(Note the dislodged hose, which counted nothing in that lane....)
So what’s going on? Apparently this is a brand new traffic count that the Connecticut Department of Transportation (DOT) requested from the City after the DOT found a bunch of inconsistencies a traffic study that the City recently submitted with its application for a light on High Ridge at Bradley.
As an aside, Nagi had hired The All-Knowing Joe Balskus, formerly of Tighe & Bond, to perform this now-discredited traffic study several years ago. You might remember Joe. He never failed to fascinate us with a variety of factoids and contradictions at the public hearings for Nagi’s “Maple Ridge” development. (Search this page for “Balskus” to enjoy some of these “Balskus-ism’s”.)
First, let’s look at the DOT's comments on Tighe & Bond's study. Here, DOT Transportation Engineer Jay Lockaby summarizes the study’s problems. In addition to, um, questionable traffic counts, Mr. Lockaby’s Note #7 states that:
“It is not appropriate to utilize the Peak Hour Vehicular Volume Warrant in this situation. According to the MUTCD, the Peak Hour Warrant ‘shall be applied only in unusual cases, such as office complexes, manufacturing plants, industrial complexes, or high-occupancy vehicle facilities that attract or discharge large numbers of vehicles over a short time.’ This situation does not meet this description.”
In other words, the traffic study assumed that Nagi’s “Maple Ridge” was like a factory or an office complex, where a bunch of vehicles come and go at the same times each day. But “Maple Ridge” is no office complex. Strike one….
And what about the term “warrant” mentioned above? In the MUTCD (Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices), a “warrant” is “a set of criteria which can be used to define the relative need for, and. appropriateness of, a particular
traffic control device [such as a traffic signal]. Warrants are usually expressed in the form of numerical requirements such as the volume of vehicular or pedestrian traffic.”
Unfortunately for Nagi, the DOT’s review suggests that a traffic light on High Ridge at Bradley is not justified, at least according to the numbers in Tighe & Bond’s study.
To illustrate, check out the DOT's marked-up version of the study. Their corrected numbers and comments appear in red. (This reminds me of a teacher’s marks on a student’s poorly-written paper—which actually fits here!) As you can see, Page 2 is full of red ink, with comments such as:
“These numbers don’t match. Where do they come from?”
“According to hourly counts, these are the correct numbers to use. Please use this as an example to correct on all other pages.”
Even more damning are the number of Tighe & Bond's “YES’s” that the DOT replaced with “NO’s” (46 in all…I counted). The “NO” at the bottom of Page 2 after the question: “Warrant Satisfied?” pretty much sums up the DOT’s opinion regarding the need for a light at Bradley.
But why didn’t our (now-retired) Traffic Engineer, Mani “I-Have-a-$100,000-Check-From-Nagi” Poola, catch these inconsistencies long before the DOT did? Mani’s vague and contradictory statements at the 8/25/15 Planning Board meeting (covered in my 10/25/15 update, below) suggest that he was more concerned with who was paying for the traffic light than with any justification for it. Which brings us to:
Design of, Cost of, & Funding for the Traffic Light
Although the traffic counters have been installed and removed, the burning question remains: who is paying for the new study—and, more importantly, for the traffic light itself? I understand that the City did hire another contractor (instead of Tighe & Bond) for the new traffic counts. If Stamford's taxpayers are going to be on the hook for this cost and that of the light, we deserve to know what these costs are.
Unfortunately, our new Transportation Bureau Chief, Joshua Benson has hidden this information from us. Here is Page 59 of the Planning Board’s 2016-2017 Capital Budget:
Cedar Heights Road at High Ridge Road (March 2, 2015)
(where District Rep Matt Quinones MOSHES “Mani-the-Fanny…”.)
(This is what you call a "Machine with a Mission...".)
As you know, Nagi was successful in his bid last November to have the Zoning Board modify some of the conditions they imposed in their 2011 approval of Maple Ridge. FYI, here's the text from Nagi's 2014 request for modification:
Application 211-24A Modification – PROCUREMENT, LLC, 11 Maplewood Place, 808, 812, 816, 820 and 826 High Ridge Road - Special Exception modification, Applicant requests modification of an approved Special Exception and Site Plan (211-23.24 revised to 9/12/14) pursuant to Section 9 E.4, RM-1 Multi-Family, Low Density Design District to increase the number of dwelling units by 2 units, to increase the number of parking spaces by 3 spaces, to eliminate the requirement that ownership of the units be in the form of a condominium and to eliminate the requirement that a traffic signal be installed at the intersection of Bradley Place and High Ridge Road prior to the allowance of vehicular traffic from the subject premises to pass via easement over an adjacent parcel to Bradley Place. Located in the RM-1, Multi-Family Low Density Design District, having addresses of 11 Maplewood Place, 808, 812, 816, 820 and 826 High Ridge Road.
(I have bolded the relevant section here.) BUT, at the last minute (in response to our neighborhood's outcry over the driveway issue), I had been assured that Nagi *withdrew* his request to open the driveway to Bradley Place without a traffic light first being installed on High Ridge at Bradley. Regardless of whether he did or not, that request was NOT approved by the Zoning Board. This fact is explicitly stated on Page 11 of the minutes of that meeting. I have copied this discussion below:
12. Application 211-24A Modification – PROCUREMENT, LLC, Special Exception modification
Mr. Mills opened discussion to the Board. Mr. Michelson feels the Board should deny all requests. Mr. Morris said he was not concerned about the two extra units. Ms. McManus wanted to check parking requirements for the expanded daycare facility. She was not concerned about the 2 units nor the 3 parking spaces. All members discussed and did not want to give the pass through to Bradley Place.
Note that the requirement for the landscaped buffer across "Maple Ridge's" driveway is spelled out in Condition 8 of the Zoning Board's 2011 certification of "Maple Ridge." (This buffer was mandated to ensure that no one "forgot" to close the previously proposed "vehicle control gate" across the driveway. And the requirement that this buffer can be removed ONLY if a traffic light is installed is stated in Condition 10.
The Zoning Board's minutes of its 11/17/14 meeting (during which they voted to approve Nagi's modifications) confirm that the 2011 condition regarding the buffer remains intact. Note that the Board's consideration of Nagi's "Application 211-24A Modification" begins halfway down Page 9 of this document, and the modified Condition 8 can be found at the top of Page 10. I have copied the modified Condition 8 below, and I bolded the un-altered text regarding the landscaped buffer:
8. The applicant shall submit a modified site plan replacing the nine (9) surface parking spaces at the rear of building 2 with landscaping and replacing the vehicle control gate with a landscaped buffer a minimum of ten (10) wide along the northerly property line, subject to Zoning Board staff approval of revised landscaping and site plans prior to issuance of a building permit. Applicant shall be permitted to construct three (3) parking spaces at the rear of the property as shown on “Plot Plan”, revised to July 23, 2014 (parking spaces 31, 32, and 33, subject to submission of a landscaping plan to increase the buffering between the parking spaces and the property line, subject to approval of the Land Use Bureau staff and installation prior to issuance of Certificate of Occupancy.
So the landscaped buffer MUST remain across the driveway until there is a traffic light on High Ridge at Bradley. By removing this buffer before such a light is installed, Nagi has committed a zoning violation.
You might recall that a "supplemental capital appropriation" request for the traffic light appeared on the Planning Board's 8/25/15 meeting agenda. And the Planning Board's 8/25/15 minutes indicate that this request was approved. Interestingly, it was City Traffic Engineer Mani Poola who presented this request to the Board:
Citywide Signals - Project #C5 6174 ($100,000.00) - Install a new traffic signal at the intersection of High Ridge Road @ Bradley Place. Mani Poola, PE City of Stamford Traffic Engineer made a brief presentation and answered the Board’s questions. After a brief discussion, Mr. Quick moved to recommend approval of this request and that this request is consistent with the 2015 Master Plan; Mr. Tepper seconded the motion, and passed unanimously with eligible members present voting, 5-0 (Dell, Fishman, Quick, Tepper and Totilo).
You might also recall that, during the Board of Representatives' Transportation Committee meeting on 1/22/15, Mani Poola said this:
Mr. Poola stated that the majority of the traffic is passenger vehicles and by reducing the width of the travel lanes, traffic speed is reduced. The development does not have access to Bradley Place. He does not feel there is a need to widen the street. There is currently no money for a signal at that intersection.
Now, why is the City suddenly so interested in using $100,000 of our tax dollars to install a traffic signal on High Ridge Road--which is a state highway? (I'll give you one guess--and to think that our City officials are bending over backward for a guy who doesn't even pay his property taxes on time!) Also, remember that Mani Poola had previously said that such a light would cost around $250,000. And we know that Nagi's $100,000 pledge was made toward all of his "off-site traffic improvements," not just toward the light. So where is the extra money coming from?
In any case, if you think you have a tough time getting out of Bradley Place now, wait until Nagi's driveway to "Maple Ridge" is opened up...with or without a traffic light. We're going to have to set our alarms five minutes early--every day--to get to work on time. And we'll have to leave five minutes earlier to run every single errand. Multiply this five minutes of wasted time for every trip times every resident in our Indian Ridge development, then multiply that total times 365. That's how many minutes of our collective time Nagi will waste in a single year--and with total impunity.
So PLEASE contact the City officials listed below by phone, email, or both. Feel free to use this sample letter:
I am writing to file a complaint against Procurement LLC's failure to comply with Conditions #8 and #10 in the Zoning Board's 12/16/11 certification of Procurement's "Maple Ridge" development at 808-816 High Ridge Road. Those two conditions, (which were not modified during Procurement's 11/10/14 "Application 211-24A Modification"), require a landscaping buffer with a minimum width of 10 feet across the driveway between the apartment/daycare complex and Bradley Place, until a traffic light is installed on High Ridge Road at Bradley Place. Despite the current lack of such a light, the landscaping was recently removed from that buffer, leaving only an asphalt curb across the driveway. For the safety of our community, please enforce the conditions that the Zoning Board imposed on this complex upon approving it despite widespread neighborhood opposition. Thank you.
Stamford Mayor David Martin:
Zoning Enforcement Officer James Lunney III:
District-16 Representative Steven Kolenberg:
Phone: (203) 461-0063
District-16 Representative Matthew Quinones:
Phone: (203) 667-6295
If we allow the City to "look the other way" while Nagi does whatever he wants (again!), we will ALL be sorry.
Sorry for the long delay between updates—I’m stuck at home recovering from surgery, and I’m currently walking around on a cane. But this info is so important that I had to get the story to you. During the past week or so, I’ve noticed a lot of construction activity near the end of Sun Dance Road (which I can see from my back yard). You know, big white City trucks with flashing lights, City workers in safety vests, lots of noise, etc.
The workers were out again this morning, but, by the time I hobbled over there on my cane, they had packed it in for the day. But I did speak with one of my neighbors who happened to be there the last time the City workers showed up, and he gave me the whole filthy scoop.
Apparently, the Stamford WPCA (Water Pollution Control Authority) was cleaning out the sewer main on Sun Dance Road a few weeks ago when they came across an interesting discovery in the underground access vault at manhole #21 (located between #283 and #289 Sun Dance). Here’s a closer look at that manhole:
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:
Of course, Chief Building Inspector Robert DeMarco has proven his talent at producing permits without following proper procedure and/or after the fact, so I wouldn't be surprised if a building permit suddenly shows up for Nagi's paving job. And, if not, ask yourself why Nagi was given a pass here--again. (Yeah, I'm thinking the same thing....)
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:
Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! After proudly bringing you news of Nagi’s shenanigans for over four years, I thought I had seen them all. But you can always count on Nagi for surprises. And, true to form, he just dropped The Big One on the Ahuja’s.
