NEIGHBORS STICK IT (BACK) TO NAGI!
(where District Rep Matt Quinones MOSHES “Mani-the-Fanny…”.)
"The Incredible Shrinking Travel Lane"
(This photo was taken on 1/25/15, i.e., BEFORE the blizzard that is forecast for this coming week. The plowed snowbank has already knocked the westbound travel lane on Bradley Place down to only eight feet in width. AFTER the blizzard, the westbound lane will be pretty much wiped out.)
I have never met our 16th District representative, Matt Quinones, but from what I just saw on video, he is THE MAN! As you know, Matt and our other go-getter rep, Steve Kolenberg, have been scrutinizing Nagi’s magical lane-shrinking job and its effect on our safety—and, more importantly, the safety of our children in school buses that now must make a sharp right from High Ridge Road onto a treacherously narrow 10-foot travel lane on Bradley Place. Steve and Matt brought this issue to the Board of Representatives Transportation Committee’s January 22, 2015 meeting, which Director of Operations Ernie Orgera and Traffic Engineer Mani Poola were invited to attend.
Fortunately for us—and thanks to Mayor David Martin—you can already see a video of the 1/22/15 meeting. The entire meeting took less than 23 minutes, with the “Nagi Parking-Gate Scandal” (as I call it) lasting about 13 minutes. The discussion begins at the 9:50-minute mark. (You can forward the video to this point by dragging the slider button under the image. Matt is the muscular guy in the blue shirt shown in the upper right corner of the split video on the right side of the screen.)
I was SO impressed with Matt’s persistent line of questioning that I have immortalized it, word-for-word, below. I encourage you to watch the video so you can see and hear Matt’s verbal virtuosity for yourself. But my transcription will come in handy if you are a victim of a crash on High Ridge at Bradley and you want to sue Mani Poola personally for creating the conditions that caused it.
Note that Matt began his presentation by introducing the infamous 2010 memo from Ed Gentile to Norman Cole regarding Nagi’s encroachment on City property—an issue that is later confirmed (by Ernie Orgera) to be true during this meeting, as you will see below.
PARTIAL TRANSCRIPTION OF BOARD OF REPRESENTATIVES TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE 01/22/15 MEETING
Matt Quinones: “I—actually, along with Representative Kolenberg—had submitted this item, and I appreciate both of you gentlemen being here because it’s certainly one that’s of concern in District 16. This first point is directed toward Director Orgera. I was sent a memorandum that was sent to Norman Cole back in 2010 from Edward Gentile, Deputy City Engineer, and essentially it reads…”
David Kooris: “Matt, just in reference—what is Procurement LLC?”
Matt: “Procurement LLC is a company that has a development in the area where High Ridge Road meets Bradley Place.”
David Kooris: “OK.”
David Kooris: “Nagi Jeweler? The development there?”
David Kooris: “That’s the new development.”
David Kooris: “Got it.”
Matt: “So, what this reads is that: ‘The Engineering Bureau recently reviewed the above-mentioned application [and that’s referring to this development] to the Stamford Zoning Board for Site & Architectural Plan review. Currently the project engineer has submitted a Site Plan and Drainage Summary Report, dated 4/5/10. The following is a list of comments and concerns that will need to be addressed by the project engineer.’ And Number 1 reads that, ‘The property owner shall rectify any and all encroachments to the City right of way along the south side of Bradley Place.’ It’s my understanding that that has not been rectified, and I just wanted to get a sense of kind of following up from your department: is the next step, in terms of enforcement of this, coming from you and your department, or would it be another department?”
Ernie Orgera: “I think…are you talking about the parking area that is on the Nagi property now?”
Ernie: “We did do an investigation on that, and we found that the property was owned… I didn’t really realize what this was, or I would have brought some...”.
Matt: “Sorry about that. I should have sent you something on it….”
Ernie: “But the property was owned by a different owner at the time when Nagi bought it. I wish I had brought the photographs, but they were pre-1996, I think, is when Nagi bought the property. And it showed that the company that owned the property before that had the same issue with the parking area, the diagonal parking, up against the guard rail, which is actually City right of way. It was then, and when Nagi bought the property—I don’t know whether he realized it or not, but his attorney should have known that it encroached on City property. I haven’t done any further investigation on it, but I know that it was there prior to Nagi buying the property. But, by your next meeting, I'll have that information for you.”
Matt: “OK, so that, in the event that—I mean, it still hasn’t been rectified, and this is the recommendation from the Office of Operations—who is the enforcement to…?”
