Saturday, March 31, 2007

Cass Gilbert Events

There are two events this month bringing attention to Waterbury's Cass Gilbert buildings. The first will be held at the Mattatuck Museum on Saturday, April 21st. The second will be held at the Mattatuck Museum on Thursday, April 26.


Cass Gilbert and Waterbury City Hall: Presentation and Tour
Saturday, April 21
Mattatuck Museum Arts & History Center (144 West Main St.)
8:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Speakers followed by lunch and tour of the downtown Cass Gilbert buildings.


Barbara S. Christen, Ph.D.
Co-editor, Cass Gilbert Life and Work
Speaking on the architectural significance of the building

Alan J. Plattus, Ph.D.
Professor of Architecture and Urbanism, Yale School of Architecture
Founder, Yale Urban Design Workshop
Speaking on the benefits of preservation.

John Michaels
Chairman & CEO, Michaels Jewelers
Speaking on the cost of preserving City Hall

The event is free. An optional lunch is available for $10 at the museum cafe, and must be ordered in advance. (There will be an order form to send in with payment in the event brochure that will be available around town shortly. Or you can call the museum at 203-753-0381. )

Organized by: Connecticut Community Foundation, Connecticut Historical Commission, Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, Main Street Waterbury , Mattatuck Museum , Northwest Connecticut Convention & Visitors Bureau


Industrialists' Design: Grand Street, Waterbury
Mattatuck Museum--History Bites
144 West Main Street
Waterbury, CT 06702.
Phone: 203-753-0381.

History Bites continues at the Mattatuck Museum Arts and History Center with Raechel Guest, historian speaking on "Industrialists' Design: Grand Street, Waterbury" on Thursday, April 26, 2007 at noon. View the development of Waterbury's elegant gateway. Grand Street helped to beautify Waterbury, from the visions of industrialists Henry S. Chase and John H. Whittemore to the designs of nationally renowned architects. Reservations requested, but not required. Suggested donation $2

Politicking over City Hall

I made the mistake of watching channel 13. Larry DePillo and Karen Mulcahy are busy scaring up future votes. It's enough to make me sick to my stomach. They are casting aspersions about the current administration (specifically the Democrats) being corrupt and trying to swindle the taxpayers. I think it's great that someone is keeping close tabs on city government, but I think it's disgusting that they are doing it for their own personal reasons while claiming to be protecting the taxpayers. They are allowing political grievances and agendas to guide them, rather than genuine concern for the common good. Worse of all, they are using a tone of voice that causes the listener to react on an emotional level, rather than on a rational level. They are frightening viewers into reactive voting. This is politics at its worst.

Their current bone of contention is the proposal to build a new firehouse on Field Street, which would allow the existing firehouse to be converted for additional office space. DePillo and Mulcahy are insisting that no additional office space is needed, but the city is currently renting buildings around downtown because there isn't enough space. I suspect there are many good reasons for building a new firehouse. Pros and cons should be weighed carefully and thoughtfully. Slinging mud and whining about not being able to speak at a public hearing for more than five minutes when you get to speak weekly on television and you are in regular communication with the Board of Aldermen is just immature and irresponsible. This is why neither DePillo nor Mulcahy have been able to win mayoral elections.

It sounds to me like they are going to fight the new firehouse all the way to another referendum. This will probably end up pushing the project back another year. Costs are anticipated to rise 8% each year. The referendum costs $40,000. The cost of renting space for City Hall at Sovereign Bank is $396,000 per year. Currently, the estimated cost savings of not building the new firehouse is $3,267,561. Waiting another year will cost $3,305,433.

DePillo and Mulcahy, assuming they force a referendum (as suggested by Independent Party chairman Mike Telesca at the public hearing last week), will actually be costing the taxpayers a minimum of $37,872.


An hour later... Dave Corbett's show is wonderful. He is clearly and carefully showing the ways in which DePillo and Telesca are misleading the public. I hope the people who watch DePillo also watch Corbett.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Big Read

Tonight was the kick-off event for The Big Read in Waterbury. You can't tell from the photos, but the Silas Bronson Library was packed with people. I arrived a couple minutes before it started, so I had to sit in the aisle. But at least there were still seats left--a couple dozen late-comers were stuck standing in the stacks.

