day-care center!). This hearing will be held in Stamford. (Nagi's and Gurpreet's appeals have been moved up to the land-use court in Hartford.)

The "Ahuja hearing" will determine whether or not Dr. Ahuja (a principal of Ahuja Holdings, LLC) has the right to subpoena Nagi (the sole principal of Procurement, LLC) to provide evidence in support of Nagi's motion to intervene in Ahuja's day-care appeal. (Note that, just as Gurpreet Ahuja filed a motion to intervene in Nagi's appeal, Nagi has filed a motion to intervene in Ajay Ahuja's appeal. As they say, one good turn....) Nagi has filed a motion to "quash," or nullify, Dr. Ahuja's motion to subpoena Nagi. But, if Nagi is ultimately compelled by subpoena to speak in court, I just might have to be there--now that's entertainment! (Although I don't think that even Nagi will be able to top his "work of evil" quote with regard to my former protest against Maple Ridge....)

Finally, I have almost given up my quest to determine the fate of Nagi's $3.1 million loans from People's Bank and CBT. Both loans matured in May, but there is still no documentation on file at the Town Clerk's office for their disposition. Could Nagi now have a silent partner for Maple Ridge? If so, whom might that person be?

One intriguing possibility is Nagi's own brother-in-law (who is also one of his attorneys), Eliot Gersten. Attorney Gersten happens to be quite a developer in his own right. In fact, if you Google "Eliot Gersten CVS Hartford" without the quotes, you will also see a cache for a blog called:

Waah, Waah, Waah, I Want an Ugly Big Box Pharmacy!

(Too bad that the blog itself was apparently taken down....)

Note that Attorney Gersten is also likely to be heir to his late parents', Charles Gersten's and Zelda Gersten's, presumed fortune. Thus, to Attorney Gersten, Nagi's few million dollars in business loans might be mere pocket change. Time will tell....


12/10/12 Update:
Waiting for Judgment Day

(No, I'm not talking about December 21st.... Hopefully, the Mayans will be wrong.)

It's been three weeks since my last update, so I apologize if you have been checking this site since then. We are now awaiting Judge Marshall Berger's decision on Gurpreet Ahuja's 12/29/11 appeal against the Zoning Board (for approving Nagi's "Maple Ridge" application). As you may recall, the trial for Gurpreet's appeal was held on November 30th in Hartford. Unfortunately, I was not there, so I can't tell you what transpired. (I had thought about going, but I knew that Nagi would never agree to reimburse me for my travel expenses!)

Still, I believe that I can predict three possible outcomes of the trial. If Gurpreet wins her appeal, Nagi can simply re-submit his "Maple Ridge" application to the Zoning Board...being especially careful this time to dot his i's and cross his t's. Or Nagi can continue to pursue his own appeal against the Zoning Board (for rejecting his previous "Maple Ridge" application). On the other hand, if Gurpreet loses her appeal, she will probably go ahead and appeal Judge Berger's decision to Connecticut's appellate court system (just as she appealed Judge Adams's rejection of her motion to intervene in Nagi's appeal). So Nagi might actually be better off losing Gurpreet's appeal rather than winning it!

But why am I'm writing this update when there is nothing new to report? Well, I just received another inquiring missive from Flavia Lasalandra. Here is a slightly edited excerpt:

At any rate, how's the Nagi appeal going since the November 20th update? You didn't think I'd forgotten to get on your case...did you? Is there anything that needs to be reported, or are we still in "holiday mode" in the courts?  

(You definitely have to give Flavia an "A" for persistence....)

So, to keep you--and Flavia--entertained while we await Judge Berger's decision, I created an analysis of just how much money was made in Nagi's purchases of his "Maple Ridge" properties. Not by Nagi, of course, but by the lucky homeowners who sold their houses to him! Here it is:



FYI, I obtained these sale prices and dates from the City's tax-assessment website. I then created formulas in an Excel spreadsheet to calculate the return on investment (ROI) for each of the previous property owners, as well as an average ROI for all five owners. (Note that I have not included Nagi's vacant lot at 826 High Ridge Road in this analysis, since he purchased it with the building for Nagi Jewelers back in 2001.)

As you can see, owning real estate on High Ridge Road was a great investment for these people! Hassan Torkamani actually tripled his money in only 10 years, earning an average of 30% per year. Even the lowest-earning investor, Daniel Natale, Jr., walked away with a cool 60% gain in only seven years. So Nagi made all of these folks very happy, indeed!

Unfortunately, Nagi knows all too well how much he paid for these properties in contrast to their market values. In fact, this is what he said during my meeting with him on October 4, 2011:

Nagi stating that houses are worth less than 50% of what he paid for them

For the record, Nagi purchased these houses in 2008, 2009, and 2011 (not in '06 and '07, as he states). By that time, the real-estate market was tanking. But, despite buying high in an abysmal market, Nagi probably believed that he would make a lot of money on "Maple Ridge." And he might have, if not for the Ahuja appeal that has tied up the project in court for a year now, along with the $400-per-day interest charges on Nagi's $3.1 million loans.

Speaking of Nagi's loans, there is still no updated paperwork on file for them at the Town Clerk's office. (Both loans were due to be repaid, or at least renegotiated, in May of this year.) I have a theory about this, but I'll save it for my next update. In the meantime, I hope that Flavia is happy now. Good night....

11/20/12 Update:
Judge Bows Out of Ahuja Daycare Appeal



Well, it seems that Stamford Superior Court is distancing itself from Nagi's and the Ahuja family's growing number of appeals. I had apparently missed a critical order back in August when I reviewed the court's entries for Dr. Ahuja's appeal (against the Zoning Board of Appeals for rejecting his day-care application). On August 27th, Judge A. William Mottolese issued an order to vacate (rescind) ALL of his previous orders in this appeal!

I mentioned in my last update that the court had granted Nagi's motion to intervene in Dr. Ahuja's  appeal. As you can see, Judge Mottolese himself had issued this order on July 30th. Well, what the court gives, the court can take away. And so Nagi's motion to intervene has been "un-granted," at least for now. You will also note that Judge Mottolese has recused himself from the entire appeal, i.e., he will no longer be on the case at all.

But why did Judge Mottolese vacate his previous orders and recuse himself from the appeal more than a month after becoming involved in it? He states that "the court has learned that the subject property is in the undersigned's neighborhood and could impact vehicular travel. Therefore, the court is recusing itself for all purposes."

I confirmed that Judge Mottolese does, in fact, live less than a mile from Dr. Ahuja's proposed day-care. But I also saw that the good judge has resided in our neighborhood for well over 10 years. Is it possible that he was not previously aware that he drives past 831 High Ridge Road on his way to work each day?

If you pair Judge Mottolese's recusal from Dr. Ahuja's appeal with the Stamford court's recent decision to move Nagi's and Gurpreet Ahuja's appeals up to Hartford, you might conclude that the court views these appeals--and their barrages of legal salvos--as "tit-for-tat litigation." And perhaps the court is right. In any case, there is a conference scheduled for Dr. Ahuja's appeal on Thursday, November 29th. If we then see an order to move Dr. Ahuja's appeal up to Hartford, we can be pretty sure that these appeals have been kicked out of our courts.

On a better note, have a Happy Thanksgiving!

P.S. -- Speaking of...  Nagi is collecting holiday turkeys for the Food Bank at his jewelry store, and he will even give you a $20 gift certificate for each turkey that you donate. So please help him out if you can. And be sure to tell him that I sent you....



11/06/12 Update:
A "Perfect Storm" in Hartford


I'm sorry for not updating the web site, but the devastation and loss of life that Hurricane Sandy brought to our area--especially to the Jersey shore--makes everything else seem puny and trivial in comparison. The images of entire communities virtually swallowed by the angry ocean are just heart-wrenching. And, even here in Stamford, there are still nearly a thousand people without power. I hope that you and your loved ones escaped Sandy's fury.

As I type this, we are also in the process of electing (or re-electing, as the case may be) our country's president for the next four years. Perhaps this will have already happened by the time you read these words. But, since local politics is more important to our daily existence, I just want to say that I did vote for Barry Michelson for State Senate. (Best of luck, Barry, and thanks for standing up for us in 2011. We need more people like you in politics.)

But, major disasters and political elections notwithstanding, time waits for no one...especially when Flavia Lasalandra is involved. Yes, you guessed it: Flavia politely asked if I was OK due to the lack of updates on this site. So she basically "guilted" me into typing this. (Who needs a mother when you have Flavia?)

Actually, Flavia's timing was perfect: it turns out that there is a brand-new legal development in Nagi's appeal (of the Zoning Board's rejection of his previous "Maple Ridge" application) that just popped up on the state's judicial website. This new twist just might be a game-changer...unfortunately for Nagi, it may not be one in his favor.

To refresh your memory, here is the "Reader's Digest" version of where both of Nagi's "Maple Ridge" applications currently stand in court:

Remember that Nagi had filed a previous application for Maple Ridge that included nine housing units and a daycare center for 120 children. That application did not include a driveway connecting Bradley Place to Maplewood Place. It also did not include Nagi's undeveloped property next to his jewelry store. Despite the fact that this previous development was relatively smaller, it was rejected by the Zoning Board. Nagi immediately appealed the board's rejection in court (as he apparently had a right to do).

Nagi then decided (apparently in an attempt to "hedge his bets" on his appeal) to submit another "Maple Ridge" application in 2011. The revised application included 22 housing units, a daycare for 120 children--and the infamous driveway connecting Bradley Place to Maplewood Place. When I became aware of that much more ambitious development, I immediately orchestrated a protest against Nagi's project, the details of which you can find on the Rowdy Days! link in the banner above.

As you recall, a newly-constituted Zoning Board ultimately approved Nagi's current "Maple Ridge" project after several public hearings--as well as substantial modifications intended to address our widespread opposition to it. But Nagi's neighbor across the street, Gurpreet Ahuja, appealed the Zoning Board's approval of Nagi's "Maple Ridge" in court (as she also apparently had a right to do).

After several months of legal wrangling, Nagi decided to attempt an "end-run" around Gurpreet's appeal by proposing a settlement with the Zoning Board on his own appeal. That settlement was virtually identical to what the reconstituted Zoning Board had later approved for Nagi's current "Maple Ridge" application. (Apparently, Gurpreet Ahuja had anticipated such a move, since she had also filed a motion to intervene as a co-defendant with the Zoning Board in Nagi's appeal against them.) Two different judges later ended up rejecting both Nagi's proposed settlement with the Zoning Board AND Gurpreet's motion to intervene in Nagi's appeal.

Nagi's and Gurpreet's separate appeals recently took an intriguing turn--due north, to be exact. Both appeals were suddenly transferred to the land-use court in Hartford, on the premise that Hartford Superior Court could move the appeals along more quickly than Stamford Superior Court had up to that point. Although this transfer mandated a 130-mile round-trip commute for nearly everyone involved in both appeals, one of Nagi's attorneys, Eliot Gersten (who happens to be Nagi's brother-in-law, and whose family appears to have a LOT of "pull" in Hartford) conveniently lives up there. So at least Eliot won't have to wake up two hours earlier for each hearing.

In order to promote the efficient administration of justice, Judge Berger in Hartford immediately assigned a trial date for Nagi's appeal against the Zoning Board: January 28, 2013 (about 2-1/2 months from now).

Judge Berger also assigned a trial date  for Gurpreet's appeal against the Zoning Board: November 30, 2012 (about 3-1/2 WEEKS from now). Note that Nagi's appeal (filed on or about 2/25/11) is actually 10 months older than Gurpreet's appeal (filed on or about 12/29/11). I assume that Judge Berger's choice to hear Gurpreet's appeal first is based on the fact that any decision on Nagi's appeal (of the Z.B.'s rejection of his prior application) ultimately rests on the outcome of Gurpreet's appeal (of the Z.B.'s approval of Nagi's current application).

It would appear at first glance that, depending on the outcome of Gupreet's appeal, victory may finally be within Nagi's grasp. Except for one problem:


Apparently, Gurpreet did not take Judge Adams's rejection of her motion to intervene in Nagi's appeal lightly. As you can see, Gurpreet petitioned to appeal the lower court's decision to Connecticut's Appellate Court! And the appellate court just accepted Gurpreet's petition. In fact, the court even granted Gurpreet's motion for extension of time to file this newer appeal!

So now, even if Judge Berger does reject Gurpreet's appeal of the Zoning Board's approval of Nagi's current "Maple Ridge" project, she still has her fingers in the pie of Nagi's appeal of the Zoning Board's rejection of his previous "Maple Ridge!" And the appellate court normally takes quite awhile to hear their appeals.

Remember, too, that the court also granted Nagi's motion to intervene in Dr. Ahuja's appeal of the Zoning Board of Appeals' rejection of Dr. Ahuja's daycare application. So, at this point, Nagi, Gurpreet Ahuja, and Dr. Ajay Ahuja all appear to have each other in legal choke-holds. What can possibly happen next?

(However--as an aside--I am happy to report that 808 High Ridge Road is still standing. For now....)


10/22/12 Update:
"D-Day" for 808 High Ridge?

Thank you (you know who you are) for alerting me to today's unusual activity at Nagi's Revolutionary-War house on High Ridge Road. It seems that a Yankee Gas crew was working feverishly on the property while a Stamford police officer directed traffic there. I couldn't get to the site to investigate (my back is still out), so I made some phone calls instead. My spies in Yankee Gas told me that the crew was at 808 High Ridge Road to cut and cap the gas service line so that the house can be demolished. And the police officer had been hired to direct traffic around the work site.

There has been other strange activity taking place at this 232-year-old house, as well. Last month, I received a tip that several fire trucks and firemen had been working in and around the house on Monday nights. According to the witness, there was no smoke or fire anywhere near the house at these times. A few phone calls revealed that Nagi had allowed one of our fire departments to use 808 High Ridge Road for practice drills. According to my source, these fire drills involve punching holes in walls, ceilings, and roofs, dragging hoses through the house, etc.

So it would seem that the demise of 808 High Ridge Road is imminent. But where is the demolition notice?

As you may recall, we talked about the demolition process on 8/26/12 and 9/4/12. Anyone can demolish a property, but they must apply for a demolition permit and follow a litany of rules first. One of the rules is that a demolition notice must be posted on the property. I happened to drive past such a property last month. Here it is:




As you can see, the house on this property had already been demolished. If you look carefully, you will see the demolition notice on the left side of the property. Here's a close-up of the notice:




(Hmmmm...another "Hartford connection" here? Naaaahhh...it's just a coincidence--I hope....)

Obviously, this sign was posted before the demolition took place. I would expect to see a similar sign in front of 808 High Ridge Road by now (along with a published notice in the Advocate). But what if Nagi decides to ignore the demolition statutes, and he knocks the house down without a permit? Well, Section 29-414 of Connecticut's demolition code states that:

 Any person who violates any provision of this part shall be fined not more than five hundred dollars or imprisoned not more than one year or both."

(If you are interested in reading the state's demolition code, including this section, you can find it here.)

Now, I doubt that Nagi would be jailed or fined for committing an illegal demolition, but it is possible. At the very least, such an act would bring negative publicity to Nagi's project, which is the last thing he needs.


Speaking of...the first Hartford-based conference on Nagi's and Gurpreet's appeals takes place tomorrow. We'll have to see what happens up there.....


10/20/12 Update:
Judge Jumps into Appeals


My back is still a mess, so I can't even sit in this chair for too long, but Flavia Lasalandra wants to know what's going on with the appeals, so here we go. (BTW, I'm scheduled for an MRI on Tuesday, and maybe I'll check out Nagi's shamanic healer on Wednesday. Only kidding, Nagi!)

The state's judicial website shows that a status conference is scheduled in Hartford for Nagi's appeal and Gurpreet Ahuja's appeal on Tuesday 10/23/12 (i.e., the same date as my MRI, so I definitely won't be there). This is incredibly quick, since the appeals were just transferred to Hartford on 9/28/12. To put this feat in perspective: I have a stack of motions, objections, briefs, etc. for these appeals that is several inches thick. And this stack represents only a small portion of the paperwork for these cases. The Zoning Board has a stack of documents for Nagi's Maple Ridge applications that dwarfs the court's paperwork. Judge Berger has to familiarize himself with all of these documents before he can address the issues in the appeals. If he can do this in less than four weeks, then Evelyn Wood would have been truly proud of him!

I can't help but wonder if Attorney Eliot Gersten is pulling a "rope-a-dope" on Gurpreet Ahuja's legal team. Perhaps he allowed Gurpreet's attorneys to expend their resources during the past nine months. In the meantime, he "somehow" managed to convince the court to transfer the appeals to his home turf in Hartford, where he can move in for the kill. In any case, everyone except for Eliot is going to have a long commute to court on Tuesday! I'll be watching for the results....


 

10/05/12 Update:

Appeals Hijacked to Hartford!

Sorry for my delay in updating the site; I've been out of commission all week with back pain. (Maybe I should consult with the shamanic healer at Nagi's Ladies Night benefit on October 24th, since conventional medicine isn't helping me at all....) I'm still in pain, but there has been so much "Nagi-News" that I just have to share one important item with you before I go back to bed.

On September 28th, Judge Marshall K. Berger issued two virtually identical orders, one for Nagi's appeal, and the other for Gurpreet Ahuja's appeal. When I read them, I nearly fell off my chair! Here you go:



As you can see, Judge Berger has ordered both Nagi's appeal and Gurpreet's appeal to be transferred from Stamford Superior Court to HARTFORD! Judge Berger states that these appeals were transferred "for the efficient operation of the courts and to ensure the prompt and proper administration of justice," in accordance with Connecticut statute 51-347b(a).  For your information, this statute reads as follows [bolding added for emphasis]:

Sec. 51-347b. (Formerly Sec. 52-31). Transfer of causes by court, motion or agreement. Transfer by Chief Court Administrator. (a) Any action or the trial of any issue or issues therein may be transferred, by order of the court on its own motion or on the granting of a motion of any of the parties, or by agreement of the parties, from the superior court for one judicial district to the superior court in another court location within the same district or to a superior court location for any other judicial district, upon notice by the clerk to the parties after the order of the court, or upon the filing by the parties of a stipulation signed by them or their attorneys to that effect. The Chief Court Administrator or any judge designated by the Chief Court Administrator to act on behalf of the Chief Court Administrator under this section may, on motion of the Chief Court Administrator or any such judge, when required for the efficient operation of the courts and to insure the prompt and proper administration of justice, order like transfers.

As you can see, the statute doesn't actually define "the efficient operation of the courts" or "the prompt and proper administration of justice." But it's hard to imagine how transferring two complex appeals from Stamford to Hartford is going to move them through the system any more efficiently. I didn't see any motion or agreement on behalf of either Nagi or Gurpreet to transfer these appeals to Hartford, so I have to assume that Judge Berger himself ordered it. The obvious question is "Why?." I can't believe that Nagi, Gurpreet, and (especially) Stamford's Assistant Corporation Counsel, John Mullin, will enjoy spending several extra hours traveling up to Hartford and back for every single hearing and conference on these appeals.

But then I started thinking about Nagi's attorneys. One of them, Eliot Gersten (who, remember, is also Nagi's brother-in-law) actually works in Hartford and has strong community roots there! (You may recall that Eliot's late father, Charles Gersten, apparently worked closely with the judicial system himself.) So the Gersten family almost certainly has a lot of political, financial, and legal "pull" in Hartford. Could this be the genesis of the court's decision to move Nagi's and Gurpreet's appeals there, or is it merely a coincidence? If you have any knowledge of the background events behind this mysterious move, please drop me a line. Thanks!


09/26/12 Update:

Vandals Strike Nagi!!!

Shortly after midnight last night, one of my neighbors on High Ridge Road heard a loud ruckus on the street near Nagi Jewelers. It seems that a group of vandals trashed the late-model car that has been parked in front of 820 High Ridge Road (which is one of Nagi’s “Maple Ridge” houses). I just drove up to the scene of the crime to provide you with photos of this late-breaking news:





As you can see, it looks like someone jumped on and/or kicked the car’s windshield, since that kind of damage is too dispersed to have been caused by a rock. And the last time I saw a side-view mirror ripped off like that was when Travis the chimp did it to a police car during that horrific attack in North Stamford.

Apparently these hooligans also damaged the “Entrance Only” sign at the front driveway of Nagi Jewelers. I saw that the sign is leaning over today, so I presume that this happened last night. I was going to take a photo of the sign, but I don’t want ruffle Nagi’s feathers any more than I’m sure they already are. (Sorry that you had the problem, Nagi.)

What these hoodlums probably don’t know is that Nagi Jewelers has more security cameras than Fort Knox. As I type this, I would bet that Nagi is reviewing his video recordings of the incident. So (as the saying goes) “stick a fork in ’em, because they’re done…”. Hopefully we will soon read about the arrests in the Advocate. (If you know the identities of the suspects, please call the Stamford Police Property Crimes Division at 203-977-4407. All calls will be kept confidential.)

P.S.—Today marks one year to the day since I attended my first public hearing on Nagi’s “Maple Ridge” project after reading Elizabeth Kim’s 9/23/11 article, “High Ridge day care, housing project back before Zoning Board” in the Advocate. If you told me back then that I would be working on a website about Nagi’s project today, I would have said that you were crazy. But, even after a year, there’s still much to tell you about. For instance, tomorrow the court is finally holding a conference on Nagi’s appeal against the Zoning Board for rejecting his previous Maple Ridge application, (filed in April 2010). There’s also been a lot happening in Gurpreet Ahuja’s appeal and in the Ahuja Holdings appeal. And I have even seen some very intriguing activity taking place at Nagi's Revolutionary War-era house at 808 High Ridge Road. Stay tuned….


09/18/12 Update:

Condolences and Revelations

I wish to extend my sincere condolences to the Osta and Gersten families for the loss of Nagi’s mother-in-law, Zelda Gersten, who died on September 5th. Upon learning of her passing, I decided that a two-week moratorium on updates out of respect for her was appropriate. I, too, know the pain of losing a parent.

As you can see from Zelda’s obituary, she was an early advocate of child day-care centers in hospitals and corporations. In fact, she contributed to a 248-page white paper, “Windows on Day Care” (published in 1972 by the National Council of Jewish Women) to promote this idea. Could Zelda have encouraged Nagi to build a day-care center at “Maple Ridge?” Considering her apparently long-standing passion for them, this is entirely possible.

You may recall from my previous updates that Zelda’s late husband, Charles Gersten, was a “mover-and-shaker” in his own right. He was a Harvard Law graduate, an attorney, a bank founder, and a federal mediator, and he was apparently very well-respected in his community. I also imagine that, in his lifetime, he had amassed quite a fortune, which will presumably be passed on to the three surviving children (including Nagi’s wife, Liz Osta).

But the Gersten legacy of financial accomplishment did not, by any means, end with Charles and Zelda. I recently became aware that their son, Eliot Gersten (who, in addition to being Nagi’s brother-in-law, is also one of his attorneys) is a commercial developer! This press release from Eliot’s employer, Pullman & Comley LLC, contains the following tidbit: “In addition to his experience as an attorney, Eliot has a considerable background in business and as a developer and manager of commercial real estate in central Connecticut and western Massachusetts.”

Coincidentally, one of Eliot’s current projects is a 13,000-square-foot CVS store in Hartford. (You may remember that I had once compared Nagi’s 40,000-square-foot “Maple Ridge” project to the 13,000-square-foot CVS store on High Ridge Road.) And—in yet another coincidence—a 100-year-old office building apparently had to be demolished in order to make way for Eliot’s new CVS store! (Nagi is facing a similar developmental obstacle with his “Maple Ridge” houses, nearly all of which are over 50 years old. One of them—808 High Ridge Road—is well over two CENTURIES old.)

In light of these revelations, could it be that “Maple Ridge” was inspired (and perhaps even partially financed) by the Gersten family, and that poor Nagi is merely the public face of this beleaguered project? I have been checking the Town Clerk’s office for the latest news on Nagi’s $3.1 million in bank loans (both of which were due and payable in May), but nothing has been filed yet. Will Eliot now become Nagi’s financier as well as his attorney? We’ll see….

09/04/12 Update:

The Devil in the Demo Details

Sorry for my delay in updating the site—the sheer size of this home page (now close to 100 pages!) has finally overwhelmed GoDaddy’s web-publishing software. I’m still working on a way to move the older info to another page (again) without losing a bunch of links and photos in the process. Thanks for your patience, and wish me luck.

Anyway, I had mentioned that Nagi can demolish his “Maple Ridge” houses any time he wishes. And, in fact, my “spies” in the utility companies have told me that the electric, water, and gas services were recently cut from #808 High Ridge Road, apparently to prepare for its demolition. This is the 232-year-old Revolutionary-War-era house that is listed on the State of Connecticut’s Historic Resource Inventory. So, from Nagi’s perspective, knocking out this house first is like knocking out the biggest guy in a fight—if he can successfully eliminate this potentially historic property, then the others should be easy.

But—as with everything else that Nagi has touched lately—there are a lot of “fine-print” issues to overcome before the demolition can take place—and the potential need for a sidewalk shed is minor compared to some of them.

Let’s say that, for whatever reason, you want to knock down a house that you own. Your first step (unless you are in the demolition business) is to find a contractor to handle the job. That’s the easy part. But then you have to obtain a demolition permit from the City of Stamford’s Building Department, and that’s a bit more difficult. Here is the application form for a demolition permit.

As you can see, the minimum fee for a demolition permit is $200. (In terms of Nagi’s finances, this represents only about 12 hours of interest on his loans, so it’s no big deal.) But, in addition to the fee, you will need to submit certified proof from various professionals that:

  • the house is free from asbestos (for example, many older homes contain asbestos insulation around heating pipes);
  • the house is free from insect infestation (many older homes are heavily infested with termites, ants, etc.);
  • the sewer main has been disconnected and sealed off;
  • the gas, oil, water, electric, and phone services have been disconnected, and;
  • the demolition debris will be professionally removed.

Speaking of certified proof, you also need to submit proof that you mailed certified notices of your demolition permit application to every single property owner within a 100-foot radius of the property to be demolished. (Unfortunately for Nagi, the Ahuja family will have to be included in this mailing.)

Then you need to submit photographic proof that you have conspicuously posted a 2’ x 3’ sign with two-inch high block letters to notify the public of your proposed demolition. This sign must face the street, and it must contain a full description and address of the building to be demolished, as well as your name and address, and the date of the proposed demolition. (So far, I have not seen such a sign in front of 808 High Ridge Road.)

Finally, if the house is over 50 years old and over 500 square feet in size (four out of five of Nagi’s “Maple Ridge” houses are over 50 years old), the Building Department must publish a legal notice of the proposed demolition in The Advocate for you. If anyone, anywhere (not just an abutting neighbor) submits a letter in opposition of your proposed demolition to the Building Department, your demolition must be delayed for 180 days. (The demolition application form states only 90 days, but this mandatory waiting period was increased to 180 days via City Ordinance #1124 in 2011.)

This is only the beginning—there are other “demolition details” that I have to share with you. So, as “Ahhh-nuld” said in the movie Terminator, “Ah’ll be baaahck…

08/26/12 Update:

Too Close for Comfort?

I had promised more photos of Nagi's "Maple Ridge" houses in my previous update, so here they are.
(BTW, thanks again to Tricia Reville for this great idea!)




808 High Ridge Road (facing northbound)



816 High Ridge Road (facing northbound)




820 High Ridge Road (facing northbound)



820, 816, and 808 High Ridge Road (facing southbound)

Now, the first thing that you probably noticed is how overgrown the front lawns have become. During my meeting with Nagi on 10/4/11, he told me several times that he really cares about our neighborhood. (Yes, Nagi was aware that I had recorded this meeting.) So I was very disappointed when I saw these unkempt lawns. Let's face it…these front yards are as small and easy to mow as they come. (To Nagi's credit, the grass was cut the day after I posted my previous photos. Thank you for being a good neighbor again, Nagi!)

But Nagi’s formerly overgrown lawns are not the point of this update. Take a look at how close each of these houses is to High Ridge Road, and especially to the sidewalk. When High Ridge Road was widened to five lanes, these homes lost most of their front yards. (I still remember when this road was only four lanes wide many years ago. Back then, people referred to it as the Yankee Division Highway.)

Now imagine what could happen if someone was walking past one of these houses just as demolition debris was flying off the upper story. (Can you say "lawsuit?") And, in fact, there is a state law in place to prevent such a tragedy. That’s why I posted a photo of a sidewalk shed in my 8/18/12 update. Here is the text of Connecticut General Statute 29-409:

Sec. 29-409. (Formerly Sec. 19-403j). Sidewalk shed requirements.

No person shall demolish any building or structure or part thereof, when such building, structure or part is within six feet of a street line, or is twelve feet or more in height, or is within six feet of an area which the owner or lessee provides and invites the public to use as it would a public way, or when the distance between such street line or area and such building, structure or part is more than six feet but less than one-half the total height of the object to be demolished, without causing to be erected and maintained a sidewalk shed meeting the requirements of this section. Such shed shall:

(1) Extend for the full length of the building on all street fronts;

(2) exist for the duration of the demolition operations;

(3) be not less than four feet wide and six feet eight inches high in the clear;

(4) be watertight, and

(5) be adequately lighted for pedestrian traffic.