Matt: “It’s Zoning? OK, so that…”
Ernie: “Right. And I spoke to Jim Lunney about that already.”
Matt: “Has he kind of, expressed any kind of plan of action for…?”.
Ernie: “No, he hasn’t. What he’s told me is that the property that is being encroached upon is still on the south side of the guard rail, which really doesn’t have any impact on the intersection at all, unless we want to improve the radius of that intersection.”
Matt: “Well, I understand that, but I would respectfully disagree, in that (Mani, you could probably speak to this better) but that, in the Connecticut Department of Transportation Manual—I was doing some research on this; they made revisions to it in 2013—but, essentially, they said that there should be NO encroachment for adjacent lanes from a through street to a stop-controlled street. And I know recently that that road has been turned from—Bradley Place, that is—from being two 15-foot lanes to now three 10-foot lanes, and, with that…that is including the paint, the markers…Now, we also have a very heavily trafficked area right now, a significant amount of school buses are turning down that road, are traveling down High Ridge. Now, factor that in with this being a condominium development, and the increase in population that’s going to be in that concentrated area… I’m just very concerned that, for safety considerations, that this is going to be a cluster of vehicles, and potentially even lead to some pretty nasty accidents. So, in terms from your point of view, Mani, is there any concern with that being the situation of almost what I would call “a perfect storm?”
Mani Poola: “No. One of the reasons that we reduced the lane width is reducing the lane width automatically reduces the vision of a driver, looking upon is narrowed, so he reduces speed. So that is one of the traffic-calming measures. The majority of the traffic in that area is only passenger cars, apart from some delivery trucks and school buses. So, if you want to really go with state standards, then we have to go 12 feet or 14 feet. We don’t want to do that….”
Matt: “Well, we can’t do it if it’s…the encroachment…is that correct?…”.
Mani: “I’m not done yet. As a principle, we want to see [unintelligible], we want to reduce the width of the travel lanes so that people can travel at a lesser speed.”
Matt: “That doesn’t make sense to me. It’s an acute angle—turning in from High Ridge to Bradley—if you’re making a right. How does reducing the width of a lane make it safer for a school bus to make a right-hand turn?”
Mani: “No, that one is designed for SU-30, a small truck, so small truck can turn without any difficulty…”.
Matt: “And is a school bus considered a small truck?”
Mani: “What I am saying, see, if you decide to do…for example, if you decide to do one or two trucks, and a 60-70 feet truck goes in….we don’t want to design every corner to that standard, which….”.
Matt: “I’m not talking about a truck…a school bus and just a regular car traveling…I don’t understand how… I understand the reduced speed, and that being a way to reduce speed, but I don’t understand how it wouldn’t make sense to, if possible, widen the lanes for turning purposes of that exact incident, where we have school buses that are making a right, we’re going to have trucks, even if ongoing…it doesn’t have to be two trucks traveling at the same time…for that school bus to not be able to turn into a 10-foot lane…on an acute angle…”.
Mani: “I spent last two years studying Long Ridge and High Ridge Road corridor. All the meetings that we went, they want to reduce the lane width, even High Ridge and Long Ridge Road. We made State accept, finally, come to 11-foot lanes. And, after we reduce it to 11-foot lanes, State is going to do a speed study, and, if we meet that one, then we want to reduce it further. So it’s a couple of step process. So, when we do that, why you want to increase the lane on a side street which serves only a small portion of the neighborhood?”
Matt: “Because of the significant increase in population that’s going to be in that area because of this development…”.
Mani: “No, development doesn’t have access to Bradley Place…”.
Matt: “So you don’t think that it’s going to have an impact to the traffic flow on that corner?”
Mani: “No. The development doesn’t have an access to Bradley Place…”.
Matt: “No, but it travels on High Ridge. There’s not going to be an impact on that at all?”
Mani: “No, for the side street, yes [?]. I did a [unintelligible] for a signal at that location, and I think Zoning Board gave hundred thousand dollars. I can’t do anything with hundred thousand dollars. So, if some money comes in there, we’ll do a signal there, then we’ll make it work better.”
Matt: “So—just so I’m clear—a signal where?...”.
Mani: “Bradley Place.”
Matt: “On Bradley Place?”
Mani: “Bradley Place and Donata Lane combined together….”
Matt: “And what would be the kind of appropriation that you would need for that to be something that we can do?”
Mani: “[unintelligible] almost quarter of million dollars in that location. If we do a big mast [unintelligible], it’s going to cost three hundred fifty thousand dollars.”