When I got to the library, the mayor and the chief of police (both of whom read excerpts from To Kill a Mockingbird) were standing on the sidewalk giving directions to someplace in Wolcott to a woman in a very large SUV with out-of-state plates. It made me giggle. I wondered if she had any idea who was giving her directions. It's such the quintessential small town image--the mayor stopping to give directions to out-of-towners.

The Big Read calendar of events is online at

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Tabitha again

I just received another phone call for Tabitha Allister (better known as Tabitha Mary Allister). This time it was Wachovia's debt collection people. It seems she opened an account, and then overdrew the account, and then disappeared.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Tonight's Public Hearing

There was a public hearing in the Aldermanic Chamber tonight. Hardly anyone showed up. Maybe 52 people (as pointed out by Nick Augelli). The hearing was an opportunity for the taxpayers of Waterbury to have their say about the plans to renovate City Hall. Does the poor attendance mean that nobody cares? When the project was on the ballot, thousands of people voted on the topic. Fifty-two people showed up tonight. Some heard about it watching cable access. Personally, I believe the poor attendance was in large part the fault of the Republican-American. The big news in today's paper was tonight's public hearing in Naugatuck. No mention of the one here in Waterbury. They recently dropped Waterbury from their name; lately it has seemed more like the Naugatuck Republican-American. At least they remembered to send a reporter to cover the Waterbury hearing.

Most of the taxpayers who spoke tonight have spoken before on the subject. Some have spoken numerous times on the subject. Unfortunately, it sounds like the Independents want to waste more money with another referendum. A referendum costs $40,000 and a minimum of six months time. The longer it takes to get going with the project, the higher the costs are going to be. All aspects of the decision-making process have been open to the public. It seems like everyone agrees that we need to move forward with either Option 4 or Option 5 (view full details at

The city taxpayers have had plenty of opportunities to let the aldermen know what they think. Now it's time for them to make a decision.

The hearing ended with a little bit of confusion. In 2005, the Board of Aldermen voted that public speaking at public hearings would be limited to 5 minutes per speaker. DePillo wanted to be able to speak for as long as he wanted. He wasn't willing to say how much time he wanted, but it sounded like a minimum of 15-30 minutes. He asked for more time when he got up to speak, after an hour of other speakers. Alderman Penerewski did a quick check of the rulebook and found that DePillo could be granted more time if the Board voted unanimously in favor. The vote was 6-4 in favor, so a majority, but not unanimous. Alderman Booker and several members of the public did not know what unanimous meant. I can understand the general public not knowing that word, but an Alderman should be familiar with the term, especially since he was on the Board of Aldermen when that rule was established.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Nice Try

My neighborhood has a lot of stray cats. This winter my downstairs neighbors took in a young brown tabby cat, maybe 8 months old, who had clearly been out on the streets for a while and wasn't doing very well. It's more accurate to say that the cat decided to move in with them. He's very docile and even let them bathe him without too much fuss. He's doing well now, and has a small posse (two slightly younger, black cats who were completely feral when I saw them last year).

This big white tomcat has been out on the streets for a couple of years at least. Last year he refused to have anything to do with me, although the black cloth top of my car is his favorite sleeping spot. I know he sleeps there, because he leaves his white fur all over the black top.

Yesterday afternoon when I took out the trash, he was sitting outside my door in the stairwell. I expected him to run away, but he only went as far as the top step before turning to see if I might feed him. Sucker that I am, I went back inside and grabbed a handful of food for him. I set it down on the floor between us and backed away. He wolfed it down and asked for more. Giant sucker that I am, I went back inside and got another handful of food. I held it out slowly, and he almost ate it out of my hand. I think he would have, but I didn't want to risk getting bitten.

I took out the trash. I came back. He was still outside my door. I went to my desk and worked. I could hear my cat talking to him through the kitchen door for almost twenty minutes. Every now and then I would check, and he was still there, staring at the door, hoping I might let him in and give him more food. I'm not that big of a sucker. I know he made it through this winter on his own, and I'd guess he was on his own last winter too. If he wants to become a housecat, he has to go get himself neutered first.