When the roof of any such shed is used for the storage of material or for the performance of work of any kind, adequate railings, not less than three feet high, and solid toe boards, not less than six inches high, shall be affixed along the open sides and ends of such roofs. The roofs of such sheds shall be of sufficient strength and stability safely to sustain the weight of materials that may be placed thereon and the shocks incidental to the handling, preparation for use, trucking or delivery of materials. The requirements of this section, as they relate to street lines, shall not apply in any case in which all such streets are officially closed to pedestrian and vehicular traffic. The building official may waive any of the requirements of this section, if the object to be demolished is more than forty feet from any street line or area used as a public way and its demolition is accomplished by the removal of one story at a time.

08/18/12 Update:

Tricia's Wish Finally Comes True!

Sorry about the two-week delay since my last update--I have been learning all about building demolition (and there was a lot to learn!). I had planned on putting everything in one update, but the task was so daunting that I kept putting it off. Flavia Lasalandra finally got me moving by scolding me about not updating the site. (I actually felt like a kid who didn't hand in his term paper at school--Flavia is a teacher, so she's a pro at this.)

[8/19/12 Mini-Update:  I just posted better photos of Nagi's properties below. The photos that I had taken yesterday evening were lousy, but I was in a big hurry to get my update posted. I could almost feel Flavia tweaking my ear as I screeched, "Okay, OKAY, Mrs. Lasalandra--I PROMISE to hand in my paper, but PLEASE don't hit me again with your ruler!" Anyway, "Mrs. Lasalandra" gave me a hall pass to take new photos this morning. Even these aren't great because of the cloudy weather, but at least they're not crooked. I also added a photo of Nagi's empty parcel at #826 High Ridge Road, next to his jewelry store.]


Anyway, I had to get up to speed on demolition because Nagi appears to be moving ahead on his plan to knock down the houses he purchased for his "Maple Ridge" project. In fact, I learned that Nagi just had one of his tenants move out of #808 High Ridge Road and INTO #820 High Ridge Road (former home of the hapless Tia Gordon, whom Nagi evicted on July 26th). So it appears that Nagi is finally going to do what the Red Coats couldn't: destroy a Revolutionary-War-era house in Britain's former colony of America!

But I digress. I decided that, since Nagi's "Maple Ridge" houses may not be long for this world, I would post some photos of them for posterity. Most of us already know what they look like, since we drive past them every day. But, for your viewing pleasure and amusement, I will also include "Nagi's Nice Price"--i.e., what he paid--for each house. (Hold on to your hats....)


And, so, Tricia Reville will finally get her wish:

"Where are the pictures of the houses that are currently on the development site Mr. Longo?"


(Here you go, Tricia....)




808 High Ridge Road
Nagi's Nice Price:  $660,000  (6/26/09)





812 High Ridge Road
Nagi's Nice Price:  $735,000  (2/4/08)





816 High Ridge Road
Nagi's Nice Price:  $620,000  (6/4/08)




820 High Ridge Road
Nagi's Nice Price:  $750,000  (4/15/08)




826 High Ridge Road
Nagi's Nice Price:  $248,450  (10/22/01)
(BTW, this was the only decent real-estate deal out of the bunch!)






11 Maplewood Place
Nagi's Nice Price:  $620,000 (5/19/11)


*** Grand Total:  $3,633,450 ***
(I know, I know--I was thinking the same thing myself....)



And, yes, I'm still checking on what became of Nagi's $3.1 million loans that were due in May. But we'll save that for a future update. Right now, I have another reason for posting these photos, as well as several more in my next update. My research on demolition revealed some very surprising facts. Here's one example:



Those of you who walk around Manhattan will immediately recognize this as a "sidewalk shed." You also see them on some construction sites in downtown Stamford--and for good reason. But when was the last time that you saw one on High Ridge Road? (Hint to Nagi's legal team: Review C.G.S. 29-409.)

Stay tuned--there's a lot more to come in the next few days, I promise....


08/05/12 Update:

Nagi Tosses Tia the Tenant!

(but was the eviction kosher?)


I recently heard through the grapevine that Nagi has asked the tenants in his “Maple Ridge” properties to move out because he’s finally ready to build something there. You might wonder how Nagi can build anything when both of his Maple Ridge applications are still tied up in court. Legally, he can’t—but he CAN demolish the existing structures on the properties. (Actually, Nagi could have demolished those houses as soon as he purchased them, beginning back in 2001. In fact, he did exactly that to the house at #826 High Ridge Road, next to Nagi Jewelers. But this wouldn’t have made much sense, since he would have lost over four years of rental income on the remaining five houses.)

About a week ago, I saw a moving truck backed up to Nagi’s rental property at #820 High Ridge Road. At first, I assumed that the tenant there was being especially nice to Nagi, but this wasn’t the case. As you can see, the tenant, Tia Gordon, was legally evicted from the property on 7/26/12.

But here's the interesting part…. As you can see from the eviction docket, the plaintiff was apparently NOT Procurement, LLC (the legal owner of #820 High Ridge Road), but was, instead, Nagi himself! (As an aside, check out the deed transactions for this property. I only wish that *I* had bought it in 1997 for $185,000, then sold it to Nagi in 2008 for $750,000..a tidy little profit of over 300%! Hassan Torkamani, wherever you are, you are one lucky son-of-a-gun!)

Now, I know that I always use Nagi’s name instead of Procurement LLC whenever I discuss issues that are, strictly speaking, related to Procurement LLC. (From a legal perspective, Nagi merely manages this LLC.) But this is a website, not a court of law. Unless Procurement recently transferred ownership of #820 High Ridge Road to Nagi, I believe that Procurement should have been listed as the plaintiff in Tia Gordon's eviction.

To illustrate my point, note that Nagi retained Attorney Mark Phillips to handle this eviction. (BTW, I have almost lost count of the total number of attorneys involved in Nagi’s “Maple Ridge” application.) Take a look at the plaintiffs in Attorney Phillips’ eviction cases. As you can see, the majority of plaintiffs in these evictions are housing authorities or corporations. Even though the entities are represented by individual agents in court, the entity (not the agent) is shown as the plaintiff on the eviction dockets.

Unfortunately for Tia Gordon, she had represented herself in her eviction, so she apparently was not aware that Procurement LLC was, in fact, the legal owner of the house. She probably should have read this book, which (as you can see) is available free of charge both online and at the Norwalk Housing Court. As the book mentions, she might have even qualified for legal aid!

And, since Nagi is in the rental business, he can probably use the info in this book. In fact, he'd better read it well—especially if he plans on expanding his rental properties in this economy….

P.S.—I said that Nagi can demolish the houses on his properties at any time, even if he chooses not to replace them. However, there is one big catch to the demolitions that we haven’t talked about yet.  Stay tuned….

07/31/12 Update:

Court Grants Nagi's Motion to Intervene!

Nagi just scored a BIG win in court against Dr. Ajay Ahuja! Remember that, on May 3rd, Dr. Ahuja sued the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) for rejecting his application to build a day-care center across the street from Nagi's proposed "Maple Ridge" development. And, on July 19th, Nagi filed a "motion to intervene" as a co-defendant with the ZBA in Dr. Ahuja's appeal. Now, you may recall that Judge Taggart Adams had previously rejected Dr. Ahuja's ex-wife, Gurpreet's, "motion to intervene" in Nagi's appeal against the Zoning Board. Yet Judge A. William Mottolese has just granted Nagi's motion to intervene in Dr. Ahuja's appeal! (Remember what I said about the importance of "judge shopping?")

As you can see from Judge Mottolese's order, he granted Nagi's motion to intervene "without objection." Although I haven't retrieved the court documents, it appears that Dr. Ahuja never had a chance to file an objection to Nagi's motion to intervene. It looks like Dr. Ahuja filed only a motion for extension of time (presumably to prepare an objection) on July 24th--and Nagi immediately filed an objection to that motion. (Actually, Nagi filed two objections: the first was filed on July 25th, but it was immediately withdrawn and another objection filed in its place. I'll have to get down to the law library to unravel this mystery.)

So Nagi is now a full defendant in Dr. Ahuja's appeal against the ZBA. This means that Nagi (actually, Nagi's attorneys) can file briefs, testify, and do almost everything that the City's attorneys can do. In other words, Nagi now has Dr. Ahuja in a legal "choke-hold." (And, in similar fashion, Dr. Ahuja's ex-wife, Gurpreet, has Nagi in a legal "choke-hold" through her appeal against the Zoning Board for approving Nagi's project!) I can't wait to see the next move in all of these court battles....

P.S.--I had really wanted to talk about Nagi's initial plan to build a small shopping center on his "Maple Ridge" properties, but then this news popped up. Maybe in my next update.....



07/27/12 Update:

Gurpreet Bares All!

(but not here....)

I just finished reading all 95 pages of Gurpreet Ahuja’s three-hour (!) deposition, which she provided on June 1st to Attorney Eliot Gersten, who is one of Nagi’s attorneys…and also happens to be his brother-in-law. (This website is almost beginning to resemble a reality TV show, isn’t it?)

I have posted Gurpreet’s deposition below in *most* of its glory. As you can imagine, there are a lot of juicy personal tidbits there. In the interest of responsible journalism, however, I have redacted about 50 lines that reveal Gurpreet’s private medical information, as well as a family tragedy that she endured. (I’m still getting flak from my brother—a.k.a. my “social conscience”—for posting how much Nagi's tenants pay to flush their toilets!) These 50 redacted lines represent only about 2% of the 2,000+ lines contained in the deposition.

Don’t bother using Photoshop to uncover the redacted lines, since I actually cut them out of the printed document with a razor knife prior to scanning it. (I had previously crossed out the lines with a black magic-marker, then scanned the document. But my scanner picked up the redacted info under the marker, so I went back to the drawing board.) If you just have to know the redacted info, you can get your own copy of the deposition at the law library (for 10 cents per page) or at the court clerk’s office (for a dollar per page) in Stamford Superior Court. (Hint: Use the law library—it’s a lot cheaper. And shame on you for being so nosy!)

Finally, this is a large PDF file—almost 15 megabytes—so it will take a little time to download. For the techies out there, I had to scan it at 300-dpi resolution instead of the 200-dpi setting that I normally use. That’s because each full page actually contains four pages of reduced text, which, as a result, is pretty tiny. The higher resolution allows you to read the text clearly after you magnify it in Adobe Reader. So, without further ado, here it is:

                                                   Gurpreet Ahuja’s deposition

As you recall, Gurpreet appealed the Zoning Board’s approval of Nagi’s current Maple Ridge application. She also filed a motion to intervene in Nagi’s appeal against the Zoning Board for rejecting his previous Maple Ridge application. So, as an “appearing” party in both her own appeal and Nagi's appeal, she is fair game for some very probing questions. Attorney Gersten inquiry was therefore apparently designed to:

1)     reveal any business connections between Gurpreet and her ex-husband, Dr. Ajay Ahuja and/or their son, Attorney Nicholas Ahuja;

2)     reveal Gurpreet’s relative lack of knowledge about Nagi’s application, in spite of her having filed an appeal against its approval;

3)     discredit Gurpreet’s assertion that she was “aggrieved” because she apparently did not receive any formal notice of Nagi’s application or the public hearings; and

4)     point out the apparent inconsistency between Gurpreet’s opposition to Nagi’s project across the street and her implicit approval of her ex-husband’s and son's project next door.

Note that Dr. Ahuja and his son, Attorney Nicholas Ahuja, are the principals of Ahuja Holdings, LLC, through which they have applied to build a day-care center directly across the street from Nagi’s proposed “Maple Ridge” development (which also includes a day-care of its own). The Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously rejected the Ahuja’s day-care proposal, so they filed an appeal of their own against the ZBA in court.

Finally—to add another “all-in-the-family” twist here—Attorney Ahuja also happens to represent Gurpreet in her appeal against the Zoning Board for approving Nagi’s project.

One of the first things that I noticed in Gurpreet’s deposition is the language barrier that apparently existed between her and Attorney Gersten. There were several words that she did not understand (for example, “renderings,” “veto,” etc.), and Attorney Gersten had to re-phrase them in an attempt to allow her to grasp his questions. Perhaps the deposition might have gone more smoothly if an interpreter had been present.

Next, Gurpreet is clearly not familiar with the details of Nagi’s project. She refers to Nagi’s proposed buildings as “humongous,” but she has no idea of their actual sizes. She also repeatedly states that Nagi’s proposed day-care will hold 180 children. (He had, in fact, applied for 120 children, but the Zoning Board knocked that number down to 90 children.) She admits that she has never seen the actual plans or any of the associated studies for Nagi’s project, but she is against it, anyway. (Perhaps she will read my flyers and/or these web pages to become more “educated” before she has to testify in court for her appeal.)

An interesting revelation is that, although Gurpreet was apparently divorced from Dr. Ahuja in 1999, they still live together! But Gurpreet repeatedly states that she and Dr. Ahuja do not speak to each other in their home. (Hmmm...this sounds like a lot of married couples to me….) Also, Gurpreet appears to co-own the Darien Immediate Medical Care Center with Dr. Ahuja. (Attorney Gersten did not ask Gurpreet whether this partnership existed before or after the divorce, however.)

Gurpreet stated that she chose not to attend the public hearings on Nagi’s project because of her physical condition (the details of which I have redacted), and because she did not believe that the Zoning Board would approve Nagi’s application for 22 units after it had rejected Nagi’s previous application for only 10 units. (It was actually nine units, but even I was not sure of this number until I found the documents for Nagi’s previous application.) If not for the change in the makeup of the Zoning Board between Nagi’s previous and current applications, this would have been a reasonable assumption. (Ah, what a difference a single board member--in this case, Tom Mills--can make!)

On the other hand, Gurpreet then stated that she would have attended Nagi’s public hearings if she had received a notice in the mail about Nagi's current application and/or the hearings! Attorney Gersten does a good job here of focusing on the apparent inconsistency of Gurpreet's statement (i.e., what difference would it have made if Gurpreet had received notice in the mail, since she was clearly aware of Nagi’s application beforehand?). However, Attorney Gersten’s questioning implied that there was only one public hearing, when, in fact, there were four. (One hearing had been suspended, but a total of four were scheduled, all of which required public notice.)

Speaking of inconsistencies: Gurpreet’s deposition finally answered a question that I have had for awhile now. I had wondered how she could complain about Nagi’s proposed development across the street when her family was proposing its own development right next door? Gurpreet’s answer—while self-serving—at least makes some sense. She implied that she is willing to put up with the increased traffic and pollution from an Ahuja-built day-care because it will make her son, Nicholas (whom she also refers to as “my blood”), “prosperous.” In this respect, I guess that she is being a good mother, although not the best of neighbors. (At least she didn’t try to convince Attorney Gersten that her son’s day-care would NOT have an adverse impact on traffic, while Nagi’s development would!)

Finally, Gurpreet repeatedly states that she was aware of Nagi’s public hearing[s] from discussions around her house and in the neighborhood—and from my website, which she has apparently checked on occasion. On Page 31 of the deposition, Gurpreet incorrectly referred to my website as “Nagi Stop.” This unintentional name reversal got me thinking that, if Nagi had received approval in 2009 for his proposed strip mall, Nagi-Stop would have been a GREAT name for a convenience store!


(I’m just sayin’….)

Coming next—a walk down “Memory Lane” with Nagi….


07/20/12 Update:

Nagi Copies Gurpreet's Tactic!


In my last update, I said that I would try to predict what Nagi might do next. Maybe it's a good thing that I haven't done this yet, since I NEVER would have guessed what just happened.

As you know, I regularly check the state's judicial website for updates on these three appeals:

1)      Nagi’s appeal against the Zoning Board for rejecting Nagi’s previous Maple Ridge application;

2)      Gurpreet Ahuja’s appeal against the Zoning Board for approving Nagi’s current Maple Ridge application, and;

3)      Dr. Ajay Ahuja’s and Atty. Nicholas Ahuja’s appeal against the Zoning Board of Appeals for rejecting their day-care application.

Click on Dr. Ajay Ahuja's appeal (#3, above), then scroll to "Parties & Appearances." Note that Sedulous LLC and Procurement, LLC have just been added as prospective co-defendants in Dr. Ahuja's appeal against the ZBA. (As you can see from the LLC links above, Nagi is the principal of both Sedulous and Procurement. Sedulous, in turn, is the legal owner of Nagi Jewelers at 828 High Ridge Road, while Procurement is the legal owner of Nagi's proposed "Maple Ridge" properties at 808 , 812 , 816 , 820 , and 826 High Ridge Road, plus 11 Maplewood Place.

Now it gets even better. Scroll down to the 7/19/12 court entry (#103.00) in Dr. Ahuja's appeal. Yes, it's true...Sedulous and Procurement LLC have just filed a motion to intervene in this appeal! Now, remember that Dr. Ahuja's ex-wife, Gurpreet Ahuja, had previously filed her own motion to intervene in Nagi's appeal against the Zoning Board. Gurpreet's motion was later denied by Judge Taggart Adams, but, had it been accepted, it would have allowed Gurpreet to participate in Nagi's appeal and proposed settlement with the Zoning Board.

Deep down, Nagi must have really liked Gurpreet's tactic, since he copied it almost verbatim! In fact, most of the supporting court cases cited in Nagi's motion to intervene are the same ones used in Gurpreet's motion:

One Hundred Nine North LLC v. New Milford Planning Commission

Bucky v. Zoning Board of Appeals

Kobyluck v. Montville

Oakdale Development, L.P. v. Zoning Board of Appeals

Rosado v. Bridgeport Roman Catholic Diocesan Corporation

This duplication of Gurpreet's supporting cases saved me a lot of time--I didn't have to scan and upload them, since I had already done that for my 6/8/12 update, below. (Thank you, Nagi!) In fact, you can also read my synopsis of each case there.

Thus, Nagi has moved to intervene in Dr. Ajay Ahuja's appeal against the ZBA using nearly the same arguments that Gurpreet Ahuja used in her attempt to intervene in Nagi's appeal against the Zoning Board! I suppose that Dr. Ahuja can now "repay Nagi's compliment" by using the same arguments that Nagi used in his objection to Gurpreet's motion to intervene! (Isn't it amazing how lawyers can play both sides of the fence to suit their needs?)

Actually, I have a LOT more reading to do in Nagi's motion to intervene. I have only shown you the motion itself, but there is much more to the entire document, which I picked up at the courthouse today. For one thing, it includes a 95-page (!) transcript of Gurpreet Ahuja's deposition to Nagi's brother-in-law, Attorney Eliot Gersten. (Fortunately, that printout is condensed so that every four pages of the deposition fit onto each page.) And Nagi's motion also includes--of course--summaries of its supporting court cases, a few of which were not copied from Gurpreet's motion. So there goes my weekend.....

P.S. -- On Monday, 7/23/12, the City of Stamford is holding back-to-back interactive workshops (at 4 PM and 7 PM) in the Government Center to get our ideas regarding future development along High Ridge Road. Hopefully they won't be canceled due to a transformer fire this time....

07/12/12 Update:

Nagi Unsettles!

In an amazing turn of events, Nagi has withdrawn his proposed settlement of his appeal against the Zoning Board for rejecting his previous Maple Ridge application! On July 10th--apparently during Judge Mintz's hearing on the settlement agreement--Nagi filed a withdrawal of his motion for the settlement agreement dated 3/13/12, as well as a withdrawal of an amended settlement agreement dated 6/22/12. (Actually, these settlement agreements are identical, but--as I had pointed out in my 6/20/12 update--the e-filed version of the earlier agreement was missing Page 9. The amended agreement actually mentions this fact.)

I'm not sure why Nagi withdrew his proposed settlement agreement. As you can see, a LOT of legal work went into it, as well as Attorney Brenden Leydon's 16-page memorandum in support of the agreement. (Perhaps Attorney Glenn Gazin's three-page memorandum opposing the settlement agreement convinced Judge Mintz that accepting the agreement would not have been good jurisprudence?)


As a result of Nagi's settlement withdrawal, Judge Mintz has issued an order that tentatively schedules a trial for Nagi's appeal on or about September 27th, which is around 80 days from the July 10th hearing. This delay will cost Nagi about $32,000 (!) in additional interest on his loans. (The most recent loan documents available indicate that Nagi has owed about $400 in interest per day on his Peoples Bank loan and CBT loan combined. Hopefully he was able to negotiate lower interest rates for the extended loans that he probably received in May. I have been checking the Town Clerk's Office for updated loan documents, but nothing has been filed so far.)

So what in the world is Nagi going to do NOW? Actually, his choices in this chess (or high-stakes poker?) game are almost limitless. But I will save my predictions for the next update. See you then.


07/09/12 Update:

Nagi's Political Hot Potato


Stamford Zoning Board member Barry Michelson is running for the Connecticut State Senate in District 27! You may remember that Barry was one of two Zoning Board members who voted against Nagi's Maple Ridge application in December. (The other member was former chairperson Audrey Cosentini.) Advocate reporter Kate King wrote the following in her July 5th article about Michelson's Senate bid:

Michelson said his work to help establish a temporary boatyard at the site of the former Brewer's Yacht Club has been one of his biggest accomplishments as a Zoning Board member. He also voted against jeweler Nagi Osta's controversial day care and housing development on High Ridge Road.

"I thought it was too intense of a development, an overly ambitious use of the property parcel," Michelson said. "I tried to moderate a less intense use and unfortunately there were others who didn't go along with my thoughts on it."

So Nagi's project has become an official symbol of overly ambitious development in Stamford! And this is not the first time that a politician has spoken out against Maple Ridge. My November 7th update (under the Rowdy Days! link) contains quotes from other local politicians, as well. Although any publicity is better than none, Nagi probably prefers Maple Ridge to remain out of the political limelight while his appeal is tied up in court.

In any case, I wish Mr. Michelson the best in his Senate bid, and I'm sure that Mayor Pavia would like to see Michelson win, too. For, if this happens, Michelson will have to give up his seat on the Zoning Board. And Audrey Cosentini would become a lone voice for the people in a staunchly pro-developer Zoning Board.

P.S.--Judge Mintz's continued hearing on Nagi's appeal is scheduled for tomorrow, so I'll be keeping an eye on the judicial website for more "Nagi News."

07/03/12 Update:

"Squeez-A-Nagi!!!"










One of my prankster co-workers left this little gem in my car--it’s an official “Squeez-A-Nagi” TM foam-rubber stress reliever! You can get your very own FREE “Squeez-A-Nagi” TM from People’s Bank at 1022 High Ridge Road, right up the street from Nagi Jewelers. And you can even enter a drawing for a high-end watch, courtesy of Nagi. (If Chris Brecciano wins THIS contest, Nagi is gonna have some splainin’ to do!)

Actually, I’ll bet that Nagi would like to have one of these stress relievers made up in my likeness, the kind where the eyeballs pop out when you squeeze it:





On a more serious note--rumors are flying about negotiations between Nagi’s attorneys and Gurpreet Ahuja’s attorneys. Up until now, it’s been a battle between The Irresistible Force and The Immovable Object. For every brilliant legal move that Nagi’s attorneys have made, Gurpreet’s attorneys have countered with one of their own. But the court is holding yet another hearing on Nagi’s appeal on July 10th, and the City might actually attempt to settle three appeals at the same time there. To refresh your memory, they are:

1)      Nagi’s appeal against the Zoning Board for rejecting Nagi’s previous Maple Ridge application;

2)      Gurpreet Ahuja’s appeal against the Zoning Board for approving Nagi’s current Maple Ridge application, and;

3)      Dr. Ajay Ahuja’s and Atty. Nicholas Ahuja’s appeal against the Zoning Board of Appeals for rejecting their day-care application.

(Come to think of it, Stamford Corporation Counsel John Mullin could use one of those stress-relievers, too!)

Anyway, at this point, the end-result of the “Osta-Ahuja Accord” is anyone’s guess. Stay tuned…..


06/27/12 Update:

"Apply, Appeal, And Apply Again"

(or why Nagi's "parallel-application" strategy for Maple Ridge may not have been such a great idea....

I just checked the state's judicial website, and my anonymous email was apparently accurate: Judge Mintz has scheduled another hearing on Nagi's appeal for 2:30 PM on Tuesday, July 10th! We can expect that Attorney Brenden Leydon will do his best to convince the court that the proposed settlement between Nagi and the Zoning Board regarding Nagi's appeal is "A Good Thing." And, in contrast, Attorney Glenn Gazin (and possibly Attorney Nicholas Ahuja) will attempt to convince the court of the exact opposite.

I reviewed Attorney B. Leydon's objection to Gurpreet Ahuja's motion to intervene and compared it to Gurpreet's motion to intervene itself. I noticed that Attorney Leydon barely acknowledged the existence of Nagi's second Maple Ridge application in his objection--and with good reason. His job is to present the most favorable perspective of Nagi's application to the court, as you will see below.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I created the following graphical representation :

Attorney Leydon's Depiction of Nagi's Maple Ridge project

As the timeline shows, Nagi submitted an application for Maple Ridge in April 2010. That application was for nine apartments and a day-care for 120 children. (As the article describes, this was not Nagi's first attempt at developing his properties. He had previously submitted a plan for a commercial development that was soundly trounced. But his 2010 submission was his first attempt at developing an apartment complex and day-care center.)

The Zoning Board held hearings on Maple Ridge in December 2010, but rejected Nagi's application in January 2011, basically due to concerns that it was too dense and would have an adverse impact on traffic. Nagi appealed the Zoning Board's decision in February 2011, then (according to Attorney Leydon) engaged in "substantial negotiations and settlement efforts" with the City for the next year.

Suddenly, out of the blue (again, according to Attorney Leydon), a would-be interloper named Gurpreet Ahuja filed a motion to intervene in Nagi's appeal "at the eleventh hour" in February 2012! Fortunately, Nagi and the Zoning Board didn't let Gurpreet interfere with their progress; they submitted a proposed settlement agreement to the court  in March 2012. That proposal is for 17 condominium units and a day-care for 90 children. (Remember that Nagi's application was for nine apartments and a day-care for 120 children.)

But exactly where did the terms of this "settlement" come from? (Right now, I can almost hear Attorney Leydon bellow, "PAY NO ATTENTION TO THAT MAPLE RIDGE BEHIND THE CURTAIN!!!")

Yes, Dorothy, it's true--you see, during the period of "substantial negotiations and settlement efforts" in Nagi's appeal of his rejected application, Nagi filed a second application for Maple Ridge. That one was even more dense than the first:  it proposed 22 apartments and a day-care for 120 children. And herein lies the rub. (I actually discussed the fact that Nagi had filed his second application while his appeal with the Zoning Board was still pending in court--see my "Approve or I Sue!" link in the top banner for details.)

Again, to give you the big picture, I also created this graphical representation :

Actual Sequence of Events for Nagi's "Maple Ridge" Project

(This one is nearly suitable for framing--isn't it neat? I used to create graphics like this in my previous career. Back then, it was called "desktop publishing...".)

As you can see, Nagi filed his second application in July 2011. The Zoning Board held hearings on it in September, October, and November 2011. We staged protests about it, causing Nagi to change his application in an attempt to appease us. The Zoning Board finally approved the plan in December 2011, but in a substantially different form than the application that Nagi had submitted: 17 condominium units and a day-care for 90 children. (Wait! Isn't that the same setup as Nagi's proposed settlement? You bet it is!)

Gurpreet appealed the Zoning Board's approval of Nagi's second application in December 2011. And she apparently had good legal advice, because she then filed a motion to intervene in Nagi's appeal in February 2012. Gurpreet's motion to intervene was denied in May, and a continued hearing on Nagi's proposed settlement is scheduled for July 10th. If this settlement is approved, Gurpreet will effectively lose her right in court to appeal the approval of Nagi's second application.

Judge Mintz has apparently asked Attorney Leydon to locate a case where a settlement thwarted the appeal of a DIFFERENT application. (Attorney Leydon has already cited cases where a settlement thwarted an appeal of the SAME application, but Nagi's case represents the former scenario.) Best of luck on that, Brenden!

In hindsight, if Nagi had never filed a second application for Maple Ridge, his first application would probably have been settled in court a long time ago--and Gurpreet couldn't have done a thing about it. In fact, since I wasn't even aware of Nagi's first application, *I* wouldn't have been in the picture, either! (OUCH, Nagi!)

06/24/12 Update:

"Cole-Gate"

(With apologies to the toothpaste of almost the same name...)

I just read Elizabeth Kim's 6/23/12 article about our city's latest municipal mystery: Stamford land use chief recants account on legal opinion. If you have been following this website, you may remember Norman Cole, chief of Stamford's Land Use Bureau. (He must have recently been promoted from "Acting" Chief....) Anyway, Norman is the city official who instructed me to list him as the contact for the Zoning Board on my flyers last year, apparently because it was "illegal" for the public to contact Zoning Board members directly. Although I wasn't comfortable with this middle-man approach, I dutifully complied with Norman's request. As you can see from the link above, I listed Norman as the sole contact on all three of my flyers.

BIG mistake....

