Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Divide and Conquer: For the Soul of Norwalk / #SouthNorwalkCommunityCenter #positivedisruption #gentrification
"When you perceive the an act done to another is done to yourself, you have understood the great truth."
Lao Tzu, about 2,500 years ago, China
The first 'thing' that would stand out for Norwalk, Connecticut off of interstate 95 would be a mega mall in what could be a park for families and the people of Norwalk. One of the great attributes of some of the neighboring Fairfield County towns are their green parks. Norwalk needs a mini-Central Park as a welcome sight, instead of a blight like a massive mega mall.
I'm in a continued drive to shake away the entire current administration of the South Norwalk Community Center for its mishandling and prioritization of funds and time that should have been better apportioned so that youth programs could have begun being established. Yet, now after nearly two years, Warren Pena's management of how to serve the community has rested largely on paying a great sum of money for constant interior decoration. This is according to a continued series of audits I am performing on the South Norwalk Community Center and the City of Norwalk's oversight on hundreds of thousands of dollars its lieutenants have granted to the South Norwalk Community Center, in addition to paying all of its utility bills. Through all this, there is still no visible youth sports program for kids and families to partake in. Having soccer, basketball and baseball little league teams practicing and playing in the park that is in disrepair behind the community center would bring a feeling of community far beyond the constant interior upgrading of cabinets that continues now into its second year.
With the community of South Norwalk already physically boxed in by a river on one side, the train tracks on the other and increasingly expensive real estate on both other ends, it becomes vital that basic community supports be existent so that the neighborhood can come together and discuss its future before it is discussed for them.
Unfortunately, Warren Pena stepped into the heart of the South Norwalk community and immediately began calling the South Norwalk Community Center a 'latino center.' This made people of other ethnicities and races feel unwelcome. Warren Pena then began to charge great sums of money when people wanted to gather as a community. For a thanksgiving dinner orchestrated by Ernie and Martha Dumas which was an yearly tradition in the community was now going to be $1500.00, said Warren 'THEBoss' Pena. Pena was nice enough to recommend that the yearly dinner for the community be done across the street.
He has alienated people at a time when their future is at risk. They have been divided and are soon to be conquered. Warren Pena has alienated the people of South Norwalk at a time when the community center he was given was put to the wrong applications. For two years the story there has been about large cash transfusions being given to him with zero oversight. I walked in and tried to join the center twice this year and was told their was nothing to join. In continued talks with members of the immediate neighborhoods around the South Norwalk Community Center I began to get the full story about how the entire neighborhood is literally losing its character and the city of Norwalk itself is about to lose its soul.
In reading the city council minute notes that have been published during on my twitter.com account @CoachBill007, the strategy is one of redeveloping Norwalk that does not include empowering the poverty-stricken neighborhoods and ghettos of South Norwalk. In an interview with City Council member, Travis Simms, a former boxing champion, he made it clear to me that the very people of South Norwalk would be empowered with the low-paying retail jobs of the new mega mall being planned for lot of land that use to be the garbage dump. He further emphasized that the management positions in each of these retail stores would be an additional source of empowerment for the people of South Norwalk who live around the community center. Our interview was held in the nice Washington Street restaurant row within the offices of the architects of the mega mall being planned. Mr. Travis Simms is very close with them and asked to have the interview there.
With a struggling mega malls just 2-3 miles away in Stamford, another in Westchester, Danbury and Trumbull Ct., do we really need another mall? In the age of online shopping that is expected to greatly increase over the next ten years and with struggling malls around it, why would adding another mall be a great idea? How does the balanced growth of Norwalk occur if the poorest community of the city is allowed to be a ghetto with its community center run by someone who doesn't care about dividing people against each other? Constantly tightening the 'box' around the poor people of South Norwalk with new planned waterfront developments, while looking to allow the poor areas look like a 'blight' is inhumane and evil.
Development that does not have all people rise together, but purposefully leaves behind the poorest is not development, but gentrification. Is poverty a form of violence? For who will the T.O.D. redevelopment project be a success? For Mayor Harry Rilling? For Tami Strauss? For Tim Sheehan? For the developers and construction crews? This is all short-term gain and not worth losing the heart and soul of a city for. Instead, a better plan that includes what is good for the people could be brought into existence. For example, making the South Norwalk Community Center be a place that is actively used by all members of the community in varied ways is essential to begin creating unity again in that neighborhood. The center has to be a place where people can come together. There should be forums held on a constant basis to voice community concerns. There is currently no place where the community can congregate as a whole to discuss present matters and its future. Is this on purpose?
Divide and Conquer
In South Norwalk, the sidewalks don't have the nice red bricks as do other parts of Norwalk. There are few if any trees dotting the roads. There are scarce if any nice playgrounds to be seen. The streets have constant mega trucks rumbling through them and the South Norwalk Community Center is in the middle of it all, like a heart that has stopped pumping a long time ago. Men and women roam the streets pushing grocery carts with their belongings up and down the main avenue that is lined with churches and a funeral home. At the South Norwalk community center the youth have no chess program, their are no dance programs for little children, their are no music programs even though hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants and extra free money have been granted to Warren Pena since he took over. Less anyone be 'misinformed' the money was spent on cabinets. None of it went to his sister who he made executive director for a time. None of it was stolen by Kelly Robertson, who along with board member Reese Morales, resigned amidst a robust social media campaign bringing attention to joke that is the administration of Warren Pena. None of the 'zero oversight money' from Tami Strauss's Re:Development Agency and signed off by Mayor Harry Rilling was ever returned, except $200, since the time Pena began to serve himself instead of others.
Truth be told, Warren Pena is simply a pawn in a much larger campaign to implode the heart and soul of the South Norwalk community by allowing its community center to be a source of division and corruption rather than unity and hope. No oversight was given because the city does not care about that community getting empowered. It wants the opposite. According to city council minutes I have published on twitter, Tim Sheehan, Tami Strauss, Travis Simms, Bruce Kimmel and virtually every council member is quite alright along with the mayor in wanting to label it a blight and eye-sore so that HUD can continue to dole out money to their real-estate development mission. Hence it lets inept men like Warren Pena take his boss seat in what should be the seat of a servant leader. Someone who puts others first before their own bank accounts.
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