Guv To City: Take It Or Leave It

Paul Bass PhotoThe state will finally build a second parking garage at Union Station — but not if New Haven insists it include retail shops and a bus depot.

So declared Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Thursday.

Malloy made the declaration during a press conference at Union Station about new Metro-North bike racks and a new smartphone app.

The declaration was the latest twist in a tale of remarkable government inaction that goes back two decades.

Since the 1990s, New Haven has clamored for a second garage at Union Station to ease the parking crunch for commuters who have to hunt for spaces elsewhere if they don’t arrive extra early in the morning. Political fighting between a former Democratic New Haven mayor and a former Republican governor held up that project year after year after year.

Then Democrat Malloy got elected. He still didn’t get along with the old mayor. But he did get along with the next mayor, Toni Harp. He put the plan on track. Money was approved. Plans were drawn up for a $40-$60 million, 1,000-space, seven-level garage to be constructed on a current 260-space surface lot next to a perpetually full existing garage.

And then ... Harp’s City Hall officials and community activists who on other occasions argue with each other united to demand the state change the plans. They complained the design flew in the face of modern urban design as well as the concept of “transit-oriented development.” At a public hearing and in subsequent comments to the state Department of Transportation, opponents called for the new garage to include better bike storage facilities, first-floor retail, preservation of trees, a pedestrian bridge to Long Wharf, and a depot to replace the Green as the main switching point for CT Transit buses.

Ain’t happening, Malloy bluntly announced when asked about it Thursday.

And he’s tired of hearing about it.

He told New Haven to put up or shut up: Accept the design, or lose out on a new garage.

“We’re trying to build a garage. This is not intended to be an economic development effort,” Malloy said.

That effort will take place across the street with the Church Street South housing development is rebuilt into a mixed-use, mixed-income complex, he said.

Malloy used the word “frustrated” several times.

“I’m expressing frustration with the process,” he said.

“At some point you get frustrated over the project. ... What we’ve agreed on is to build a parking facility. What we’re being asked is to build a lot of other things besides that,” he said.

He also used the term “economic development” several times. As an epithet.

“We don’t see this is an ‘economic development’ project,” he said.

Standing behind the governor, listening to the remarks with interest, was Matthew Nemerson. He serves as the Harp administration’s economic development chief. He has led the charge for a garage redesign into one that promotes transit-oriented economic development at a gateway to the city.

Nemerson didn’t speak at the event. Afterwards, he was asked for his reaction to Malloy’s comments.

In diplomatic terms, he insisted the prospect of a redesign is not dead yet.

“We are already working at the level below the commissioner and below the mayor — me — to try to figure out how we can accomplish the things that we’re trying to accomplish and they can accomplish what they’re trying to accomplish,” Nemerson said. “There are smart and reasonable people around the table. There are a lot of conversations going on.”

A community meeting is taking place Thursday night in Trowbridge Square, where activists and local officials plan to renew the call for a garage redesign.

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posted by: Pedro Soto on August 18, 2016  4:49pm

Leave it.  If agreement can’t be made to modify the design, the city is better off waiting until the next administration. There is zero net benefit to the city itself of another parking garage. Metro North can put garages in Branford, Milford and West Haven to make up for this.

posted by: anonymous on August 18, 2016  5:09pm

Did the Governor really just say that building a downtown garage is not about economic development?

That’s worse than most of the things Donald Trump says.  It’s like saying we are building a new school but it’s not about the people inside. Or, we are building an oil refinery but it’s not about the jobs created or the surrounding communities.

I can’t even believe those words would come out of Malloy’s mouth. Shameful.

posted by: BenBerkowitz on August 18, 2016  5:18pm

Is there no option to sell the air rights to a developer for a tower under the condition that a garage be built for the train station as well as retail?

posted by: robn on August 18, 2016  5:23pm

Why is it costing $40,000 to $60,000 per space for a plain Jane, above grade garage? It should be more like $15,000-$20,000.

posted by: Ex-HVN on August 18, 2016  5:37pm

Dannel Malloy is not a well loved governor, in fact most in CT are unhappy with his performance. BUT, many of us who do not live in New Haven agree with his sentiments.
New Haven asked for a parking garage and the state is offering just that, nothing more. The governor is correct, this is not supposed to be an economic stimulus or redevelopment item. A surface lot will be transformed into a 7 level garage to accommodate 4 times the number of cars.
Time for New Haven to just say thank you and put its hand back in its pocket. This is a time when the state is laying off workers and cutting services. It is not time for larger state expenditures.

posted by: AverageTaxpayer on August 18, 2016  5:37pm

Call the Governor’s bluff!