You see, in the critical week that preceded the October 24th public hearing on Nagi's project, "someone" happened to send Norman away on a nice one-week vacation! So every one of us who attempted to contact him via email about Nagi's project received only this automated reply:

"I'll be out of the office Monday, October 17th through Monday, October 24th.
You can contact Todd Dumais @tdumais@ci.stamford.ct.us if you require immediate assistance."


Now, some of us may have taken the time to re-send our emails to Todd Dumais, but I'm sure that not all of us did. And some of us may have left phone messages for Norman, or sent snail-mail letters. Were ALL of these correspondences properly redirected to Mr. Dumais and/or the Zoning Board members? We'll never know.

More recently, Norman radically changed his previous account about how a legal opinion against the Zoning Board's handling of the BLT boatyard controversy came to exist. At first, Norman said that the legal ruling was the end-result of a meeting with Mayor Pavia and other executive staff members. (See Elizabeth Kim's June 2nd article, Legal memo on Harbor Point leads back to Pavia, for more details.)

Well, it looks like Norm forgot to take his Ginkgo Biloba that day, because now he denies that the meeting ever existed! Here's what Elizabeth wrote:

Cole told zoning board members that he had been summoned into a meeting with the mayor, who he said had expressed concerns about the board's "strategy" surrounding BLT's Yale & Towne housing complex. In a later interview, he said Laure Aubuchon, the city's economic development, and members of the law department were also at the meeting.

Cole's version was summarized in a June 3 story in The Advocate that traced the legal opinion back to the mayor's administration.

Cole has now said he "misremembered" the events and that no such meeting about the housing complex ever took place.

Now, I have my own opinion about this case of apparent amnesia, but (in very uncharacteristic fashion, I know) I'm going to defer to a mysterious entity with the pseudonym MeetAtMcCabes, who posted the following tantalizing comment after Elizabeth's 6/23 Advocate article:

Why is Pavia 'summoning' supposedly independent Board members like Mills and supposed independent civil servants like Cole to secretive backroom meetings with BLT lackey Aubuchon and 'members of the city legal department'? (which members? newly minted Pavia mouthpiece and fixer Capalbo?) Was Carl Kuehner there?

Should land use decisions that will effect generations of Stamford residents be made properly in public, subject to FOIA, or rather in secret heavy-handed arm-twisting furniture throwing tantrum prone BLT crony filled meetings on the tenth floor presided over by our dazed and confused 'Mayor', mike 'land grab' Pavia? Sheesh, if I were Cole I would have repressed this memory as well.

Also, remember this gem: "Pavia, a former developer, said he believes mayors in general should be hands-off when it comes to development. "Land use is something I try to steer clear of," he said. "It pretty much makes its own determination and that's the way it should be." [cue laugh trac - ha haa haa haaaa]

Read more: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/The-developer-and-the-mayor-2670913.php#ixzz1ye2t3VG7

Too bad the Stamford Board of Ethics is a mere kangaroo court of Pavia toadies, otherwise the public might have some recourse to stop the outrageous corruption of the land use process. "Stamford, the City that works (for BLT)"
__________________________________


(Perhaps it's time for Norm to take another vacation?)

06/23/12 Update:

Terminator: (of Stipulated) Judgment Day!

I received an anonymous email last night, so I CANNOT confirm any of this--at least not yet. But it appears that Nagi's proposed settlement with the Zoning Board was placed on a two-week hold at yesterday's Section 8-8(n) hearing. According to the email, Judge Douglas Mintz has given Attorney Brenden Leydon two weeks to come up with a case where the court approved a settlement that was virtually identical to an approved zoning application that was, in turn, currently under appeal. In other words, Judge Mintz looked at the big picture and realized that approving the settlement of Nagi's previous Maple Ridge application would effectively thwart Gurpreet Ahuja's appeal of Nagi's current Maple Ridge application.

 

Actually, Judge Mintz has been involved with Nagi's appeal from its beginning. (I could have shown you proof of this, but the state's judicial website is down for maintenance until Monday 6/25.) Judge Mintz's name shows up on virtually every motion and order in Nagi's appeal from 3/23/11 until one year later, when Judge Taggart Adams inexplicably took papers on Gurpreet's motion to intervene on 4/23/12.

 

Now, Judge Mintz is no stranger to sensitive issues like Nagi's appeal. For instance, he had to suspend Attorney Mickey Sherman's license to practice law when Sherman was sentenced to prison for tax evasion. (Ouch, Mickey!) So I'm sure that, if Brenden Leydon manages to find a case that parallels Nagi's appeal/settlement vs. Gurpreet Ahuja's appeal, Judge Mintz will rule accordingly. And, if not...well, then, Nagi will have to resort to "Plan C." (Or "Plan D." Or perhaps "Plan E." Actually, I think that we might even be up to "Plan F" by now!)

06/20/12 Update:

Nagi's Settlement Heads to Court on Friday 6/22!

At 2:15 PM on Friday 6/22/12, there will be a "Section 8-8(n) hearing" at Stamford Superior Court (123 Hoyt Street) on Nagi's tentative settlement with the Zoning Board. Basically, Connecticut General Statute 8-8(n) requires a public hearing in court before the judge can accept Nagi's proposed settlement of his appeal against the Zoning Board. So let's look at this "settlement" more closely.

As you may recall, Nagi had sued the Zoning Board for rejecting his previous Maple Ridge application in January of 2011. That application was for nine apartments, a day-care for 120 children, and 62 parking spaces. The Zoning Board discussed Nagi's previous application on three separate occasions:

1)  at a public hearing on December 6, 2010,

2)  at a second public hearing on December 13, 2010,

3)  at a meeting on January 10, 2011 (Scroll down to Page 5 here).

As you can see, all of the "usual suspects" were at the December 6th public hearing, although Nagi's traffic engineer at that time was Tighe & Bond's Chris Granatini instead of the all-knowing Joe Balskus. More importantly, Attorney John Leydon (remember John?) revealed at that hearing that Nagi's true priority was  the day-care center, not the apartments:

Mrs. Cosentini asked why not propose development of all of the property at the same time. Att. Leydon replied that they were responding to the market demand for child day care and that there was not a strong demand for a new residential building.

The minutes of the December 13th public hearing revealed a huge surprise, at least for me. (Flavia, did you REALLY run a family day-care???) On a more serious note, there was concern among the board members about whether traffic could safely exit Nagi's project without a traffic light at Bradley Place:

Mr. Cole said that his staff report raised the question whether turning movements would be safe without the new signal. Mr. Jonas agreed that turning movements appeared difficult without a traffic signal.

The Board's concern is consistent with the City's traffic report that I quoted in my 6/18/12 update, below. (By the way, if you tried to attend this evening's 7 PM workshop on the traffic study, you were out of luck--the Government Center was evacuated due to a transformer fire. Sorry....)

But back to the Zoning Board meetings: Former Zoning Board chairperson Audrey Cosentini drove the first stake into Nagi's previous application at the January 10, 2011 meeting that followed the public hearings:

Mrs. Cosentini opened the discussion stating that she had voted against the rezoning of the property and continued to be opposed to the extension of commercial development south of the current jewelry store on the corner of Bradley Place. She said that the proposed development seemed to be very intense and that the property should remain residential. She stated that the Board should resist the spread of commercial strip development and that she would like to see a RM-1 residential only development.

Mrs. Cosentini remarked that RM-1 is a transitional zone and that she would like to see the property developed like the RM-1 property on the opposite site of High Ridge Road.

Former Zoning Board member David Stein also expressed serious concerns about Nagi's project:

Mr. Stein said that he supported RM-1 to serve as a multifamily transition between commercial and residential properties, but that he was concerned about a child day care use. He said that he was not in favor of commercial use and that the property should only be developed for residential use. He said that he still had concerns that the child day care use would make existing traffic conditions worse and pointed out that the applicant had offered to contribute to the cost of a new traffic light, but had provided only part of the cost and could not guarantee that a light would be installed. He noted that the size and bulk of the building appeared to be out of character with the surrounding area.

Mr. Stein pointed out that there was no assurance that the City would appropriate the rest of the funds needed to install the traffic signal, and that it was important to stop commercial creep down High Ridge Road.


And Zoning Board alternate Kathleen Donahue wasn't very happy with Nagi's project, either:

Mrs. Donahue said that she was concerned if the child day care use was a financial failure, what other uses could be established. She also expressed concern about the safety of traffic movements into and out of the site driveway and capacity of the vehicle drop-off area. She pointed out that no plan had been shown for the vacant Parcel A on the north side of the child day care parcel, and questioned how it would be developed. She concluded by saying that she would prefer that the applicant pay 100% of the cost of the new traffic signal.

Of course, Zoning Board member Harry Parson, Jr. all but gushed over Nagi's project:

Mr. Parson said that traffic did not appear to be an issue and that the developer’s traffic consultant and the City traffic engineer agree. He commented that the project appeared to be well designed and that the architectural design was very attractive. He said that he supported the project and that there was a need for more child day care facilities.

Mr. Parson pointed out that the Board was not qualified to make expert traffic judgments and that the applicant’s traffic engineer had reported that the traffic light was not needed for the project to function. He said that questions raised about the methodology used in the traffic report had been addressed and that the Board can’t act as its own traffic expert. He agreed that the building was large but was well sited and landscaped. He said that the project would not result in strip commercial development down to Bulls Head.

And, just as predictably, Zoning Board member Maria Nakian loved it, too:

Mrs. Nakian commented that she didn’t consider day care to be a commercial use, but would classify it as “institutional”. She said that the Zoning Regulations currently allow the ZBA to approve child day care in any residential zone. She pointed out that High Ridge Road is one of the better locations for a child day care facility.

Mrs. Nakian commented that she was very familiar with traffic conditions on High Ridge Road and that the worst area was north of Bradley Place. She said that the child day care use would not add too many additional vehicle trips. She noted that a new traffic light would definitely be helpful and that the City Traffic Engineer had endorsed the project.

Nonetheless, in the end, the vote was 3-2 against Nagi's project:

Mrs. Cosentini called for a motion regarding the child day care special exception application, Appl. 210-19. Mr. Stein moved to disapprove Appl. 210-19, seconded by Mrs. Donahue. The motion carried on a vote of 3 to 2 (Cosentini, Stein and Donahue in favor; Parson and Nakian opposed).


So Nagi appealed the Zoning Board's rejection in court, then submitted a second Maple Ridge application to the Zoning Board while his appeal was pending. This second application (which we are familiar with) was for 22 apartments, a day-care center for 120 children, and 98 parking spaces. (Remember that the Zoning Board rejected Nagi's previous application for 9 apartments, the day-care, and 62 parking spaces due to their concerns about its excessive traffic and density.)

In the end, the Zoning Board approved Nagi's second Maple Ridge application, even though that application was for more housing and more parking spaces than the one that the Board had previously rejected. What changed?

To put it simply, the members of Zoning Board changed.

Audrey Cosentini was ousted from her chair position and replaced by developer-friendly newcomer Thomas Mills. Former member David Stein left the Zoning Board entirely. And Kathleen Donahue, although still an alternate member, was out of the picture during most of the hearings on Nagi's second application. And thus the 3-2 vote against Nagi's previous application became a 3-2 vote for Nagi's current application. (Mills, Nakian, and Parson voted for it, while Cosentini and Michelson voted against it.)

To the Board's minor credit, it did attach 27 conditions to their certification for approval. Take a look at these 27 conditions, and keep in mind that they are for Nagi's second application.

Now, remember that Gurpreet Ahuja appealed the Zoning Board's approval of Nagi's current application in court, which effectively stopped construction of Maple Ridge for the duration of her appeal. In an attempt to circumvent Gurpreet's appeal, Nagi is attempting to settle his appeal of the Zoning Board's rejection of his previous application. (You may remember that Gurpreet also filed a motion to intervene in Nagi's appeal to prevent this from happening, but Judge Taggart Adams rejected Gurpreet's motion. So, at this point, unless Gurpreet appeals Judge Adams's decision in Appellate Court, she will be out of the picture for good.)

Any "settlement" in a lawsuit normally involves mutual concessions from both parties--in this case, Nagi and the Zoning Board. If we recall that the Zoning Board had rejected Nagi's initial application for nine apartments, the day-care, and 62 parking spaces because it was too dense, we might expect that a settlement of Nagi's appeal would stipulate, say, eight apartments instead of nine, 50 parking spaces instead of 62, etc. So what does the proposed settlement (also called a judgement on stipulation) contain? Take a look for yourself:

Motion for Judgment on Stipulation

So Nagi's proposed settlement of his appeal contains 17 condo units (vs. nine apartments), a day-care for 90 children, (I believe) 97 parking spaces (vs. 62 spaces)...as well as the 27 conditions that the Zoning Board placed on its approval of Nagi's current application!

(Actually, if you look closely, there are only 20 conditions listed in this stipulation. It appears that someone accidentally omitted Page 9 from the PDF scan of the court document. But the anticipated Judgment, which is attached to the stipulation, does contain all 27 conditions, as you can see.)

So the judge at Friday's hearing is going to need an explanation as to why Nagi's proposed settlement contains 17 dwelling units (when the Zoning Board rejected Nagi's application for only nine units), 97 parking spaces (when the Board rejected Nagi's application for only 62 spaces), etc. Of course, that explanation--namely that the proposed "settlement" actually replicates Nagi's current application, which was approved by the Zoning Board, but which is being appealed by an abutting neighbor, Gurpreet Ahuja--will, in turn, open a HUGE...


      (So, if you like to fish, you might want to be in court on Friday....)

06/18/12 Update:

High Ridge Road Traffic Gets an "F!"



Example of heavy traffic conditions on High Ridge Road at Vine Road

(Doesn't this remind you of a scene of total bedlam and chaos from an "end-of-the-world" movie?)

If you aren't too busy at 4 PM or 7 PM on Wednesday, June 20th, you might want to stop by the cafeteria on the fourth floor of the Government Center (888 Washington Blvd). On that date, the City of Stamford will be holding two workshops for the public to express its concerns about traffic on High Ridge Road from the Parkway to Bull's Head. (Unlike the Zoning Board's 4:30 PM meeting on March 8th to discuss Nagi's proposed settlement of his appeal, the traffic workshop at 7 PM has actually been scheduled for our convenience!)

The captioned photo above is from Page 55 of the Existing Conditions Report for the City's ongoing Long Ridge / High Ridge Corridors Study. (WARNING: Before you click on the link for the Existing Conditions Report, be aware that it is over 40 megabytes in size and takes several minutes to download, even via cable modem. Still, if you have time, I encourage you to download the 133-page draft, save it to your computer, and browse it at your leisure. It's chock-full of interesting tables, maps, and photos like the one above.)


Here's a captioned photo from Page 74 of the report. This one also speaks volumes....



High Ridge Road, along a portion between Merriman and Vine, shows the complexity of the task to create order and meaning out of active transportation modes. Where the sidewalk may be wide enough to support walking by the most capable, the constant turning movements of cars, lack of defined driveways, lack of shade and edges, building setbacks, utility poles, and numerous other barriers makes any travel outside of the car an adventurous challenge.

I remember when Nagi's traffic engineer, the all-knowing Joe Balskus, told us during one of Nagi's public hearings that rush-hour traffic on High Ridge at Bradley had an LOS (Level of Service) rating of "F," which--like the school grade--is the lowest rating possible. Joe's contention was that Nagi's Maple Ridge project wouldn't make traffic any worse, since it was already as bad as it can get. The Existing Conditions Report bears this out:

Excerpt from Page 41:


"Based on the traffic count data discussed above, daily traffic volumes are significantly higher on the study corridors south of the Merritt Parkway, with the highest traffic volumes in the study area occurring on High Ridge Road, generally between Vine Road and the Merritt Parkway."

Excerpt from Page 60:

"The remaining signalized study intersections currently operate with overall LOS D or better conditions during the peak periods. However, LOS E or F conditions were identified for individual turning movements, commonly from side street approaches, at many of these intersections."

One bright spot in the study is that Nagi actually owns a recognized historic property in our neighborhood! I am referring here to #808 High Ridge Road, which was built in 1780 during the American Revolution. You will find it listed in "Table 2-20: Known Historic Resources within the Long Ridge/High Ridge Study Area" on Page 122 of the Existing Conditions Report. According to the table, this house is part of Connecticut's Historic Resource Inventory. (Perhaps Nagi can convert the property into a mini-museum for "Yankee Doodle Day-Care!")


06/12/12 Update:

Nagi's "Early-Bird Special" Zoning Board Meeting!

It's amazing how reading a court case can lead to a surprising revelation about Nagi's sphere of influence at the Government Center. I am referring here to a special meeting that the Zoning Board conducted on Thursday, 3/8/12. (Did you miss it? That's no surprise...you probably couldn't have made it without leaving work early.)

What was so "special" about this meeting, anyway? Well, for one thing, it was held for the sole purpose of discussing Nagi's pending appeal against the Zoning Board, and so (as you can see from the link above) most of it was conducted in "executive session"--that is, the public was not allowed to be present. But the most "special" thing about this meeting is that it began at 4:30 PM, when nearly everyone in the city was still at work!

How did I stumble upon this unusual event? I was reviewing Attorney Gazin's attachment for One Hundred Nine North LLC v. New Milford Planning Commission when I came across the following passage on Page 2:

"During the appeal, the plaintiff [109 North LLC] entered into settlement discussions with the commission that would involve resolution of this appeal by way of approval of an alternative seventy-two lot subdivision plan. When Mr. Hay learned of the proposed seventy-two lot plan that might be approved pursuant to General Statutes section 8-8(n), he appeared at the meeting of the commission regarding the proposed settlement and urged the commission to reject the proposal and to defend its existing denial on appeal."

I wondered if our Zoning Board had held a similar meeting regarding the proposed settlement of Nagi's appeal. A quick check of the board's website revealed that it did--on March 8th. But, when I saw the time of that meeting, I wondered why it wasn't held at 7:00 PM (as are virtually all Zoning Board meetings). I initially thought that such 4:30 PM meetings might be common practice, so I checked every Zoning-Board agenda so far this year. Not one other meeting was held that early. So I checked every agenda in 2011, but no 4:30 meetings were held last year, either. But what about 2010? Nope...none were held in 2010. Perhaps 2009, then? None... zip... nada. (That was as far back in time as the Zoning Board's online database allowed me to check.)

How many Zoning Board meetings are we talking about here? From January 2009 to date, I counted 114 in all. To be fair, not every other meeting was held at 7:00 PM, but the vast majority were. Only nine meetings (including Nagi's "Early-Bird Special") were not. See for yourself--here are links to their agendas and times:

Thursday  3/08/12  **4:30 PM**  (Nagi's)


Monday    6/20/11    5:30 PM

Monday    5/09/11    6:15 PM

Tuesday   2/23/10    7:30 PM

Monday    7/26/10    6:00 PM

Tuesday   8/31/10    7:30 PM

Monday    7/27/09    6:00 PM

Tuesday   8/04/09    7:30 PM

Tuesday  12/22/09    7:30 PM


Why was Nagi's Zoning Board meeting scheduled earlier than every other meeting during the last 3-1/2 years (or possibly much longer)? You'd have to ask the "powers-that-be" in the Government Center. (Perhaps the board members, Mr. Cole, and Attorney Mullin were all hungry and wanted to get home in time for dinner....)


And why would our powers-that-be even concern themselves with zoning issues? Well, they do--at least those in our current administration do. I learned this the hard way when we over-packed the cafeteria at the October 24, 2011 public hearing for Nagi's project. Before that hearing was canceled, the crowd was seeded with a virtual "who's-who" of Mayor Pavia's cabinet: our Board of Finance Chairman, Jerry Bosak, Mayor Pavia's Executive Aide, Lynn Arnow, and our Director of Economic Development, Laure Aubuchon, to name a few.

More recently, Norman Cole--remember Norman?--was summoned to a meeting with Mayor Pavia that  included Ms. Aubuchon and members from the law department (but no one from the Zoning Board). In that meeting, Mr. Cole was directed to tell the Zoning Board that they could not delay their decision on BLT's Harbor Point residential complex as a tactic to force BLT to replace the boatyard that they had demolished.

Perhaps that meeting was simply held too early for Zoning Board members to attend--like, say, at 4:30 PM....

06/08/12 Update:

Will Gurpreet Appeal Judge Adams' Decision?

I just re-read (for the third time) Judge Taggart Adams' Memorandum of Decision re: Motion to Intervene, in which he denied Gurpreet Ahuja's motion to intervene in Nagi's appeal against the Zoning Board. I noticed that Judge Adams did cite several cases that Attorney Brenden Leydon had also cited and attached to his objection to Gurpreet's motion to intervene. However, Judge Adams did not address even one of the seven cases that Attorney Glenn Gazin attached to support his reply memorandum to Attorney Leydon's objection. I began to wonder if Judge Adams had even read Attorney Gazin's reply--that is, until I started reading it myself. After digesting all *53 pages* of it, I became convinced that, even if Judge Adams did read the 13-page reply itself, I doubt that he actually took the time to read *all* of the 40 pages of supporting cases that follow it.

I should mention that, on my job, I have learned the occupational hazards of submitting excessively long documents to a busy judge. That's why even an
arrest warrant application for a murder can be only eight pages long! (After clicking this link, click the "View Source Document" button, then the "Next" button to see most of the detective's warrant affidavit. By the way, that suspect was convicted of the murder, and she received a 50-year sentence.)

Since I am not a busy judge--and since I'm currently on vacation--I took the time to peruse Attorney Gazin's 53-page reply as if it was a "beach novel." Not only did I read it, but I also scanned and uploaded it for you! I have included links to the reply and its supporting cases as separate files. And, of course, if you don't want to actually read all of those cases, I have provided a brief summary of each one for you. (Some of these PDF's are large, so they may take several seconds to download.)

Attorney Gazin's Reply Memorandum to [Atty. Leydon's] Objection to Motion to Intervene (13 pp.)


Here, Attorney Gazin first discusses Procurement LLC's (i.e., Nagi's) initial Maple Ridge application for nine apartments and a day-care center for 120 children. The Zoning Board rejected that application on the grounds that it was too dense and would result in significant traffic congestion. Attorney Gazin notes that Procurement, in response, immediately filed an appeal of the Zoning Board's rejection, then later submitted a second application for Maple Ridge. This second application contained 22 apartments and the same day-care center.

As we know, Nagi voluntarily down-sized his project to 17 condo units and omitted the driveway to Bradley Place in response to our protests. The Zoning Board then down-sized Nagi's day-care center from 120 children to 90 children and added 27 conditions before finally approving Maple Ridge. But then Gurpreet Ahuja filed an appeal of the Zoning Board's approval, thus throwing the whole enchilada into court.

In an apparent response to Gurpreet's appeal, Nagi's attorneys began to work on a settlement of Nagi's (previously dormant) appeal of the Zoning Board's rejection of his initial application. Not coincidentally, this proposed settlement contained virtually the same conditions that the Zoning Board had approved in Nagi's second application (i.e., 17 condo units, a day-care for 90 children, etc.).  If this settlement is approved by the court, Nagi can simply withdraw his second Maple Ridge application--the one that was approved by the Zoning Board (and appealed by Gurpreet). Gurpreet's appeal would then be rendered moot; it would be worthless, since there would no longer be any second application to appeal. As a result, she would be deprived of her right to have her appeal heard in court.

So, to prevent Nagi from making this "end-run" around her appeal, Gurpreet filed a "motion to intervene" as a co-defendant with the Zoning Board in Nagi's appeal. Attorney Gazin asserts that, if Gurpreet is allowed to join in this appeal, she would file a "Request to Mediate," presumably to attempt to settle not only Nagi's appeal against the Zoning Board, but also her own appeal against the Zoning Board, as well.


Attorney Gazin then cites several cases where intervention was allowed by the court. (Remember, though, that Attorney Brenden Leydon cited several other cases where intervention was not allowed.) I could get into the differences between "intervention as a matter of right" and "permissive intervention," as well as the multi-pronged tests that are used to determine whether someone has the right to intervene under these doctrines. But this update is already getting too technical for the casual reader (including me). So I will provide only the relevant issues from each of the court cases that Attorney Gazin attached to his reply. You are welcome to read the case summaries themselves. Just be sure that you have already had your coffee....

Appendix 1 - Motion to Intervene: Barres v. Stonington Zoning Board of Appeals (2 pp.)

In this 1990 case, Barres, a landowner in Stonington, CT, applied for a zoning variance that was denied by the town's Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA). Barres then filed a second application for a zoning variance, and this second application was approved. An abutting landowner (Stryker) filed an appeal of the ZBA's approval of Barres' variance. Stryker also filed a motion to intervene in Barres' appeal against the ZBA. (Does this sound familiar to you?)

The court stated that "an abutting landowner has an interest which will be affected by a judgment rendered on an appeal of a zoning decision" and that "Stryker's interests are not adequately protected by the defendant Zoning Board of Appeal." The court therefore granted Stryker's motion to intervene in Barres' appeal.


Appendix 2 - Motion to Intervene: Kobyluck v. Montville Planning & Zoning (6 pp.)


In this 2002 case, Kobyluck, owner of a sand-and-gravel business in Montville, CT, filed an application for a special permit that the Montville Planning and Zoning Commission granted, but with conditions. Kobyluck filed
an appeal in court against the Commission's imposition of conditions. Nine of Kobyluck's abutting neighbors filed a motion to intervene as co-defendants with the Commission, stating that, if the conditions were removed from Kobyluck's permit, the value of these neighbors' properties "will be substantially reduced as a result of increased traffic, traffic congestion, and noise." (Does this sound familiar to you?)

The court granted the neighbors' motion to intervene, noting that they "have a direct and substantial interest in the subject matter of the litigation, that their interest would be impaired by the disposition of the litigation without their involvement and that their interest may not be adequately represented by any existing party."



Appendix 3 - Motion to Intervene: Oakdale Development v. Wallingford ZBA (2 pp.)


In this 1997 case, Oakdale Development, L.P. (owner of the popular Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford, CT) appealed a "cease-and-desist" order from Wallingford's zoning enforcement officer, who had issued the order to prevent Oakdale Theatre from offering "double shows" (matinee and evening performances). Two neighboring property owners filed separate motions to intervene in Oakdale Development's appeal. The court granted the neighbors motions to intervene.


Appendix 4 - Motion to Intervene: One Hundred Nine North v. New Milford Planning Comm. (5 pp.)


In this 2008 case, David Hay had purchased a home in New Milford, CT in 1998. Six years later, a business entity named 109 North, LLC, purchased 210 acres of undeveloped land that surrounded three sides of Hay's property, then submitted plans to build a subdivision containing 78 lots on that property. New Milford's Planning Commission rejected 109 North's proposal, so 109 North appealed the Commission's decision in court.

During the appeal, 109 North and the Commission entered into settlement discussions, and they both agreed to resolve the appeal by the Commission allowing 109 North to build 72 lots instead of 78. Despite public opposition, the Commission approved entering into the settlement agreement by a vote of 3-2. (Does this sound familiar to you?)

Hay filed a motion to intervene as a "full party" to the Section 8-8(n) hearing that is required in any settlement of a pending appeal. (Yes, we still have to talk about these hearings, but not here.) 109 North objected to Hay's motion, claiming that Hay's "motion to intervene is late in the process and that the equities, including the accumulated costs to the plaintiff, and the proposed settlement with the town, weigh in favor of denying the motion to intervene."

However, the judge noted that, in another case, Weissinger v. Matthies, the court had ruled that "owners of property within 100 feet  of subject property have special interest that could be directly affected by appeal from denial of special permit application and are, therefore, entitled to intervene as party defendants." In the end, the judge ruled that "Mr. Hay is, as an abutting property owner, a necessary and indispensable party to the appeal and is entitled by common and statutory law to participate as party in this proceeding. As an abutting property owner, Mr. Hay is statutorily aggrieved and qualifies to intervene as of right since his protected legal rights to prosecute an administrative appeal will be eliminated if the court approves the proposed settlement."

(By the way, if you are interested in the controversial Windermere on the Lake development off Erskine Road in Stamford, the case above also deals with the issue of "cluster development.")


Appendix 5 - Motion to Intervene: Bucky v. Weston ZBA (2 pp.)


In this 1976 case, the zoning inspector in Weston, CT issued a "cease-and-desist order" to Margaret Bucky, who was running a dog boarding and grooming business in her home. Bucky appealed the order and also applied for a special permit to continue her business as an approved "home occupation." The Zoning Board of Appeals denied both Bucky's appeal and her permit application, so she appealed the ZBA's decision in court.


Bucky's abutting neighbor, Walter Donaghy, filed a motion to intervene as co-defendant with the ZBA, claiming that he would be adversely affected if the ZBA's decision was reversed, "in that his property will be substantially reduced in value, increased traffic and congestion will result, and the residential character of the area will change." (Does this sound familiar to you?)

The lower court judge denied Donaghy's motion to intervene, so he brought his motion to the Appellate Court of Connecticut. The appellate court found that the lower court had erred in its decision, and it directed the lower court to grant Donaghy's motion to intervene as a party defendant with the ZBA.


Appendix 6 - Motion to Intervene: Rosado v. Bridgeport Roman Catholic Diocesan Corp. (14 pp.)