Check out Procurement LLC’s latest lawsuit on the state’s judicial website. It was filed about a week ago. First, click on the Application for Pre-Judgment Remedy. There you will see that Nagi is suing Gurpreet Ahuja (Dr. Ajay Ahuja’s ex-wife) and Ahuja Holdings, LLC (Dr. Ahuja and his son, Atty. Nicholas Ahuja) —that is, the entire Ahuja family for $1.6 MILLION
dollars! He is also asking the court to attach the Ahuja’s property, garnish their assets, and do just about everything but flog them.
Now, Nagi is no stranger to lawsuits, having sued the City—and having been sued by Gurpreet Ahuja—in the past. (See “Approve or I Sue!” on this website for more on Nagi’s apparent love of litigation.) So is this suit a “tit-for-tat” to the Ahuja’s? Click the Proposed Writ Summons and Complaint link to find out. I’ll wait right here.
According to the complaint, Nagi’s suit is a multi-pronged offensive—it contains no less than six separate counts. But, to keep things simple for this update, let’s examine only the first count, which alleges vexatious litigation by Gurpreet Ahuja—in other words, that Gurpreet filed her appeal against the City and Procurement without probable cause and with malice, and that the appeal was resolved in Nagi’s favor.
As we know, Nagi did, in fact, prevail in Gurpreet’s appeal. (Search this web page for my 08/01/13 update for details.) But what about Gurpreet’s alleged lack of probable cause and alleged malice? Let’s pick apart Nagi’s complaint a bit and see.
Paragraph 7 on Page 3 of Nagi’s complaint states:
“After several sessions of public hearings extending over several months, the Zoning Board voted to approve the Second Application on December 12, 2011.”
Well, yes, the Board did ultimately approve Nagi’s application. But this statement totally obscures one of the most contentious zoning battles in recent history, as documented well in over 100 pages on this website. (Check out my Rowdy Days! link and my updates far, far below this one for details.)
More ominously, during the 2011 public hearings noted above, my neighbor, Joe Grosso, was accosted by Nagi’s employees on High Ridge Road. Here is what Joe later told the Zoning Board at the 11/10/14 public hearing on Nagi’s modifications. You can listen to his testimony at the 2:29 hour mark in the Board's video of the hearing.
“I was across the street putting some signage up, and three “gentlemen” from his [Nagi’s] store rushed me. And one of them took a swing at me and spit on my window sill [sic] of my car. I got into my car…I’m 60 years old…I was 65 years old at that time. [Joe accidentally reversed his respective ages here.] And, if he hit me, that’s a felony. He didn’t hit me…he tried…but that stands to what went on there, and that’s a threat that was made to her [Eileen Towne—her testimony appears below]. And there was another threat that was made today—I won’t mention the name—but there was another threat made today to another person. And, if this is what ‘bettering’ the neighborhood is, I don’t want any part of it!”
Actually, it was this violent encounter that led me to begin collaborating with Nagi’s attorney, John Leydon, to eventually reach an uneasy compromise with Nagi.
However, not all of my neighbors agreed with my compromise, and understandably so. And, if Gurpreet Ahuja had the means to appeal the Zoning Board’s decision, was it really frivolous for her to exercise her First-Amendment right?
Paragraph 9 on Page 3 of Nagi’s complaint states:
“The focus of Defendant Gurpreet Ahuja’s appeal claimed that the Zoning Board failed to properly provide notice of the continuation of public hearings on the Second Application…”
Yes, that was a part of her appeal—but only a small part. To refresh your memory—and to enlighten the court in Bridgeport, where Nagi filed his lawsuit—here is Gurpreet’s 12/29/11 appeal. As you can see, it was based on many more issues than simply lack of notice. (Check out my previous updates for a detailed analysis of Gurpreet’s appeal, Nagi’s defenses, and the case’s ultimate outcome.)
Also, remember that Nagi successfully moved Gurpreet’s appeal from Stamford to Hartford—the home-turf of Nagi’s attorney and brother-in-law, Eliot Gersten. (The Gersten family has beaucoup clout in the Hartford area, as publicly touted in Eliot’s late father Charles Gersten’s obituary.) When that happened, I predicted that Gurpreet’s appeal was doomed—and I was right. So defeating Gurpreet’s appeal was certainly not a walk in the park.
Finally, take a look at Paragraph 17 on Page 5 of Nagi’s lawsuit:
“Following its successful prosecution of the First Appeal, and the successful defense of the Second Appeal filed by Defendant Gurpreet Ahuja, Procurement submitted an application to modify the court-approved plan of development and to reconcile differences in the two approved plans by seeking to add two dwelling units and three parking spaces and include other conditions.”
Ahem…the term “other conditions” is a euphemism for the fact that, in 2014, Nagi broke every compromise that he had publicly declared to us back in 2011. The “other conditions” were 19 apartments (instead of 17 condo’s) and a 120-child daycare (instead of a 90-child daycare), as documented in my updates below. Was Gurpreet's appeal of these modifications truly frivolous, as well?
More importantly, our Mid-Ridges community endured the same thuggish tactics in 2014 that we did back in 2011. For example, at around 10:15 AM on Monday 11/10/14—the morning of the public hearing for Nagi’s application for his modifications—my neighbor, Eileen Towne, was accosted in front of her home by two men in a gray Mercedes sedan bearing Connecticut registration 122XKV, then by a woman in a red Jeep bearing Connecticut registration 8AHLB7. Here is what Eileen told the Zoning Board that evening at the public hearing on Nagi’s modifications. You can listen to her testimony at the 1:41:45 hour mark on the City’s video of the hearing.
“In order to let our neighbors know of the meeting, I used my personal property to place signs with the time and place of this meeting. This morning, several of Mr. Osta’s employees, and his son, confronted me outside my house. I looked out my window, saw a nice BMW [actually a Mercedes] pull up to my sign and start ripping it down. I went out and told them to get off my property, that’s my property, and they had no business taking it down. I was told to ‘Shut up, bitch!’...and I was told that my life was going to be better from this. So, with the cars coming, I asked them how my life was going to be better, and they had no answer, and they went off, and that’s fine.
By chance, I was going by my window and I see a nice red Jeep—I believe that was his daughter there. I open my door, and I was yelled at from the street to ‘Get back in the house and mind your own business—I’m not on your property!’ I came out, and I said, ‘I’m not saying you’re on my property.’ She said to me, ‘Get a life,’ ‘Mind your own business,’ and ‘Why don’t you stand in front of my car, you old hag?,’ as she proceeded to rev her engine. This is our ‘neighbors’—thank you very much! I personally want it on record that I feel threatened by their words and their behavior. This is how my life is getting ‘better,’ by Mr. Osta saying he’s going to be a ‘good neighbor,’ which—it might have been at one of those other meetings—which he said he was going to do. I’m concerned about this kind of behavior.”
FYI, here is a photo of the woman and vehicle described above:
Three days ago, I received a call from staff writer Keila Torres Ocasio of The Advocate. She wanted to know what was behind the removal of the landscaped buffer in Nagi's driveway to Maple Ridge. As you can see from her concise, well-written article (click on the link above), she condensed four years of community angst over Nagi's antics into less than 500 words! (Pretty amazing, considering the fact that this website has ballooned to over 250 pages....)
Not only did Ms. Torres Ocasio (whom I have never met) do a GREAT write-up, she also took photos of the new "landscaped"--and I use this term loosely--buffer. As you can see from "Image 2" in the article, Nagi has replaced several well-tended shrubs in the buffer with a few small, unsightly weeds. In contrast to the original plantings--which looked suspiciously like the line of shrubs at the right in the photo, just behind the new buffer--these weeds look like Nagi's version of "A Charlie Brown Christmas." But why wouldn't Nagi simply re-plant the original shrubs?
Probably because he can't...at least, not anymore.
As I said in my comment after the article, I'll bet that if Zoning Enforcement Officer Lunney scrapes away three inches of soil in the new "landscaping" buffer, he will find a strip of fresh asphalt connecting the parking lots of Maple Ridge and Nagi Jewelers. This way, Nagi can simply remove the new curbing around the buffer and open the driveway in a matter of hours. (Perhaps he was hoping to do this on Monday, until he was thwarted by your complaints to the Mayor.)
BTW, here is Mayor Martin's initial response to those complaints on Monday:
From: Mayor's Office <MayorsOffice@StamfordCT.gov>
Subject: Maple Ridge/Nagi
Date: September 21, 2015
Mayor Martin thanks you for your email, has read it and asked that I respond.
I have contacted the Land Use Bureau and Zoning Board to find out the process for determining whether there is a violation of a zoning condition.
Once I hear back from them, I will let you know where this matter stands.
Again, thank you for bringing this to Mayor Martin’s attention.
Executive Assistant to Mayor David R. Martin
And here is the Mayor's follow-up response the next day:
From: Mayor's Office <MayorsOffice@StamfordCT.gov>
Subject: Maple Ridge/Nagi
Date: September 22, 2015
Thank you for your email notifying my office of your concerns with the landscaping buffer that is required at the Maple Ridge Development.
Immediately upon receipt of several emails reporting this potential violation, my office notified the head of our Land Use Department, who addressed the matter the same day. The property owner's attorney sent written confirmation that the buffer zone would be replaced by close of business yesterday, which, to the best of our understanding, has been done. (It is also our understanding that the landscaping buffer was temporarily removed as part of a paving project.)
Again, thank you for notifying me of this situation.
Mayor David Martin
From the email of Valerie Pankosky
Executive Assistant to Mayor David R. Martin
There is no doubt that the original curbing had been removed before this new curbing was installed across the driveway on Monday--several concerned neighbors called me to report that event as it was happening. (BTW, thanks for keeping an eye out for the rest of the neighborhood!) As for why it was removed, only Nagi knows for sure.
But why would Nagi want to open the driveway to Bradley before a traffic light is installed (in violation of the Zoning Board's condition)? Maybe he's getting complaints from his tenants and day-care clients that it's nearly impossible to make a left turn out of his driveway onto High Ridge Road. Or maybe traffic is backing up in his parking lot during peak drop-off and pick-up times, and he wants to alleviate the backup. Or maybe the parents who live in our neighborhood (or west of our neighborhood, toward Long Ridge Road) find it too inconvenient to have to pick up their kids in the parking lot, then make a left turn onto High Ridge Road, and *another* left onto Bradley, instead of simply turning left out of the driveway directly onto Bradley. Or maybe.... (You get the idea.)
In any case, we have been patiently waiting all week for the landscaping buffer to be *properly* restored--as Nagi's attorney had apparently promised to Mayor Martin. We'll see if it really happens.....
09/25/15 Postscript - Your interest in Keila Torres Ocasio's article about Nagi's hijinks took it right to the top:
School bus turning right onto Bradley vs. van turning left from Bradley (1/7/15):
(Right now, www.stopahuja.com does not exist. At least not yet….)
(Somebody stole the shrubs....)
As you can see from this photo taken earlier today, Nagi is apparently preparing to open the driveway from his "Maple Ridge" apartment/daycare complex onto Bradley Place. The previously-existing landscaped (i.e., planted shrub) buffer across the driveway has been removed, and only the asphalt curbing remains. And there is aGrasso backhoe parked at the edge of Nagi Jewelers' rear lot that is chomping at the bit to remove the curb and open the driveway to Bradley:
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 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....
This is an *incredible* feat, especially since it coincides with the Pope's visit to New York yesterday and today. (Nagi should be happy that he briefly upstaged the Pope...right?)