Honestly, the new garage is more for the benefit of Suburbanites & Yale than it is for New Haven.

We want something like the State gave Bridgeport:

The Terminal
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710 Water Street
Bridgeport’s Intermodal Transportation Center Bus Station

While traveling with us, you may pass through the Bridgeport Intermodal Transportation Center Bus Station. A short walking distance from Downtown Bridgeport, the fully accessible station provides a climate controlled indoor waiting area for local and interstate bus riders, ticketing and information offices, bathrooms and a coffee shop.

Creating a “sense of place” and a welcoming environment at the new bus station in downtown Bridgeport was always an important part of its design. From its conception, the Bus Station phase of the Bridgeport Intermodal Transportation Center was intended to be a high-quality facility that would become an important part of the revitalized downtown area, as well as a place that would welcome bus riders and those connecting to Amtrak and Metro-North rail services and the Bridgeport — Port Jefferson Ferry.

It was envisioned as not only the hub of the region’s bus services, but a safe, clean and hip place to make connections.

The site, located at the intersection of Water Street and Stratford Avenue in Downtown Bridgeport, includes 17 bus berths with canopies covering the exterior waiting areas, a 10,000 square-foot building, which includes a 3,000 square-foot interior waiting space for riders, local and interstate ticketing offices and a “community room” which is available for public and other meetings. The Station is connected to the adjacent railroad station’s platforms by way of an elevated, covered pedestrian bridge. A second such bridge continues the connection from the train station to the Bridgeport — Port Jefferson Ferry Terminal

posted by: robn on August 18, 2016  5:58pm

If a sufficient setback was left in front for a bus transfer and a sufficiently tall head height left on ground level 1 for some support facilities, with a future modest loss of space on ground level 1 (one row of parking) a bus transfer station could be retrofitted in the future. Bikes could be accomadated outdoors or in car spaces 12/1. The problem is lack of planning for the future with a very marginal cost to do so today.

posted by: Bill Saunders on August 18, 2016  6:08pm

I second Pedro Soto’s motion. 

Malloy is having Penis Envy.

posted by: Ex-HVN on August 18, 2016  6:34pm

@average taxpayer

The state does not have the money it had when the Bridgeport Terminal was authorized and built.  It is about economic reality.

Furthermore, There is little space adjacent to Union Station to build. The new garage will be on the footprint of an existing parking lot.

Bridgeport is unfortunately loaded with empty lots and building waiting to be torn down…their bus terminal didn’t have to fit in a crowded space as between Union Station and Church Street South

posted by: duncanidaho645 on August 18, 2016  7:55pm

Interesting that New Haven is not getting its side of the agreement with Malloy. I imagine it is happening in numerous cities and towns right about now.

The idea was that municipalities would retain the services of AFB Construction Management for facilities management with bloated contracts in exchange for extra money from the State.  This would insulate the owner, Dan Malloy’s campaign manager, and Malloy from any allegations of wrongdoing. 

The problem: Both Dan Malloy and his campaign manager, Alfonso Barbarotta of AFB, are under investigation by the FBI.  Malloy for misusing state money for his campaign, which actually involves Barbarotta as well and Barbarotta himself for trying to set up a quid-pro-quo arrangement with another company in connection with his contract with Stamford. 

Malloy now cannot deliver on his promises to Mayor Harp, former Mayor Destefano, and school CFO Will Clark because he has driven the state’s budget into the ground and because of the scrutiny of the FBI.

The people of New Haven and the people of CT deserve a refund or at the very least a parking garage that will address both parking and economic development.

posted by: stjohner on August 18, 2016  7:55pm

@Pedro Soto is absolutely right.  A $40-60 million parking deck (which is absurdly expensive given both the site and the unsophisticated design that’s been proposed) will last for decades.  New Haven is just now beginning to address the urban planning mistakes of the 1950s and 60s, there’s absolutely no reason to accept a “free” parking garage if doing so will significantly hamper the economic potential of the immediate neighborhood.  Not to mention the fact that the state’s scheme doesn’t even attempt to address the painfully obvious need for a bus terminal at Union Station.