In this 2000 case, a priest--along with the entire Bridgeport Roman Catholic Diocesan Corp. (after all, how much money are you going to get from a priest?)--was sued for allegations of sexual abuse.

(See? I told you this was a beach novel!!!)

But back to the story.... Seven other priests (who were not accused of sexual abuse) filed a motion to intervene as co-defendants with the Diocese in order to prevent disclosure of their own confidential personnel records (which would have been subject to disclosure in the lawsuit). The lower court judge denied the priests' motion to intervene, so (like Mr. Donaghy, above) they brought their case to the Appellate Court of Connecticut.


The Appellate Court noted that, according to the plaintiffs, intervention was unnecessary because "[t]he court allowed them all the relief they sought except for party status." The court then stated, however, that this contention "ignores the legal rights associated with formal intervention, namely the briefing of issues, presentation of evidence, and ability to appeal. The grace of the court is not a substitute for formal intervention with its concomitant rights."


The Appellate Court concluded that the lower court should have permitted the seven priests to intervene.



Appendix 7 - Motion to Intervene: Milford v. Local 1566, Council 4 (9 pp.)

In this 1986 case, an employee was terminated by the City of Milford, CT. He appealed his termination to the state board of mediation and arbitration, which reversed the termination. The City of Milford appealed the arbitration board's decision to court, saying that the board members had not taken an oath that the City claimed they should have taken (per state statute) prior to conducting their hearing on the employee's termination. The arbitration board filed a motion to intervene in the City's appeal, which the trial court granted. The city argued that the board's appeal (after intervention) had caused a three-year delay in the resolution of the grievance. But the court noted that "The possibility of an intervenor's appeal is present every time intervention is requested, however, and that possibility should not, standing alone, be grounds for denying permission to intervene."

(This case ended up in the Supreme Court of Connecticut, but the board's motion to intervene was not the major issue in the case. So we're not going to bother with the rest of it....)

___________________

Now, if you think that tonight's update was long and involved, try reading everything that Attorney Gazin submitted in his reply to Attorney Leydon's objection to Gurpreet's motion to intervene. Under the circumstances, can we really believe that Judge Adams read these 53 pages--along with every other motion, reply, etc. from each side? Attorney Gazin's reply probably would have been just as convincing if only the first four cases were attached, and that would have given Judge Adams 25 fewer pages to review.


So I'll end with a piece of advice to Attorney Gazin:  "Sometimes, less is more...."


06/01/12 Update:

Was Judge Adams "Shopped?"

I was re-reading Judge Taggart Adams' decision to deny Gurpreet Ahuja's motion to intervene in Nagi's appeal, and I had a nagging feeling that I had come across this judge's name before. (Keep in mind that I still have over 100 pages of legal documents to review, scan, and upload to the website for your reading pleasure!) So I started flipping through the pile, and, sure enough, I had seen Judge Adams mentioned before. And, after reading a  particular legal document, my first thought was, "WOW--Judge Shopping!"

Now, there is nothing illegal or unethical about attempting to steer your case (civil or criminal) toward a judge whom you believe will be sympathetic toward your position. It happens every day in nearly every court in the country. All of the better criminal trial lawyers know the drill by heart. But I didn't think that I would have seen it happen in a minor civil case like Nagi's appeal. And it may still be a total coincidence, but I'll let you decide.


First, let's start with a
Motion for Extension on Brief that Nagi's attorney (OK, *one* of Nagi's attorneys), Brenden Leydon, filed with the court on 3/16/12. Go ahead...check it out. I'll wait right here for you.

First, I have to give Attorney B. Leydon credit for his confidence and/or prescience: on Page 1, he states that there is no reason to file a brief because the parties [Nagi's Procurement, LLC and the Zoning Board] have resolved the case [via settlement]. He therefore "moves for an extension until May 27, 2012 with the expectation that the settlement should have been approved [by the court] by then." (OK, he may still be a few weeks off, but he appears to have no doubt in the outcome of his case.)

Next, let's look at the Motion for Continuance that Attorney B. Leydon filed on 4/4/12. As you can see, the  hearing on Gurpreet Ahuja's motion to intervene had been scheduled for 4/16/12, with Judge Robert Genuario presiding. (I mentioned yesterday that Judge Genuario and Judge Douglas Mintz had been handling Nagi's appeal long before Judge Adams issued his ruling on 5/30/12.) Attorney B. Leydon states that the reason for the continuance is "Plaintiff's counsel is not available during that week due to scheduled vacation, however the parties are in agreement to move this hearing to the following monday [sic] if the Court is available." Attorney B. Leydon then requests that the case be continued to 4/23/12. (Note that 4/23/12 also happens to be the date that Judge Adams took over the appeal.)

Now for the "smoking gun"...here is the Supplemental Memorandum re: Objection to Motion to Intervene that Attorney Brenden Leydon filed on 3/23/12. As you can see, Attorney B. Leydon states that he found a case ("Meyer v. Westport ZBA") in which "Judge Adams denied a similar request to intervene in a zoning appeal for the purpose of blocking a settlement" (bolding emphasis added). In case you have any doubt that this is the same Honorable Taggart D. Adams who issued the ruling against Gurpreet Ahuja's motion to intervene, Attorney B. Leydon was thoughtful enough to attach the Westlaw summary of the case itself.

If you read the summary, you can see that there are, in fact, some similarities between "Meyer v. Westport ZBA" and "Procurement, LLC v. City of Stamford Zoning Board" (i.e., Nagi's appeal). However, the summary notes that "Meyer filed a second application, which was later withdrawn, and then entered into settlement discussions with the ZBA, resulting in a tentative agreement."

This is critical: Meyer's second application was (apparently) withdrawn before the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) could approve or deny it. In contrast, Nagi's second application was not withdrawn. It was ultimately approved by the Zoning Board, and THEN--and here is the critical difference--the Zoning Board's approval was appealed by Gurpreet Ahuja. In Meyer's case, the settlement apparently did not thwart a parallel appeal prior to that appeal being heard by the court. But, in Nagi's case, a settlement will do exactly that to Gurpreet Ahuja's appeal. (Although Judge Adams did mention this issue in his decision, he did not elaborate on his reason(s) for disregarding its significance.)

Finally, I said yesterday that I will talk about the "Section 8-8(n) hearing" (which is also mentioned in the Meyer case, above). Maybe on my next update....



05/31/12 Update:

Court Denies Gurpreet's Motion to Intervene!

In a stunning turn of events, yesterday Judge Taggart Adams issued a decision to deny Gurpreet Ahuja's motion to intervene in Nagi's appeal of the Zoning Board's rejection of Nagi's previous Maple Ridge application!

Here is Judge Adams' Memorandum of Decision re: Motion to Intervene. In his five-page decision, Judge Adams mentions several court cases that Nagi's attorney, Brenden Leydon, had cited in support of his objection to Gurpreet's motion to intervene. Judge Adams also mentions Gurpreet's contention that denying her motion to intervene in Nagi's appeal will render Gurpreet's appeal moot, but Judge Adams did not appear to take this fact into consideration when rendering his decision.

(Interestingly, Judge Adams appears to have become involved in Nagi's appeal only recently: note that entry #109.00 of Nagi's appeal states that: "Papers taken 4/23/2012 HON TAGGART ADAMS, JTR." Prior to this date, it appears that only Judge Douglas Mintz and Judge Robert Genuario had been involved in Nagi's appeal.)

Thus, with Gurpreet's motion to intervene out of the way, Nagi (i.e., Procurement, LLC) can now make an "end run" around Gurpreet's appeal of the Zoning Board's approval Nagi's subsequent Maple Ridge application. As you may recall, Gurpreet had filed her appeal on 12/29/11, and it is very slowly working its way through court. (There is currently a conference scheduled on 6/21/12.)

Remember that Nagi is paying hundreds of dollars in interest every day on his two loans for Maple Ridge. (By the way, today happens to be the due date for Nagi's $1.7 million loan with CBT. I still don't know if either this loan or Nagi's $1.4 million loan with People's Bank have been extended by the banks. The last time I checked the Town Clerk's office, nothing had been filed.) So time is definitely not on Nagi's side in this respect.

And so, instead of waiting for the court to decide on Gurpreet's appeal, Nagi and the Zoning Board have filed terms of a proposed settlement of Nagi's appeal against the Zoning Board. And it is no small coincidence that the this settlement basically duplicates the Zoning Board's approval of Nagi's revised Maple Ridge application. If the settlement is approved by the court, then Nagi can simply withdraw his revised Maple Ridge application (which the Zoning Board had approved on 12/12/11, but which Gurpreet had appealed on 12/29/11). And Gurpreet would then be left appealing a decision that is rendered moot by the settlement.

You may have noticed that Judge Adams discusses a "Section 8-8(n) hearing" on Nagi's and the Zoning Board's proposed settlement. I'm going to leave the details of this hearing for my next update.....


05/23/12 Update:

Long after High Ridge protest ends, a website stays active

(Click on the link above to read Elizabeth Kim's 5/22/12 Advocate article about this website!)

Elizabeth Kim has done another wonderful job of distilling the essence of my efforts with her usual humor, wit, and class. (I would also like to thank Advocate photographer Lindsay Niegelberg for actually making me appear to be somewhat photogenic!) And, finally, thank you, my readers, for all of your calls and emails of support!


The printed version of Elizabeth's article appeared on the front page of today's Advocate, with my photo placed prominently underneath the top story of the day:


"Trash hauler probed"

Fortunately, that's not me--it's my neighbor,Wayne Margarum's, company. (Sorry to hear about it, Wayne....)


Anyway, I want to get this update posted before I have to head into work this afternoon, so it will be brief. This morning, I drove down to the Town Clerk's office to check the status of Nagi's
People's Bank loan, which was due on May 1st. I'm sorry to report that the bank apparently has not yet filed the new loan document with the Town Clerk. (If you have an account with People's Bank, you might want to ask them what's happening with the $1,443,750 that they lent Procurement LLC over four years ago. If you find out, please pass it on.)

Finally, it appears that I made a mistake in my last update. (See? Nagi is right: not everything on this website is 100% accurate, 100% of the time! But I do my sincere best to ensure that it is. And, if it isn't, then I retract it.) After stopping at the Town Clerk's office, I headed over to Superior Court, where I copied ANOTHER 100+ pages of legal documents related to Nagi's and Gurpreet Ahuja's separate appeals. In my last update, I said that, on 5/17/12, Nagi had requested a continuance in Gurpreet Ahuja's appeal. I now have the actual request in hand, and it was the City of Stamford's Law Department, NOT Nagi, that requested it. (I had neglected the fact that both Nagi (via Procurement, LLC) AND the Stamford Zoning Board are defendants in Gurpreet's appeal.)


OK, it's off to work....



05/21/12 Update:

Nagi Pays Past-Due Property Taxes

After visiting the Town Clerk's office on May 9th, I stopped by the Tax Assessor's office to check the status of the property taxes on Nagi's home at #90 West Bank Lane and Procurement LLC's property at #808 High Ridge Road. You may recall that my 3/8/12 update revealed that the January 1st. property-tax bills for both of these properties had not yet been paid. Fortunately, it appears that this problem was corrected shortly after my 3/8 update.

Here are the May 9th property-tax printouts for #90 West Bank Lane and #808 High Ridge Road. As you can see, the taxes on both properties are now paid in full. If you compare the fully-paid bill for West Bank Lane with the previously unpaid bill for that property, you will see that no additional interest had accrued prior to the bill being paid in full. (The total tax for each bill is $11,120.97) So it appears that Nagi (to his credit) quickly took care of his property-tax oversight. This was a wise move, particularly in light of the fact that the loans for Nagi's Maple Ridge properties are both due to be paid (or, more likely, to be extended again) this month.

In other news, it appears that Gurpreet Ahuja's appeal against the Zoning Board (for approving Nagi's current Maple Ridge application) has been delayed again. The judge apparently granted one continuance at Gurpreet's request on 4/12/12, but then granted another continuance at (surprisingly) Nagi's request on 5/17/12. So the status conference that had been scheduled for this Thursday (5/24/12) has now been postponed until 6/21/12. Thus (speaking of Nagi's loans), this delay will result in another $12,000 or so in interest being tacked on to the loans. (This is why I am surprised that Nagi's attorneys also asked the court for a continuance here.)

As for Nagi's appeal (against the Zoning Board for denying Nagi's previous Maple Ridge application)--and, more importantly, Gurpreet's motion to intervene in that appeal--well, this will have to wait until my next update, since I need to head down to court for more documents. (Oh, boy, is it getting messy....)

05/12/12 Update:

Did Nagi Flush Sewer-Use Bills?

I stopped by the Town Clerk's office on Wednesday to see if People's Bank had extended Nagi's $1.4 million loan for the fourth year in a row since 2008. You may recall that this loan was due to be repaid in full on 5/1/12. However, the loan agreement does contain the following statement:

"At Borrower's request, but at Lender's sold [sic] and absolute discretion, and provided that Borrower has not been in default and can demonstrate to Lender's satisfaction that it is actively and diligently pursuing development approvals for Borrower's proposed development of the property described in the Mortgage, Lender may agree to further extend the maturity date from May 1, 2012 to May 1, 2013."

At this point, Nagi has hired at least six different attorneys to: 1) pursue his appeal of the Zoning Board's rejection of his previous Maple Ridge development proposal, 2) defend against Gurpreet Ahuja's appeal of the Zoning Board's approval of Nagi's current Maple Ridge proposal, and 3) fight Gurpreet Ahuja's motion to intervene as a co-defendant with the Zoning Board in Nagi's appeal, above. If this amount of effort isn't "diligently pursuing development approvals," then nothing is.

Sadly, the newest People's loan modification has not yet been filed with the Town Clerk, so we'll have to wait to find out what happened there. Fortunately, though, my trip was not completely wasted. While perusing the latest computerized filings under Nagi's "Procurement LLC," I came across several liens on two of Nagi's Maple Ridge properties:  #816 High Ridge Road and #808 High Ridge Road. These liens were filed by none other than the Stamford Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA) for--of all things--unpaid sewer-use charges.

As you may know, Stamford residents currently pay a sewer-use charge of $3.86 for every hundred cubic feet (748 gallons) of water that we consume. This pays for treating our sewage prior to discharging the effluent into Long Island Sound. My own sewer-use bill is currently about $265 per year. Now, I admit that my wife and I are water conservationists: we have low-flow faucets and shower heads, I turn off the shower while soaping up, etc. So our bill is somewhat lower than average. Still, when I saw the dollar amounts of the liens that the WPCA had placed on Nagi's properties, I shook my head in astonishment. Click on the links below to see for yourself:

$758.28 sewer-use lien for #816 High Ridge Road  (11/30/11)

$440.04 sewer-use lien for #816 High Ridge Road  (02/28/12)

$2,497.42 (!!!) sewer-use lien for #808 High Ridge Road  (02/28/12)

Although it's easy to run up $440 per year in sewer-use charges, I'm trying to imagine what kind of establishment would generate a $2,500 sewer-use lien. (A car wash?) I would guess that part of this amount is for interest and penalties, but how much water could possibly have run through that little old house? (Tip to Nagi: Purchase low-flow faucets, toilets, and shower-heads for all of your properties. Your bank account will thank you for it....)

Happily, Nagi recently paid all of these overdue sewer-use bills, so the WPCA released its liens:


Release of $758.28 sewer-use lien for #816 High Ridge Road (recorded 5/3/12)


Release of $440.04 sewer-use lien for #816 High Ridge Road (recorded 5/3/12)


Release of $2,497.42 sewer-use lien for #808 High Ridge Road (recorded 3/14/12)



I dug up a few more interesting documents during my visit to the Government Center, but they will have to wait until the next update. Stay tuned.....


05/07/12 Update:

Ajay Also Appeals!

I just checked the state's judicial website for updates on the Nagi's and Gurpreet Ahuja's separate appeals, and it appears that a third appeal has just been filed! On 5/3/12, Attorney Nicholas Ahuja (on behalf of Ahuja Holdings LLC) filed an appeal against the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) in Stamford Superior Court. This is most likely in response to the ZBA's denial of Ahuja's plan to build a day-care center across the street from Nagi's jewelry store. (I'll have to head down to court to confirm this, but I'd bet on it.)

So now there are THREE separate court cases to keep Stamford Corporation Counsel John Mullin hopping:


1) Nagi / Procurement's appeal against the Zoning Board for DENYING his PREVIOUS Maple Ridge application. Note that Gurpreet Ahuja filed a motion to intervene as a co-defendant with the Zoning Board in this appeal. Attorney Mullin had hoped to resolve Nagi's appeal via an out-of-court settlement, but, because that settlement would render Gurpreet Ahuja's appeal moot, the court is not likely to approve it. (The settlement would have allowed Nagi to build essentially the same project that the the Zoning Board later approved--but that project is exactly what Gurpreet is appealing. See Appeal #2 below for details.) There is a status conference on this appeal scheduled for 5/24/12.

2) Gurpreet Ahuja's appeal against the Zoning Board for APPROVING Nagi's CURRENT Maple Ridge application. This appeal was filed on 12/29/11. Along with Nagi's appeal, there is a status conference scheduled for Gurpreet's appeal on 5/24/12. (I still have to upload some court documents associated with both appeals.)

3) Dr. Ajay Ahuja's appeal against the Zoning Board of Appeals. As you may know, Dr. Ahuja is Gurpreet Ahuja's ex-husband (although I have not been able to find their divorce listed on the state's judicial website). His application for a 10,000 square-foot day-care center was body-slammed to the mat by the Zoning Board of Appeals. (See my 03/30/12 update, below, for details.)

Each of these appeals has elements that affect, and are affected by, the outcomes of the others. Hopefully Attorney Mullin can find a solution that is acceptable to all of the litigants here. (Such a settlement will take a lot of creativity and compromise on his part.) If this approach doesn't work, then he'd better hire a few more attorneys to assist him with these appeals in court....


05/02/12 Update:

Back to the Court Documents (Finally!)

Please pardon my two-week-plus delay in updating this website--Flavia Lasalandra actually left a message today asking for any new "development" on the Nagi vs. Ahuja vs. Zoning Board debacle (pardon the pun here).

Actually, we have a lot of ground to cover, starting with the fact that Nagi's $1.4 million loan with People's Bank was due to be repaid in full yesterday. I have to head down to the Town Clerk's office to see if People's extended Nagi's loan for a fourth year in a row. (If they did, we have to give them credit for patience!) And, while I'm at the Government Center, I'll head up to the Tax Assessor's office, since the city's website still shows that Nagi has not paid the 1/1/12 property tax bill on his residence at #90 West Bank Lane, nor on Procurement LLC's property at #808 High Ridge Road. It's possible that--like me--the city has fallen behind in updating its website. We'll see.

Meanwhile, I *still* have not posted the 67-page pile of court documents that I picked up over two months ago. Although I did read all of them, the prospect of scanning, uploading, and commenting on them has caused me to repeatedly shun the task. But I finally gritted my teeth this evening and scanned the longest (and, conveniently, the oldest) document: Nagi's Objection to [Gurpreet Ahuja's] Motion to Intervene [as a defendent in Nagi's appeal against the Zoning Board]. Be forewarned that this 24-page PDF file is over 15 megabytes in size, so it's going to take a bit of time to download it to your computer, even via cable modem. So, without further ado, here it is:


Objection to Motion to Intervene

As you can see, the last 16 pages of the motion consist of unpublished court opinions from Westlaw regarding other motions to intervene in Zoning Board appeals. One of Nagi's many attorneys, Brenden Leydon, cited these cases to illustrate several good reasons why the courts often deny such motions. And, if Gurpreet Ahuja's motion to intervene in Nagi's appeal existed in a vacuum, I would have to agree with Attorney Leydon here.

However, Nagi's appeal is different in one important respect from *all* of the appeals cited by Attorney Leydon: Nagi's appeal (of the Zoning Board's rejection of his previous Maple Ridge application) exists in parallel with his subsequent application for a slightly revised Maple Ridge development, which was ultimately approved by the Zoning Board. And, as you know, Gurpreet Ahuja appealed the Zoning Board's approval of Nagi's newest application, so it is now tied up in court.

With his newest application placed on hold, Nagi (whether via good planning or simply good fortune) reached a tentative out-of-court settlement on his previous appeal to the Zoning Board. He has agreed to drop his appeal in exchange for receiving exactly the same conditions in his *first* application that the Zoning Board approved in his *second* application. In other words, the Zoning Board is now willing to approve 17 housing units for Maple Ridge, even though it had rejected nine (or 10?) units in Nagi's previous application. (BTW, this also illustrates the huge difference that a new Zoning Board chair--Tom Mills--made in the Board's decision process.)

If the court were to approve of Nagi's tentative settlement with the Zoning Board, this would render Gurpreet Ahuja's appeal of the Zoning Board's approval of Nagi's newest application moot. In other words, Gurpreet would never receive her day in court, since Nagi could simply drop his newest Maple Ridge application after reaching a settlment on his earlier application. To prevent this from happening, Gurpreet filed a motion to intervene as a co-defendant with the Zoning Board in Nagi's appeal against the Board. If she is granted "intervenor" status, then she would also have to approve of any settlement between Nagi and the Board.

So Nagi's and Gurpreet's parallel appeals might actually forge new ground in our legal system. The question here is: must the court allow an individual to intervene in an appeal where failing to do so would render that individual's own separate appeal moot? This case may end up as a citation in a future Westlaw publication....


04/15/12 Update:

High Ridge Rd. East: The Other Side of the World?

There's a rumor going around that Nagi may drop his Maple Ridge application and apply (again) for commercial re-zoning of his properties...i.e., "Nagi-Mall." I was poking around the city's website to look for anything to confirm this rumor. (So far, I have found nothing.) But I did come across the minutes of the 3/27/12 meeting of the Planning Board. Buried within is the following discussion of Dr. Ahuja's day-care proposal, which was referred to the Planning Board by the Zoning Board of Appeals. (I have bolded portions for emphasis.)

Zoning Board of Appeals Referrals:

ZBA Appl. 017-12 – Ahuja Holdings, LLC requesting Special Exception approval pursuant to Section 4AA 1.3, to construct a 10,335 s.f. Child Day Care Center for 150 children at 831 & 833 High Ridge Road in a R-10 zoning district. (continued from 3/20/12).

Mr. Quick recused himself and left the table. Mrs. Dell seated both alternates for the voting.

Mr. Dumais summarized the application and need for continuation to this meeting.

Mrs. Dell stated there’s no way this building fits into the neighborhood and to stretch this into such a massive facility is way too much development for this small section of High Ridge Road and cited traffic concerns as raised by the City’s Traffic Engineer and in the applicant’s own report.

Mr. Tepper said this application is clearly in opposition to the direction of the Master Plan and it’s unreasonable to request this type of impact in an R-10 zone. He would more to deny based on opposition to the Master Plan.

Mrs. Fishman questioned the legality of having children under 5 years old on a second floor.

Mr. Williams said he agreed with what the other Board Members has already said.

Mr. Williams moved to deny this application. Mr. Tepper seconded the motion and the motion carried unanimously with the eligible members present voting, 5-0 (Dell, Fishman, Williams, Naumowicz and Tepper).

Mrs. Dell asked that the record reflect the denial and referenced the Traffic Engineer’s referral comments and Land Use Bureau Chief’s (Norman Cole) comments.

We must be talking about another PLANET here, instead of a property across the street from Nagi's! The negative comments above are the SAME arguments that hundreds of residents made against Nagi's project before and during the public hearings. Why are these arguments apparently valid for the east side of High Ridge Road, but not for our side? (Yes, I know that Nagi's property had been down-zoned from R-10 to RM-1, but remember that the Vine Meadow condos--which are also on the east side of High Ridge Road--are zoned RM-1, as well.) The Planning Board's comments imply that Ahuja's property is surrounded by bucolic residential tracts--not so.

It would seem that Dr. Ahuja simply doesn't know how to "play ball" in Stamford. Either that, or the east side of High Ridge Road really IS the other side of the world....

04/11/12 Update:

"Courting" Nagi


There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.

Julius Caesar Act 4, scene 3, 218–224

I finally finished reading 67 pages of legal documents that I had picked up from Stamford Superior Court a few weeks ago. Please forgive me for this delayed update, but I'm still wondering how to present the gory details of Nagi's appeal and Gurpreet Ahuja's appeal without boring you. So, before we dig into those documents (which I still have to scan to PDF), let's take a step back and look at the big picture.

The above quote from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar may well apply to Nagi's situation today. He had purchased most of his "Maple Ridge" properties nearly four years ago, in 2008, apparently with the intention of converting them into a small shopping center--much like "Ridge Plaza" on the corner of High Ridge Road and Bradley Place (north of Nagi Jewelers). Unfortunately for Nagi, the owners of several competing High Ridge shopping centers apparently banded together and hired the law firm Benjamin & Gold to assist them in opposing Nagi's plan.

Nagi (true to the meaning of his Sedulous LLC--that is, "persevering and constant in effort") did not let this setback deter him. After the Planning Board turned down his application for a commercial development in 2009, he returned in 2010 with a plan to build nine apartments over a day-care center. Along the way, Nagi was able to to convert his six single-family (R-10) properties to "multiple family, low density" (RM-1) zoning. (Yeah, we neighbors were asleep at the switch on that one....) And he almost obtained approval from the Zoning Board for his second proposal. But, in January of 2011, the Zoning Board rejected the plan.

At that point, some of us might have simply applied for condo units, like the "Vine Meadow" condos on High Ridge Road at Merriman Road. After all, Nagi now had his multi-family zoning, and there would have been little opposition to condos. But "sedulous" Nagi decided to try his luck a third time. First, he filed a court appeal of the Zoning Board's rejection of his initial "Maple Ridge" project. Then, while that appeal sat dormant, he submitted a third development proposal. This plan--which we are all familiar with--included a second building with another 12 apartment units, as well as a driveway behind the development connecting Bradley Place to Maplewood Place. And this plan--being even more dense than the two that preceded it--finally caused the surrounding neighbors (OK, mostly me, at least in the beginning) to organize against Nagi. That, in turn, led to an overcrowded public hearing, political fallout, and finally, a compromise with Nagi.

On 12/12/11, the Zoning Board approved Nagi's third proposal by a 3-2 vote (as I had predicted). I thought that the fight was over, but on 12/29/11,  Nagi's neighbor across the street, Gurpreet Ahuja, appealed the Zoning Board's decision in court. With the prospect of Gurpreet's appeal tying up Nagi's third proposal indefinitely, he wisely switched gears and started working on a settlement of his appeal against the Zoning Board for rejecting  his second proposal. (Interestingly--as you will soon see--this proposed settlement looks exactly like what the Zoning Board had approved on 12/12/11 for Nagi's third development!)

Apparently Gupreet anticipated Nagi's attempt at an "end run" around her appeal, because she also filed a "motion to intervene" as a co-defendant in Nagi's appeal. If this is granted by the court, it will prevent Nagi from reaching the above settlement with the Zoning Board without Gurpreet's approval, as well.

So Nagi's development is now tied up at both ends in the court system (as my title, " 'Courting' Nagi,"suggests). And the legal documents that I obtained also reveal that Nagi has retained three more attorneys--his brother-in-law, Eliot Gersten, Brenden Leydon (who is Nagi's primary attorney, John Leydon's, brother), and Eliot Gersten's partner, Jared Alfin--to defend against Gurpreet's appeal and her motion to intervene. (Remember that Nagi had also hired Attorney Diane Whitney, as well.) That's a lot of legal fees!

Meanwhile, Nagi had taken out $3.1 million in loans in 2008--$1.4 million from People's Bank and $1.7 million from Connecticut Bank & Trust--to purchase the properties for his development. As you can see, the People's loan is due less than three weeks from today (on 5/1/12), and the CBT loan is due about four weeks later, on 5/31/12. Of course, the banks may elect to extend these loans a fourth time--after all, the loans are generating a combined interest of about $150,000 per year for the banks--but this will be entirely up to them, not Nagi.

So four years have gone by, and Nagi's properties on High Ridge Road look much as they did when he bought them--not a single shovelful of dirt has yet been excavated for Maple Ridge. And, unless the court dismisses Gupreet Ahuja's appeal and denies her motion to intervene, there won't be any excavation in the near future.

"There is a tide in the affairs of men...".

03/30/12 Update:

Z.B.A. to Ahuja:  NO WAY, Ajay!!!

I had intended to fill you in on the latest updates in the Nagi v. Gurpreet Ahuja court cases. But then a new development came up. Or, more precisely, a new development went down...in flames.

I'm talking about Wednesday night's public hearing at the Zoning Board of Appeals for Dr. Ajay Ahuja's proposed day-care development. I wasn't there, but my spies were. (Elizabeth Kim was there, too, so I hope that she will do a faithful job of reporting the carnage in a future Advocate article.)