Finally, I forgot to mention that a neighbor stopped by the Building Department on Monday to check if Nagi had obtained a permit for his paving job. According to the assistant there, no permit could be found. This is not surprising, since a permit would have required a sign-off from the Environmental Protection Board--and from the Zoning Department. And I know that no police officers were hired for traffic control while Grasso Companies' heavy equipment--including a paver large enough to handle the Merritt Parkway--was being driven up and down Bradley Place. Here's a photo of the paver being piloted back onto its oversized-load flatbed trailer:
This is the diagram for Stamford Police Crash Report #1506020146. The collision occurred at 3:29 PM on June 2, 2015. It happened on High Ridge Road at Bradley Place. And it was, in all likelihood, preventable.
As you can see, a tractor-trailer pulled out onto High Ridge Road from Bradley Place as a car was heading south on High Ridge. The car actually swerved into the oncoming lane of traffic in an attempt to avoid getting broadsided by the truck. Yes, the car's driver was injured. Yes, she can probably sue the City regarding the sub-standard design of the junction of High Ridge and Bradley. And she still has nearly two years to file a suit.
Although SPD Crash Report #1506020146 is a public document, I have posted only the diagram and narrative here to protect the driver's privacy. (If you want the entire report, you can pick it up at headquarters.)
According to the narrative:
"Operator #1 [the truck driver] stated he was turning left out of Bradley Place onto High Ridge Road when he collided with m/v #2. Operator #1 stated SOUTHBOUND HIGH RIDGE ROAD CARS STOPPED TO PERMIT HIM OUT [emphasis added] but m/v #2 [the car] drove around."
"Operator #2 stated she was traveling southbound High Ridge Road in the left lane when m/v #1 suddenly exited Bradley Place. Operator #2 stated she swerved left towards on-coming traffic to avoid in an attempt to avoid the mva."
Here's a little more info: The tractor-trailer was a U.S. Foods Freightliner, which delivers food to Ridge Plaza Shopping Center (north of Nagi Jewelers) every day. It was stopped in the narrow left-turning lane on Bradley Place, waiting to pull out onto High Ridge Road. An unknown vehicle (which is not shown on the diagram, but which is mentioned in the narrative) had apparently STOPPED in the right lane of High Ridge Road, presumably to allow the tractor-trailer to pull out of Bradley Place.
Meanwhile, a 65-year-old woman was driving her Jeep Liberty in the center lane of High Ridge Road (closest to the double-yellow line). As she passed the line of stopped traffic on her right, the Freightliner pulled out of Bradley Place and struck the passenger side of her Jeep.
Now, ask yourself: if you are humming along in the right lane of High Ridge Road and a tractor-trailer is waiting to pull out from a side street like Bradley Place, why in the world would you STOP on High Ridge Road and let the tractor-trailer pull out across your path?
Since you, the reader, know about the problem on Bradley, you know the answer: Because YOU need to turn RIGHT on Bradley, but you CAN'T, since the truck on Bradley is IN YOUR WAY (due to the small turning radius and narrow westbound travel lane on Bradley). So you STOP on High Ridge, and perhaps you tap your horn and wave to the truck to pull out of Bradley so you can make your turn. But you have no control over the Jeep that is passing you on your left--and which the truck can't see, since YOUR large, stopped vehicle is blocking the TRUCK DRIVER'S view of southbound TRAFFIC on High Ridge Road. (This is exactly what I predicted back in January, when Nagi turned two-lane Bradley Place into *three* lanes by adding a measly TWO FEET to its width and then striping it out.)
Now, this particular collision required THREE vehicles to be in the SAME place at the SAME time:
(1) a large vehicle in the left-turning lane on Bradley, waiting to pull out onto High Ridge;
(2) a large vehicle stopped in the right southbound lane of High Ridge, trying to turn RIGHT onto Bradley, and;
(3) a third vehicle (of any size) traveling in the center southbound lane of High Ridge past stopped vehicle #2.
At present, there is a stop sign controlling traffic at the top of Bradley. This allows vehicles to pull out whenever there is a gap in traffic on High Ridge, thus keeping the junction clear most of the time. But stick a traffic light up there and you will guarantee a nearly constant line of vehicles stopped in the left-turning lane on Bradley, waiting (one minute? two minutes?) for their light to change. And the first large vehicle--a tractor-trailer, school bus, UPS or Fedex truck, whatever--that needs to turn right from High Ridge onto Bradley will NOT be able to do so. So it will have to STOP in the right lane of High Ridge Road, then WAIT for traffic on Bradley to get a green light and clear the intersection before it can turn right onto Bradley. Does this sound like a safe situation to you? Apparently Mayor Martin thinks so, since he is behind the City's request for $100,000 toward the traffic light.
I attempted to transcribe the discussion about the light from the video of the 8/25/15 Planning Board Meeting. Unfortunately, the sound is terrible--you can barely discern what anyone is saying. But, during the meeting, our soon-to-be-former "Traffic Engineer," Mani Poola, talked out of both sides of his mouth--and occasionally out of another bodily orifice--as you will see. If you scroll to the seven-minute mark in the video, you can listen to the discussion as you read my transcription. (BTW, if you can figure out the unintelligible parts, let me know.)
Mani: This is a request for supplemental capital appropriation of $100,000. This is one of the Zoning Board conditions towards the signalization of Bradley Place and High Ridge Road. [unintelligible] on High Ridge Road, just south of Nagi Jewelers.
Board: Now, this is where [unintelligible]?
Mani: It is just south of Bradley Place.
Board: Right, it’s on the side where A&S is...
Mani: When you are traveling north toward Nagi’s, it’s on the left side.
Mani: Not really. It’s towards light. And there is another $100,000 coming up by Dr. Ahuja.
[unintelligible conversation among Board members]
Board: Now, on this traffic light here, there’s $100,000 being appropriated. How much is Mr. Nagi paying for this light?
Board: That’s his portion?
Mani: That’s his portion.
Board: And when will we be receiving it?
Mani: There’s a check [unintelligible].
Board: This was a stipulation of [unintelligible]?
Mani: That’s correct.
Board: That was my next question. [unintelligible].
Mani: There’s an application for [unintelligible], so it’s in process. We will know, I think, late September or early October.
Mani: [unintelligible] because there is a matching requirement.
Board: It’s a state road. Who [unintelligible] for signalization?
Mani: All signals are City of Stamford. [unintelligible]. There are nine of them. Except for a couple of signals in the North Stamford area, for example, Scofieldtown Road, Interlaken Road [unintelligible].
Board: And when will this light be put in? Do you have any idea when…?
Mani: There is another application by Dr. Ahuja. Right now, all signals [unintelligible]. So they have agreed to pay $150,000 toward signal. that is to be one of the conditions.
Board: What I want to make sure is… the Ahuja’s application…is this light contingent on the approval of his application, or….?
Board: The traffic light will be done no matter what?
Mani: It will be done no matter what, because the condition on Ahuja’s application is that there be some signal [unintelligible].
Board: Mani, the City paying for a light on a state road—is that state-wide, or does it vary from town to town?
Mani: That’s state-wide.
Board: So all Connecticut cities are required to put traffic lights on state roads?
[unintelligible conversation among Board members]
So, in just a few brief minutes, Mani made these conflicting--and occasionally false--statements:
- The City needs $100,000 for the traffic light because it is one of the Zoning Board conditions [imposed on Nagi's "Maple Ridge" development in 2011].
- Dr. Ahuja is paying $100,000 toward the traffic light.
- Nagi is paying $100,000 toward the traffic light.
- Dr. Ahuja is paying $150,000 toward the traffic light.
- Dr. Ahuja's contribution--$100,000 or $150,000, depending on which of Mani's statements you believe--is not contingent upon the approval of his development.
- The light is not contingent upon the approval of Dr. Ahuja's development because the condition on Dr. Ahuja's application is that there be a light (HUH???).
(BTW, for more info on Dr. Ahuja's application, see Page 2 of the Planning Board's 8/25/15 meeting minutes.)
Now check out Mani's response to Board-of-Finance member Sal Gabriele's question in the BOF's 9/10/15 meeting:
"On another matter, Mr. Gabriele asked about the Bradley Place traffic light, which Mr. Poola advised was not yet approved by the Mayor."
Here Mani talks out of both sides of his mouth again. After all, by 9/10/15, Mayor Martin had already earmarked $100,000 of our money to install the light, and the Planning Board approved the Mayor's request on 8/25/15. (No wonder Mani is retiring at the end of the month....)
As for Mani's statement that there are "nine" signals on High Ridge Road: for the record, there are seven signals on High Ridge Road in the short three-quarter-mile stretch between Buxton Farm Road and Vine Road! Here they are:
1) Buxton Farm Road
2) High Ridge Center, north driveway
3) High Ridge Center, south driveway
4) Trader Joe's
6) Cedar Heights / Turn of River Road
7) Vine Road
Because of this, more drivers are now using Turn of River Road and Dunn Avenue as cut-through streets to avoid the delays on High Ridge caused by Mani's unsynchronized gaggle of lights. Ask the residents of these streets what they think about these seven traffic lights. (And, if Nagi's light goes up, that will make eight lights.)
So what can we do about Nagi's--and the Mayor's--latest insult to our intelligence and our pocketbooks? As Mani pointed out, High Ridge is a state road, so Connecticut's Department of Transportation needs to approve the traffic light at High Ridge and Bradley. Fortunately, the DOT has a "Contact Us" page to address your concerns!
Below is a letter that you can simply copy and paste into the DOT's contact page, linked above. Or you might want to share your own near-miss experience at the top of Bradley if you have been a victim of Nagi's street-widening scam. When completing the form, you can select "Safety Concerns" as the topic:
Re: Safety Concern at the junction of High Ridge Road (State Route 137) and Bradley Place
In 2011, Procurement LLC was ordered by Stamford's Zoning Board to widen the top of Bradley Place for a left-turning lane (as a condition of the Board's approval of Procurement's "Maple Ridge" development). In January 2015,Procurement widened the top of 30-foot-wide Bradley Place by a mere two feet. It then striped out three travel lanesin this barely-widened 32-foot-wide section. Bradley Place was thus reduced from two 15-foot-wide lanes to three sub-10-foot-wide lanes. It is now physically impossible for a large vehicle to execute a right turn from High Ridge Road onto Bradley (which is an acute 80-degree angle) without encroaching upon traffic stopped in the left-turning lane on Bradley. Several collisions and many near-misses have resulted from this dangerous configuration.
The City of Stamford is now requesting the DOT's approval for a traffic signal on High Ridge at Bradley. Before the DOT allows this signal, its staff needs to observe the junction of High Ridge at Bradley during rush hour. It will quickly become apparent that a traffic signal here will guarantee that large southbound vehicles on High Ridge willnot be able to execute a right turn onto Bradley, since traffic stopped for a red light in the left-turning lane on Bradley will block the large vehicle's turning path onto this side street. This, in turn, will cause an unsafe backup of southbound traffic on High Ridge Road immediately north of the junction.
You can find several brief YouTube videos depicting this problem, as well as videos of vehicles turning from High Ridge and encroaching on Bradley Place's eastbound travel lanes, here:
This junction must be widened sufficiently to allow large southbound vehicles to turn onto Bradley safely. The City of Stamford owns 10 feet of right-of-way on each side of Bradley Place, but it has chosen not to utilize this property to make the junction safe. The City's inaction has adversely affected the safe flow of traffic on High Ridge Road at the junction, and erecting a traffic signal there will only make the problem worse (as described above). Please address this problem before approving the signal. Thank you for your assistance.
If you feel even more ambitious, you can also email the Board of Finance. The City's request for $100,000 of our tax dollars to fund Nagi's traffic light is scheduled be presented to the BOF, possibly as soon as its November 12th meeting. For your convenience, here are links to each BOF member's email address. (In the end, you, the taxpayer, can influence the City's spending, but only if you make your voice heard.)