It occurred to me later that he could be rabid. This is the first time he's ever come near me. In the past he always ran away as soon as he saw a person. Now he's all friendly and domesticated. If he's still alive and well and friendly in a few weeks, I'll consider taking care of him. But he still can't move in.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Shahi Zaika

I finally tried out the tandoori restaurant in East Gate Plaza. It was very good. The restaurant itself isn't fancy, just your basic furnishings, no ambiance (except, of course, for the large plasma tv showing the 2007 Cricket World Cup--you won't find that in any other restaurant around here). They do a buffet on weekends, and take-out any time (open daily 10am-10pm). The menu has a few goat specialties (I still have never eaten goat, but I am noticing it on more and more menus) and cow hoofs, as well as the more commonplace chicken and vegetarian dishes.

I think what I like about Shahi Zaika best is that it is "authentic," rather than the generic Indian restaurant you find in most cities (maybe because it's not strictly Indian-their dishes also include Pakistani and Bangladeshi). Granted, I really wish they had some of the dishes I frequently order, but the chicken tikka and the naan were really really good, and I certainly don't mind discovering some new dishes!

Saturday, March 17, 2007


I share a three-bay garage with my neighbors. I usually keep my door closed, while they keep their door open, which allows critters into the garage. This afternoon, when I opened the door, this is what I found:

There was just a dusting of snow inside the garage. First I noticed the cat pawprints. Then I realized the other markings were bird footprints. Inside the garage. Side by side, as if the cat and the bird went for a stroll together.

Friday, March 16, 2007


Former Waterbury Mayor Joseph Santopietro spent six years in federal prison in the 1990s for corruption charges. Since then, there have been numerous people in Waterbury who refused to believe he was guilty, saying that he was a "nice boy" who took the fall for a buddy, and that he never did anything wrong. A couple years ago, he expressed interest in possibly running for mayor again, as a way of showing that he was truly sorry for his wrong-doings as mayor. Fortunately that never went anywhere.

Today he pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy while he worked as a consultant for Diversified Waste Disposal in Danbury. The gist of the crime (from involves trash haulers selecting routes for one another and agreeing not to compete with one another (meaning that if you live in a certain area, you can use only one company, and meaning that if you want to start up your own trash hauling business, you're out of luck).

So much for being just a "nice boy" led astray by the wrong associates.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Laundry Life

I do my laundry at Great American Laundry (I think that's what it's called) on Manor Avenue. When I lived in Naugatuck, the laundromat I went to was much smaller, with rows of machines along two walls, a soda machine, and a radio and an assortment of magazines for entertainment. Great American has a soda machine; a candy machine; small vending machines with candy, gum, toys; at least six televisions; and maybe half a dozen video games. The photo below shows the Mr. Claw machine near the window. I was sitting reading a book (have to bring your own reading materials to this laundromat), and Mr. Claw kept calling out "Come win a prize!" in a clown voice. The claw moved whenever the machine spoke. Another machine, out of view in the photo, would occasionally declare joyously "There's no limit to what you can win!" One of the two would periodically chuckle loudly. Maybe it was more of a chortle.

I felt bad for the machines. They seemed so lonely, so desperate for someone to come play with them. Usually the laundromat at least has a few little kids who will fondle the game handles. Today there weren't any kids at all, so the machines had to sit alone.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Night Noises

Last night, between 12:30 and 1:15 a.m., somebody's car alarm went off maybe a dozen times. It's not a noise I've heard in this neighborhood before. During the fourth or fifth time, I also heard a man's voice holler out "shut up!"

There was a weird sort of camaraderie. Normally there's not a lot of interaction between all the different apartments on the block. We didn't really do much interacting last night, but it did make me laugh to hear the guy yell right when I was getting annoyed enough to consider getting out of bed and complaining. It made me realize that there might be three dozen people in the immediate area all thinking pretty much the same thing.