Not that there was a huge public turnout at the hearing--from what I understand, only about a dozen people attended, and only two people actually spoke out against the project. (Yes, Flavia Lasalandra was one of them.) But that didn't matter, since Dr. Ahuja's biggest enemies were the members of Zoning Board of Appeals itself--they all but tore up his application right in front of him! Rumor has it that Flavia even felt sorry for Dr. Ahuja's son, Atty. Nicholas Ahuja, who took the brunt of the ZBA's searing inquisition. (Imagine that--FLAVIA having compassion for a DEVELOPER's attorney!) Then, after only a five-minute recess, the Z.B.A. unanimously rejected Dr. Ahuja's proposal, so it must have been a very bad evening for the Ahujas, indeed.

I would like to believe that the City's sudden concern for over-development in the Mid-Ridges is a response to our previous protests against Nagi's project. But (as the saying goes), although I may have been born at night, I wasn't born last night. From what I can infer here, it seems that the City's "powers-that-be" are upset at the fact that Dr. Ahuja's ex-wife, Gurpreet, has thrown not one, but TWO monkey wrenches into their efforts to placate Nagi. First, Gurpreet appealed the Zoning Board's approval of Nagi's Maple Ridge project--an effort that has stolen four years and millions of dollars out of Nagi's life...so far. And now Gurpreet is also attempting to intervene in Nagi's appeal of the Zoning Board's rejection of his previous project, effectively thwarting an out-of-court settlement between Nagi and the City. (In other words, the City is going to have to expend a LOT of its legal resources to deal with Gurpreet Ahuja in two separate cases.)

Now, I'm not sure if Dr. Ahuja is actually connected to Gurpreet's legal maneuvers, considering the fact that the Ahujas are apparently divorced. But he is certainly suffering from guilt by association. Someone forwarded a copy of 
Land Use Bureau Chief Norman Cole's memo about Ahuja's project that was sent to the ZBA on 3/21/12. As you can see, Mr. Cole starts by describing various aspects of the project. But then, at the bottom of Page 2 ("Architectural Plans"), he states that "The building height (27' 8") and length (80 to 100 feet) is massive and out of scale with homes in the area, giving it an institutional appearance." (Bolding emphasis added.)

(
WAIT A MINUTE, NORMIE! Not for nothing, but you absolutely gushed over Nagi's two proposed buildings totaling nearly 40,000 square feet, and now you are calling this 10,335-square-foot building across the street "massive" and "out of scale with homes in the area?" What about our homes? What are we, chopped liver?)

Later on, Mr. Cole's memo states that "The Engineering Bureau, by memo dated March 5, 2012, has identified 28 separate questions regarding the site plan and utilities." (Clearly, Dr. Ahuja's application does not appear to have been ready for presentation. So I have to wonder when--or even if--he was made aware of these problems.)


Still, Mr. Cole's memo is mild in comparison to City Traffic Engineer Mani Poola's memo about Ahuja's project, which was sent to the Z.B.A. on 3/26/12...two days before the hearing. Paragraph 2 reads as follows:

"[Dr. Ahuja's traffic engineer's] report states that the proposed development will increase delays significantly, specifically on side street approaches namely westbound on Donata Lane and eastbound on Bradley Place to High Ridge Road, and cannot be alleviated with the continued use of existing STOP controls on those approaches." (Bolding emphasis added.)

Well, it looks like we have finally found a traffic engineer who is not afraid to upset his client with the facts! THIS is why I was so adamant about Nagi's project not being allowed access to Bradley Place, and why I was willing to trade off other issues in exchange for that concession. (Note to Dr. Ahuja: Next time, hire Joe Balskus for your traffic study--his assessment of Nagi's project was much more "developer-friendly" than yours is.)

Mr. Poola goes on to mandate a traffic light on High Ridge at Donata Lane and Bradley Place--and he wants Dr. Ahuja to contribute $300,000 for the light PLUS another $100,000 for "off-site traffic improvements."

WOW!!! I guess that traffic on Dr. Ahuja's side of High Ridge Road is much more intense than traffic on our side--after all, Nagi was asked to contribute "only" $100,000 for a light and off-site traffic improvements on our side of the street. What gives here?

And so the Ahujas learned--the hard way--what most of us knew months ago: Nagi apparently has friends in high places, at least in Stamford.


So what can Dr. Ahuja do now? One option is that he can somehow convince his ex-wife, Gurpreet, to withdraw her appeal against Nagi and her motion to intervene in Nagi's appeal. In other words, Dr. Ahuja can roll over and bare his throat to Nagi, asking for Nagi's forgiveness and mercy. Perhaps then the Z.B.A. will look at Dr. Ahuja's revised application more kindly after the City is no longer tied up with two Zoning Board appeals.


Or Dr. Ahuja can attempt to correct all of the apparent problems that the Z.B.A. raised with his application and re-submit it while Gurpreet continues with her appeal and her motion to intervene. Perhaps this is all that the Z.B.A. will require to approve the application. (It might help here if Dr. Ahuja also believes in the tooth fairy.)


Or Dr. Ahuja can think "out of the box" and apply to have his properties "down-zoned" from R-10 (single family) to RM-1 (multiple family, low density)--just as Nagi did with his properties for Maple Ridge. This would allow Dr. Ahuja to present his day-care application to the Zoning Board (which had approved Nagi's application) instead of to the more strict Zoning Board of Appeals (which just rejected Dr. Ahuja's application). It should also be noted that the Zoning Board requires only three out of five votes to approve an application, while the Zoning Board of Appeals requires four out of five votes. And the fact that Nagi was successful in down-zoning his properties would serve as a precedent for Dr. Ahuja to claim that he has the right to do the same thing.


OR Dr. Ahuja can go on the offensive and appeal the Z.B.A.'s rejection of HIS application, thus adding yet ANOTHER appeal for City Corporate Counsel John Mullin to litigate. If he chooses to go to court via an appeal, perhaps he will escape the sphere of Nagi's influence there. In fact, this might be the only way that he will have any hope of eventually getting his day-care application approved (probably via an out-of-court settlement).


And I thought that this whole situation was complicated before.....



03/27/12 Update:

The People's Payback?

My last update apparently had some of you wondering if I had thrown in the towel on community activism. Not at all! There is a big difference between compromising on a single battle and losing the entire war. Nagi’s project may eventually become a reality. But (as Bob Dylan once sang) “The Times, They Are-a Changin’.”

For proof here, let’s look at the results of our recent primary election for Stamford’s Republican Town Committee (RTC). Prior to the election, Mayor Pavia’s previously-dormant PAC (“The Committee for Responsible Stamford Republican Leadership”) sent the following slick, four-color, 5-1/2" x 11" campaign card to virtually every registered Republican in the 10 districts shown below. (Interestingly, I didn’t receive one. But my wife--who uses her maiden name hyphenated with mine--did. Was my card simply lost in the mail?)



But wait a minute—an election primary for a town committee? What’s going on here?

It turns out that a good number of Stamford’s active Republicans have become disenchanted with our current administration. Kate King of The Advocate covered this issue on 2/11/12 in her article, Stamford GOP strife fuels primaries. Here is an excerpt from that article:

Pavia did not return a call for comment Friday. Tarzia said he believes the Republican Party believes the mayor has not lived up to expectations.

"I think that there's a lot of disillusioned Republicans who are saying that Mike Pavia is not who they thought he was," Tarzia said Friday. "On the town committee I think you have a lot of people who are very upset that after 14 years they have a Republican mayor, but he hasn't brought about any changes that they can believe in."

OK, so Joe Tarzia is not happy with Mayor Pavia--no surprise here. But let's take a look at who "Joe's people" had put up to run against the candidates shown in the Mayor's political endorsement, above. In the 16th district (where I live...much to Nagi's chagrin), Bob Kolenberg and Heather Gabriele were recruited to run against Chris Munger and Nino Antonelli on the Mayor's team. Here is Kolenberg's and Gabriele's modest campaign card:



Now, Bob Kolenberg is well-known in Stamford politics. And the same is true for Chris Munger and Nino Antonelli, both of whom are political heavy-hitters here. But Heather Gabriele? Yes, her husband, Sal, is one of our district representatives. But I had never even heard of Heather in political circles before the primary. So my assumption was that, while Bob Kolenberg just might have a chance of getting more votes than Munger or Antonelli, there was no way that Heather Gabriele was going to beat any of these heavy-hitters.

So, when the dust settled after the primary, some of us were pleasantly surprised (and some of us not so much) at the results. Kate King's 3/7/12 article, Primary shakes up Stamford RTC leadership, tells the tale of a political bloodbath in prose and in numbers. (Don't miss the comments after the article, for they are even more revealing!)

Here's a quote from the article:

Pavia has not returned multiple calls for comment over the past week. But the mayor's photograph and endorsement appeared on a baseball-themed political mailer sent to Stamford Republicans late last week.

And (speaking of that mailer) here, in stark graphic terms, is how the Mayor's candidates fared:



(So much for the power of endorsement....)

And thus, political unknown Heather Gabriele actually beat Chris Munger and Nino Antonelli--absolutely astounding! The 18th district saw a similar shake-up, where former RTC chair Kurt Zimbler lost his re-election bid for the RTC. But why did this happen?

Actually, there are a lot of reasons. But, for starters, just take a look at this website. Then check out the recent BLT boatyard controversy and the Sterling Farms fiasco. Or (on a state level) the fight over the parking garage at the Stamford Transportation Center. In short, our government has ignored the will of the people whenever financially lucrative, privately funded projects are involved. But perhaps this trend will be tempered now--as is suggested by the Mayor's withdrawal of his plan to demolish the main house at Sterling Farms.

OK, that’s about it for soapbox politics. My next update will bring us back to our regularly scheduled Nagi programming. On this front, I have been slogging through 14 pages of unpublished court decisions in Westlaw that (deep breath!) Attorney Brenden Leydon attached to his objection to Gurpreet Ahuja’s motion to intervene in Nagi’s appeal of (deep breath!) the Zoning Board’s decision to reject Nagi’s previous Maple Ridge application, which (deep breath!) Brenden’s brother, Attorney John Leydon, had hoped to resolve via an out-of-court settlement with the City’s attorney, John Mullin, which, in turn, (ANOTHER deep breath!) would essentially replicate the ultimately approved version of Nagi’s subsequent application...which Gurpreet Ahuja is appealing in court.

Got all that?



03/24/12 Update:

Good-Bye, Master Plan

(Click the link above for Stamford's 2002 Master Plan--which should be re-named "Charmin" these days.)
Two days ago, an anonymous individual with the pseudonym "Gooseweasel" posted the following comment after Elizabeth Kim's article on Dr. Ahuja's proposed day-care:

Gooseweasel

11:55 AM on March 22, 2012

Mr Longo....what is your stance on this????

OK, "Goose"--the bottom line is that I refuse to discuss anything in a public forum with a pseudonym. Now, that being said, I did learn a hard lesson about "fighting city hall" way back on October 24th, when we overwhelmed the Government Center's cafeteria and forced Nagi's public hearing to be suspended. If the hearing had taken place that evening, it was obvious to me that Nagi's project was destined to pass. Why? Because several high-ranking members of Mayor Pavia's administration just "happened" to walk into the cafeteria and sit down there. And I am still fairly certain that one of them was even wearing an "I Support Maple Ridge" button.

Now, I don't know...maybe there were no decent TV programs on that night, so the Mayor's people decided to drive down to the Government Center and drop in on Nagi's hearing instead. But I believe that they were there to send to a message to the Zoning Board. And, during the past few months, this theme has been repeated--at the BLT hearings, at the Sterling Farms hearing, and I'm sure in a host of other venues. In short, it can be summed up as:

"Grow, Stamford, Grow!"


(At any expense....)

Anyway, "Goose," MY opinion on Nagi's proposed housing complex and day-care, or Dr. Ahuja's proposed day-care, or (as Flavia Lasalandra said) "Joe Schmo's" proposed day-care doesn't mean SQUAT. But let's look at Stamford's 2002 Master Plan for guidance instead. This plan took three years, the input of hundreds of residents, dozens of workshops, a large survey, etc. to develop. In other words, it is the result of a HUGE effort.

I happen to have the 50-page summary of the Master Plan, called "Creating a Future for StamfordPreserve, Protect, Enhance, Improve." (You can pick up a copy at the Land Use Bureau in the Government Center.)

Page 14 of this booklet contains the following statements:

"Directing development downtown is the key to Stamford's growth management policy."

"The ridge roads [i.e., High Ridge and Long Ridge Rd.] along the corporate campuses can accommodate the expansion of businesses that are already there--some of the city's most important employers. But further subdivision for new businesses could undermine the city's smart growth strategies."

Page 30 contains the following statement:

"Stamford residents have a major stake in the stability of their neighborhoods. The fiercest discussions that occurred during discussions about the Master Plan involved land-use conflicts, such as apartment buildings in Cove-East Side and non-residential development in North Stamford."

Page 45 contains the following statement:

There is significant market interest in office and retail development in [Newfield, Turn of River, and Westover] because of the accessibility afforded by the ridge roads and the Merritt Parkway. Significant commercial development should be rejected, though, because it would overwhelm this area and drain energy from downtown. Small infill office and retail development that allows existing campus users to expand, or helps improve the character of road corridors, could be considered." (Color-emphasized text appears in the book.)

Finally, the Newfield, Turn of River, and Westover section of the full Master Plan contains the following statement, which elaborates on the summarized version above:

Traffic conditions along the Ridge Roads (High Ridge Road and Long Ridge Road) are the main source of complaint registered during the Master Plan process in these neighborhoods. Through-traffic is largely channeled to the Ridge Roads, which are able to accommodate the volumes with some nuisances to residents. Left turns onto these roads are often impossible, for example. Due to the lack of east-west through roads, many local roads are forced to handle undue amounts of traffic.

There is significant market support for office and retail development in these neighborhoods, owing to Long Ridge Road’s and High Ridge Road’s tremendous visibility and accessibility, especially proximate to the Merritt Parkway. Significant commercial development would, however, drain energy from Downtown; and it should generally be rejected.

Large amounts of such development could overwhelm the road’s traffic capacity, as well as absorb development better directed to Downtown.

But, hey...the 2002 Master Plan is now 10 years old, and a full revision is in the works. I can't wait to see it. Maybe they will eventually re-name High Ridge Road "High-Rise Road." (Pretty catchy, huh, "Goose?")

On 10/16/11, Angelo Gargagliano wrote a letter to the Zoning Board, which I published at the time under the "Your Email" link on this website. It is called "
ZONING BOARD'S 'BAIL-OUT' OF NAGI" and it elaborates on the theme of tonight's update. (Angelo made a lot of great observations in his other missives, as well. If you haven't read them, they are well worth your time. You can also find them under this link.)

As for me, I am no longer going to spend a lot of time "fighting city hall." I will, however, continue to bring you the latest news on Nagi's battle against Dr. Ahuja--and on his race against time. (Nagi's $3.1 million loans come due on May 1st and May 31st. And I'm still waiting to see that his delinquent property taxes have been paid....)

03/19/12 Update:

Another day care proposed on High Ridge Road

(Click the link above to read Elizabeth Kim's 3/19/12 Advocate article about Dr. Ajay Ahuja's day-care plan.)
Wow! Just when I thought I knew all about Nagi's project (and the appeals), a NEW twist pops up! Actually, Elizabeth Kim told me about Dr. Ajay Ahuja's application a week ago, but (out of courtesy to her) I waited until her article appeared before I published it here. There are also references to Ahuja's application in the multitude of court documents that I copied last week. (I'll have a lot more to say about these in the near future...)

While reading Elizabeth's article during breakfast this morning, I laughed so hard about Flavia Lasalandra's comment that I almost choked on my English muffin! (Thanks, Flavia, for the comic relief--we need it!)

Elizabeth's article mentions that Ajay and Gurpreet Ahuja are apparently divorced. I re-checked the Ahujas' property assessments on High Ridge Road, and I could not find any that were owned jointly by both of them. I'll have to dig through public records to find out when the divorce took place. (If it was awhile ago, it might be tough to argue that Gurpreet Ahuja is appealing Nagi's project simply for competitive reasons, since she would appear to have no financial connection with her ex-husband.) This places another interesting twist on the appeal.

Elizabeth also stated that there are 60 day-care centers in Stamford. I checked the State of Connecticut's eLicensing website, and this is apparently true. Starting from the website, I used the "Child Day Care Centers and Group Day Care Homes Opened - 1 Year (No Fee Required)" link (under the "Child Day Care Licensing Program" link) to generate an Excel spreadsheet for the entire state. I then deleted every licensed day-care center except for those in Stamford. I have uploaded the resulting Excel spreadsheet here -- note that it is sorted by zip code, then by name within each zip.

You should be able to see all 60 active day-care centers in the city, with 11 day-care centers in the 06905 zip area alone. Also note that the capacity of all 60 day-care centers is currently 4,831 children! (Note: You can view the downloaded spreadsheet only if you have the Excel program installed on your computer. The printed spreadsheet is simply too large to scan to an 8-1/2" x 11" PDF file without a lot of re-formatting.)

So...it looks like day-care is the "Next Big Thing" in real-estate investment, at least here in Stamford. The basic marketing questions that Nagi AND Dr. Ahuja should be asking themselves are, "How far along this economic trend are we today?," and (more importantly) "How close are we to the day-care market's saturation point?" Because I'm sure that neither of them will want to be caught at the tail end of that wave....


03/16/12 Update:

In the "Nick" of Time?

I just returned from Stamford Superior Court with 67 pages (!!!) of legal updates related to Nagi's appeal and Gurpreet Ahuja's appeal. I'll need time to digest all of them, but let's start with the biggest news first:

In an apparently brilliant legal maneuver, Attorney John Leydon is attempting an "end-run" around Gurpreet Ahuja's appeal of the Zoning Board's approval of Nagi's current application for Maple Ridge!

On March 12th, Attorney Leydon and Stamford's Assistant Corporation Counsel, Attorney John Mullin, jointly filed a " Motion for Judgment in Accordance with Stipulation" in Superior Court. As you can see from the following link, the "Stipulation for Judgment" is actually a 10-page agreement between Procurement LLC (i.e., Nagi) and the Zoning Board. In this agreement, Nagi agrees to withdraw his appeal of the Zoning Board's 1/10/11 rejection of Nagi's PREVIOUS application. In exchange, the Zoning Board agrees to accept the terms of Nagi's CURRENT application--as modified by our compromise and the Zoning Board's 27 conditions! (In other words, the Zoning Board agrees to accept the same plan that they ultimately voted to accept on 12/12/11.)

It sounds like a win-win for everyone, right? Let's see....

Nagi's previous application contained one building instead of two, nine (or 10?) apartments instead of 22 (this was later changed to 17 condos as part of our compromise), a day-care for 120 children (this was later reduced to 90 children by the Zoning Board), and no driveway between Maplewood and Bradley Place. The Zoning Board had rejected Nagi's previous application due to their concern about increased traffic that the day-care would generate and concerns about Nagi's plans for 826 High Ridge Road (the empty parcel of land next to his jewelry store--this parcel was later used for the second building in Nagi's subsequent application).

For more details, check out Elizabeth Kim's 1/12/11 article, "Board rejects plan for housing and day-care on High Ridge". Note that Nagi immediately appealed the Zoning Board's decision in court, and that appeal has basically been inactive for over a year...until now.

I recall that, when the Zoning Board finally voted to approve Nagi's current application in December, they asked if Nagi would drop his appeal of his rejected application 21 days after the board's vote. (This would have been safely beyond the time limit for an appeal of the approval--i.e. 15 days after the public notice of the Zoning Board's decision appeared in the Advocate on 12/16/11.) However, when Gurpreet Ahuja appealed the Zoning Board's decision on 12/29/11, John Leydon wisely decided to leave Nagi's dormant appeal in play.

Speaking of Gurpreet Ahuja--where would the "stipulation for judgment" between Nagi and the Zoning Board leave HER? Remember that Gurpreet appealed the Zoning Board's approval of Nagi's CURRENT application for two reasons: 1) the Zoning Board apparently failed to provide adequate notice for two of the four public hearings, and 2) the plan that the Zoning Board approved contained material changes (i.e., 17 condo units instead of 22 apartments, and no driveway between Maplewood and Bradley Place), which apparently should have been presented in a new application (with a new traffic study, new notices, new public hearings, etc.).

If the "stipulation for judgment" is approved by the court, Nagi would receive, as a result of his APPEAL of his REJECTED application, exactly what the Zoning Board later APPROVED in Nagi's subsequent application. And Gurpreet's appeal of Nagi's subsequent application would be rendered moot, since Nagi could then withdraw that entire application.

Ah, but Attorney Glenn Gazin (or perhaps Attorney "Nick-of-Time" Ahuja?) apparently anticipated this possibility! In fact, it is stated in Gurpreet's motion to intervene as a co-defendant in Nagi's appeal. To quote Item 10 on Page 5 of Gurpreet's motion (which was filed "just in the nick of time," on 2/22/12):

"The approval of the plans for development of Procurement, LLC is at the crux of both appeals. It is inherently inequitable for Ms. Ahuja to be denied the status of a full-fledged party in one of the two pending appeals. Exclusion from party status leaves her cause vulnerable by way of a settlement between the parties in the first appeal that would have the constructive effect of rendering the second appeal moot."

A deeper analysis of this issue appears in Item 11 on Page 6:

There is one very great benefit that the plaintiff may derive by proceeding on his first Appeal. If Ms. Ahuja is not granted status as a defendant-intervenor in the first Appeal, it may that the plaintiff will then have an enhanced chance of resolving the first Appeal through a settlement with the Zoning Board. Should such a settlement of this, the first Appeal, substantially providing approval for the plans submitted to the Zoning Board at the second Application hearing, then be approved by the Court, Ms.Ahuja would then have no standing to appeal that settlement, and the second appeal would be rendered moot. The plaintiff, having obtained the approvals it initially sought in its first applications, can withdraw its second set of applications, thereby disposing of Ms. Ahuja's appeal.  [Note: bolding emphasis added.]

(Question: Did Gurpreet's motion to intervene anticipate this move, or did it plant the seed for it instead?)

Looking at Nagi's appeal and Gurpreet's appeal from Gurpreet's perspective: in the stipulation for judgment, the Zoning Board agrees to give Nagi even more than he asked for--i.e., the same development that was approved in his second application. But Gurpreet is appealing in Nagi's second application. (As I said, it's a great end-run!)

So now it's up to a judge to make two decisions regarding Nagi's appeal against the Zoning Board:

1) whether or not to admit Gurpreet Ahuja as an intervening co-defendant, and

2) whether or not to approve the "stipulation for judgment" between Nagi and the Zoning Board.

Stay tuned....

P.S.--Note to Attorney Leydon: Page 9 is missing from your efiled stipulation for judgment. The law librarian said that you might be able to re-file it with the missing page. I'm pretty sure of its contents (i.e., the Zoning Board's conditions 21 through 27) from the preceding pages, but I'd like to keep our readers properly informed.

03/13/12 Update:

Nagi hires another law firm!

(Sorry for my delay in updating the website...I''ve been under the weather since last Friday.)

In a surprising turn of events, Nagi has retained yet another law firm: Tooher Wocl & Leydon LLC! On 3/8/12, Tooher Wocl & Leydon filed an objection to Gurpreet Ahuja's motion to intervene in Nagi's appeal against the Zoning Board. As you can see from Tooher Wocl & Leydon's web site, the firm specializes in personal injury cases, not land-use issues. So why would Nagi hire this firm to fight Ahuja's motion?

This business card shows that the firm was formerly "Tooher & Wocl, LLC"--until Attorney Brenden Leydon came on board. I had spoken about Brenden in my 2/3/12 update ("Nagi Fights Back!") and my 1/1/12 update ("Happy New Year!!!"). If you live in Greenwich, you probably know all about Brenden's past success in forcing the town to open its beaches to the public. Brenden also happens to be Attorney John Leydon's brother. I would, therefore, bet that Brenden's name is at the bottom of the objection that was filed on March 8th.

Attorney Ahuja is now battling a "Legal Hydra"--as soon as he deals with one of Nagi's attorneys, two more pop up, sort of like this:




For the record, below are the attorneys involved in Nagi's and Gurpreet Ahuja's separate appeals. (There may be even more, but I haven't been able to get to court for copies of the various motions and objections on file.)

Atty. John Leydon: Hired by Nagi to present his development application to the Zoning Board. John Leydon is also handling Nagi's appeal against the Zoning Board for rejecting Nagi's previous application.

Atty. John Mullin: Stamford's corporate counsel, charged with defending the Z.B. against Nagi's appeal.

Atty. Diane Whitney: Hired by Nagi (via Pullman & Comley LLC) to file a motion to dismiss Gurpreet Ahuja's appeal against the Zoning Board for approving Nagi's second application.

Atty. Brenden Leydon: Hired by Nagi (via Tooher Wocl & Leydon LLC) to object to Gurpreet Ahuja's motion to intervene in Nagi's appeal against the Zoning Board.

Atty. Nicholas Ahuja: Hired by Gurpreet Ahuja (his mother) to appeal the Zoning Board's approval of Nagi's second application.

Atty. Glenn Gazin: Hired by Gurpreet Ahuja to file a motion to intervene in Nagi's appeal of the Zoning Board's rejection of Nagi's first application.

P.S.--Coincidentally, Tooher Wocl & Leydon filed Nagi's 3/8/12 objection exactly one year, one month, and one day after Attorney John Leydon filed Nagi's 2/7/11 appeal. My amusing neighbor probably views this coincidence as numerological proof of Nagi's stone-dealing powers. But it merely shows how much time these appeals take to wind through the court system.

P.P.S.--I checked the city's tax assessment site again this evening. As of 3/8/12, the property taxes for 90 West Bank Lane and 808 High Ridge Road had still not been paid. The total tax due on both properties is $8,482.02. Most attorneys demand a retainer of $7,500 to take on a case. Perhaps this is also a coincidence...or perhaps not. (Feeding a "Legal Hydra" can be expensive!) Only time will tell if this strategy will pay off for Nagi.


03/08/12 Update:

Nagi, please pay your property taxes!

(I need the money...)


(To be more precise, the City of Stamford needs your property taxes to pay its employees, including me....)

I never know what I'm going to find when I check this website's email. Some information is really interesting, but it can never be published because I simply can't substantiate it. (Sort of like when my neighbor stated at the November 10th public hearing that "Nagi has power because he deals in stones...".) Tonight's tip, however, was easily verified, and it even included supporting documentation!


Apparently, Nagi has fallen behind on his property taxes. Here's the
property-tax bill for 90 West Bank Lane, where Nagi lives. As you can see, he has not yet paid his January 1, 2012 bill, which was $5,560.48. Therefore, the City has tacked on $250.22 in interest to Nagi's bill. The city's online tax-bill information for 90 West Bank Lane also indicates that the property tax had not been paid as of 2/15/12. (This site is updated regularly.)

In terms of Nagi's big financial picture, the $250 interest charge is a paltry sum; it's equal to about 15 hours of interest on Nagi's $3.1 million loans. Even the semi-annual property tax bill is equal to about only two weeks of interest on his loans. So why is the bill outstanding?

It could be simple human error. After all, Nagi (via Procurement LLC and Sedulous LLC) owns several properties in Stamford. (Speaking of email rumors, I have also heard that Nagi owns other properties through other LLCs. But I have not been able to verify these assertions. If you can prove this, please let me know.)


I checked the online tax-bill info for Nagi's other properties at 808 High Ridge Road, 812 High Ridge Road, 816 High Ridge Road, 820 High Ridge Road, 826 High Ridge Road, 828 High Ridge Road, and 11 Maplewood Place. As you can see, only 808 High Ridge Road also has an apparently outstanding property-tax bill. (Interestingly, this is the house that Nagi is renting out for only $1,000 per month. In Stamford, this probably qualifies as the "Rental Deal of the Year!")

If Nagi's unpaid property tax is merely an oversight, then I'm sure that he'll take care of the problem in a few days. As soon as I confirm that he is up-to-date on his taxes, I'll let you know. But, if that doesn't happen soon, I'll have to put on my thinking cap and figure out what might be happening behind the scenes in Nagi-Land.

03/06/12 Update:

Jerry Bosak: "I didn't do it!!!"

(again...)

On Sunday, the chair of the Republican Town Committee sent the following email to this website:

-------- Original Message --------

Subject: Today's Advocate Article
From: Stamford RTC <jcp37@aol.com>
Date: Sun, March 04, 2012 7:55 pm
To: info@stopnagi.com

Sunday, March 4th, 2012 - 1:50 PM

To the RTC and fellow Republicans,

This morning I received a phone call from Board of Finance member Jerry Bosak. He was extremely upset that Dan McCabe used his name in today's front page Advocate story regarding the RTC primaries. McCabe was quoted in the article stating that Bosak had contributed to McCabe's Political Action Committee ("PAC"), a PAC that has endorsed a certain specific slate of RTC candidates. Bosak said that he never contributed to the PAC, McCabe hadn't called him, and he was going to call Kate King (who reported the story) and tell her that he never contributed.

Less than two hours later, former Corporation Counsel Michael Larobina called me and told me the exact same thing. Michael was also upset that his name was used by McCabe in the newspaper article. Michael told me that he had also not been called or even knew about McCabe's PAC, and when I told him that I would be sending out an RTC/Republican email, he said to please explain that he also did not contribute to the PAC, and was very upset that his name was used by McCabe in the Advocate article.