Finally, you may have heard about Mayor Martin's plan to close Smith House. He has no money to care for our elderly and our sick, but he now expects us to fork over $100,000 for Nagi's traffic light! This is the same light that Nagi has promised but never delivered to our community for the past four years. And there are dozens of similar projects that benefit other political cronies at our expense. (Need I even mention the Mayor's recent "award" for the bicycle sharrows painted all over our roadways...at an estimated cost of $100 EACH?)
To figure out what's going on behind the scenes in Stamford, just follow the money....
It’s been almost five years since I started Stopnagi.com only two weeks after attending my first Zoning Board meeting in September 2011. This website now has over 70,000 hits — with more than 5,000 hits during the past two months alone! So people are still keeping an eye on our City officials’ shenanigans, the latest of which has even me scratching my head.
You remember the Ahuja family. If not, scroll down this site and you’ll learn about the epic struggle between Nagi and the Ahuja’s that has been dragging on for longer than the Korean War (1950-53). The latest battle took place on 5/10/16, when the court approved Nagi’s $551,490 lien on the Ahuja’s house as a “pre-judgment remedy” in Nagi’s $1.6 million lawsuit against the Ahuja’s.
You would think that Nagi's seven-figure lawsuit and six-figure lien would be more than enough on the Ahuja’s plates. Apparently not, as they have (again) applied to build a medical clinic on their rental properties at 831-833 High Ridge Road. The yellow house at the right of the photo, above, and the light-green house in the center, currently occupy these properties. (BTW, what do you think about the six vehicles parked in the driveway?)
Admittedly, the existing houses are not in great shape, similar to Nagi’s rental houses that were ultimately replaced by “Maple Ridge.” So what could be wrong with a nice new medical clinic in their place? Well, a lot of neighbors are worried that, if the Zoning Board of Appeals approves the clinic, it could morph into something like this:
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:
Thank you for your email to Mayor David Martin. The Mayor has read your email and asked that I look into the matter and respond.
Several neighbors in the Bradley Place neighborhood have contacted the Mayor regarding concerns about 1) the width of the turning lane; and 2) Mr. Osta's use of what may be city-owned property for parking. As to the turning lane, the City's traffic engineer has determined that a 10' width for the turning lane is adequate since this predominantly serves a residential neighborhood and is consistent with recommendations from the recently completed High Ridge/Long Ridge Corridor Improvement Study.
The purported use of city property by Mr. Osta for parking is a more complicated matter, and the Mayor has asked the Land Use Bureau to investigate and report back to him. Once the Land Use Bureau has finished researching this issue, this Office will notify you of the findings.
Thank you again for contacting Mayor David Martin, and please feel free to contact me again if you have additional questions.
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….)
Back in 2011, I assumed that Nagi was going to tie into our settling sewer main on Bradley Place, and I flipped out. When I called the City and learned that he was connecting to Maplewood’s main instead, I did some checking and found that Maplewood’s main ties into Sun Dance Road. So I distributed this letter to the residents of Sun Dance to warn them of the potential consequences of that tie-in. And now the situation turns out to be even worse than I had imagined.
Those of us who dabble in physics know that the area of a pipe is proportional to the square of its radius. So a four-inch reduction in diameter (from 12 to 8 inches) in a sewer main greatly reduces its flow. But don’t take my word for it. Scroll down this page to the table called “Carrying Capacity of Sewer Pipe (gallons per minute).” Sight down the column titled “6” (i.e., 6 feet of downhill pitch per 100 feet of length). As you can see, while a 12-inch pipe can handle 1,033 gallons per minute at this pitch, an 8-inch pipe can handle only 375 GPM—just a little over one third as much. While this flow rate might have been OK for a dozen homes, it’s probably not going to be sufficient for the added load of 19 apartments and a 90-to-120-child day-care center. (Call it “The Pampers Effect...”.)
And now for the smoking gun: Here is an email that Nagi forwarded to me on 10/5/11 (and that I attached to my letter to the residents on Sun Dance). As you can see, Nagi's engineer, Len D'Andrea, sent the email to Nagi and his attorney, John Leydon, on 10/4/11. The PDF file that Mr. D'Andrea attached is actually the City’s old plan to sleeve that 8-inch PVC plastic insert into the existing 12-inch reinforced-concrete-pipe (RCP) sewer main on Maplewood Place!
You might want to right-click on this PDF link and download the file so you can examine it closely. If you repeatedly click the "+" button in Adobe Reader, you can greatly magnify the drawing to see its sordid details. Use the slider bars at the edge of your screen to navigate around the drawing. (Too bad I didn’t do this back in 2011….)
As you can see, this survey was created over 24 years ago, on 4/30/91. The upper half of the drawing is an overhead view of the sewer main, while the lower half is a side (underground) view that shows the main's varying elevations along its length.
Note that the left side of the drawing shows a 10-foot “sanitary sewer easement” (along with a 30-foot “temporary work easement”) running between #283 and #289 Sun Dance Road. And it shows that an 8-inch PVC pipe was inserted into the 12-inch sewer main that runs under these properties. According to the drawing, this section of PVC pipe is 144.3 feet long.
Also, there are three more sections of 8-inch PVC sleeved into the 12-inch main under Maplewood Place. The first one, near the bottom, is 189.8 feet long. The next, closer to the top, is 158.4 feet long, and the last, almost at the top, is 80 feet long. If you look at both views in the drawing, the term 8" PVC appears at least seven times. (Also note the word “proposed,” which is crossed out at least four times in the lower half of the drawing.)
It would thus appear that Mr. D’Andrea’s survey is related to the City’s project that repaired the sewer-main problem on Maplewood Place 24 years ago. Why no one in the City paid any attention to what it really shows is anyone’s guess. But what is clear is that Mr. D'Andrea's 2011 claim that the sewer main on Maplewood Place is 12 inches in diameter was simply false. Either he didn’t know about the 8-inch insert (which I don’t believe for a second; Mr. D’Andrea works for Rocco V. D’Andrea, Inc., the company that created the survey), or Mr. D’Andrea misled City officials.
And now, if that improvised 8-inch PVC pipe on Maplewood Place can’t handle the future load from “Maple Ridge,” will the City shut down the facility? Of course not! They will dig up Maplewood Place (and the private properties at #283 and #289 Sun Dance Road) and install a new sewer main there—with our tax dollars! So, once again (as with the City’s shoddy “widening” of Bradley Place) the story is:
“Anything for Nagi…at the taxpayers’ expense.”
(When will this nonsense finally end?)
(Can you say "trip hazard?" Because the personal-injury lawyers out there sure will....)
Of course, you just knew that City Traffic Engineer Mani Poola had his adroit hand in Springdale's "traffic improvements," as you can see from this photo of him at a recent Springdale Neighborhood Association meeting:
As you can see, the City just tacked on another hundred bucks to the amount due (which was $7,105.44 as of 8/9/15). And it's not like this delinquent payment is without repercussion. I should mention that, while combing through Nagi's real-estate records in 2013, I found this $688,000 mortgage (dated 5/26/11), as well as this $250,000 mortgage (dated 3/6/13) from the Washington Trust Company for Nagi's home at 90 West Bank Lane. (If you have any savings in this bank, you might want to give them a heads-up--after it's your money on the line here.)
A couple of years ago, one of the guys I work with emailed this to me, apparently in jest. (I believe that he was on Nagi Jewelers' mailing list at the time.):
(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:
Unfortunately for Nagi, his apparently late tax payment on “Maple Ridge” technically puts him “in default” on his $7 million construction loan. (Note that I copied only 15 of the 45 pages of this document. The Town Clerk’s office charges a buck a page, and unlike Nagi, I’m not made of money. But I did get most of the good stuff for you. Also, in the interest of responsible journalism, I blacked out Nagi’s checking account numbers on the second-to-last page.)
As a quick aside, “The Exchange Corp.,” which is referred to in Nagi’s $7 million loan document, is the legal entity doing business as Nagi Jewelers. You can confirm this by searching for “The Exchange Corp.” here. Note that Nagi is the president of the business, Nagi’s attorney/brother-in-law, Eliot Gersten, is secretary, and Nagi’s wife, Liz, is vice president. (Yeah, I was confused about that name, too, as you can see from my notations.)
Anyway, under Section 6 (“Default”) on Page 36 of 45, note the following:
Upon the occurrence of any Event of Default (as hereinafter defined), the entire outstanding balance of this Note shall, at the option of the Holder, become immediately due and payable without notice or demand, and, in any event, interest shall immediately accrue at a "default rate" which means the rate of interest which is fourteen (14%) percent per annum, but in no event to exceed the maximum rate allowed by law, until such time, if any, that Lender accepts, in its sole discretion, a cure of the Event of Default.
An Event of Default is defined as any one of the following:
(b) The failure to pay taxes on the Loan or any tax or assessment upon any collateral securing the Loan, on or before the date the same shall become delinquent;
According to Stamford’s Tax Collection office, taxes not paid within one month of the due date (in this case, 7/1/15) are considered delinquent. Thus, the bank can now demand the entire outstanding balance of Nagi's loan, and/or it can begin to charge him 14% annual interest on that amount. (Note that 14% of $7 million is $980,000 per year. If I was Nagi, I would have come up with the extra seven thousand bucks for the taxes instead.)
Now, at this point, Nagi’s $7 million construction loan appears to be owned by Bankwell. (Note that Nagi’s lender was Stamford First Bank, which was a division of The Bank of New Canaan—which was rebranded as Bankwell in 2013.) Now, Bankwell has had its own share of problems (see here, here, and here), and it certainly doesn’t need any more issues from Nagi’s loan for “Maple Ridge.” So my guess is that Nagi will pay his tax bill, pronto.
Of course, the bank isn’t stupid: check out this Assignment of Leases and Rents, which the bank made Nagi sign on 8/29/13 to get his construction loan. In the case of a “default” (such as described above), Bankwell has the right to completely take possession of “Maple Ridge” and modify its rents, make alterations, etc. (Let’s hope, for Nagi’s sake, that prospective tenants are willing to pony up $2,450 per month that Nagi is asking for a two-bedroom apartment four miles away from its competition in downtown Stamford—and with no pool, gym, or other amenities....)
Finally, what are our officials doing about the $14,466.08 (plus interest) in delinquent property taxes that Nagi owed the City as of 8/9/15? I’ll tell you what they’re doing—they are trying to buy him a traffic light on High Ridge at Bradley!
Yes, this is the same light that Nagi has been promising to the community—over and over—since the day he gathered signatures in a petition for it sometime around 2008. This is the same light that Nagi initially pledged $100,000 toward, then pledged whatever was left from that $100,000 after he created his pitiful “off-site traffic improvements” (the shoddy lane-widening, road striping, and no-parking signs)—and that he is now apparently pledging little or nothing toward. Compare this seven-year delay to how quickly Trader Joe’s and CVS installed their traffic lights (less than a year), and you will see how Nagi works. (And, given the fact that a light costs about $250,000, I’ll bet that Trader Joe’s and CVS wish they had the kind of hook with the City that Nagi apparently does!)
But don't take my word for it...check it out for yourself—it’s the second line item in this coming Tuesday’s 8/25/15 Planning Board Agenda, which reads as follows:
SUPPLEMENTAL CAPITAL APPROPRIATIONS:
Citywide Signals - Project #C5 6174 - Install a new traffic signal at the intersection of High Ridge Road @ Bradley Place.
In closing, some residents have disparagingly referred to our once-proud city as “Scam-ford.” Unfortunately, this unflattering moniker is quickly becoming a truism.
Actually, I should have spotted this news over two months ago, but, for personal reasons, my eye has been off the ball; sorry for my delay in reporting it to you. I noticed it today when I happened to check Gurpreet Ahuja's 1/5/15 appeal of the Zoning Board's approval of Nagi's modifications.