Matt: “So is there anything that can be done—let me re-phrase that—the fact that this encroachment on City property hasn’t been rectified….What’s the impact that that has on our options to make that street safer or widen the lanes (if any)?”
Mani: “I don’t…in my opinion, I don’t feel a need to widen the street. If there is a need for a signal, I do agree with that. It meets the warrant, and definitely we can do that…”.
Matt: “But (and I respect your opinion; I know you’re definitely more knowledgeable on this than I am.) I’m just trying to understand the options here, so if.…. Does the fact that this property encroaches on City property limit our options to widen, should that decision be made?”
Mani: “I think it should come from the Legal Department or Zoning Department…”.
Ernie: “It’s City property. So, if we need to widen that road, we can take that property.”
Ernie: “And I’ll have a report from Zoning for you by next month.”
Matt: “OK—I appreciate you guys answering these questions. I know…”.
Ernie: “I was kind of blind-sided…”.
Matt: “I know—I should have given you this document ahead of time. Information was coming in, and I was doing research on this up until today. So I didn’t have a chance to really spread it. But I appreciate the Committee giving us the opportunity to bring this item up, and I hope that this item will be held so we can discuss it further next month.”
Ernie: “I do have some aerials on it, as well, that I can show you.”
Matt: “OK—great. Thank you.”
Terry Adams: “OK, Mani, about the traffic light—did the State reject the traffic light going to High Ridge?”
Matt: “No. I did request for a full traffic signal, and I believe Zoning Board gave only hundred thousand dollars from the development, so I cannot build a traffic light for hundred thousand dollars.”
Terry Adams: “Oh, so Nagi development was not paying for the whole traffic signal—they were just donating a hundred thousand dollars towards the development of a traffic light.”
Mani: “That is correct.”
Terry Adams: “OK, good. So anybody else have any other questions?”
Matt: “Just a quick follow-up on that…was that part of the agreement, that it was a…to your knowledge?”
Mani: “I think it was a condition of Zoning Board approval.”
Matt: “That the condition was a hundred thousand, or the condition was that he would provide a stop, or, excuse me, a turn signal? Do you know?”
Mani: “I did request for a traffic light, but Zoning Board phrased it in a different way, I think, so that the total contribution from the development would be hundred thousand dollars.”
Matt: “Thank you.”
Ernie: “We normally ask…Mani normally asks for millions when it comes to these things, but the Zoning Board overrules him sometimes.”
Terry Adams: “OK, alright. So we’re going to vote on a motion to hold this anyhow, so I’m just going to do an agenda…” [Meeting then adjourns]
The biggest revelation from this meeting—beside Matt’s mojo—is that Nagi’s parking lot IS, in fact, encroaching on City property. When Anthony Masciarelli first brought this issue to the Zoning Board back in 2009, they thought he was a crackpot (or at least that’s what they wanted the rest of us to believe). But, like Galileo, Mr. Masciarelli’s theory has been proven to be 100% correct. Now let’s see what the City does about it. (You can email Zoning Enforcement Officer Jim Lunney and ask him yourself...especially if the City has given you problems with regard to zoning issues in the past.)
Another fact that was brought out during the meeting is that Mani Poola lacks basic common sense, i.e., he states that he created an intersection in violation of DOT standards for the purpose of “traffic calming.” This idea becomes even more ludicrous when you realize that, with the exception of its critical junction with High Ridge Road, Bradley Place still contains two 15-foot travel lanes, not three 10-foot lanes. If Mani was really interested in “traffic calming” on Bradley Place, he would have OK’d the installation of speed bumps there--a “traffic calming” proposal that some of my neighbors have been asking for in vain for years. (How about those school kids on the buses, Mani...don't they deserve a little safety?)
In fact, Mani Poola’s traffic-engineering “handiwork” has actually caused at least one company, RTi Research, to relocate from Stamford to Norwalk. (Coincidentally, this article appeared in the same edition of the Advocate as the 11/13/14 article featuring my mugshot.) And RTi is far from alone in its abysmal opinion of our traffic situation; Stamford now has the dubious distinction of having he highest office vacancy rate in Fairfield County.
Perhaps Mayor Martin is right about our need for a new traffic czar—especially if this is the first step toward encouraging Mani to find another job....
Steering Toward a Solution?