The false representations used in today's Advocate have led to further dissension in our Republican Party. I for myself, and as the RTC Chairman, will no longer tolerate this kind of misinformation from anyone, and neither will the RTC as a whole.

Jerry C. Pia

RTC Chair


Upon reading this email, I had one of those "deja-vu-all-over-again" moments! Some of you will recall that Jerry Bosak had also vehemently denied that he walked into Nagi's October 24th public hearing wearing one of Nagi's "I Support Maple Ridge" buttons on his lapel. (See my "Button-Gate" updates on 11/02/11 and 11/03/11 under the "Rowdy Days!" tab for details.) It seems that there may be an impostor slinking around Stamford and committing atrocious acts to get the real Jerry Bosak embroiled in controversy!

I can't tell you if Jerry really pledged several hundred dollars to Dan McCabe's PAC, as stated in the initial Advocate article, or if he did not, as stated on the Advocate's update that was published late last night. The truth may eventually come out in the PAC's donor list (although I'm sure that, if Jerry had pledged to contribute to this PAC, it's never going to happen now).

What I CAN tell you is that Jerry DID contribute to Scott Mirkin's Board-of-Finance campaign last year, and that there is apparently an indirect connection between Mirkin's campaign and McCabe's PAC. Let's see how:

Here is the third-quarter donor list for Mirkin's campaign. Scroll down to Page 4 of this PDF file. Jerry's $250 contribution appears at the bottom of the vertical page labeled "Page 1 of 16" under "Bosak, Jr., Gerald R." (Sorry about the vertical orientation here--the donor list is meant to be printed in landscape format.) As the Advocate's initial article states, Dan McCabe's PAC "is generally looking to bolster primary candidates who supported former Board of Finance candidate Scott Mirkin's campaign."

 

So Jerry Bosak contributed $250 to Scott Mirkin's campaign, and Dan McCabe's PAC was formed to support candidates who supported Mirkin (and, by extension, Mayor Pavia). Does this logically imply that Jerry may have also pledged to support McCabe's PAC?  I'll leave this to you, the reader, to decide.


03/04/12 Update:

Gurpreet's Motion to Intervene

(Click the link above to see Gurpreet Ahuja's 2/22/12 motion to intervene in Nagi's appeal.)

I stopped by the law library at Stamford Superior Court and picked up Gurpreet Ahuja's 13-page (!) "motion to intervene" as a defendant in Nagi's appeal against the Zoning Board. As you may recall, Nagi (via Procurement, LLC) had appealed the Zoning Board's decision in January, 2011 to reject Nagi's previous version of Maple Ridge. That version contained 12 fewer housing units than his later version, and it also lacked the driveway connecting Bradley Place and Maplewood Place.

Remember that Gurpreet's motion to intervene was prepared not by Attorney Nicholas Ahuja (her son), but by Attorney Glenn Gazin. A review of the motion reveals the same basic problem that Nagi faced when he switched from Attorney John Leydon to Pullman & Comley LLC. (Remember that Pullman & Comley, not John Leydon, is defending Nagi in Gurpreet Ahuja's appeal against the Zoning Board and Procurement.) That is, Attorney Gazin's motion contains factual errors that Attorney Ahuja would never have made. None of them (in my opinion) are serious enough for the court to deny Gurpreet's motion, but they do diminish its credibility somewhat.

But let's start with basic grammar: on lines 2 and 3 of Page 5, you will note two instances of the possessive form of "it" spelled as "it's." But this is actually the contraction for the phrase "it is." The possessive of "it" is simply "its" (with no apostrophe). Yes, I am nit-picking here. (My brother is probably shaking his head as he reads this.) But, if this error jumps out of the page at me, you can bet that the judge will notice it, too. And there is no reason to create a bad initial impression, especially when you earn your living (at least in part) via your writing skills. (Perhaps this error was made by a legal secretary and not picked up during proofing.)


As for factual errors, lines 3 through 5 of Page 5 contain the following sentence: "In it's [i.e., Procurement's] revised applications, it sought to gain approval to build a structure of the same capacity as in its early applications, and for the same uses, and with 22 dwelling units, rather than the 9 asked for in its first applications." This is simply not true--Nagi's revised application contained a second building with 12 additional units, not the same building with 22 units. And there were 10 units in the original application, not nine.

The sentence on lines 7 and 8 of Page 5 states that: "Hearings on he [sic] Application were held on October 6, 2011 and November 10, 2011." Here is an error of omission. Yes, there were public hearings held on these two dates. But the initial public hearing was held on September 26th, not October 6th. And there was a third hearing scheduled for October 24, 2011 (which was suspended when we overloaded the cafeteria at the Government Center). Thus, the November 10th public hearing was actually the fourth scheduled hearing, not the second one.


OK, now that we've gotten some of the motion's factual problems out of the way, let's see what it's all about. I'll do my best to distill its main points. (Note, by the way, the correct use of "it's" and "its" in my previous two sentences...and I didn't even get paid to write them!)


The bottom of Page 3 sets the tone for Gurpreet Ahuja's claim that the City of Stamford is not serious about fighting Nagi's appeal against the Zoning Board. The motion correctly notes that nearly a year has passed since Stamford's corporation counsel filed its "appearance" to represent the Zoning Board in Nagi's appeal. But the corporation counsel has yet to "answer" (i.e., file an argument against) Nagi's appeal! The motion notes that there have been four continuances and extensions of time during this period, and that the court has finally ordered the appeal to proceed on or about May 24, 2012 instead of continuing to tie up the court docket.

The motion discusses Nagi's second application--which is when I first became aware of (and involved in) Maple Ridge. Line 9 of Page 4 mentions the ultimate reduction in units from 22 to 17, as well as the changed traffic pattern due to blocking the driveway to Bradley Place. The motion states that no notice was provided to either the Zoning Board or the public regarding the substantially altered application that resulted from my compromise with Nagi via John Leydon. The motion then discusses Gurpreet Ahuja's appeal against the Zoning Board (which is based on lack of notice for two of the four public hearings, as well as the substantial changes in Nagi's approved application vs. his originally submitted plan).

Item 10 on Page 5 gets to the motion's main point: if the Zoning Board settles with Nagi by approving his first application, Gurpreet Ahuja's appeal of Nagi's second application will be rendered moot! Item 11 states that the Zoning Board "has little reason to oppose this [Nagi's] Appeal, and, moreover, that Procurement, LLC has no reason to continue to press this Appeal. It has received approval of its modified development plan." Yet Nagi's appeal has never been withdrawn. It would thus appear that Gurpreet Ahuja's fears may be substantiated.

Item 12 on Pages 6 and 7 asserts that the Zoning Board may not have as strong an interest as Gurpreet Ahuja does in opposing Nagi's appeal. It states that the Zoning Board's failure to provide notice of the substantial changes in Nagi's application, as well as its failure to request a revised traffic study from Nagi, are evidence of favoritism toward Nagi. It further states that these failures suggest "an inclination on the part of the defendant [Zoning Board] to accommodate the plaintiff [Nagi/Procurment] and to fail to give fair consideration to the specific and particular interests of Ms. Ahuja to be spared from the loss in value in her property which the noise, congestion, and additional traffic which may be the consequence of the plaintiff's [Nagi/Procurement's] development."


Pages 7 and 8 of the motion cite several examples of case law that would appear to support Gurpreet Ahuja's right to intervene in Nagi's appeal. This is probably why Gurpreet retained Attorney Gazin instead of her son to represent her--apparently Attorney Gazin has experience and familiarity with this complex case law. (OK, so I'll cut him some slack on the grammatical and factual errors noted above.) To sum up, although the motion is not perfect, it will probably be granted by the court. So I'm sure that Nagi's objection is already in the works!



02/28/12 Update:

Gurpreet Turns Up the Heat!

I just checked the state's judicial website for any updates on Nagi's appeal against the Zoning Board, and it turns out that the mysterious person who filed a motion to intervene in Nagi's appeal is none other than Gurpreet Ahuja! To make matters even more confusing, Attorney Nicholas Ahuja is NOT representing Gurpreet here--another attorney named Glenn Allan Gazin is handling the case instead!

So here's the gist of what's happening: Procurement (Nagi's LLC) is suing the Zoning Board for REJECTING Procurement's PREVIOUS application. Gurpreet Ahuja has filed a motion to join the Zoning Board as a defendant in Procurement's appeal. Meanwhile, Gurpreet Ahuja is suing the Zoning Board for APPROVING Procurement's CURRENT application. And Procurement is listed with the Zoning Board as a defendant in Ahuja's appeal! (Are you confused yet? Join the party....)


What is NOT clear is WHY all of this is taking place. Gurpreet Ahuja is obviously a woman with a plan, and (in my experience) there is no one more formidable than a woman with a plan. (Right, Flavia?) So, now more than ever, I'll have to get down to the courthouse to see if I can unravel some of this mystery. Wish me luck.


P.S.--Speaking of turning up the heat: Stamford residents can pick up free smoke detectors at the Stamford Government Center (888 Washington Blvd.) on Wednesday 2/29/12 between 11 AM and 2 PM. Click the link above for details. (Nagi can get a few for those old houses on High Ridge Road!)


02/27/12 Update:

Court: Take Your Time, Nick!

As I had surmised in my 2/17/12 update ("Nagi: No Way, Nick!"), on 2/23/12 the court granted the 30-day motion for extension of time that Attorney Nicholas Ahuja had requested on 2/14/12. Here is the court order, which extends the hearing date for Nagi's motion to dismiss the Ahuja appeal to 3/19/12.

What will this 30-day wait mean for Nagi? Well, for one thing, he'll have to cough up another $12,000 in interest on his $3.1 million in loans. It also delays the appeal process by yet another month, which puts the hearing date uncomfortably close to the due dates for those loans (May 1st. for People's Bank and May 31st. for CBT). If the court actually dismisses the Ahuja appeal, the banks will obviously be pleased. But what if the court allows the appeal to proceed? Will the banks be willing to wait another year--or more--for Nagi to repay their principal?


And why did the court grant Attorney Ahuja's motion for extension of time? I had mentioned that I was not able to find any case where such a motion was denied, and now I see that there is a good reason for this. Notice the following reference in the court order: "Extension granted per P.B. Sec 10-30." This refers to the section in the Connecticut Practice Book that governs such motions. (The Connecticut Practice Book is the 587-page "book of rules" that attorneys must follow in nearly all legal matters.) Section 10-30 can be found on Page 195 of the Practice Book's PDF file in the link shown above. It is titled "Motion to Dismiss: Request for Extension of Time to Respond." I have copied the text of this section below, with bolding added for emphasis:

Any defendant, wishing to contest the court’s jurisdiction, may do so even after having entered a general appearance, but must do so by filing a motion to dismiss within thirty days of the filing of an appearance. Except in summary process matters, the motion shall be placed on the short calendar to be held not less than fifteen days following the filing of the motion, unless the judicial authority otherwise directs. Any adverse party may, within ten days of the filing of the motion with the court, file a request for extension of time to respond to the motion. The clerk shall grant the request and cause the motion to appear on the short calendar not less than thirty days from the filing of the request.


The "adverse party" here would be Attorney Ahuja and/or Gurpreet Ahuja. The Practice Book specifically states that the (court) clerk shall grant the request for a motion for extension of time to respond to a motion to dismiss, and shall do so for a period of not less than thirty days (which is the time that Attorney Ahuja had requested).

So the obvious question is: since this rule is stated explicitly in the Practice Book, why did Nagi's attorney even bother to file an objection to Attorney Ahuja's motion for extension of time? Was the attorney not aware of this rule? Or was the objection the work of a paralegal or law clerk...as I also suspect in Nagi's motion to dismiss? (Pullman & Comley might be the "Goliath" of law firms, but this can be a disadvantage, as we are beginning to see here.) In any case, Nagi's project is rapidly making "full employment for attorneys" become a reality.


And (speaking of appeals) there has been a most unusual development in Nagi's appeal against the Zoning Board. On 2/22/12, someone apparently filed a motion to intervene in Nagi's appeal! Who is intervening here...and why? It looks like I'll have to make another trip to the courthouse for answers. Stay tuned....

02/24/12 Update:

The hard road into land-use law

Click on the link above to read Elizabeth Kim's 2/24/12 feature article about Nagi's attorney, John Leydon. (Well, OK, one of Nagi's attorneys...at least for now....) Obviously, Nagi's project is a big part of this article.

There is no doubt that Nagi's application boosted John Leydon's name recognition here in Stamford. (I'm sure that John's bank account isn't doing too badly, either!) Nagi's project is now benefiting Attorney Nicholas Ahuja in similar fashion...I'll have more to say about the Ahuja appeal, hopefully by the weekend. (Hint: There are new case entries in Gurpreet Ahuja's appeal against the Zoning Board.)

I still don't know why Nagi chose to have Pullman & Comley represent him in the Ahuja appeal instead of Attorney Leydon, since clearly no one is more familiar with Nagi's application than John. (This was painfully apparent when Attorney Whitney's motion to dismiss the Ahuja appeal contained several basic errors about Nagi's application--see my 2/12/12 update below for details.)

I have to agree with Elizabeth Kim's assessment of John Leydon. Unlike some attorneys, I found John to be a pretty decent guy. When we first began our week of hammering out a compromise between me and Nagi, John cringed when he said that the only item that was not negotiable was Nagi's proposed day-care facility. I appreciated John's candor, since it was clear that he was not very comfortable with presenting that news to me.

I should mention that Nagi was never present at any of these meetings, nor did I ever speak with Nagi. John served as the sole intermediary between what he must have seen as an irresistible force (Nagi) and an immovable object (me). Despite being in the middle of that mess, John never lost his composure or his quiet, modest approach. When I complained about the potential traffic issue, John apparently could have retorted with, "You don't know what you're talking about--I stood out on High Ridge Road and counted cars there myself!" (Prior to reading Elizabeth's article, I never realized that John had done this.) But he never even mentioned it.

I have heard that some people believe that Nagi must have "paid me off" to stop fighting him, but that's simply not true. It was John Leydon's diplomacy that did it. Whether or not my compromise with Nagi will even make a difference in the outcome of his project is still an open question. The ultimate outcome of the Ahuja appeal will determine the answer here.

P.S.--Nagi's project also made the news in a 2/23/12 Advocate article by Kate King:

City reps show little enthusiasm for putting land use boards on camera

Here's the relevant excerpt from Kate's article:

"It's out of a commitment to having more open and transparent government," Uva said. "The land-use departments -- the Planning Board, the Zoning Board and the ZBA -- have a lot of issues and make a lot of decisions that have significant impacts on our city at-large and in particular neighborhoods."

The Planning Board handles all capital budget decisions. Uva said she believes Stamford residents would benefit from being able to see the board's hearings online. Audio and video recordings of the land-use boards would also give the public the opportunity to view discussions on controversial issues such as the future of the South End boatyard, the Nagi development on High Ridge Road and the proposed demolition of the historic farmhouse at Sterling Farms golf course, she said.

So "the Nagi development" is apparently part of the trifecta of Stamford's most controversial projects. (I have mentioned the other two projects below--see the 2/5/12 update, "Black eye" and the 2/19/12 update, "Developers, Demolition, and Dollars" for details.)

02/19/12 Update:

Developers, Demolition, and Dollars

Let's give Nagi a break tonight. (After all, in the last two days, he has racked up another $800 in interest charges on his project!) The topic below is actually relevant to us in the Mid-Ridges and to the city as a whole.

The Zoning Board's ultimate approval of Nagi's project is a symptom of a bigger problem: our Mayor's strong support of development has had dollar signs dancing in the eyes of contractors, engineers, surveyors, attorneys, etc. both far and wide. And no property, regardless of historical importance, is beyond their reach.

A case in point: I received an email from Renee Kahn of the Historic Neighborhood Preservation Program, Inc. (HNPP) regarding the planned demolition of the main house at Sterling Farms Golf Course on Newfield Ave. This building is on the State Register of Historic Places, and our Mayor actually wants to knock it down! (Here is the application with photos that put Sterling Farms "on the map." And here are more beautiful photos of the property in Part 2 of the application.)

To make matters worse, the City of Stamford had officially committed to the federal National Park Service to act as a "CLG" (Certified Local Government) for historic preservation! On 2/6/12, Mayor Pavia and Norman Cole received this letter from the State Historic Preservation Office. It states that the demolition of the main house at Sterling Farms would be "inconsistent with the town's official commitment to preservation planning policies." You can read more about Stamford's CLG status in these notes of a 12/21/11 meeting between the Stamford Golf Authority (current steward of the property) and the HNPP. Yesterday, Elizabeth Kim of the Advocate penned a fine article about the issue:

Planning Board to review Sterling Farms demolition plan.

The following excerpt from the article supports my assertion:

Pavia, who has prided himself on historic preservation opportunities as a developer, has not publicly stated his opinion on the plan, but his administration opposed efforts to designate the building as historic. In August he sent a memo to the Planning Board asking its members to take up the lease extension and demolition request.

Calls to the mayor last week for comment were not returned.

(I'm sure that the Mayor's stance on demolition couldn't have anything to do with a potential tenant's offer to donate $1 million toward the construction cost of a new building....)

If you are interested, there will be a public hearing (remember them?) on the demolition:

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 7:30 PM
Stamford Government Center
888 Washington Blvd.
4th-Floor Cafeteria


If you can't attend the hearing, you can always send an email to Norman Cole (remember him?), the Acting Director of the Department of Planning and Zoning. Here is his email address:   ncole@ci.stamford.ct.us

Please include your name and street address so that he can add your email to the public record. I'm sure that he'd love to hear from you.

02/17/12 Update:

Nagi:  No Way, Nick!

Welcome back to your "one-stop shop" for all things Nagi except his jewelry...you'll have to visit Nagi Jewelers for that. (If you happen to see Chris Brecciano there, please give him my regards....)

Anyway, I just checked the status of Gurpreet Ahuja's appeal against the Zoning Board and Nagi. As you can see, Nagi's attorney just filed an objection to Attorney Nicholas Ahuja's motion for extension of time!

Note that the state's judicial website shows that Attorney Ahuja's motion for extension of time is not "arguable." I checked other civil cases (including Nagi's appeal against the Zoning Board), and it appears that such motions are typically not arguable. I was able to find another case (Pursuit Partners LLC et al v. UBS AG et al) in which an objection to a motion for extension of time was filed. (Scroll down to entry #175 on 6/11/09 to see it.) But, as you can see, this objection was later overruled by the court. (If you know of such an objection that was actually upheld, please let me know via email or the hotline--see the top of this page for contact info.)

We can't blame Nagi for wanting to move Ahuja's appeal along as quickly as possible. As I mentioned below, he is paying over
$150,000 per year just in interest on his loans (about $57,750 in interest to People's Bank and $93,500 in interest to Connecticut Bank and Trust). This is like buying a small condo every year and giving it to the banks, or like tossing $400 into the trash every day. Yes, the interest, property taxes, depreciation, insurance, maintenance, etc. on Nagi's properties are legitimate tax deductions for Procurement LLC, but this pales in light of the financial bloodbath that Nagi has endured for the last four years. (I will at least give him credit for persistence!)

So we'll have to see whether the court will give Attorney Ahuja another 30 days to file his response to Nagi's motion to dismiss. For Nagi, it's going to be an expensive wait.


02/15/12 Update:

Ahuja to Court:  Gimme Time!


The latest move in the chess game between Gurpreet Ahuja and Nagi was revealed yesterday. Ahuja apparently filed a Motion for Extension of Time to prepare an objection to Procurement, LLC's (i.e., Nagi's) motion to dismiss Gurpreet Ahuja's appeal. Ahuja's motion is likely to be approved. After all, in Nagi's appeal against the Zoning Board, the court granted Nagi's motion for a continuance on 3/22/11 and motion for an extension of time on 8/25/11. (Similarly, the court also granted the Zoning Board a motion for a continuance on 5/10/11 and a motion for an extension of time on 6/16/11.) Nagi's appeal against the Zoning Board has dragged on for nearly a year, and there's no end in sight. What will happen if Ahuja's appeal also takes a year...or more?

Unfortunately for Nagi, time is not on his side. For one thing, his $1.4 million loan from People's Bank is due on May 1, 2012, and his $1.7 million loan with Connecticut Bank & Trust is due on May 31, 2012. Even if the banks agree to extend these loans a *fourth* time since they were granted in 2008, the interest payments alone (4% for the People's loan and 5.5% for the CBT loan) total around $150,000 per year! Add to this staggering sum the property taxes, insurance, and maintenance on the five homes that Nagi purchased for 40% over their market value, and Maple Ridge becomes a financial black hole for Nagi. Yes, the houses are probably rented (at only $1,000 per month for #808 High Ridge Road!), but the rental incomes cannot possibly cover the carrying costs.

The most pressing question--at least to me--is why did Gurpreet Ahuja file an appeal against Nagi's project? I have a few theories, but I'm not going to post them since they are merely conjectural. I will, however, be keeping a keen eye on the state's judicial website for the next move in the Ahuja-Nagi Chess Game.


02/12/12 Update:

Nagi to Court: Toss Ahuja Appeal!


The Super Bowl is over, but the action at Nagi Bowl is still going strong! On February 7th, Nagi's attorney du jour, Diane Whitney (of Pullman & Comley LLC, one of Connecticut's largest law firms) filed a motion to dismiss Gurpreet Ahuja's appeal against the Zoning Board's decision to approve Nagi's project. I saw the update on the state's judicial website a few days ago, but I wanted to review the motion before posting anything about it. With great anticipation, I picked up a copy at Stamford Superior Court after work on Friday. The motion and its supporting memorandum were nine pages long, so I expected a lot of interesting legal arguments to digest. Unfortunately, I was somewhat disappointed. (Perhaps Attorney Whitney assigned the job to a paralegal?)

Without further ado, here is Nagi's motion to dismiss and "memorandum of law" in support of the motion.

Motion to Dismiss

Memorandum of Law

Essentially, Nagi's/Procurement's motion to dismiss Gurpreet Ahuja's appeal states that Ahuja lacks legal standing because her property is not within one hundred feet of Nagi's proposed project. (Note that Page 2 of the "memorandum of law" actually states "on" hundred feet...did anyone proof-read it before submitting it?).

Speaking of proof-reading:  the motion also states that Nagi's application was for "23" residential units (it was actually for 22 units), that the Zoning Board made its decision after "many" public hearings (there were exactly four public hearings), and that "the application was vigorously opposed by the Plaintiff." I did see Gurpreet Ahuja's husband, Dr. Ajay Ahuja, and their son, Attorney Nicholas Ahuja, at the public hearings, but--as I had mentioned before--they never spoke. (They did, however, take a lot of notes!) Also I was unable to find any written objections to Nagi's project from the Ahujas in the documents available for inspection at the hearings.

After reviewing Attorney Whitney's motion to dismiss, I began to wonder why Nagi retained Pullman & Comley to fight the Ahuja appeal instead of keeping Attorney John Leydon on the case. After all--unlike Attorney Whitney and/or her paralegal--John is intimately familiar with every detail of Nagi's application. (At this point, I'll bet that the documents associated with the application, public hearings, letters and emails from residents, and this website would fill a small suitcase!)

Yes, Nagi's brother-in-law, Eliot Gersten, works at Pullman & Comley, but Attorney Gersten was apparently not assigned to Nagi's case. Also, it appears that Attorney Whitney is based in the firm's Hartford office, not its Stamford office. (Is Nagi also willing to pay for Attorney Whitney's travel time?)

Perhaps Nagi cannot use John Leydon to fight the Ahuja appeal because John represents Nagi's appeal against the Zoning Board. (In Nagi's appeal, he and the Zoning Board are adversaries. But, in Ahuja's appeal, Nagi and the Zoning Board are on the same side!) Would representing Nagi both as the plaintiff in his appeal and as a defendant in Ahuja's appeal be a conflict of interest for John? I don't know.

What I do know is that Attorney Whitney has requested an opportunity for oral argument to fight Ahuja's appeal. At the very least, she had better sit down with a cup of coffee and read the entire contents of this website, including the links to other sites. (Nagi, make sure that she does her "homework" before the hearing!)

Finally, to the young "Jedi," Atty. Nicholas Ahuja:  You'd better pick up property maps and a tape measure....

02/05/12 Update:

Black Eye

(Click the link above, then scroll all the way down for Doreen Pezza Finn's 2/1/12 letter to the Advocate.)

I don't know Doreen, but I agree with her--the approval rating of Stamford's government must be in the pits. In December, the Zoning Board rubber-stamped Nagi's project despite more public opposition than anyone can remember. But this is not the only reason why citizens are upset with our city's way of conducting business.

Right now, there is a huge public outcry over Building and Land Technology's (a.k.a. BLT's) demolition of Yacht Haven West...in apparent violation of their prior agreement with the Zoning Board. Stamford resident Maureen Boylan organized a citizen's group named Save Our Boatyard (a.k.a. SOB...yeah, I know...) to pressure BLT into keeping its promise for a working boatyard in their new Harbor Point development.

Regarding the planned construction of Nagi's development: you may remember that local resident John Lansiedel (owner of John Lansiedel Construction) spoke in support of Nagi's project at the public hearings. (Perhaps Nagi promised John construction work on Maple Ridge in a "quid-pro-quo" arrangement...we'll eventually know.)

Ironically, though, many construction contracts in Stamford are being awarded to out-of-state companies that under-bid our local contractors. How? Angela Carella of the Advocate just wrote an article (Labor officials target flat-out 'fraud') on this practice. As she said, these unscrupulous companies "pay substandard wages; use unlicensed workers; fail to pay income taxes, Social Security, Medicare and unemployment insurance; ignore safety laws; exploit undocumented workers; and classify employees as independent contractors to avoid paying workers' compensation insurance." (Good luck on that contract, John....)

And, for a final "black eye," we have the city's refusal to pay 16th District representative Sal Gabriele's $200,000 legal fees after Sal uncovered apparent corruption and waste here. In a new development, a state hearing officer agreed with Sal's claim that the Board of Representatives' back-room meetings may violate the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). This development may very well affect how all city boards (including the Zoning Board) conduct their business in the future. (Wouldn't you liked to have been a fly on the wall when the Zoning Board cooked up the 27 conditions for its approval of Nagi's project?)

Meanwhile, Nagi's Procurement appeal against the city and Gurpreet Ahuja's appeal against Nagi are slowly grinding their way through the courts. I'll be keeping an eye on both.....

02/03/12 Update:

Nagi Fights Back!

It took only a day to learn of Nagi's response to the Ahuja appeal. He has apparently retained Pullman & Comley LLC (the law firm that spawned such legal/political luminaries as Connecticut's General Counsel, Andrew J. McDonald) to fight the appeal. As you can see from the "Ahuja appeal" link, Pullman & Comley e-filed an appearance for Nagi only yesterday.

But why did Nagi choose Pullman & Comley, a law firm based in Hartford? Well, the world is smaller that you think: it turns out that one of the firm's attorneys, Eliot Gersten, happens to be Nagi's wife's, Liz Osta's, brother!!! (Gurpreet Ahuja is not the only person who has an attorney in her family....) One look at Eliot's and Liz's respective photos will confirm their shared genes, but, if you want more proof, check out their late father's, Charles Gersten's, 2006 obituary. (As an aside, Mr. Gersten appears to have been quite a legal and political heavy-hitter himself.) Now, I doubt that Eliot Gersten will personally defend Nagi against the appeal, but perhaps he will assist with the case. Or maybe Nagi will receive a reduced hourly rate from Pullman & Comley. (After all that Nagi has spent so far, I'm sure that he would welcome such a break!)

And so Attorney Ahuja has become David to Nagi's Goliath. Will Pullman & Comley's legal-eagles find a loophole to counter Attorney Ahuja's appeal? Or will Attorney Ahuja follow the inspiration of Attorney Brenden Leydon, who single-handedly defeated Greenwich's top legal minds to open the town's beaches to the public?

And what about Brenden's brother, Attorney John Leydon, who faithfully represented Nagi through all of the uproar generated by his project? Perhaps Nagi now needs an attorney who specializes in land-use appeals...I honestly don't know. (However, it appears that John is still representing Nagi in his appeal against the Zoning Board.) I'd like to call John and ask him, but (being the professional that he is) I'm sure that he can't discuss the case with me.

To quote Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, all of this has become "curiouser and curiouser!" Stay tuned.....

02/01/12 Update:

Where's Nagi?

(Apparently NOT in court -- at least not for the Ahuja appeal....)


Happy February, everyone! We certainly can't complain about the wonderful weather that we have had this winter! (It looks like all those snowbirds went to Florida for nothing.) Ah, but February and March still await us....

As for Nagi's project, the second half of January was actually notable for what did NOT happen: Attorney John Leydon apparently did NOT appear in Superior Court to respond to Gurpreet Ahuja's appeal (which was served on Nagi and the Zoning Board on December 29th, 2011). As you can see from the link above, the Zoning Board DID respond to Ahuja's appeal on January 30th, so they are now in a position to contest the appeal. But I believe that Nagi and/or John Leydon have only a few more days to file an appearance in court. Could Nagi be too busy? Is he sick? Is he out of the country?