As you may remember, at some point Nagi decided that the Zoning Board's 2011 approval of "Maple Ridge" -- despite nearly unanimous opposition from the community -- wasn't good enough for him. So, exactly three years later, on November 10, 2014, he returned to the Board with an application to modify some of the 27 conditions that the Board imposed on him when they approved his project. Most importantly, Nagi reneged on his publicly-stated concession (which may even be an enforceable contract) to build condominiums instead of apartments. He also asked the Board for 19 apartments instead of the 17 condo's that the Board granted, as well as three more parking spaces.
The 11/10/14 Zoning Board Agenda shows Nagi's "Application 211-24A Modification" as Item #4. Here you can see that Nagi also asked the Board to grant "Maple Ridge" direct access to Bradley Place *without* a traffic light on High Ridge at Bradley. But he wisely withdrew that request at the last minute. (BTW, "someone" in the City is now attempting to fund this traffic light with taxpayer dollars. But that's a story for my next update....)
As you remember, despite impassioned pleas (again!) from the neighbors who attended the public hearing--which you can read about in my 11/29/14 "Let's Go to the Video-Tape!" update, below--the Zoning Board approved Nagi's modifications. (Why do we even waste our breath at these hearings?)
And this reminds me.... Our neighbors in Glenbrook and Springdale have just gotten stung by our city officials, too. Check out this article about how--again, despite widespread neighborhood opposition--the Planning Board voted to change the City's Master Plan to appease well-heeled developers at the community's expense. (Don't miss the near-50 comments after the article, which tell the real story even better than does the story itself.) At this point, I'll bet that some Springdale residents are wishing that this was a headstone instead of a plaque:
As you can see, Mr. Benson requested $600,000 to replace equipment at seven existing signal-controlled intersections—AND (ahem) to install a new traffic signal on High Ridge at Bradley (which is the last item in the list under the table). Why was this new light installation bundled together with a bunch of controller upgrades? Is it so that Stamford’s taxpayers will never learn the real cost of the light? (You can decide for yourself.)
Now [drum roll, please] here is Mani Poola’s plan for the traffic signal—which is actually TWO signals: one on High Ridge at Bradley, and another on High Ridge at Donata…not to mention crosswalks and associated walk signals for each intersection. (It looks like something in downtown Manhattan, doesn’t it?) And you can bet that it will cost much more than the simple traffic light without crosswalks that most of us envisioned.
I actually have a 26 x 40-inch printout of this plan tacked up on my wall, and I have been studying it for weaknesses in the same way that a general studies a battlefield. (No, my wife isn’t thrilled about my decorating….)
For one thing, zoom in and take a look at the recessed stop line at the left-turning lane on Bradley Place. This is supposed to prevent large southbound vehicles turning right from High Ridge onto Bradley from encroaching on vehicles stopped in the left-turning lane on Bradley. (This problem was caused by Nagi failing to widen the roadway enough for three safely designed lanes at the corner—see my previous updates for details.)
Unfortunately, the vehicle-encroachment problem can’t be solved with a paint line, for one simple reason (which should have been obvious to Mani Poola). Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here you go:
In fact, the Planning Board, in its 6/14/16 approval of this application compelled the Ahuja’s to exclude a drug rehabilitation center, per se, as a potential use for their clinic. (See Item 2-7 on Page 2 for details.) However, this still leaves open the following possible uses, among others:
1) a mental-health clinic, like the F.S. duBois Center at 780 Summer Street;
2) a marijuana-dispensary clinic, like Compassionate Care of Connecticut in Bethel; or
3) a methadone clinic, like Liberation House at 119-125 Main Street.
(I’ll bet that Nagi’s day-care clients would love their kids to be across the street from a facility like one of these….)
Now, I will give the Ahuja’s credit for completely eliminating the driveway to Donata Lane—as opposed to Nagi’s cheesy “landscaped buffer” across his driveway to Bradley Place. (See Item 2-2 on Page 2 for details.) However, despite this and other concessions to the neighbors, it seems that the Ahuja’s—like Nagi before them—are trying to turn the Mid-Ridges into downtown Stamford—which is what all of us moved up here to escape!
In addition to concerns about the clinic itself, note that Traffic Engineer Mani Poola (who supposedly retired last October, but is now back working for the City as a “consultant”) is hitting up the Ahuja's for $150,000 in order to get their clinic approved. (See Item 2-6 on Page 2 in the Planning Board's approval for details.) Why? So the City can install TWO more traffic lights on High Ridge Road—one at Bradley Place, and the other at Donata Lane—ironically, for Nagi’s benefit...as discussed in my previous updates.
If those lights become a reality, northbound traffic on High Ridge will be backed up to 600 feet SOUTH of Bel Aire Drive during evening rush hour. How do I know this? Well, Bradley Place is about 600 feet south of Vine Road, and the light on Vine currently causes traffic to back up to Bel Aire Drive—as many of you are painfully aware—during rush hour. So a light at Bradley will push that stopped traffic 600 feet farther down High Ridge. Just what we need….
Also, I’m trying to figure out where the City plans to obtain the other $100,000, or probably more, for the lights. Because, on May 9th, 2016, Stamford’s Board of Representatives unanimously voted to remove these lights from the City’s 2016-2017capital budget. (I have even transcribed the relevant part of this video for you.)
Also, former Traffic Engineer Robert Zaitooni told me back in April that the City’s recent traffic counts did not warrant signals on High Ridge at Bradley or High Ridge at Donata. He said that the only way that Bradley could possibly warrant a signal is if it was re-striped back to its original two-lane design. (Note, however, that this would violate the Zoning Board’s condition for its 2011 approval of Maple Ridge.) Mr. Zaitooni also implied that he was not very comfortable asking developers to “donate” money in exchange for the City’s approval of their projects—something that Mani Poola apparently has no trouble doing. (Perhaps this is why Mr. Zaitooni has since left his job with the City.) So there is still hope for killing these two needless lights on High Ridge Road.
Another relevant fact: The biggest difference between Nagi’s “Maple Ridge” and the Ahuja’s project is that the latter is in a single-family residential (R-10) zone, as opposed to Nagi’s properties, which had been “down-zoned” from single-family to low density multi-family (RM-1) prior to becoming “Maple Ridge.” (This was a brilliant move on Nagi’s part, since it gave him more leeway to build a commercial day-care facility on his properties.) Thus, the Ahuja’s may have an uphill battle obtaining the Zoning Board of Appeals’ approval for a clinic, despite the Planning Board’s approval.
Remember, too, that the ZBA had unanimously denied the Ahuja’s previous application for a clinic last September. And, since that time, opposition to the Ahuja’s project has become even more organized and vocal. For example, 16th District City Representative Matt Quinones recently started an online petition campaign against the Ahuja’s proposed clinic and its associated traffic lights. Check it out:
And the rallying cry grows louder every day. Here is our other 16th District City Representative, Steve Kolenberg’s, op-ed piece that appeared in today’s Advocate:
(BTW, Mr. Kolenberg—who has been tirelessly serving our community during his tenure on the Board of Reps—is now running for State Representative in November. He has my vote, and I know other Stamford residents who will vote for him. Hopefully you will be one of them.)
In addition to click-signing Representative Quinones’ online petition, you can contact Mr. Kolenberg and Mr. Quinones directly and let them know how you feel about people like Mani Poola selling us out to developers in exchange for shakedowns—er, “contributions”—to the City’s coffers:
You can even complain to DOT Transportation Engineer Jay Lockaby about Mani Poola’s plan to install two adjacent traffic lights on High Ridge at Bradley and High Ridge at Donata, despite the recent traffic counts that apparently don’t support the need for these lights. (With regard to Robert Zaitooni’s revelation, ask Mr. Lockaby to demand the actual data from the City’s contractor instead of relying on Mani Poola’s “report” to the DOT.) Here is his contact info:
Finally, the Zoning Board of Appeals will hold a public hearing on the Ahuja’s application at 7 PM on Wednesday 7/13/16, in the Government Center cafeteria. I may see you there. For, as Mr. Kolenberg so aptly quoted Ben Franklin:
“If we do not hang together, we shall surely hang separately.”
(IMHO, before Nagi pays anyone else's taxes, he should start paying his own....)
Between the mess on Hope Street and the nightmare that Mani created with his so-called "widening" of Bradley Place (more on that in my next update), I wonder if he has ever thought about liability issues at all? Fortunately, we won't have to put up with Mani's antics much longer, because he is retiring. I have heard rumor that Stamford's taxpayers will soon be paying Mani $120,000 a year not to come to work anymore. (And it just might be worth it!)
But back to the appeal.... On 12/2/14, Gurpreet Ahuja (who is no stranger to fighting Nagi) appealed the Zoning Board's
approval of Nagi's 2014 modifications. Usually such appeals take over a year to work through court, so I was surprised to find that her appeal had been dismissed on July 6th! Apparently she (or, actually, her attorney, Glenn Gazin) made a fatal error when filing the appeal. Check out Nagi's motion to dismiss Gurpreet's appeal. (Don't miss the "memorandum of law" directly following the signature page on this motion, which was filed on 3/27/15.)
As they say, "a day late and a dollar short"...except, in this case, it was four days late. According to Connecticut law, Gurpreet's appeal should have been filed with the court clerk at least six days before the appeal's January 6, 2015 "return date." (In other words, it should have been filed by December 31, 2014 at the latest.) But, according to the motion, court records show that her appeal wasn't filed until January 4, 2015!
So, on 7/6/15, Judge Heller granted Nagi's motion to dismiss Gurpreet's appeal. Interestingly, the court's 7/23/15 notice of dismissal states that the appeal can be re-opened within four months of the notice (i.e. by 11/23/15). Will Gurpreet do this? Although she has proven to be a pit-bull, unless she has a time machine that can send her back to December 31, 2014, I don't see how re-opening the appeal would do her any good. We'll see what happens here....
OK, so Nagi now has 19 apartments and a day-care for 120 kids. Is he out of the woods yet? Maybe not....
Although Nagi paid his delinquent tax bill for "Maple Ridge" (good move, Nagi!), he apparently has not yet paid the property taxes on his home:
“Community activist Paul Longo, left, points at a man in a silver Mercedes who later opened his window and
verbally accosted Longo for his stance on the day care and apartment complex across the street on High Ridge
Road in Stamford on Monday.”
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:
(with apologies to the late Johnny Cash)
(with apologies to Charles Dickens)
The Ahuja properties at 831-833 High Ridge Road today
(photo taken from the top of Bradley Place)
Traffic counter at top of Bradley Place, 3/11/16
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:
(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....
(Note the fresh debris around the cover from the work that was apparently performed this morning. Too bad I couldn’t get there in time.)
According to my neighbor, a mysterious piece of 8-inch PVC pipe was poking through the concrete wall inside the vault, and sewage was flowing out of the pipe. There was also a lot of accumulated sewage at the bottom of the vault from this pipe. Not good….
It took some time for the workers to figure out that the 8-inch pipe was, indeed, part of a sewer-main repair that the City had undertaken over 23 years ago. From what I have since learned, the main on Maplewood Place had begun to settle, creating potential backup problems for the residents. (If you know anything about our area, you know what I’m talking about. In fact, Bradley Place has had the same problem for many years. And we’re still waiting for the City to replace it instead of only cleaning it out every few months.)
I have been told that the correct way to repair a settling sewer main in unstable soil is to replace it with a new main supported on pilings driven deep into the ground. But—in typical City fashion—the settling 12-inch concrete main on Maplewood Place was NOT replaced. Instead, the 8-inch PVC pipe was “sleeved” through that main in several places. A PVC sleeve was also inserted in the part of the main that extends from the end of Maplewood to the manhole on Sun Dance. (This portion runs between the two properties on Sun Dance noted above, both of which were excavated for that repair project.) So the PVC pipe in the manhole on Sun Dance is carrying all of the sewage from Maplewood Place.