The car alarm was the really annoying one that cycles through a variety of different types of irritating noises. When I bought my car a few years ago, my insurance company said that car alarms don't really do much to prevent theft. All they seem to do is make the neighbors angry and force the car owner to keep checking on the car.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Suspicions Confirmed

I've spent the whole winter thinking that maybe there were two squirrels coming to the bird feeder. Today I finally saw them at the same time! One is slightly larger, with slightly more tufts of white fur on his ears. He's the one who knocks on the window when he's eaten the last of the sunflower seeds. Of course, I don't know if he is really a he. Could be a she.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

East Gate Plaza

The plaza that time forgot... well, not entirely, although it hasn't been refurbished in a couple of decades. If you don't know it's there, you'll probably never find it. The plaza is on Store Avenue, which doesn't get all that much traffic. It's also just off Meriden Road, but drivers on that road will never see it.

Here's the typical view from Meriden Road. No sign (literally and figuratively) of the plaza at all:

If you peer down Store Avenue, you might just barely catch sight of the plaza's sign. See it?

Here's the same image, zoomed and cropped.

And the plaza itself. Kind of sad looking, but it's doing much better than Colonial Plaza, which has fantastic visibility.

Some of the East Gate Plaza businesses have been there for eons: the Barleycorn Irish Cafe and the East Gate Restaurant (good diner breakfast) have maybe always been there. Richie's Comic Cabana moved there a few years ago. I used to shop at Richie's old location before Legends of Superheros opened. Richie's (at the old location) was the stereotypical comic book store--cramped, dark with dark wood panel walls, and operated by an unfriendly, slovenly fat man. I haven't been to the new store, so it could be different. And he's been in business for decades, so he must be doing something right.

The newcomers at the Plaza include Bismillah Grocery (Pakistan, Indian, Bangladesh) and Shahi Zaika Restaurant (curry, nan, kabab, nihari and tandoor specialist). I think Shahi Zaika opened a year ago. Quick googling shows that it used to be called Bukhara Palace. For the past ten years, I've been moaning about the lack of Indian restaurants in Waterbury. How did I miss this? Well, probably because it's in East Gate Plaza. It took me two years to remember that Richie's had moved there. Out of sight, out of mind.

Coming soon to this blog: a review of Shahi Zaika!

Monday, March 05, 2007

City Hall and Pearl Lake Road

These were the two hot topics during the public speaking portion of tonight's Board of Aldermen meeting. Hopefully the plans to renovate City Hall can start moving forward this summer. The longer it takes to get started, the more money it's going to cost.

I don't know all the details of the plans for Pearl Lake Road, but it sounds like the plans are to turn this residential road into a highway. Most of the residents complained that the plans do not include sidewalks. This is one of the big problems (in my opinion) with Waterbury's city planning over the past several decades. There is no consideration given for pedestrians. The city needs to be pedestrian-friendly and pedestrian-safe. Speed limits need to be enforced. Neighboring towns have banded together to enhance their ability to enforce speed limits. Waterbury doesn't do anything to enforce the speed limit, and most drivers become very hostile if the car in front of them is doing "only" 30 in a 25 zone.

Sorry for being repetitive. I know I've ranted about this before!

Mill Rate Goes Down, Taxes Go Up

For years everyone has been moaning about Waterbury's high mill rate, while a few people have pointed out that housing is more affordable here than anywhere nearby. Yesterday's news article makes it sound like the city is ready to make some changes.

The good news is that they want to lower the mill rate to 39.5, which is on level with other places around the state and is far less likely to scare off potential buyers. The bad news is that assessed values will be changed to reflect recent market trends. So, for example, if they do a random sampling of houses sold in the past six months and determine that the houses were sold on average for 40% more than their previous valuation, everyone's property value will be increased by 40% (at least, that's how I understand it). The mill rate is then applied to 70% of the property value.

There are going to be a lot of upset building owners when this goes through. One of Waterbury's selling points has been the affordability of housing. I'm sure there are people in the city government who wish that they could bring in as much per house in taxes as the surrounding towns do, but the reality is that most people in Waterbury can't afford to own a home in those towns. Housing in Waterbury has to stay affordable. It's one of the last affordable places in the state.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Spring is in the air

It's a balmy 52 degrees. The birds are singing, the snow is melting, and the guy across the street has the bass cranked up so loud in his car speakers my apartment windows are rattling.

The signs of Spring aren't the same as they used to be.