Apparently not...I just checked the status of NAGI's appeal against the Zoning Board. (You may recall that, on 2/7/11, Nagi sued the Zoning Board's for rejecting his PREVIOUS application for Maple Ridge. That application had 12 fewer housing units and lacked the driveway between Bradley Place and Maplewood Place.) As you can see from the link, it appears that a conference between Nagi and the Zoning Board did take place on January 26th, as scheduled. As a result, a court order was issued for a pre-trial hearing on February 22nd and a plaintiff's (i.e., Nagi's) brief on March 20th. A second court order was issued for a plaintiff's reply brief (if needed) on May 18th. So--despite Zoning Board member Barry Michelson's request that Nagi drop his appeal after board approved his application--Nagi's suit against the Zoning Board continues to work its way through the courts. But why isn't Nagi responding to Ahuja's appeal against him?

Remember that the Ahuja appeal has two parts: (1) lack of proper notification for two of the four public hearings, and (2) a material change in the application that was approved vs. the application that was filed. Both are technical arguments that, if sustained by evidence, could be difficult to refute. But, if Nagi does not file a timely "appearance" in response to Ahuja's appeal, the court can enter a default judgment against Nagi (i.e., he would automatically lose the appeal by not fighting it).

And what about the strange relationship between the players in Nagi's appeal vs. Ahuja's appeal? In Nagi's appeal, he is suing the Zoning Board--i.e., the board is his "enemy" in the suit. But, in Ahuja's appeal, both Nagi and the Zoning Board stand together as defendants! (Talk about strange bedfellows....) What happens if Nagi defaults on Ahuja's appeal but the Zoning Board fights it? What happens if Attorney Leydon and Attorney Ahuja reach a settlement, but the Zoning Board does not? The possibilities here make my head spin.

And what about Nagi's $1,443,750 loan and mortgage with People's United Bank (due on May 1, 2012) and his $1,700,000 open-end mortgage with Connecticut Bank & Trust (due on May 31, 2012)? Both of these have been extended three times since they were initially granted in 2008. Will the banks extend them a fourth time? Are the banks even aware that Nagi's project is (once again) in limbo? Even if the loans are extended for another year, how long can Nagi continue to pay their whopping interest charges? Stay tuned.....

01/14/12 Update:

Nagi Keeps His End of the Bargain

I just received a call from Nagi's attorney, John Leydon. (I had left a message for John asking if Attorney Ahuja's appeal negated the terms our compromise.) John assured me that Nagi wishes (via Procurement, LLC) to uphold his end of our compromise as long as the Maple Ridge application exists as approved by the Zoning Board on 12/16/11. In other words, Nagi will build 17 condos instead of 22 apartments and will not allow traffic onto Bradley Place (unless a traffic light is installed here, as per the condition imposed by the Zoning Board). John also said that Nagi still wants to pay for a turning lane on Bradley Place (which was not part of our compromise, but was another condition of the approval).

As I said before, one concern with an appeal is that the court can reverse some or all of the 27 conditions that the Zoning Board imposed on Nagi in response to our concerns. A precedent here is Bartram v. Zoning Commission of City of Bridgeport. In this 1949 case, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that the Zoning Board acted properly by approving an applicant's request to change a residential parcel to commercial--despite vehement protests and an appeal by the neighbors. It's easy for us to cry injustice at this case. But a zoning board must consider private-property rights along with community concerns in their decisions. This doesn't mean that the Zoning Board would allow a strip bar on High Ridge Road, but it may mean that they can (must?) allow multi-family housing and a day-care center, as they did for Nagi's project.

So we just have to wait and see what happens next. Who knows? Maybe Nagi's project will become the basis for a future Connecticut Supreme Court decision....

01/09/12 Update:

House for Rent - DIRT CHEAP!!!

(Click the link above to see Zillow's rental info on Nagi's house at 808 High Ridge Road.)


Welcome to "Nagi-Land," where you can rent a 1,692-sq-ft, four-bedroom Stamford home for only $1,000 per month with NO security deposit or other fees. This gem is on 2/10th of an acre, and it includes a fenced-in back yard. It is a classic home, built in 1780 during the American Revolution, and it sold in 2009 for $660,000. (OUCH, Nagi!!!) It's only been on the market for seven days, so you'd better hurry if you want to rent it...on a month-to-month basis (although, if Attorney Ahuja gets his way, you might be able to stay there for quite awhile).

But what's much more interesting about this rental is its listing agent: Eva Preuss. As you can see from the link, Eva is also the rental agent for Nagi's property at 812 High Ridge Road (although that property is listed at $1,900 per month, which is at least in the ballpark for Mid-Ridges home rentals).

Those of you who attended the public hearings on Nagi's project might remember Eva: she is the statuesque brunette who spoke strongly in support of Nagi's project, despite the fact that she lived (as she put it) "downtown." Here is her comment from the minutes of the public hearing on October 6, 2011:

Eva Preuss, 1258 Bedford Street, spoke in favor and said that the demand for rental housing was strong with an average time of 30 days for rental units to lease. She said that the project would increase the value of surrounding properties.

And here is Eva's previous comment from the minutes of the Planning Board hearing on May 25, 2010:

Eva Proyce, Residential Real estate agent said the site is in need of development and the plans are amazing.

(Yes, I know that the board secretary massacred Eva's last name here. But you get the idea....)

After finding out that Eva was involved in real estate, didn't you just KNOW that she would become the listing agent for Nagi's properties? (Actually, Eva was probably Nagi's rental agent all along, but no one was paying attention to her until only a few months ago. Welcome to the spotlight, Eva.)

And so, like Ted Sierpina, Eva Preuss is, to put it bluntly, one of Nagi's paid shills. And more are bound to surface.....

01/05/12 Update:

High Ridge development now faces lawsuit

(Click the link above to read Elizabeth Kim's 1/4/12 Advocate article on the appeal against Nagi's project.)

Once again, Elizabeth Kim has penned a concise follow-up article on the current state of Nagi's project. She did a wonderful job summarizing the many events leading up the appeal, as well as contents of the appeal itself. (BTW, I appreciate the fact that Elizabeth referred to me simply as "one homeowner" in this article. I have been pretty embarrassed when people on the street ask me, "Hey, aren't you the guy who...?" Of course, I have only myself to blame here.)

Speaking of public relations:  it appears that Attorney Ahuja has no intent of letting P.R. considerations interfere with his legal strategy, whatever it may be. According to the article, he did not return several phone messages requesting comment. This is consistent with his attitude during the public hearings--he has been keeping his cards very close to his chest in his poker game (or perhaps chess game?) with Nagi. Perhaps he learned from Nagi's unfortunate experience that mixing legal affairs with public relations has its hazards.

A reply to a comment about the article from a very prolific Advocate reader with the pseudonym of "Publius" is revealing. He wrote the following:

"But the proposal might have gone through more easily with just the residential development. A good part of the objections from neighbors was the "double dipping", changing to a multiple-family zone and then adding an institutional use on top of it."

I have to agree with Publius here. Although a few neighbors will not be satisfied with anything more dense than five new houses on Nagi's site, I would have been OK with a condo development like Vine Meadow (and I have said this many times). And even a day-care center alone would not have caused the furor that Nagi's combination of housing and day-care did. Remember that Nagi had even applied for a "bonus density" of five more apartment units (which he later voluntarily withdrew as part of our compromise). So it was pretty clear to me that Nagi wanted to maximize the return on his ever-increasing investment costs. (At this point, I'm not sure that even a high-rise apartment building will accomplish this!)

Elizabeth Kim pointed out that Dr. Ajay Ahuja had submitted, then immediately withdrawn, an application for a day-care center last year. Considering the intense opposition to Nagi's project at that time, this was probably a wise move on Dr. Ahuja's part. How it figures into the appeal (if at all) is still a mystery, though. I checked the Superior Court's website for the appeal, but apparently it has not even been filed yet. (Could this delay be a legal tactic of some sort?)

So Attorney Ahuja has a tiger by the tail. Does he intend to "kill the tiger?" (i.e., if the banks refuse to extend Nagi's loans and/or provide additional financing, his entire project may be in jeopardy). Or does Attorney Ahuja just want to "hold the tiger down" by using the appeal as some sort of bargaining chip? At this point, we just don't know.

One thing is for certain, though:  with just a few pages of legal prose, Attorney Ahuja seems to have accomplished what hundreds of residents, emails, letters, signs, posters, buttons, petitions and a website were not able to do:

"Stop Nagi's Housing Project!"
(at least for now).

01/04/12 Update:

Nagi's ($$$) "Noose"


What’s the big deal regarding the court appeal of Nagi’s project, anyway? After all, he has been trying to develop his properties for almost four years
now, beginning with his failed proposal for a retail center and eventually morphing into his proposal for an apartment complex and day-care center with 98 parking spaces. So who cares about a delay of another year while the appeal works its way through court?

My earlier analysis of Nagi’s property “procurements” for his development showed that the first property was purchased in 2001 with his store. Three more were purchased in 2008, one in 2009, and one in 2011. The total purchase cost of these properties was about $3.6 million. But where did all that money come from?

Of course, no one except Nagi really knows for sure. But what we do know is that Nagi is currently on the hook for about $3.1 million in bank loans that have been extended three times during the past 3-1/2 years.

I have copies of both loan modification agreements, but I’m not going to post them here (even though they are a matter of public record). If you really want the gory details, simply go to the Town Clerk’s Office at the Government Center and use their computer to search for documents containing the word “Procurement” (i.e., the name of one of Nagi’s LLC’s). You will instantly pull up a couple of dozen intriguing documents, including the loan modification agreements outlined below.

Loan #1

On or about April 27, 2008, Nagi borrowed (under Procurement LLC) $1,443,750.00 from People's United Bank. This loan was modified on June 4, 2008 and (at Nagi's request) modified again on August 23, 2010 so that its maturity date is now extended to May 1, 2012, at which point the loan becomes fully payable. According to the modification agreement, if Nagi "can demonstrate to Lender's satisfaction that [he] is actively and diligently pursuing development approvals for [his] proposed development of the property described in the Mortgage, Lender may agree to further extend the maturity date from May 1, 2012 to May 1, 2013." The interest rate of this loan currently has a floor of 4% per annum.

Loan #2

On May 27, 2008, Nagi borrowed (under Sedulous LLC and Procurement LLC) $1,700,000 from Connecticut Bank and Trust Company. This loan was modified on June 26, 2009 and modified again on June 26, 2010. On May 31, 2011, it was modified a third time to further extend its maturity date to May 31, 2012. Also at that time, the interest rate of this loan was reduced to 5.5% per annum.

The Bottom Line

Without even taking interest compounding into account, Nagi is paying over $57,750 on the first loan and $93,500 on the second loan—or over $151,250 per year. This is almost surely more than the money that he collects from his five rental properties on the site.

More importantly, unless both banks agree to grant Nagi yet another modification on his loans, he has to come up with $3,143,750 in May...less than five months from now.

Think about it:  Nagi has paid out millions of dollars for his properties, as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars to architects, surveyors, traffic engineers, land-use firms, etc. (and let’s not forget his attorney!). His first two development proposals were shot down, and his latest proposal is now being appealed in court. So, despite the expenditure of millions of dollars and almost four years of his life, he hasn’t even broken ground yet. Will the banks extend his loans again? Does he have a backup source of funds in the event that they don’t? And can he obtain additional (and very substantial) funds to actually build his project from the ground up? We will be waiting in suspense for these answers.

A Minor Footnote

If you have been keeping up with this website, you might remember the mysterious signature page that appeared in my 12/11/11 update, in which Ted Sierpina had witnessed every signature. That page is part of the loan modification agreement from Connecticut Bank & Trust described above, so the mystery behind it has finally been revealed.

Again, you may remember that Ted spoke in support of Nagi's project at each of the public hearings, as well as at the previous hearings for Nagi's successful 2010 bid to change the zoning for his properties from single-family (R-10) to multiple-family low density (RM-1). Ted has disclosed to the Zoning Board that he lives on Little Hill Drive behind the Harry Bennett Library. But what he has repeatedly failed to disclose to us (although the Zoning Board probably knows it) is that he clearly has a business relationship with Nagi. Ah, the skullduggery of it all....

01/01/12 Update:

Happy New Year!!!

(Yes, including Nagi...)

Here’s a toast to a happier 2012 for everyone. In light of the many tragedies that occurred all over the world in 2011 (including the horrible Christmas-Day fire here in Stamford), this year has to be an improvement. Still, I don’t think that champagne corks were popping at the Osta residence last night. The last-minute appeal of the Zoning Board’s approval of Maple Ridge probably put a big damper on the festivities there. (The Leydon household, on the other hand, probably opened a second bottle to celebrate John’s anticipated legal fees for the appeal!)

So who is Gurpreet Ahuja, the plaintiff in the appeal? According to the city’s assessment records, she is the owner of three properties across the street from Nagi Jewelers: an unnumbered property on Tally Ho Lane, 827 High Ridge Road, and 831 High Ridge Road. Further investigation reveals that Gupreet Ahuja is the wife of Dr. Ajay Ahuja, who operates the Immediate Medical Care Center at 825 High Ridge Road. According to assessment records, this property is owned Ahuja Holdings LLC, presumably Dr. Ahuja’s business entity that also owns another unnumbered property on Donata Lane, as well as 815 High Ridge Road and 833 High Ridge Road. (For those keeping track, that’s seven properties in total.)

Records show that the attorney who filed the appeal is Gurpreet and Ajay Ahuja’s son, Stamford native Nicholas Ahuja. He owns the Nicholas Ahuja Law Office at 827 High Ridge Road, and he appears to be relatively new in practice. However, I checked his credentials: an undergraduate degree from (Ivy-League) Cornell University, and a law degree from the University of Virginia’s School of Law (which, according to U.S. News & World Report, is one of the top ten law schools in the country).

The “David-and-Goliath” comparison between Nicholas and John Leydon reminds me of John Leydon’s brother, Brenden Leydon, who took on the rich and powerful Town of Greenwich and ultimately forced the town open its beaches to the public. If Nicholas prevails in this appeal, the publicity he acquires will be worth a lot more than some full-page ad in the phone book.

As I remember, Dr. Ahuja and Nicholas attended all four public hearings on Nagi’s project. I just confirmed with other residents that one or both of them also attended the three Zoning Board meetings that followed. They seemed to be taking everything in at the hearings, but they never spoke. Thus, we never knew which side they were on. (I had heard that they were “neutral.”)

So the December 29th appeal completely blind-sided me, and I’m sure that it did Nagi, as well. I assumed that any appeal would have been filed on behalf of the 100+ residents who protested Nagi’s project at the November 10th public hearing, and that it would have been led by Flavia Lasalandra or another vocal resident. These neighbors were obviously not happy with the compromise that John Leydon and I crafted on November 7th, so it made sense that they would be the ones who would organize an appeal.

On a historical note, this situation reminds me of a global event that took place in 1974. Back then, the West was mostly concerned about potential nuclear threats from the former Soviet Union and China. Suddenly, out of the blue, the quiet, peaceful nation of India caught the world by surprise by detonating its first nuclear weapon. In a similar manner, the soft-spoken medical doctor and his young barrister son just dropped “The Big One” on Nagi’s Maple Ridge project. The effects of this blast are yet to be determined.

Coming Next:  “Nagi’s ($$$) Noose”

12/31/11 Update:

What's the Deal with the Appeal?

I carefully reviewed the complaint-appeal that was served on the Zoning Board and Nagi on 12/29/11. It appears to address two purported failures on the Zoning Board's part: 1) failure to post adequate notice for two of the four public hearings, and 2) approving the originally submitted plan with material changes instead of requiring a new application. Both are technical issues that, if sustained, could result in a new application being re-submitted from scratch to the Zoning Board.

You almost have to feel sorry for the people on the Zoning Board. It's an unpaid position that requires regular attendance at frequent late-night meetings, the stress of trying to make everyone happy, and (in this case) even having photos of your street, as well as your financial affairs, posted on somebody's website.

Remember that Nagi is also suing the Zoning Board for failing to approve his prior application for Maple Ridge earlier this year! That version contained one vacant lot, and the Zoning Board was concerned about Nagi's plans for it. He answered their question with his current application, which added a 12,000-square-foot building containing 12 apartment units to his existing 28,300-square-foot building containing a day-care center and 10 apartment units.

 

During the first public hearing on 9/26/11, Zoning Board member Barry Michelson expressed concern that the Board was entertaining virtually the same application that they were being sued over. There is a discussion in the minutes about the current application being a new one due to a material change (i.e., the addition of 10 dwelling units) from the previous one.

 

Unfortunately for Nagi, this same argument can be made for the plan that the Zoning Board ultimately approved: it has five fewer dwelling units, condominiums instead of apartments, and a different traffic pattern due to the lack of a driveway on Bradley Place, as opposed to the originally submitted plan. So either Barry Michelson was right (thus the current application should not have been heard by the Board while they were being sued over a similar one), or Gurpreet Ahuja is right (thus the material changes in the project actually require a new application with a new set of notices, public hearings, etc.).

 

As for failure to post notices for some of the public hearings, after reviewing the appeal, I located zoning regulations C6-40-11 and C6-40-12 and copied them below. (I have added bolding for emphasis here.)

Sec. C6-40-11. - Notice of Public Hearings.

Notice of each public hearing held with respect to amendments of the Zoning Regulations and Map or applications for approval of site and architectural plans and/or requested uses shall be given by publishing in an official newspaper the time, place and purpose of such hearing. If any such hearing is to be held with respect to an amendment to the Zoning Map, such notice shall include a clear and accurate map showing the bounds of any area or areas affected. Said notice shall be published at least twice, the first not more than fifteen nor less than ten days before such hearing, and the last not less than two days before such hearing; and a copy of such proposed amendment or a copy of such application for approval of site and architectural plans and/or requested uses shall be filed in the office of the Town and City Clerk at least ten days before such hearing.

Sec. C6-40-12. - Hearings.

If more than one public hearing is considered by the Zoning Board to be necessary or advisable, additional hearings may be held upon due notice, as herein above set forth, provided no more than ninety days shall elapse between the first and last hearing on any one petition, unless the petitioner agrees in writing to an extension of such period.

Thus, according to the regulations, it would appear that two of the notices (September 14th and September 21st) were published for the September 26th hearing, and the other two (October 28th and November 4th) were published for the November 10th hearing. That leaves the October 6th and October 24th public hearings unaccounted for. (I don't think that my website qualifies as an "official newspaper," so my publishing notices of these two hearings doesn't count.) Although I don't know who is responsible for publishing the notices, it would appear that somebody dropped the ball here.

But who is Gurpreet Ahuja, and why is this appeal such a big problem for Nagi? The answers to these questions will have to wait until next year. Stay tuned....

12/30/11 Update #1:

Nagi Gets Served!!!

(Click the link above to view the complaint-appeal served on Nagi and the Zoning Board on 12/29/11.)

 

An anonymous tip on the hotline prompted me to drive down to the Government Center this morning. I had received information that Nagi and the Zoning Board had just been sued regarding the board's 12/16/11 approval of Nagi's project. When I arrived at the Town Clerk's office at 10:30 AM, nothing had even been uploaded to their computer system yet. But (as you can see from the link above) a trip upstairs to the Zoning Department confirmed that Constable Ralph Serafino had, in fact, served the board with the complaint-appeal yesterday.

 

An initial review of the appeal shows that the complainant is Gurpreet Ahuja, who resides at #821 High Ridge Road (which is nearly across the street from Nagi's site). I haven't had time to read the appeal yet (I'm on my way to work), but I will update the site immediately when I do. I have no idea how Nagi feels about this appeal being filed, but I can assure you that it is not a good thing for him at all. (I will explain why later on.)

 

12/30/11 Update #2:

Zoning Board's Approval of Nagi's Project

(Click the link above to view the Zoning Board's approval of Nagi's project -- with 27 conditions.)

While I was at the Government Center today, I also obtained the Zoning Board's long-awaited certification of Nagi's project. As you can see from the link, it was just recorded yesterday (12/29/11). This explains why I was not able to locate it on the Zoning Board's web site. Again, I haven't had a chance to look it over, but I wanted to post it ASAP. I'll have more to say about this and the appeal in a day or so, so please stay tuned.

Paul Longo

12/23/11 Update:

Zoning Board shirked responsibility

(Click the link above to view Flavia Lasalandra's 12/22/11 letter to the editor of the Advocate.)


Wow! I guess that Flavia is really upset about Nagi's project. In fact, I KNOW that she's upset, since she told me so several times. Those of you who are familiar with Flavia know that she doesn't mince her words, and her letter attests to this fact.

I admit that my compromise with Nagi favored the residents of Indian Ridge at the expense of other residents. And I don't blame Flavia for complaining about the board's decision to approve Nagi's project in spite of unprecedented opposition to it. (In this respect, our October 24th showing at the Government Center was a record-breaker.) I am told that several residents are attempting to organize an appeal of the Zoning Board's decision to the Board of Representatives. But, by working on an appeal to the Board of Reps, they are completely wasting their time.

According to Section C6-40-5 and Section C6-40-9 of the city charter, the Board of Representatives can accept an appeal of a Zoning Board decision within 10 days ONLY when that decision results in either: 1) a change to the Zoning Map, or 2) a change to the Zoning Regulations. All other Zoning Board decisions must be appealed to Superior Court in Stamford.

Unfortunately, Nagi's application was neither of these; it was a special exception site plan under an approved use of the recently changed RM-1 (multi-family, low density) zone. The previous zone change, which was effective in 2010, was an example of a change to Stamford's Zoning Map that COULD have been appealed to the Board of Reps within 10 days of the Zoning Board's decision. But that is water under the bridge, and it has been for well over a year now.

Finally, according to Section C6-40-17 of the charter, any appeal to the court must be filed within 15 days of the official publication of the Zoning Board's decision. That decision was published in the legal notices on Page C5 of the Advocate on 12/16/11. Thus, the residents have until 12/31/11 to file an appeal to Stamford Superior Court. Of course, this requires an attorney, preferably a land-use attorney. And therein lies the rub....

Back in October, I began to realize that the Zoning Board's decision was already cast in stone (and my prediction of their vote turned out to be 100% correct). So I contacted Benjamin & Gold, the firm that helped defeat Nagi's initial plan to build a retail shopping center on his site a few years ago. Several local shopping center owners had collectively retained Benjamin & Gold for this purpose. (In hindsight, a small shopping center would have been better for us than the condo complex and day-care center that the Zoning Board ultimately approved. As they say, "be careful what you wish for...".)

Anyway, an attorney from Benjamin & Gold told me that, if the Zoning Board approves Nagi's project, his firm could likely mount an effective appeal--but they charge $395 per hour and command a $7,500 initial retainer. With this in mind, I decided that completely defeating Nagi's plan was not worth it (at least not to me). Thus, when John Leydon contacted me to discuss negotiations, we both decided that a compromise would be in all of our best interests. And I still believe this.

Of course, the residents don't have to retain a top-notch firm like Benjamin & Gold. They can probably find an up-and-coming attorney who wants to make a name for himself--as John Leydon's brother, Brenden Leydon, did when he successfully sued the Town of Greenwich to open up its beaches to non-residents. But (as I noted above) the residents have to be careful of what they wish for. Although they don't believe that Nagi went far enough with his concessions, a judge may not agree with that opinion. The court may very well decide that some of the Zoning Board's 27 conditions on Nagi's project were outside of the Board's power to impose on it. And, if the residents' appeal triggers a counter-appeal by Nagi, we could end up with less than what we have now.

12/14/11 Update:

Zoning board approves controversial development

(Click the link above to view Kara O'Connor's 12/13/11 Stamford Times article.)

Stamford Times reporter Kara O'Connor called yesterday to get my reaction to the Zoning Board's decision. As she quoted, I said that I felt a little bit more comfortable (and I emphasized the word "little") with Nagi's project than I had been at the beginning, since several changes had been made to address some of the issues I had raised. Would I have been happier to see 17 condo units and no day-care center? Absolutely. But, as John Leydon said from the beginning, the day-care was not negotiable. So I worked around this impediment while keeping the interests of our neighborhood foremost in mind.

There are seven billion people in the world, and every one of them is right -- and, if you don't believe it, just ask them. Nagi believes that he is right. He bought all of the houses on the block, he had the zoning legally changed, so he should be able to do as he wishes with his property. I believe that I am right. I have lived in Indian Ridge for 23 years (we moved here on December 17, 1988), and I don't want to see rampant over-development ruin the suburban character of our neighborhood. Other neighbors who say that the only acceptable outcome is to renovate Nagi's run-down houses believe that they are right. And so on.

I see this nearly every day on the job, as well:  two neighbors arguing about a civil matter both believe that they are right, so they call the police to settle it. The police arrive and attempt to broker a compromise between the neighbors. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. But the outcome is almost always better when a compromise is reached.

Years ago, two friends of mine decided to divorce. They both rejected the court's suggested settlement arrangement, and they hired attorneys to battle each other in a bitter divorce trial. In the end, they spent a combined total of $175,000 on attorney's fees, only to receive the exact same settlement that they had both rejected in the beginning.

So I kept these issues in mind during my negotiations with John Leydon. Despite Tricia Reville's allegations, I tend to be a reasonable person. And, while I know that the Zoning Board's decision wasn't the best outcome for me or anyone else in the Mid-Ridges (except Nagi), it was the most reasonable one in the eyes of the Zoning Board. (Remember here that Nagi currently has a lawsuit filed against the board for rejecting his previous proposal.)

Finally, I recently discovered that Nagi has a LOT of money at risk in this project...which explains why the day-care was never on the bargaining table. Perhaps I'll write about this issue in the next few days......

2/13/11 Update:

Zoning board approves High Ridge day care

(a.k.a., "A Christmas present for Nagi")

(Click the link above to view Elizabeth Kim's 12/13/11 Advocate article.)

This article appeared in the online version of today's Advocate. They have included my photo from their November 7th article, so now I've got another 15 minutes of fame (actually, infamy) to deal with.

I also have details about some of the other conditions that the Zoning Board imposed on Nagi's project. (John Leydon provided them as a courtesy to me, with the explicit caveat that he is paraphrasing them. So we'll have to wait until the board's minutes are published to see the actual conditions.)

SOME RELEVANT CONDITIONS:

- There will be 17 dwelling units instead of 22, and they will be structured as condominiums instead of apartments.

- Nagi will remit $100,000 to the city, a portion of which will be used to construct a turning lane at the top of Bradley Place. The remainder will remain in escrow for three years, to be used toward a traffic light on High Ridge at Bradley, pending approval by the Connecticut DOT.

- There will be a "landscaping buffer" constructed to prevent access to Bradley Place from the driveway behind the development. (The driveway behind Nagi's jewelry store will retain its existing access to Bradley Place.) This is far better than the gate that was previously proposed. (A landscaping buffer is a lot more difficult to circumvent than a gate....)

- If a traffic light is installed on High Ridge at Bradley during the three-year period noted above, the landscaping buffer can be removed to allow traffic to flow between the development and Bradley Place.

- The maximum capacity of the day-care center will be reduced from 120 children to 90 children.

- Approximately nine parking spaces will be removed from the rear lot to allow one building to be set back further from High Ridge Road.

- A recommendation was made for diagonal parking spaces in the drop-off area between the buildings. (This is for safety purposes:  it helps prevent taller vehicles from obstructing the view of drivers backing out of spaces in smaller cars).

- No stoves or ovens will be installed in the pantry area of the day-care center.

I don't have any details on the rest of the 27 conditions that the Zoning Board imposed on the project, but I will post them as soon as they are available.

As I predicted, Harry Parson Jr., Maria Nakian, and Tom Mills voted to approve the application, while Audrey Cosentini and Barry Michelson voted against it. (Too bad that no one took me up on my bet.) But I will concede that Tom Mills did his best to come up with a compromise during the board's deliberations. (It would have been even better if he had voted against the project, but I never expected that to happen in a thousand years.) The turning lane for Bradley Place and the landscaping buffer to prevent access to Bradley were both pleasant surprises, at least for me.

I will continue to post news on Nagi's project whenever it becomes available, so please continue to email your "scoops" to info@stopnagi.com or call the hotline at 203-724-5629. (As always, all emails and calls are confidential.)

Paul Longo

12/11/11 Update #1:

Joe Grosso's Letter to the Editor

(Click the title link above, then scroll down to the second letter, "Opposition not based on income.")

I'd like to thank my neighbor, Joe Grosso, for writing a rebuttal to Tricia Reville's letter to the Advocate. A lot transpired since I first became aware of Nagi's project after reading about it in the Advocate on September 23rd. I had actually forgotten the heading of that article: High Ridge day care, housing project back before Zoning Board (bolding emphasis added). Joe is correct: I did not attribute that term to "Maple Ridge"--The Advocate did. So Tricia Reville's barbs were misdirected.

Apparently, Joe's letter appeared in the online version of the Advocate on Friday 12/9/11, but I only found about it today when several people called me about the printed version (which appears on Page A18 of today's Advocate). At least it was printed before tomorrow night's Zoning Board meeting.