But what does this have to do with Nagi’s “Maple Ridge?” As it turns out, everything.
You see, the previous success of the City’s improvised sewer-main repair depended on the fact that Maplewood Place had only 14 houses on it. (Now it has 13, since Nagi purchased and demolished #11 Maplewood Place when he built “Maple Ridge.”) An 8-inch PVC pipe could handle the sewage from these houses, and it did.
But it might not anymore.
As you know, “Maple Ridge” (currently 19 apartments and a day-care center for 90 to 120 kids, depending on whom you ask) does NOT tie into the sewer main near the east side of High Ridge Road. The cost of closing and excavating High Ridge for such a tie-in was apparently too much for Nagi to handle. So Nagi’s enablers in the City allowed him to tie into the main on Maplewood Place instead—based on Nagi’s engineer’s assurance that this main was 12 inches in diameter!
Since a picture is worth—well, you know—here’s an aerial view to show you what I’m talking about:
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...)
(Not the new turn-arrow sign--the City's way of doing things...)
School bus turning left from High Ridge onto Bradley (1/7/15):
Finally, on that same afternoon (11/10/14), *I* was accosted by the same gray Mercedes (Connecticut registration 122XKV). Advocate photographer Jason Rearick witnessed that incident and took this photo, which also appears on the front page of the printed 11/13/14 edition of The Advocate over the caption shown below:
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 sure does look like one, doesn't it?)
Not to get off the subject, but someone in the City decided that this little monument to our former mayor and his cohorts belongs next to the sidewalk on Hope Street at Northill Street! Here is another view:
(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:
I don’t know who was driving the Mercedes during Eileen’s incident, but the driver in this photo was Nagi’s son, Jeff Osta. And Nagi had been standing in front of his jewelry store watching us until I pointed him out to Jason Rearick, at which point Nagi ducked back inside.
There were other incidents involving other neighbors, all of whom were intimidated and coerced by similar behavior presumably condoned, and perhaps even encouraged, by Nagi. But none of these incidents appear in Nagi’s lawsuit. Perhaps they will be revealed in the trial. (Talk about malice....)
On a related matter: Have you ever noticed that a bully always tries to portray himself as a victim? Hitler used this tactic to great advantage in inciting the German people to start World War II. According to him, Germany was the victim of the Versailles Treaty. (Google “Hitler” and “bully” to see what I mean here.) Just an observation….
Nevertheless, anyone with money can sue anyone with less money and put them in the poorhouse, or at least out of business. So is this what Nagi plans to do to the Ahuja’s? Actually, I don’t believe so.
As all of us have learned (the hard way) from dealing with Nagi that he often has an ulterior motive behind his actions. For example, back in 2011, he “compromised” with us to stop our protests against his project, but he reneged on his compromises as soon as he felt he could get away with doing so. So, if he’s not trying to financially bury the Ahuja’s, what is his goal? I’ll save my prediction for my next update. Stay tuned…..
Short bus turning right from High Ridge onto Place (1/6/15):
Pickup turning left from High Ridge onto Bradley (1/7/15):
As of 8/9/15, he still owed $7,360.64 of the $68,109.20 semi-annual payment that was due on 7/1/15. (Yeah, I wouldn’t want to pay $136,218 a year in property taxes for that place, either. But, as others have said, “Be careful what you wish for!”)
And, as of 8/9/15, not one penny of the July 1st $7,105.44 in semi-annual property-taxes for Nagi’s personal residence had been paid yet:
Traffic-counting hoses on High Ridge Road at Bradley Place, 3/11/16
I can see from the counter at the bottom of this page that the website received nearly 4,000 hits since my last update on May 6th, so thank you for your continued interest in the saga of “The City That Works...for Nagi.” I hope that the quantity and quality of this info makes up for its scarcity. In any case, at least you don’t have to worry about pop-up ads or tracking cookies here. All you get is the pure unadulterated skinny on nearly every controversy involving Nagi. And, after nearly four years (can you believe it?), I’m STILL having fun creating these updates, so you can expect more in the future. (My wife has come to refer to my pastime as “Nagi-ing.”)
Before we get to today’s update, I have some (as they say in Zoning Board meetings) “old business” to cover.
First, in my previous “Diaper-Gate!” update, I told you that the City had “sleeved” an 8-inch PVC pipe into a 12-inch concrete sewer main on Maplewood Place. A long-time resident of Maplewood corrected me here. He said that there was NEVER a concrete sewer main on his street, and that, prior to the City installing the PVC pipe, the houses had only septic systems. In presuming that there was a 12-inch main on Maplewood, I had given Nagi’s engineer, Len D’Andrea, the benefit of the doubt, since his email stated that such a main existed. But, now that we know better, you have to ask yourself why Mr. D’Andrea made such a fallacious statement...and why the Stamford WPCA went along with his charade. (I’ll leave this question for you—and our city officials—to ponder….)
And, speaking of the sewer main, check out this letter that the City mailed to residents on Maplewood Place on 1/20/15. Here, City Regulatory Compliance and Administrative Officer Tyler Theder warned the residents not to dump fireplace ashes down the storm drain. Apparently this issue was more important than the fact that the sewer main on Maplewood is in danger of becoming overloaded, thanks to Nagi’s ”Maple Ridge” development. (A letter about not flushing Pampers down the toilet would have been more appropriate….)
Now for our next “item of old business.” Thank you to everyone who forwarded Mayor Martin’s canned email response about Nagi’s encroachment on City property. As you can see from the Mayor’s email, the City apparently intends to do absolutely NOTHING about this open and hostile use of City property by a private business owner—even though they recently crucified two other business owners who allegedly used City property for their private gain. (See my “Parking-Gate!” update, below, for details.)
In his letter, Mayor Martin reveals his lack of knowledge about the encroachment issue by stating that “The City must abide by the court’s decision, which conflicts with the wishes of many of the neighbors.” Someone needs to tell the Mayor that this excuse—which was also bandied about by the Zoning Board—has nothing to do with Nagi Jewelers—the court decision was about “Maple Ridge,” not the jewelry store. And I doubt that (with the exception of Zoning Board member Barry Michelson) any of our city officials have even read Judge Berger’s decision in the first place. (BTW, this is the judge’s decision regarding Nagi’s appeal against the Zoning Board for rejecting his previous “Maple Ridge” application. For Judge Berger’s decision on Gurpreet Ahuja’s appeal against the Zoning Board for approving Nagi’s subsequent application, click here. Happy reading, Mister Mayor…).
Another lame excuse that has been repeated by our city officials is that “Parking-Gate” is “a very complicated matter.” It really isn’t complicated at all. Here, let me spell it out again:
1) The north parking lot at Nagi Jewelers has been encroaching on the City's right-of-way on Bradley Place since at least 2002. The variance that had been granted to Harry Bennett (the previous property owner) in 1967 allowed Mr. Bennett to waive the City's 10-foot setback requirement and keep his parking lot on the property line (but not gobeyond it). Somehow, at some point in time, the north lot at Nagi Jewelers was moved a few feet into the City right-of-way, where it remains today.
2) The law of “adverse possession” does not apply to a private property owner who encroaches on city property.
3) Nagi's encroachment on the City right-of-way is now causing an unwarranted hazard to motorists at the junction of High Ridge Road and Bradley Place, primarily due to the sub-standard width of the new westbound travel lane at the top of Bradley.
4) Nagi must therefore move the north edge of his parking lot off the City right-of-way so that Bradley Place can be sufficiently widened to allow southbound vehicles on High Ridge to safely execute right turns onto Bradley.
(This is especially true when an eastbound vehicle in the left-turn lane on Bradley is waiting to pull out onto High Ridge while a large vehicle attempts to turn right from High Ridge onto Bradley at the same time. Many local residents have told me about “near-misses” at the junction, as I predicted in my previous updates. It’s simply a lawsuit against the City waiting to happen. And—as usual—Stamford’s taxpayers will get stuck with the bill.)
OK, now that our “old business” has been covered, let’s take a trip back in time to “Nagi Center…”
We are fortunate that one resident—our neighbor, Anthony Masciarelli—had been keeping his eye on Nagi’s ball long before I ever did. I didn’t have a clue about Nagi’s plans until I read an article about them in The Advocate in 2011. It was only then that I discovered that Nagi had been scheming to convert of a block of homes on High Ridge Road into a commercial facility since 2008. But, even back then, Mr. Masciarelli was tracking Nagi's every move like a bloodhound. In fact, he maintained a scrapbook of every article and legal notice about Nagi’s project that he could find. And he was kind enough to let me borrow it so I could scan it for our pleasure.
For starters, Mr. Masciarelli’s scrapbook revealed that—as you can see from the drawing above—Nagi had planned to build a shopping center in his name, which he (predictably) would have called “Nagi Center.” (If Nagi could, he would re-christen Stamford as “Nagiville.” And, the way our officials coddle him, the name would fit….)
For nearby residents like Mr. Masciarelli, it all started with this letter from Nagi, dated January 14, 2009. Let’s dissect it a bit. First, one of the “horrible looking homes” that Nagi would later “remove”—with Building Official Bob DeMarco’s help—was 808 High Ridge Road, built in 1780 and officially listed as a “Known Historic Resource” in Connecticut’s Historic Resource Inventory. (Good job, Nagi and Bob!)
To put this loss in perspective, the City is about to spend one million taxpayer dollars to move the Hoyt Barnum house (built in 1699) from Bedford Street to upper High Ridge Road to build a new police station on its site. Of course, since Bob DeMarco will also be involved in this project, I’m crossing my fingers on that house’s fate…*** BTW, if you have an interest in the City’s plans for the Hoyt Barnum House (which is Stamford’s oldest building, is on the National Register of Historic Places, and is also one of the oldest buildings in the state), there will be a meeting and public hearing about it on the 4th floor of the Government Center on Tuesday, June 30th at 7:30 PM. ***
Nagi also said that he was going to “scale back” his development from two buildings totaling 18,444 square feet to one building of 12,025 square feet. We all know how that turned out…at 40,300 square feet, Nagi’s “Maple Ridge” dwarfs both of these proposals. Nagi attached these plan drawings to his letter (one of which I also posted at the top of this update). As you can see, both of the residential properties at the south end of Nagi’s previously promised development were later demolished—proving once again that Nagi is a real man of his word.
Nagi also talked about “getting” a traffic light on the corner of Bradley and High Ridge, and how “this rather long process is not an easy task.” Maybe he should stop by CVS and Trader Joe’s up the street and ask them how they managed to “get” their traffic lights installed in only a few months. (Perhaps the fact that they paid for their lights had something to do with it.)
In May of 2009, Nagi initiated a media blitz in The Advocate, which published several articles about what a great guy Nagi is and how he wants to beautify the neighborhood. Check out this one:
One of the most amusing factiods here is that Nagi “arrived in the United States in the early 1970s on a one-way ticket from Lebanon with only $5 in his pocket.” Five bucks wouldn’t buy a ride out of JFK, even in the ‘70s. (Perhaps Nagi walked to his destination from the airport?) But at least Nagi did keep his promise of the 11,000-square-foot “park” on the corner of High Ridge and Maplewood Place. Unfortunately, the park belongs to the day-care....
Only five days later, an almost identical article—using the very same factoids as those published in the Advocate—was published in the Stamford Times:
I got a real chuckle here when I read Nagi’s quote: “They like that I’m honest with them.” (Yeah. Right.)
But this is the most revealing statement in the article:
“Opponents argue that by allowing the change, the project would add to the traffic congestion along High Ridge Road and would run the risk of setting a precedent that invites land speculation for commercial rezoning along that same stretch of land. ‘It’s a domino effect,’ said Ronald M. Gold, an attorney representing the coalition of area residents opposed to the project. Neighbors have been very adamant about keeping commercial space in the downtown district, he said. ‘They don’t want High Ridge to turn into US-1 in Norwalk, where you have stores and stoplights every 20 feet,’ said Gold.”