posted by: new havener on August 18, 2016  8:10pm

The city should employ a little Feng Shui, and have the State-built garage be an exact replica of the existing one, only on the right side of the train station. This presents opportunities to:
1) have a cohesively designed space (where is Duo Dickinson when I need him?) leading up Church St South, the desired ‘Gateway’ to Downtown.
2)have the same walking distances for both commuter garages to the station
3)leaves open the spot to the left of the existing garage where the city, with a developer, can build the retail/housing/bus terminal space it desires on the front of the lot, and leave space behind it for the railroad

When all this is complete, it would make the ‘Concrete Jungle’ property across from the station all the more desirable.

posted by: Politics 101 on August 18, 2016  8:49pm

What Pedro Soto said.

posted by: cellardoor on August 18, 2016  9:02pm

There is an opportunity cost attached to a banal, limited development like this one.  If yet another stupid garage box is built for suburbanites without a view to other forms of transit that might enliven the city, then nothing else can happen there for an unknown number of years.  New Haven has had many such missed opportunities, for lack of imagination and short-term gain.

posted by: Bradley on August 18, 2016  9:11pm

This does not have to be an either/or situation. A simple bus transfer facility, along the lines Robn describes, could be built now at a relatively modest cost. Similarly, a small amount of retail space, e.g., a coffee shop or convenience store, could be part of the design.

At the Trowbridge Square event, several speakers noted that the garage will largely serve suburbanites while the health and environmental costs of the garage will be largely borne by residents of the Hill. The former are largely white and the latter largely people of color, This raises the possibility of a Title VI complaint, arguing that the project has a racially discriminatory effect.

posted by: cellardoor on August 18, 2016  9:20pm

New Havener, I completely agree with your ideas about a symmetrical arrangement framing Union Station, if that were possible (is there that much land available on the other side of Union Station?)—“primum no nocere”—“first, do no harm”—then at least the potential of the space would not have been destroyed, until a more imaginative design can be developed.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on August 18, 2016  9:23pm

Ain’t happening, Malloy bluntly announced when asked about it Thursday.

And he’s tired of hearing about it.

He told New Haven to put up or shut up: Accept the design, or lose out on a new garage.

Slick Dan Malloy has nothing to lose.He knows he will not be Re-Elected.He will be on his way to work for Hillary.

posted by: William Kurtz on August 18, 2016  9:24pm

Leave it then. It’s a terrible design that looks backwards, not forwards.

posted by: cellardoor on August 18, 2016  9:24pm

Just looking at a bird’s-eye view on Google Maps, it seems as though a symmetrical placement of a second garage copying the (pretty nice) first one might be possible, leaving the development of the surface-level lot to a later date.

posted by: Nathan on August 18, 2016  10:05pm

Many hundreds, if not thousands of residents (not suburbanites, as the favorite line goes) who would benefit from improved parking at New Haven’s Union Station.  While it would be nice to have this be a part of an integrated plan which includes other details like a new central bus depot, the state has given the answer to that desire.  Unlike the more radical positions expressed at the public meeting and in NHI comments (by the usual crowd), I think the city should aim much lower for a smaller number of design changes and take the offer to build it.  Matt Nemerson needs to remember he is supposed to be working for all city residents on these projects, not just new urbanists.  Somehow, we will survive without walkways to Long Wharf from the new garage.

posted by: cp06 on August 18, 2016  10:51pm

I responded to the poll before reading the article. If I could change my vote to “Discarded,” I would after this:

“Ain’t happening, Malloy bluntly announced when asked about it Thursday.

And he’s tired of hearing about it.

He told New Haven to put up or shut up: Accept the design, or lose out on a new garage.”

posted by: robn on August 18, 2016  11:35pm

I would like to interrupt the NHIs regularly scheduled program to ask for some follow up RE Dan Malloy and his campaign manager, Alfonso Barbarotta.

posted by: TheMadcap on August 18, 2016  11:55pm

A bus depot I can see requiring nuerous changes to the design, but the real question is how much would first floor retail add to the cost. If the answer is not much, then screw it, call his bluff. At worst we’ll wait for governor Looney, because Malloy sure as hell isnt getting reelected

posted by: just my view on August 19, 2016  12:00am

Cheers @New Havener and @Nathan- you have the right concept.

Strong-arming state funds for a pedestrian bridge to Long Wharf? LOL. What’s wrong w/ the very walkable Church Street South route?

posted by: robn on August 19, 2016  6:45am


You wouldn’t take the entire ground floor. The rear aisle would remain as parking, the center aisle would remain as an entry exit ramp, and the end bays would remain as entry exit points.
Parking garage ramps are 180’ long. The bay’s are 60’ wide so that totals 10,800sf or the equivalent of 36 cars. At $20K per car that would be $720,000, which is about 3.6% of what should be a $20M budget. Add a marginal cost for first floor height increase to 20’ and retail infrastructure and it might go to $1M which would still be only a 5% increase to a $20M budget. That’s just a few years of inflation while Gov Malloy has been wringing his hands over this.