It's been a few weeks since Nagi and the City attempted to cram a quart of travel lanes into a pint of roadway on Bradley Place. Fortunately, although there have been several close calls since then, no crashes have occurred yet...at least as far as I know. And, while our top officials continue to tip-toe around the "complicated matter" (i.e., Nagi's apparent encroachment on the City right-of-way) that is the root cause of the insufficient street-widening here, our 16th-District representatives, Steve Kolenberg and Matt Quinones, are taking this matter very seriously. As you can see below, on January 6th they submitted the following agenda item for the Board of Representatives' Transportation Committee Meeting to be held at 7:00 PM on Thursday 1/22/15:
Now, I admit that the additional traffic generated by Maple Ridge (i.e., Nagi's rental units and daycare) should have little direct effect on Bradley Place at present, since there is currently a landscaping barrier blocking Maple Ridge's access to Bradley. (This barrier is supposed to remain in place until a traffic light is installed on High Ridge at Bradley.) The real problem for our neighborhood arose when Nagi widened Bradley Place by only two feet for a third travel lane. (Check out my last few updates for details.) In fact, Nagi’s installation of this third travel lane was mandated in Conditions #6, #13, and #15 of the Zoning Board's 12/16/11 certification of Maple Ridge. As you can see from these conditions, Nagi's street widening was part of the "off-site traffic improvements" mandated by the Zoning Board in its approval of Maple Ridge. And, in this respect, Maple Ridge WILL immediately affect vehicle and pedestrian safety on High Ridge at Bradley.
Finally, I have been studying the Connecticut Department of Transportation’s Highway Design Manual to determine if our newly-designed intersection on High Ridge at Bradley conforms to DOT standards. If you compare the table titled Recommended Tolerable Encroachments for Right-Turning Vehicles to my traffic videos below, you will see that the new intersection simply fails miserably.
First, note the specification of “No encroachment into adjacent lanes” for turns made from a through road (High Ridge) to a stop-controlled street (Bradley).
Then check out Note #4 below the table:
“For the indicated tolerable encroachment (e.g., none into adjacent lanes), the design vehicle should not come closer than 9 in. to the lane at any point in the turn.”
And check out Note #5, as well:
“Regardless of the selected design vehicle or the criteria for encroachment, a WB-50 should physically be able to make all turns at all intersections without backing up and without impacting curbs, parked cars, utility poles, mailboxes or any other obstruction.”
Now go back to those videos and tell me with a straight face that it is physically possible for a school bus to make a right turn from High Ridge without encroaching into the oncoming travel lane on Bradley or jumping the curb at the corner.
Of course, Mayor Martin’s solution to our traffic messes is to hire a six-figure “traffic czar” to fix them. (At least I’m not the only person who knows that Mani Poola can’t synchronize our traffic lights.) Before we go this far, perhaps the Mayor should stop by High Ridge at Bradley to see the mess that his “traffic engineer” has created instead of fixed. (As the medical maxim goes, Primum non nocere: “First, do no harm.” Got it, Mani?)
Close Calls on Candid Camera
New Year's Day 2015 Update:
Striped Out to Strike Out!
(Imagine a school bus turning right from High Ridge onto that puny lane…)
Happy New Year, everyone! I predict that 2015 will start out with a bang—literally. Sometime between 10 AM and noon on December 26th, 2014, a few crafty individuals managed to create three travel lanes at the top of Bradley Place where there had previously been only two. I wasn’t there to witness “Mani Poola’s Miracle of Faith,” but a neighbor told me that no police officers were on scene to direct traffic around the artists who striped out the new lanes. And, if those guys were City employees, they didn’t do a very good job at measuring (as you will see).
Here’s a video of the view from the corner of High Ridge Road and Bradley Place:
Bradley Place resident and local contractor Steve Arvan skillfully used his professional tape measure to check the width of each lane. The westbound travel lane is barely 10 feet wide, but only at the corner—it quickly squeezes down to 9 feet, 8 inches for the rest of its length: And the two eastbound turning lanes are each less than 10 feet wide:
Here are two cars stopped side by side at the top of Bradley Place, while a smaller sedan waits to turn left from High Ridge Road. As you can see, there is barely any lane width to spare for the sedan as it turns onto Bradley:
The following day, I captured this video of a Petro oil truck attempting to turn right from High Ridge Road onto Bradley Place in the newly created westbound travel lane. Watch where the truck ends up:
It is painfully apparent that the only option for a vehicle this large (or larger) is to either cross over the double-yellow line into the eastbound turning lane (if no cars are there), or to “cut the corner” by driving up on the sidewalk (if cars are in the turning lane). In fact, another truck apparently had to do just that sometime between last Saturday and today. Check out the new tire tracks on the sidewalk at the corner of High Ridge and Bradley in these photos, taken today:
(The scary thing is that school children wait on this corner for their buses: a lawyer's fantasy, and a parent's nightmare!)