(Call it the “Trader Joe’s / CVS Effect.” And, now that Nagi’s “Maple Ridge” has tumbled the first domino, expect to see more developments creep down High Ridge Road in the future.)
Of course, no media blitz would be complete without letters to the editor like these:
Development would be a great improvement (Advocate, May 10, 2009)
Here, resident Frank Lovello states that he is “a neighbor to the property in debate,” and he totally gushes over Nagi’s project. I found two properties in Stamford that might belong to Frank: one at 65 Arden Lane, and the other at 8 Middle Ridge Road. But even more interesting is the fact that a Frank Lovello happens to own Magna Construction, a commercial interior construction company. (I guess that contractors and developers have to stick together....)
Here’s another letter that was published on the same day:
Development proposal is what the city needs (Advocate, May 10, 2009)
Here, Armand Minassian also gushes about Nagi’s project, stating that, “These apartments would bring much needed affordable housing to our great city.” The only problem is that, for Mr. Minassian, “our great city” is Pompton Lakes, New Jersey, which is 60 miles away! At least “Frank The Builder” lives here… (Get back to work, Armand...if you even work here....)
Here’s a letter that was published two days after Armand’s:
Negative impact of plan would be far-reaching (Advocate, May 12, 2009)
Here, Ilene Koester—who actually lives across High Ridge Road from the development and is neither a contractor nor a developer—brings up the same points that hundreds of other local residents raised years later, only to fall on the deaf ears of the Pavia-picked Zoning Board (again, with the exception of Barry Michelson). Read ’em and weep.
Back in 2009, our Planning Board sided with Stamford’s residents (instead of out-of-towners, developers, and contractors, as they often do today). Here’s an article about their rejection of Nagi’s application to re-zone his residential parcels to commercial:
Jeweler loses bid to develop on High Ridge (Advocate, July 15, 2009)
And, after the Planning Board’s decision, Nagi and his wife, Liz, penned their own letter. Here it is:
Well received (Advocate, 2009)
(BTW, thanks again for that park you promised us, Nagi. The neighborhood is really enjoying it.)
So, after getting shot down by the City, did Nagi come back with a more reasonable plan, such as building a condo complex, like Vine Meadow up the street? Of course not! Here’s the legal notice for his next endeavor:
This was Nagi’s first attempt at “Maple Ridge” (vs. “Nagi Center”). As you can see, it would have been a smaller development than what the City would ultimately approve later, containing “only” one 28,300-square-foot building with a day-care and 9 apartments.
At that time, Norman Cole was the Principal Planner in the Land Use Bureau. He issued this report to the Zoning Board on December 1, 2010. (Note, among other issues, the repeated emphasis on the requirement for a traffic signal if the application was to be approved.) In any case, the Zoning Board rejected Nagi’s first “Maple Ridge” application:
Board rejects housing, day-care plan (Advocate, January 13, 2011)
I love the last sentence in this article: “Within land use circles, Osta has emerged as a developer with stubborn resolve. ‘In the end, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel,’ he said. ‘It’s just been a long three-year tunnel.’”(Make that a seven-year tunnel….)
But Nagi—living up to his “stubborn” reputation—promptly sued the City for rejecting his second plan:
High Ridge plan denial brings legal challenge (Advocate, February 9, 2011)
In this article, Nagi is described as having “unrelenting persistence.” (Same difference as stubborn, right?) Actually, I have a different word for this kind of behavior, but you’ll have to wait until the end of the update for it.
As we have since learned, we should be careful what we wish for. Because, while Nagi was suing the City for rejecting his first “Maple Ridge” application, he submitted another application for an even bigger development:
Legal Notice: Zoning Board – September 14, 2011
(I scanned this notice with Mr. Masciarelli’s notes surrounding it. The bottom of the notice is cut off, but it was published by the Board’s new chairman, Tom Mills.)
Unfortunately, by this time, then-Mayor Pavia had stacked the Zoning Board with developer-friendly members like Tom Mills (who is a builder himself). And, as we all know, Nagi’s third (or was it fourth?) application was later approved, but with 27 conditions imposed by the Zoning Board (some of which were part of Nagi’s compromise with the neighborhood). Unhappy even with this victory, Nagi later filed an application to gut all of his compromises last year. Despite unanimous opposition from the neighbors, the Zoning Board approved Nagi’s application.
All of this confirms the fact that Nagi’s self-descriptive choice of the word “sedulous” (diligent, persistent) for his other LLC was an apt one. However—as these articles suggest—importunate might have been better.
Finally, one important “loose end” will have to remain that way for now. Some of you have asked about Gurpreet Ahuja’s current appeal (against the Zoning Board’s approval of Nagi’s 2014 modifications). As you can see, her appeal is chugging its way through court. One interesting new revelation is that the City had to submit to court every single document, photo, email, etc. related to Nagi’s 2014 application for modifications. If you click on each of the links on the appeal page labeled “RETURN OF RECORD,” you can view PDF scans of many of those documents. Unfortunately, I’ll bet that some of them were—as Bob DeMarco once put it—“lost in the shuffle.” But I’ll save my analysis of the appeal for my next update. Until then, stay tuned….
(See any cops directing traffic here? Neither did I....)
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:
Traffic counter at beginning of Donata Lane, 3/11/16
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….):
Yesterday and today, I parked near the top of Bradley Place for only 10 brief minutes between 3:40 and 3:50 PM and trained my camcorder on the intersection of High Ridge at Bradley. I watched with my fingers crossed as one vehicle after another turned from High Ridge onto Bradley and totally failed to stay within the exceedingly narrow (9-foot, 8-inch-wide) westbound travel lane here. And they were not all trucks or buses, either. Here are a few short videos:
Crossover turning right from High Ridge onto Bradley (1/6/15):
Jeep turning right from High Ridge onto Bradley (1/6/15):
Bradley Place at High Ridge Road (March 2, 2015)
Happy Spring, everyone! Those of us who don't ski can finally begin to enjoy the outdoors again. Actually, our near-record snowfall this winter had one small upside: it reduced the possibility of a crash at the intersection of Bradley Place and High Ridge Road. Although Director of Operations Ernie Orgera's crews did the best they could to keep the top of Bradley Place clear, the road was necked down to two travel lanes by huge snowbanks for the past two months. (Actually, we never had three real travel lanes up there in the first place; the snow simply made it impossible for Ernie or Mani Poola to pretend that we did.)
In contrast, the intersection of Cedar Heights Road at High Ridge--just one block north of Bradley Place--remained *completely* clear of snow in its adequately wide travel lanes. The photos above, taken three weeks ago, show the stark difference. As you can see, the eastbound right-turning lane on Bradley Place was basically wiped out, as was a good chunk of the 10-foot-wide westbound lane. Compare this with Cedar Heights, which had plenty of room for almost any sized vehicle to turn in from High Ridge, even with cars stopped in both eastbound lanes. (The photos don't lie, despite Mani Poola's claims.)
Now that the snow has melted, we'll be keeping an eye on the intersection at Bradley for crashes and near-misses until the road is properly widened. But there's so much more to tell you about. For one thing, Nagi's apartments (which he had assured all of us would be condos--until he revealed his true intentions last October) are being offered for rent. You, too, can live in a two-bedroom, two-bath, 1,044 square-foot flat with one parking space for only $2,350 per month. An extra space in the parking garage will cost you $75 more per month, raising your rent to $2,425 if your family happens to own two cars. (Sorry....)
Can't afford to live in such luxury? Don't worry! If you qualify, you might be able to cheaply rent one of Nagi's "below market rate" units in "Maple Ridge." (Scroll down to the bottom of the table, to "Units Under Construction"--note that 826 High Ridge Ridge Rd. is the first listing shown.) I'm not sure what to tell you if you end up paying over $2,400 per month to live next to these units. (Again, sorry....)
Remember my warning from over three years ago: Although "Maple Ridge" would become the first apartment complex on High Ridge Road--from Bull's Head to the New York line--it would NOT be the last. Now that the dike has been breached, expect more single-family properties to be purchased, demolished, and resurrected as apartment buildings. And you can thank Norman Cole and our Zoning Board (and especially Chairman Tom Mills) for this "favor" to our Mid-Ridges community.
Speaking of...did you see where the Zoning Board turned down an application to build a six-bed surgical center in (commercial) High Ridge Park? Yeah--although big-wig developer George Comfort & Sons (and probably a lot of local residents) wanted it, the even bigger wigs at Stamford Hospital opposed it. (Can you guess who had the deeper pockets?) Of course, a six-bed surgical center in an office park would be SO much more intrusive and out-of-place than a 19-unit apartment complex with a day care for 120 kids next to a residential neighborhood (NOT!) How do these people even sleep at night?
Then there is Gurpreet Ahuja's appeal against the Zoning Board's 2014 approval of Nagi's long-after-the-fact modifications. With this appeal winding its way through the courts, can the City *legally* issue a certificate of occupancy for 19 apartments (vs. 17 condo's) and a 120-kid (vs. 90 kid) day-care? I have heard rumblings of a budding dispute between Nagi, Building Blocks Early Learning Center (the prospective day-care tenant), and one of Nagi's contractors over this issue. Stay tuned....
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:
Item #4 (T29.031) REVIEW; The impact of the Procurement, LLC condominium development on pedestrian and vehicle safety on High Ridge Road and Bradley Place
Clearly, Mr. Kolenberg and Mr. Quinones are listening to their constituents' concerns, so you might want to commend them (via phone or email) for being our voice in City government. And, if you feel like stopping by the Government Center at 7 PM on Thursday, it should be an interesting event.
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?)
“Sign of the Times”
The sign for the beauty salon behind Nagi Jewelers has been moved back out onto the City right-of-way, i.e., closer than 10 feet from the curb. (It was recently moved just behind the property line after a survey apparently confirmed that it had been encroaching on City property—see my 12/13/14 “Parking-Gate” update, below, for details.) Which proves once again that our City officials will let Nagi get away with pretty much anything…and he knows it.
If you have been keeping up with this website since the beginning, you have earned your “Bachelor's Degree in Nagiology.” Yes, it’s been nearly four years since Elizabeth Kim’s fateful 9/23/11 Advocate article that started this crusade. (BTW, the Advocate totally purged this from the Internet, probably due to the uproar that the term “housing project” in its heading caused. Fortunately, I printed it before it disappeared. Enjoy my highlighting and notes….)
Unbelievably, four years later, Nagi’s shenanigans continue nearly unabated. One of my co-workers once asked, “Nagi’s buildings are up, so why do you bother anymore?” My answer was, “Because his loans are not up.” Which brings us to the topic of this update….
At first, I wasn’t going to publish the loan documents below. But then I read the article Study recommends “complete streets” in today’s Advocate. When I saw the heading, I thought that the City was finally going to “complete” the shoddy lane-widening job that Nagi started at the top of Bradley Place. But no such luck. Instead ofwidening the lanes on Bradley, the City wants to narrow the lanes on High Ridge Road! Considering the fact that it is state artery used by (wide) tractor-trailers, buses, and the like, you might ask why the Mayor would even consider such a narrow move. Apparently, he hopes to stripe out bike lanes on High Ridge Road. (’Nuff said—right?)
Anyway, this “narrow” subject matter got me thinking more about Nagi’s motivations for adding only two feet of width to the top of Bradley Place when he striped out the so-called third lane there. Aside from not wanting to give back any of City right-of-way that he has been using in his parking lot since 2002, he just might not have had the money to do the job correctly. So, once again, I checked the status of the taxes owed on Nagi’s properties, and, lo and behold...some of them were, indeed, overdue.