PS if the state budgeted $40-60M for a1000 car garage that’s a scandal in and of itself worth investigating.

posted by: budman on August 19, 2016  7:11am

Forget the bus depot. Union ave cannot withstand the extra traffic of buses, but if this plan cannot include street line retail, then leave it.  This is bull.  We should not accept bullying tactics from this governor. This is OUR city.  To move forward as though we cannot have a say is insane.

posted by: Dwightstreeter on August 19, 2016  7:41am

This is not Malloy’s first investigation into his finances and political connections. While he was Mayor in Stamford the State investigated him but everyone knows that no politician has been brought down by state investigations. It’s the Feds who do the real digging that produces successful prosecutions (Rowland and the Waterbury pedophile).
Malloy has been know to be a bully in private ever since his Stamford reign of terror, but as Governor, his penchant for pushing people around has been very public.
If he fails to get a job with the Clinton administration and chooses to run again, I will be forced to vote for Linda (or even Vince!) McMahon to save the State of Ct. Just kidding.

posted by: Renewhavener on August 19, 2016  12:06pm

None of you are going to use it anyway.  Speaking for those of us who live here and would, how about Dannel just gives us our $50MM back, and let’s us build what we want, contingent of course that it will still have the same capacity of 1,000 vehicles.  If it is “our” collective priority to have it be something more, then ought we not bond it ourselves?  As long as our dreams are financed by others it’s okay to dream big it would seem.

@Pedro Soto, “Leave it….”

Ok, so you are willing to support a historic zone so you might take advantage of state money for improvements to your home so you can put equity in your pocket, but when the state suggests adding some parking capacity that might improve someone else’s life in town (or elsewhere) who has to park in the rain and snow or blocks away and trudge through it, you’re indignant?  That’s great.

@Bradley, “At the Trowbridge Square event, several speakers noted that the garage will largely serve suburbanites while the health and environmental costs of the garage will be largely borne by residents of the Hill.”

Has the Hill ever NOT complained about a development, public or private?  Glad to see “Twenty Residents gathering” to tell all the of the rest of us how it’s going to be.  Think the worst part of this Trowbridge episode is Roland Lemar’s graceless pandering:

posted by: yim-a on August 19, 2016  6:52pm

ah, that’s ok Danny-boy.  We know you’ll be back in New Haven groveling for the urban vote when next primary season rolls around.  And we New Haveners have long memories.  long long memories/

posted by: Syne on August 20, 2016  3:44pm

A depot for city buses near Union Station would be beneficial.  Let’s also keep in mind that it is difficult to find parking to pick up and drop off passengers who are taking Greyhound/Peter Pan /Megabus.  Passengers often end up sitting on the ground or standing around outside while waiting for a bus.  An all-around enhancement to the waiting area for the people who travel by bus is much needed.

posted by: Elihu on August 21, 2016  11:29pm

Though you may object to the loss of the urban fabric they replaced, New Haven has a legacy of building progressive parking garages.  (Not everyone also thinks they are beautiful, as I do.)  The Temple Street Garage and Air Rights Garage, both of which included space for retail, are two good examples.  Let’s build another terrific garage that speaks about the current and future city!  A design competition may not be necessary, but we need a robust vision of how the area around Union Station will evolve over time.  Can the City take all the funding that the State of Connecticut will give without relinquishing control of the project?

posted by: Dwightstreeter on August 23, 2016  8:42am

P.S. Take a look at the Stamford train station and its monstrous to see a first rate waste of taxpayer money. Millions were spent and still numerous post-construction “fixes” were needed.
    Not only is the complex ugly and inefficient, it has insufficient space to drop off & pick up. The escalators periodically break down and there is a big, glaring X on the exterior that had to be added to bolster the building itself. It’s not nearly as attractive as a “flying buttress”, but should not have been needed if it had been competently designed and built.
    The parking garage has crumbled to the point where it is unusable and will have to be replaced.
    This was a State of Ct project, but done in conjunction with then Mayor Malloy.
    The man has no vision and does not care what happens to the public that is forced to use expensive, poorly designed public works.
    I have yet to hear of any sanctions against any of the builders of these money wasters.
    Hold out, New Haven, for the quality and functionality we .