I spoke with Joe today, and he revealed that the Advocate did not publish his letter in its entirety--he had also written about an incident that occurred at around 5 PM on Saturday, November 5th, almost directly across from Nagi's jewelry store on High Ridge Road. I'll just say that there was a display of emotions up there that caused concern about the effect that our campaign was having on certain individuals. So I met with John Leydon the next day and we hammered out our compromise. When you read the reference to "Mr. Longo's concerns" at the end of the letter, that is what Joe is referring to. I really was worried that, if the battle had continued, people were going to get hurt.

12/11/11 Update #2:

Come out of the closet, Ted.

(No, not THAT closet...Nagi's closet. More accurately, his business.)

This has been bothering me for awhile, so I want to put it up before tomorrow's Zoning Board meeting. We all know that some of the people who have spoken in support of Nagi's project are not exactly objective. One of Nagi's most loyal supporters is Ted Sierpina. As you can see from the link, Ted lives at 240 Little Hill Drive, behind the Harry Bennett Library on Vine Road. Ted's constantly repeated mantra at the Zoning Board hearings is that he was once opposed to the library, but he now realizes that his fears were unfounded. (The implication is that we should welcome Nagi's project with open arms.)

Here are Ted's comments from several Planning Board and Zoning Board meetings:

Planning Board hearing, May 25, 2010

[BTW, this is where Nagi was able have the Master Plan changed to down-zone his properties from "single family" (R-10) to "multiple family, low-density design" (RM-1). Note that the secretary totally massacred Ted's name and address in the transcription below.]

"Ted Cer, 24 Little Hill Drive, spoke in favor of the proposal for a few reasons. Stating that single family homes are not viable on High Ridge Road."

Zoning Board hearing, October 6, 2011

"Ted Sierpina, 240 Little Hill Road, spoke in favor and said that he had opposed the branch library proposal at Turn of River School, but that it had turned out great. He said that traffic on High Ridge Road was a fact and that Nagi Osta was an honest person who was being attacked."

Zoning Board hearing, November 10, 2011

"Ted Serpina, 240 Little Hill Drive, said that the negative slurs expressed in the “stopnagi” web site were very disappointing and that he thought it was a positive development."

Ted, I'm also very disappointed in you. I can't believe that you failed to disclose--on three separate occasions and to two government bodies--the fact that you have a professional relationship with Nagi.

Here is a link to the signature page of a loan modification agreement for Nagi's "Sedulous LLC" from the Connecticut Bank and Trust Company. It was signed on May 31, 2011.

Who witnessed these signatures, Ted?

(P.S.--I may have more to say about this loan--as well as another one---after tomorrow's Zoning Board meeting....)

12/09/11 Update:

A Turning Lane for Bradley Place?

Speaking of compromises...I received a call yesterday from Nagi's attorney, John Leydon. He has apparently been keeping up on my website, and he wanted to know if I was serious about the following statement in my 12/1/11 update:

"I'll go as far as to say that the benefits of a right-turning lane would negate the traffic burden of a driveway connecting Bradley Place and Maplewood Place."

I confirmed that, yes, if Nagi will pay the city to widen the top of Bradley Place and install a right-turning lane there, I will  agree to allow Nagi to open his proposed driveway to Bradley Place. (I never did like the idea of a cheesy gate there, anyway. We all know that, once the gate is opened to plow the first big snowfall, it will stay open until the next thaw.)

For comparison, I measured near the top of Cedar Heights Road (which has a turning lane). Its three-lane portion is about 35 feet wide. (Each travel lane requires about 10 feet, plus a small margin for dividing lines, shoulders, etc.) I then measured near the top of Bradley Place--which I'm sure made Nagi pretty nervous when he saw me out there. (This is understandable: the last time I was in front of his store was when the Advocate took photos of me for their article.) Anyway, if the grass median next to Nagi's store is removed, it would provide enough room for a right-turn lane, possibly without even moving the two utility poles next to the guard rail. I immediately called John Leydon and told him that it's a deal.

So Nagi is finally putting at least some of his money where his mouth is. He has said over and over that he cares about our neighborhood. We have needed a turning lane at the top of Bradley Place for as long as I have lived here. Nagi is now willing to give up a small strip of his property and pay the expense of installing a turning lane there. (The city claims a right-of-way to this strip and may even own part of it, but Nagi still has to pay for the expensive roadwork and street marking.)

I know that our neighborhood is split on the need for a traffic light at the top of Bradley Place. I personally have never wanted one there, but I can understand how some of us might. With the proposed widening of the junction, at least now a light would make a little more sense.

12/08/11 Update:

"Nobody likes a compromise."

Tom Mills is discovering what I did a month ago. Check out Elizabeth Kim's article in the 12/7 edition of the Advocate:

Hammering out a compromise for a High Ridge day care

Half of our neighborhood is still upset with the compromise that I made with Nagi (via John Leydon) on November 7th, so I certainly know how Mr. Mills feels. There are some people who believe that the only "acceptable development" would be a renovation of the five houses on Nagi's lots. From a private-property perspective, that's probably not reasonable. Personally, I would have been happier with condo units (even 22 of them) and no day-care center, but John Leydon said that the day-care was non-negotiable. As I told Elizabeth Kim on 11/7, "Nobody likes a compromise." (Or at least they don't like mine.) So hopefully the Zoning Board can work out a solution that is more acceptable to everyone. If not, the rumblings that I am hearing from area residents suggest that Monday's vote won't be the end of this saga....

12/07/11 Update #3:

Speaking of "Follow the Money..."

What a coincidence that Chris Brecciano, one of the adjacent property owners who spoke in favor of Nagi’s project, won a gift basket worth $1,000 from Nagi Jewelers last week! Here’s how Chris's comments were recorded in the Zoning Board minutes on September 26th:

"Chris Brecciano, 28 Maplewood Place, said he’s qualified to comment for three reasons: he lives on adjacent property, he’s a local real estate attorney and day care is becoming important to him. He stated the site is currently atrocious and not conducive to a family environment. Mr. Osta is a good resident of the neighborhood and this development will improve the area."

 

(You just can't make this stuff up....)

12/07/11 Update #2:

Follow Maria's Money?


I have been wondering why Maria Nakian is so staunchly supportive of developers like Nagi. She has apparently supported quite a few housing projects in the past, so her support of this one is no surprise. Her most infamous vote was for the Windermere on the Lake project on Erskine Road, which reportedly cost her a seat on the Board of Representatives. She also supported the mixed-income Palmer Square project on Palmer's Hill Road, among others.

My search for answers led me to the state's judicial web site, where I discovered a property foreclosure case against Maria and her husband, Paul Nakian. On 2/14/11, a Notice of Judgment of Strict Foreclosure was granted by the court for this property at #3 Richmond Drive in Darien. As you can see from the links above, the property is currently on the market for $1,525,000.

Interestingly, the legal ownership of Maria and Paul Nakian's residence at #90 Campbell Drive has bounced back and forth between them six times since 1978, and it has been held solely in Maria's name since 2008. (How often have you and your spouse done something like this? Why is such a shell game even necessary?) Of course, my discoveries only left me with more questions than answers, so if you can help, I'm all ears....

12/07/11 Update #1:

No Gate = No Deal


I just received an email about Monday night's meeting from Cynthia Reeder. (Cynthia defeated a proposal to expand Lord & Taylor in Bull's Head to a 350,000-square-foot shopping mall with 1,100 parking spaces, so she has a bit of experience in these issues.) As you will see below, one of the conditions that Maria "I-never-saw-a-development-that-I-didn't-like" Nakian is imposing on Nagi's project is the removal of the gate to Bradley Place. My reaction to this news is:

"If the gate comes down, I pop back up!"


In other words, if Nagi's project gains direct access to Bradley Place (and thus to Indian Ridge), my verbal agreement with John Leydon will longer be in effect. (John and I never executed anything in writing, but we have both stuck to our "gentlemen's agreement." That's why I was no longer involved in opposing Nagi's project...up to now. I also agreed not to assist in an appeal if the project is approved by the Zoning Board.) So you just might see me at Monday night's meeting -- along with a few other people who have been staying home until now. And maybe even some props.....

Anyway, here is Cynthia's take on the meeting:

The Zoning Board did *not* vote on the Nagi application at its meeting last night. Rather, it reached an impasse and determined that it needs to continue its discussion -- and its vote -- until next week’s meeting:

Monday, December 12th at 7 PM in the Zoning Board offices.

As with all regular Zoning Board meetings, members of the public are welcome to attend.

To expand on The Advocate article just a bit:

  • Maria Nakian and Harry Parson Jr. strongly support approving the project, with the conditions outlined here. [Click the link to view Nakian's and Parson's conditions--sorry for the quality of the PDF file. Paul Longo]  Ms. Nakian also would like to see the proposed gate removed from the parking area to allow traffic to exit on both Maplewood and Bradley Place.
  • Audrey Cosentini said that she is opposed to the day care component and will not vote for it.
  • Barry Michelson expressed concern about the Board having considered the applications when a lawsuit related to basically the same application is pending. (As you probably know, Nagi sued the city after the Zoning Board denied his previous application.) Mr. Michelson, who has been opposed to the project, said that he would support it only with a set of conditions that includes:

-   reducing the day care facility to accommodate 75 students

-   reducing the parking by 50 spaces

-   having the “pantry” area in the day care center plan designated as a closet or storage area

-   creating more green space between the Nagi store and the proposed apartment building that will be constructed next to it, and

-   withdrawal of the lawsuit within 20 days of the approval (Nagi’s lawyer told the Director of Planning that he could not withdraw the suit that quickly!)

  • Tom Mills, the Board chair, has not expressed opposition to the project, but is trying to broker an agreement among Board members, with Nakian and Parson sticking to their position and Michelson not willing to veer from his. In other words, it appears as though he’s looking to get something approved (as opposed to voting against it).

It’s also worth noting that even though the Board is trying to create a legally-binding document, no legal counsel from the city was present to address the conditions being discussed or their implications.

I highly recommend that you attend next Monday’s meeting if you are concerned about the Board’s decision and its impact on the neighborhood. There’s no substitute for observing the Board deliberations and watching “government in action” first-hand.

I think I can safely say that the neighbors who attended Monday night experienced an eye-opener.

Feel free to call me if you’d like to discuss what transpired at the meeting.

Best,

Cynthia Reeder

12/06/11 Update:

Zoning Board delays vote on day care

(Click the link above to read the Advocate's 12/6/11 article.)

Ladies and gentlemen, we have now crossed into uncharted waters--last night marks the SIXTH time that the Zoning Board has met to discuss Nagi's CURRENT proposal! Here are all of the meetings to date:

September 26th
October 6th
October 24th (suspended)
November 10th
November 28th
December 5th


Remember that Nagi presented two previous proposals to the Zoning Board during the past couple of years, but they were shot down. The first was for a commercial development, and the second was for 9-10 housing units and a day-care center. To refresh your memory, here are the Advocate articles on those projects:

Stamford businessman makes second attempt to develop nearby High Ridge property  (Advocate, 5/26/10)

High Ridge businessman's development plan faces last hurdles (Advocate, 12/8/10)

Board rejects plan for housing and day care on High Ridge (Advocate 1/12/11)

I did not attend last night's meeting, but I heard that it was entertaining, to say the least. From what I understand, Harry Parson's use of the word "hell" was an indicator of the meeting's general tone. All I can say is, "Damn! I might have to attend the next meeting in case old Harry decides to drop the f-bomb!" We'll see what happens on Monday 12/12/11....

12/05/11 Update:

Ambitious Agenda!

I just looked at the agenda for tonight's Zoning-Board meeting. As you can see from the link, it's packed: THREE public hearings and SIX pending applications (including Nagi's) to discuss and/or vote on! Since I made my treaty agreement with Nagi nearly a month ago, I won't be attending the meeting. You already know my long-standing prediction for the vote:

Tom Mills, Maria Nakian, and Harry Parson, Jr. will vote to approve Nagi's project.

Audrey Cosentini and Barry Michelson will vote against it.


I'm not a betting person, but I would bet $100 on this. If you want to bet against me, email or call ASAP. Assuming the board votes on Nagi's project tonight, you have only a few hours to place your bets.)

12/01/11 Update:

"Amoral Authority"



No, I'm not talking about certain members of our Zoning Board (although, Harry and Maria, if the shoe fits...).

I just found Angelo Gargagliano's novel on Amazon! (Click the title link above to see it.) Angelo wrote those wonderful pieces on "Angelo's Corner" (click the link in the black banner near the top of this page). When he told me that he had written a novel, I assumed that it was merely an unpublished manuscript. If Angelo's letters are any indication of his creativity, I'm looking forward to reading "Amoral Authority." (It's also available in a Kindle edition on Amazon.)

As for the Zoning Board...I'm hearing rumors that the sheer size of Nagi's proposed day-care (120 children) is a concern, so it's more likely to be accepted with a smaller capacity. But this is only a rumor.


I'm also hearing some interesting ways to mitigate traffic, such as widening the top of Bradley Place for a right-turning lane there. This would be achieved by Nagi giving up part of his driveway on the north side of his jewelry store. (There are several utility poles there that would also have to be moved.) If Nagi himself had proposed something like this in the beginning, he wouldn't have faced as much opposition from the residents in Indian Ridge. In fact, it would have supported his claim that he is actually concerned about us. I'll go as far as to say that the benefits of a right-turning lane would negate the traffic burden of a driveway connecting Bradley Place and Maplewood Place. It would also make a traffic light on High Ridge at Bradley much more feasible.


Just a thought.....

11/29/11 Update:

The Board is Still Split

Apparently I missed a good meeting last night.....

Zoning board split on jeweler's plan

(Click the link above to read Elizabeth Kim's article in today's Advocate -- great job, Elizabeth!)


I don't know if Tom Mills is really the "swing vote" for Nagi's proposal, however. I believe that Mr. Mills has been totally supportive of the project in the past, and I don't see why he would change his stance now. So I am sticking with my prediction that he will support Nagi's project if the board votes on it on Monday 12/5. He is just keeping tight-lipped about his intentions.

Speaking of the board's vote...if you disagree with my compromise with Nagi (particularly on the issue of the day-care center), you might want to make time to attend the Zoning Board meeting at 7 PM on Monday 12/5. Although you won't be allowed to speak there, your presence just might make a difference.


Paul Longo


P.S. -- I'm looking for investors to buy the properties next to Maria Nakian's house on Campbell Drive and build a day-care center for 120 kids there. She said that this will be fine with her, so it should be a shoe-in for zoning!

11/28/11 Update #3 (6:30 PM):

Still Fighting This Cold

Sorry, but I'm not going to attend tonight's Zoning Board meeting. It's probably better for everyone that I won't be there, since my cold has worsened during the past few hours. (It has been doing this every evening.) If you attend, please let me know how it goes. And give my regards to Nagi....

Paul Longo

11/28/11 Update #2:

 

"Been there, done that, got the T-shirt?"

 

I just heard from the resident whose email was forwarded by Norman Cole to Nagi. He said that he has no problem with me putting his quote on this site, but he wants a cut of the proceeds if I put it on a T-shirt. So I got to thinking that, well, just maybe....



11/28/11 Update #1:

Zoning Board's 11/10 Minutes and 11/28 Agenda *Finally* Posted

 

(Sorry again for my delayed update...I've been fighting the vicious cold that's been going around lately. It started on Tuesday night, when I sweated so badly in my sleep that my sheets were soaked the next morning...and it all went downhill from there. I won't go into details, but I hope that you are spared from it)

If I hadn't received a courtesy call from John Leydon five days ago, the agenda of tomorrow night's Zoning Board hearing would have been the best kept secret in Stamford. I had checked the board's web site a few days ago, and only the agenda for the 11/10 public hearing was posted then. But the City finally posted the minutes from the 11/10 public hearing, as well as the agenda for the 11/28 meeting. (Click the links to view each item.)

I hope to update the "Board Minutes" link (in the black banner, above) with links to all of the the agendas and minutes related to Nagi's project. Check back soon for this update.

You will note that the agenda for the 11/28 meeting does not include a public hearing, even though the Zoning Board's web site does show a public hearing scheduled for this date. Also, two other pending applications will be discussed before Nagi's applications. So, although the meeting will begin at 7 PM, the Zoning Board may not get around to discussing "Maple Ridge" until later on. If you plan to attend, be forewarned. (I hope to be there at around 8 PM myself.)

Far more ominous is a statement in the minutes of an unrelated 11/14 Zoning Board meeting. It reads: "Mr. Mills briefly outlined the agenda for November 28, 2011 to discuss Procurement LLC and the two applications heard this evening (Davenport Landing 211-29 and Hennessey text amendment 211-37). Mr. Michelson noted that he would not be able to attend the November 28, 2011 meeting." [bolding added for emphasis].

As you may know, Barry Michelson is one of the two Zoning Board members who appear to be opposed to Nagi's project. Now that he won't be attending the 11/28 meeting, the three members who support the project can "tag team" Audrey Cosentini, the only other member who appears to question the project. And, if they decide to actually vote on it tomorrow night...well....

As for the contents of the 11/10 public hearing's minutes, there is apparently a LOT that gets lost in the translation to paper (or, in this case, to PDF). If you attended the hearing at Turn of River Middle School that evening, you will quickly realize that the minutes are only a very brief summary of what transpired there. You will also realize that the minutes are not particularly accurate. For starters, many of the speakers' names have been massacred, despite being spelled out during the hearing. Some of their addresses are also incorrect. Finally, many of their statements are a mere shadow of what they actually said. The minutes are transcribed from tape by Maria Nakian, the secretary of the Zoning Board. She is "pro-development," so keep this in mind when you read the minutes.

Two relevant examples of inaccurate entries are:

"Tricia Revelle, 33 Briar Court"

(This is actually Tricia Reville of 30 Sweet Briar Court. By now we all know who Tricia is, right?)

"Katherine Thorpe, 32 Briar Court"

(This is actually Catherine Thorpe of 30 Sweet Briar Court. According to other public records, Mrs. Thorpe is apparently Tricia's mother. According to the city's assessment records, there is no "Briar Court" in Stamford. And there is no #32 or #33 on Sweet Briar Court, either.)

What we still don't know is the relationship between Tricia Reville, Catherine Thorpe, and Nagi. But sooner or later, it will be revealed to me, and then we will all know it--I promise.

Despite many such inaccuracies, these minutes are scheduled to be accepted by the board in its 11/28 meeting.

Nagi's Compromise: A "Substantial Change?"

A neighbor who is well versed in the Zoning regulations brought up an interesting point that I'll pass on.

Apparently, the verbal agreement that Nagi made with me (in which he agreed to close the driveway between Maplewood Place and Bradley Place, reduce the number of units from 22 to 17, and change the units from apartments to condos) may constitute a "substantial change" in his application for the project. If even one "affected resident" (i.e., someone who is within the 100-foot notification radius for the project) protests this change in writing to the Zoning Board, the board has to ask the city's corporation counsel for an opinion on whether the change is, in fact, "substantial." If the change in the application is deemed to be substantial, then the city's involved departments would have to re-approve the revised application, which has to be re-submitted for another public hearing, etc. Also, the changed plans would have to be mailed to the affected residents.

I was not able to find anything to substantiate this claim in the Zoning Regulations (but, then, I'm not an expert). The closest info that I did find covered changes that are made *after* a Zoning Permit has been issued:

SECTION 17 - APPLICATIONS AND PERMITS

A. Permits Required: Except as otherwise provided in these Regulations or other applicable laws, no building or structure shall be constructed, reconstructed, erected, enlarged, extended or structurally altered, wholly or partly, and no use of land, buildings or other structures, or part thereof, shall be undertaken or changed, and no excavation for any building, structure, sign or use shall be made, until a Zoning Permit has been issued by the Zoning Enforcement Officer. No Zoning Permit shall be issued for any building, structure, sign or use that requires issuance of a special exception, approval of site and architectural plans and requested uses, or Coastal Site Plan Approval under these Regulations until such approvals have been issued and are legally in effect. A Zoning Permit shall be rendered null and void if any substantial changes or alterations are made to the plot plan, building plans and/or other supporting application documents after the issuance of the Zoning Permit.

________________________________________

Since Nagi has not (yet) received a Zoning Permit, this section doesn't apply to the changes noted above.

I do seem to recall that, during the 11/10 public hearing, Zoning Board member Audrey Cosentini complained that the only reason she knew about the changes to Nagi's plan was because she had read about them in the Advocate! Again, I don't know what the notification requirements are for such changes, but she was apparently not happy that the Zoning Board was not in the loop on them.

Related to this issue: the ethical integrity of the Zoning Department and Land Use Bureau has been tarnished--at least in my opinion--by the following events, as well as others:

(1) On 10/6/11, Norman Cole (Acting Land Use Bureau Chief) forwarded at least 16 emails from residents opposed to Nagi's project directly to Nagi, his attorney (John Leydon), his engineer (Len D'Andrea), and his traffic engineer (Joseph Balskus). Nagi then responded to these forwarded emails by sending out one mass email to all of the opposed residents. Unfortunately, Nagi's email contained ALL of the residents' email addresses, effectively compromising their privacy. One of the affected residents later forwarded Nagi's response to me. (You can find it, as well as my rebuttal, in the Words With Nagi link, above.) What doesn't appear in the link is the neighbor's comment to me:

Unbelievable!  I send the city an email

And Nagi replies!

What does that say?

 

(Exactly my point here....)

(2) On 10/17/11 (a week before the October 24th. public hearing), Norman Cole apparently decided to take a vacation (or do something--I never did find out exactly what). So, during that critical week, residents opposing Nagi's project who took the time to email Mr. Cole received only the following automated reply:

I'll be out of the office Monday, October 17th through Monday, October 24th.  You can contact Todd Dumais @tdumais@ci.stamford.ct.us if you require immediate assistance.


To this day, these residents don't know if their emails were ever received by Mr. Cole, forwarded to Mr. Dumais, or left languishing in Mr. Cole's inbox on the day of the hearing. Ultimately, the hearing was suspended after we overcrowded the cafeteria in the Government Center, so Mr. Cole's absence became a moot point. But I had made an agreement with him that I would print his contact info (instead of the Zoning Board members') on my flyers, so I still consider his coincidental one-week absence to be suspicious, at best.

(3) Shortly after returning from "vacation," Mr. Cole sent an email to me in which he gushed over the fact that Nagi's buildings will use about the same percentage of land as the Vine Meadow condominiums at 865 High Ridge Road. (See my 11/05 update--"Welcome Home, Norm!"--below.) But he never addressed my reply, which listed five important contrasts between Vine Meadow and Maple Ridge.

(I can probably think of other issues here, but it's close to 2:00 AM, so I'll publish this for now. Good night....)

11/22/11 Updates:

Zoning Board to Discuss Nagi's Project on Monday 11/28

(Sorry for my delay in updating the site. I'm still working on getting my life back....)

I received a call today from Nagi's attorney, John Leydon. He said that the Zoning Board is scheduled to discuss Nagi's application during its regular public hearing and meeting on Monday 11/28/11. (This meeting will be held on the 7th floor of the Government Center.) However, the Zoning Board may or may not actually vote on the application that evening. Anyone is free to attend the meeting, but, since the public hearing on Nagi's application was closed on 11/10/11, we would not be allowed to speak about the application.

Condo, Day Care Plan for Stamford Draws Fire

 

I just found this article in The Daily Stamford -- it was written the day after the 11/10 public hearing at TOR. So Tom Finn is the High Ridge Road resident who performed the "expert" skit that had me rolling! If I had known that the hearing would have been so entertaining, I would have videotaped it. (There is an audio recording available for public inspection at the Zoning Bureau, so I may have to check it out sometime.)

Anyway, the article also features a couple of nice photos of Nagi. He's really not a bad guy, and I'm sure that his original project would have fared much better with us if it wasn't so dense. (In fact, if he had asked for 17 condo units and no day care, even I would have agreed to the driveway between Maplewood Place and Bradley Place!)

More on Tricia Reville

Tricia Reville obviously has some connection with Nagi. No 23-year-old Young, UPwardly-mobile Professional-IE would devote the kind of time and energy that she has to attending hearings, writing to The Advocate, etc. If you are aware of the "Reville-Osta Connection," please email me at info@stopnagi.com. Or leave a message on the hotline: 203-724-5629. All calls and emails will be treated confidentially.

Actually, my friends, relatives, and neighbors were more upset with Tricia's letter than I was. Some of them have insisted that I write a rebuttal to the Advocate. I believe that I addressed Tricia's accusations pretty well below. Also, The Advocate already bent over backward to publicize my efforts. Thus, I don't want to "look a gift horse in the mouth" by asking for The Advocate's editorial space after they had given me their front page. Several times....

However, I do object to Tricia (the epitome of a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) "pulling the race card" on me:

"Shame on you Mr. Longo for perpetuating prejudice and suggesting that low-income Americans do not deserve a decent place to live."

I seem to recall that, during the public hearing, Tricia said that she lives (presumably with her parents) at #30 Sweet Briar Court, an exclusive cul-de-sac off Sweet Briar Road (which is off Newfield Avenue, near King Low Heywood Thomas School). According to the City's assessment records, there are four 4,000-6,000 square-foot homes on this street. Each sits on an acre of land. Judging from the names, all of the residents appear to be, well...you can look them up yourself  here. And the property at #30 Sweet Briar Court is valued at nearly a million dollars ($964,129, or an assessed value of $674,890, to be exact).

Contrast this with my working-class neighborhood: Indian Ridge is equally represented by nearly every race, ethnicity, and religion on the planet. My long-time neighbors on both sides happen to be American black. The neighbor who rents the house across the street is from Eastern Europe. The neighbors before him were Hispanic. The owner of that home is Iranian. A Vietnamese family lives a few doors away. An Sikh family lives next to the Vietnamese family. We have residents from Haiti. We have residents from Jamaica. We have residents from Poland. (You get the picture....)

So, Tricia girl, before you talk the talk, you'd better walk the walk. We'll be watching to see where you end up living when you move out of your parents' house. Would you really "love to live in one of [Nagi's] proposed housing units?" Would you really walk and ride your bicycle to work, and shop at our local stores? Or will Nagi's "Maple Ridge" project not be cosmopolitan enough for you? Only time will tell.....

11/17/11 Update:

High Ridge Road development will benefit city

(Click the link above for Tricia Reville's Letter to the Editor of the Advocate)

(When you first saw that heading, I'll bet you thought that I had really switched sides, huh?)

So who is Tricia Reville, anyway? For starters, she is a 23-year-old financial analyst who works at G.E. Ms. Reville also happened to speak in support of Nagi's project at the 11/10 public hearing. If you were there, you might recall her from this YouTube video:

100v100d: Tricia Reville on resource management

Here's more info from Tricia's online business profile:

Tricia Reville, Green Entrepreneur Via Her Business Greenfinity

Tricia Reville is  is a senior in the George Washington University School of Business studying international business and entrepreneurship. She studied abroad in India from June to August 2010 where she worked with biofuel systems at the Appropriate Rural Technology Institute. After returning from India, Tricia began researching on-site waste to energy biofuel system use in the United States. She wrote a business plan for Greenfinity, her business, and won two business plan competitions as well as raising $5,000 of initial capital. Tricia also works for Jim Chung at GW’s Office of Entrepreneuership and is a Young Leader’s Judge for the global women’s role models movement: The Hot Mommas Project.



You can probably get a pretty good feel for Tricia's leanings via her Twitter posts:

 

Tricia Reville

 

Likewise from her restaurant tips posted at foursquare.com:

All of Tricia's Tips

(In other words, Tricia is the perfect personification of the "Nagi-ite" that I described in my 10/24/11 post.)

OK, so on to her letter. I have copied it below, along with my responses (in italics) to each of her points.

 

High Ridge Road development will benefit city

Published 06:15 p.m., Wednesday, November 16, 2011

To the editor:

 

How would you classify the area on High Ridge Road south of the Merritt Parkway entrance? Commercial? Residential? In his attempts to smear Nagi Osta's development project, Paul Longo would have you think High Ridge Road runs through a nature preserve (news stories, Oct. 25, Nov. 7, 8, 11).

In reality, High Ridge Road is both a commercial and residential area - and both must learn to live with each other.

Actually, Tricia, there are clearly defined lines between the commercial and residential areas of High Ridge Road. You can see them on Stamford's Zoning Map and in its master plan. Nagi's properties had been single-family residential before the Zoning Board approved his application to have them "down-zoned" to low-density multiple family last year. (Shame on us, the residents, for not keeping track of his application.)

Mr. Longo posted pictures of three Zoning Board member's addresses on his website. Where are the pictures of the houses that are currently on the development site Mr. Longo? The houses currently there are an eyesore and drain on local property values. I challenge you to put those pictures side by side with pictures of Mr. Osta's development plan and let visitors to your website vote on which they would rather live by on High Ridge Road. Bring the voting results to the next Zoning Board meeting. I'm sure the crowd would be interested to hear the results.

Tricia, there is a well-known strategy among developers called demolition by neglect. (Click on the link to read about it, or you can look it up yourself on the many "green" websites that you subscribe to.) Please be aware that Nagi purchased most of his properties over three years ago... and he paid over 40% more than they were worth at the time. Surely he could have put a little m