Here’s the property-tax bill for Nagi’s “Maple Ridge” housing / day-care complex:
Traffic counter on High Ridge (north of Donata), 3/11/16
All is well on Sun Dance Road—but what about underneath it?
Happy Spring! Let’s hope that tonight’s weather forecast turns out to be as inaccurate as Nagi’s traffic study….
If you drove up High Ridge Road recently, you probably noticed the traffic-counting hoses that were installed around Monday 3/7/16 and removed around Wednesday 3/16/16. In case you missed them, here are a few more photos:
School bus turning right from High Ridge onto Bradley (1/6/15):
School bus turning left from High Ridge onto Bradley (1/6/15):
Note that the school bus had to stop on High Ridge Road and wait for the van to pull out "blind" onto High Ridge (fortunately no cars were passing the bus at that time). Then the bus actually drove over the sidewalk at the corner and into the left-turning lane at the same time! (In hindsight, the dual tire tracks on the sidewalk shown in my previous update could have been from another school bus attempting to make this same turn.) This is the situation that I described in my 12/13/14 "Parking-Gate!" update, below. Here it is again, in case you missed it:
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?”)
Unfortunately, capturing these [stomach]-turning scenes on video is like watching drivers play Russian roulette with our school children. It's not a matter of if a crash will happen, but when. We can only hope that no one is injured, or our City officials will have blood on their hands. Stay tuned....
(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:
If Joshua Benson would drive up here and watch our intersection for 20 minutes, he would see vehicle after vehicle exit the driveway from Ridge Plaza and stop on (or diagonally across) Bradley Place before pulling out onto High Ridge Road. (For some reason, even though Ridge Plaza has two driveways on High Ridge Road, nearly everyone uses the driveway on Bradley instead.) These vehicles exiting Ridge Plaza will end up in front of Mani Poola’s “ingenious” recessed stop line on Bradley, thus rendering it totally ineffective against encroachment.
I suppose that the City could order the owners of Ridge Plaza to erect a “Do Not Enter” sign in their parking lot at the driveway. This would prevent vehicles from exiting the shopping center onto Bradley (which, BTW, has also caused many near-misses with vehicles turning from High Ridge into Bradley). But, of course, the City won’t consider this solution, since it actually makes sense.
I have been told that, now that Mani has retired, our new Traffic Engineer, Robert Zaitooni, intends to revise Mani's flawed plan for the light and re-submit his new plan to the DOT—that is, if the new traffic counts even warrant a light in the first place. But, again, how much will it cost?
To get some idea, the table on Page 7 of the Connecticut DOT 2016 Cost Estimating Guidelines provides the following estimates:
State Highway: $150,000 - $180,000 / intersection
Locally-owned Signal System: $225,000 - $250,000 / intersection
Unfortunately, these figures raise more questions than they answer. Would the signals on High Ridge at Bradley and High Ridge at Donata fall under the “State Highway” category (since High Ridge is a state road) or the “Locally-owned Signal System” category (since the City would be funding the signals)? And would signalizing both Bradley AND Donata cost twice as much as one intersection (since a separate signal is required for each), or not quite as much (since a single controller would be utilized for both intersections)? I have been told in the past that the signal at Bradley would cost about $250,000, but this remains unconfirmed.
As for how much of this cost is Nagi’s responsibility, let’s take a look at the Zoning Board's 2011 certification of Nagi’s “Maple Ridge” development. Note the following conditions contained there:
Condition #15 requires the developer (Procurement LLC, i.e., Nagi Osta) to contribute $100,000 for “off-site traffic improvements,” with the remainder—if any—to be spent on a traffic light. Here (once again) are the details of the required “off-site improvements:”
- Widening and re-striping Bradley Place for a third travel lane (Condition #6)
- Posting “no parking” signs on both sides of Bradley Place and Maplewood Place within 200 feet of High Ridge Rd. (Condition #13)
- Posting “don’t block the box” signs on High Ridge Rd. at Tally Ho Lane, Donata Lane, and Bradley Place. (Condition #13)
- Obtaining the requisite road-work permits (and hiring police officers at $70/hour each) for nearly all of the “off-site traffic improvements” listed above (Condition #19)
Clearly, Nagi has already spent a significant part of the initially pledged $100,000 on the “off-site traffic improvements” listed above. How much does he have left? Only Nagi knows for sure, and he's not telling.
You might recall that the Ahuja’s had intended to contribute anywhere from $100,000 to $300,000 (apparently depending on Mani Poola’s mood at the time—search this page for his name to see what I mean). But, now that Nagi is suing the Ahuja’s for $1.6 million—and asking the court to freeze all of their assets—they will probably no longer be in any position to contribute toward the light, nor to build a medical clinic (or whatever) across the street—which is why they were supposedly contributing toward the light in the first place.
In any case, it's long past time to get the truth about how much the light is going to cost—and exactly who is going to pay for it. And, despite Mani’s “Paint-Line Solution,” a light will not fix this problem:
Inadequate street widening of Bradley Place at the junction
As mentioned above, Condition 6 of the Zoning Board's 2011 certification of Nagi’s Maple Ridge required Nagi to “submit design plans and specifications to widen Bradley Place to construct a third lane and provide a dedicated left turn lane, subject to approval by the City Traffic Engineer [formerly Mani Poola], such work to be performed at the sole expense of the Applicant...”.
As you know, this is where our traffic problems began. Instead of widening Bradley to add a sufficiently safe third lane, Nagi widened the road by two measly feet, then divided the two previously non-striped travel lanes into three striped lanes of sub-standard width.
DOT design specifications require a minimum width of 10 feet for a striped travel lane. As this video shows, the eastbound left-turning lane on Bradley measures only 8 feet, 10 inches, and the right turning lane measures only 9 feet, 10 inches. And, as this video shows, the westbound lane measures 10 feet at the corner, but it quickly necks down to 9 feet, 8 inches.
In short, this lane width is unacceptable, and it’s probably illegal, as well. The small turning radius at the northwest corner of High Ridge at Bradley (compared to, say High Ridge at Cedar Heights) makes the encroachment problem even worse, as the traffic videos shown in my previous updates clearly show. So…can the top of Bradley Place be reverted back to two lanes to solve the problem? Here’s the answer:
A traffic light will NOT eliminate the Zoning Board’s requirement for a third lane on Bradley
Last year, one of our neighbors wrote to Joshua Benson regarding the encroachment problem on Bradley, and she forwarded Mr. Benson’s response to me. Here it is:
Subj: RE: Bradley Place and High Ridge Rd.
Thank you for reaching out regarding Bradley Place. The city did receive the contribution from Nagi toward the traffic signal. The signal installation is not fully funded. It will exceed the contribution amount. We are currently seeking additional funding as well as obtaining State DOT approval, as High Ridge Road is a State roadway.
I do expect that the signal will move forward within the next few months. When the signal is installed, we will reevaluate the need for the left turn lane on Bradley place. It may no longer be necessary once the intersection is signal controlled. [emphasis added]
Mr. Benson is apparently unaware that Condition 6 in the Zoning Board’s 2011 certification of Maple Ridge requires this turning lane, and that this condition remains in force regardless of whether or not a traffic light is installed. If the turning lane is eliminated, Maple Ridge loses its Zoning certification. Nagi would have to apply for another modification, and the Zoning Board would have to hold another public hearing and then vote to eliminate this condition (as the Board did for a few other conditions in November 2014). Which brings us to:
Why the does the City care so much about this light?
Because it is the only way that Nagi can open his driveway to Bradley!
Check out the second sentence of Condition 15 in the Zoning Board’s 2011 certification of Maple Ridge:
If the City within three years after the issuance of the final Certificate of Occupancy notifies the applicant of its intention to install a new traffic signal at the intersection of Bradley Place and High Ridge Road, the applicant shall make a fair-share contribution of the balance of the $100,000 toward the cost of the signal. [Emphasis added]
And the second sentence of Condition 10 in the Zoning Board’s 2011 certification of Maple Ridge:
If a traffic signal is installed at the intersection Bradley Place and High Ridge Road and the City Traffic Engineer reports that vehicle safety would be improved, the applicant shall remove the landscaped buffer along the northerly property line and construct a driveway connection to Parcel B to enable vehicle access to and from Bradley Place.
As you can see, Condition 15 applies within three years of the issuance of Maple Ridge's final certificate of occupancy. I don’t know exactly when that C.O. was issued, but my educated guess is sometime in 2013. Thus, we are near the point in time where the City’s installation of a light will not require Nagi to contribute anything toward it!
Nonetheless, Nagi apparently needs a traffic light, and badly. If you don’t believe it, stop by during evening rush hour. You will see a bunch of soccer moms pulling their hair out and banging on their steering wheels while waiting in vain to turn left out of “Maple Ridge” onto a totally congested High Ridge Road. So what can be done?
One alternative: Install a light at Maple Ridge's driveway on High Ridge Road (vs. at Bradley)
Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that the City is going to make Nagi widen the top of Bradley Place, despite ample evidence that it is not safe in its current configuration. And a light on Bradley will only make this situation worse, for the reasons discussed here and in my previous updates. Nonetheless, since Nagi needs a light, perhaps he should apply to install one at his driveway—just as Trader Joe’s and CVS did at their driveways. This solution would:
1) eliminate the adverse impact that Maple Ridge’s traffic will have on Bradley Place—and our neighborhood—if a light was installed on High Ridge and Bradley, and if “Maple Ridge’s” driveway was opened up to Bradley as a result. No access to Bradley means no traffic back-ups for the residents of the 189 homes in our cul-de-sac neighborhood. (Apart from Bradley, the only street that allows us to exit the development is Shadow Ridge Road);
2) eliminate the onerous requirement for a second light on Donata Lane in addition to the light at Bradley. The left-turning arrow for Donata’s light would have to be time-staggered with the turning arrow at Bradley so that left-turning vehicles exiting these two side streets do not collide head-on in the elongated intersection. This staggered signal pattern would delay the flow of traffic on High Ridge Road, a major state artery, even more—which is the last thing that 30,000-plus commuters using that road need every day. Also, Donata Lane and its side-streets (Vine Place and Saxon Court) contain only 27 homes—hardly sufficient to warrant a light at that junction. The only reason that a light is planned here is to make the light on High Ridge at Bradley more feasible. (Without it, High Ridge traffic stopped for a red light at Bradley would prevent vehicles from exiting onto High Ridge from Donata Lane);
3) place the responsibility for funding the light solely on whom it belongs—Nagi. Trader Joe’s and CVS needed a light, and they each “got” one (to use Nagi’s term) in a few months—because they paid for them. Why should the City of Stamford—which Mayor Martin claims is so underfunded that it requires yet another property-tax increase—pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a traffic light that primarily benefits a private developer at our expense?
And (speaking of who is going to pay for the light) here is my theory about the true impetus behind Nagi’s lawsuit against the Ahuja’s. It appears that the light—actually, lights—will cost a lot more than Mani Poola estimated. The City is strapped for money, and (per Zoning Board Condition 15) Nagi might not even be on the hook to contribute toward the light anymore. The Ahuja’s are probably not willing to cough up $250,000 for the light, either—that is, unless Nagi “makes them an offer they can’t refuse:” namely, that they spend a couple of hundred thousand dollars for the traffic light, or they spend even more than this to fight Nagi's $1.6 million lawsuit. (Such a deal!)
P.S.-- Several of you have asked how you can complain about this waste of our tax dollars. Don’t bother with Mayor Martin, since he let us down on Nagi's "Maple Ridge" modifications, the BLT/boatyard issue, and more. But you can contact our 16th-district City reps:
You can also reach out to our new Traffic Engineer:
Finally, one of the members of our Board of Finance happens to live in the 16th District, so he is familiar with the situation here:
Best of luck!