Incredibly, this mess is totally preventable. The City owns more than enough property to widen Bradley Place to the same specs as Cedar Heights Road (which also has a turning lane) up the street. But our officials would rather risk a lawsuit for their poorly designed intersection than take back their own right of way for public--rather than private--use. (See my 12/20/14 update, Every Which Way But Right, and my 12/13/14 update, Parking-Gate!, below, for details.)
Fortunately, school wasn’t in session and truck traffic was light all week, due to the holidays. But things will be back to normal on Monday. And your neighborhood videographer will be waiting at the intersection for the first hapless school-bus driver who attempts to turn right from High Ridge onto Bradley in afternoon rush-hour traffic. Hopefully there won’t be any cars stopped in the turning lane—or anyone standing on the corner—when that happens. Stay tuned....
Every Which Way But Right
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:
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.
Executive Assistant to Mayor David R. Martin
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),
(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….)
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.)
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).
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:
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:
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:
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.
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....
"It's Like Déjà Vu All Over Again!"
"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!
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.
(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....)
Stamford still "Rogue Town"
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 You Bargain with the Devil..."
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!)
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 @email@example.com if you require immediate assistance."
I don’t even know where to begin. Let’s just sum up Mr. DeMarco’s more, um, “colorful” decisions:
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.)
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:
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?
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 errors—lack of abutter notification and revising his modified application after submitting it—that 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:
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….
Neighborhood cries fowl over development
"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:
Day-care for 120 children
(under Nagi’s rejected/appealed application)
- OR -
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:
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. Mills—during 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.
(By all rights, this represents an oral contract between Procurement, LLC and our neighborhood. We rest our case....)
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.)
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):
(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?)
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:
Mr. Thomas R. Mills
22 Blackwood Lane
Stamford, CT 06903
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:
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:
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.)
“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.
Still, as unbelievable as Mr. DeMarco’s excuses sound, they pale in comparison to this one:
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….
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:
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….
R.I.P. 808 High Ridge Road
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!)
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....
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….
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):
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!
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.....
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|
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.)
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.....
DeMarco’s 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?
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…”.
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 won’t 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:
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."
Gurpreet Ahuja’s “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 Nagi’s 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….
Was Tricia Busted for Speeding?
I apologize for not updating the website sooner, but there is almost nothing new to report—just 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, Nagi—do the right thing!
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:
(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….)
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.....
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).
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…..
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."
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.)
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!)
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….
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....)
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...
Audrey, Please Say it Ain't So!
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....
Judge to Dr. Ahuja: Lawyers are not Prisoners!
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….
Demetrios Meets Three of Us
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!
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):
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.
(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:
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:
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....
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!
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….)
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):
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....
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….
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.
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….
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….
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:
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…
Too Close for Comfort?I had promised more photos of Nagi's "Maple Ridge" houses in my previous update, so here they are.
808 High Ridge Road (facing northbound)
816 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.
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.)
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....)
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....
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….
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?")
Gurpreet Bares All!
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:
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!)
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
(I’m just sayin’….)
Coming next—a walk down “Memory Lane” with Nagi….
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....
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.)
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."
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…..
"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 :
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 :
(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.
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 @firstname.lastname@example.org 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?)
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!)
Nagi's Settlement Heads to Court on Friday 6/22!
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.
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.
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....)
High Ridge Road Traffic Gets an "F!"
Example of heavy traffic conditions on High Ridge Road at Vine Road
Nagi's "Early-Bird Special" Zoning Board Meeting!
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....
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.
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!"
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!
Nagi Pays Past-Due Property TaxesAfter 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.
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:
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.)
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).
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.
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
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...".
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.
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’.”
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?)
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.
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:
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?
(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:
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 Stamford: Preserve, 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....)
(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.
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."
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.
Nagi, please pay your property taxes!
(I need the money...)
Jerry Bosak: "I didn't do it!!!"
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 <email@example.com>
Date: Sun, March 04, 2012 7:55 pm
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
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:(Click the link above to see Gurpreet Ahuja's 2/22/12 motion to intervene in Nagi's appeal.)
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!
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.
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.)
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....)
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....)
Ahuja to Court: Gimme Time!
Nagi to Court: Toss Ahuja Appeal!
(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.....
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.....
(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.....
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....
(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.....
(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).
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.
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.
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....
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”
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:
(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:
(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.
(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.
(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......
(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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call the hotline at 203-724-5629. (As always, all emails and calls are confidential.)
12/11/11 Update #1:
(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