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The NLDC lives on

By David Collins

Publication: The Day

Published November 20. 2013 4:00AM

There were a lot of things that were hard to digest in this week's news that Renaissance City Development Association (the much-hated New London Redevelopment Corp., with a new name) is considering building a parking garage in New London's Fort Trumbull.

Of course the biggest pill people are being asked to swallow is that the garage would be built on property the NLDC took, unnecessarily it turns out, by eminent domain, now empty land where a fine neighborhood once stood.

All over the city this week you could hear people humming Joni Mitchell's old folk song, "Big Yellow Taxi," with lyrics that start out: "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."

Alas, at least in Mitchell's song, the dreaded development also included a "boutique, a pink hotel and a swinging hot spot."

The NLDC, err Renaissance City, is only suggesting parking for Fort Trumbull.

The agency, which never built a single new building in all the years after it took away people's homes, is proposing a $10 million parking garage, in part to accommodate workers at the nearby Electric Boat office towers.

The other really hard thing to digest here is that Electric Boat spokesman Robert Hamilton said this week that EB doesn't require any more parking.

"We don't need any more spaces," Hamilton told a reporter.

So there you go.

The agency that took people's homes is now proposing to replace them with a $10 million parking garage, built with taxpayer subsidies, in part for a company that says it doesn't need more parking, a company that, by the way, is busy challenging the taxes it's supposed to pay the city in a Superior Court lawsuit.

How did we get here?

That's maybe the hardest part of this week's news about the NLDC to digest.

We all remember Mayor Daryl Finizio promising to abolish the NLDC during his successful campaign for office. I think few people would deny a suggestion that his strong talk about getting rid of the NLDC helped him win.

Mayor Finizio, though, instead of keeping his promise, changed the name of the agency and left everyone in place, most of the same people who executed eminent domain.

(This reminds me of that horror movie where a neighborhood of new homes is haunted because the developer moved the gravestones from a cemetery that was originally located there but didn't move the human remains.)

Finally, after a developer whom the NLDC had nursed along for years, with a promise of free land and tax breaks, was found in default of its development agreement, Finizio made a move toward cleaning house.

We were all told that Michael Joplin of Chester, the dark prince of eminent domain, was at last going to resign as agency president. The new president would be attorney Linda Mariani.

It was a start, although Finizio was leaving the agency intact and allowing it to keep the deeds to much of Fort Trumbull, despite the fact that a former city law director long ago rendered an opinion that the deeds should he held by the city.

The change of command took place over the summer. The first news out of the old NLDC since the change of command was this week's story featuring Joplin, talking about finding grants to pave over paradise. He sounds for all the world like he's still running things. Perhaps he is still looking for houses to seize.

I blame the mayor for this insult to all city citizens, not to mention the families that lost their homes to the NLDC and its high-handed and arrogant tactics.

People were told Joplin was resigning as president. No one added that he was staying on as a board member, one apparently who still serves as a spokesperson for the agency.

Mayor Finizio has successfully helped seat a City Council more friendly to his administration. He may eventually tame the nasty city police union. And, by the time he needs to seek re-election, planning for a big new museum on the waterfront may be well underway.

But any re-election effort may not be so successful if he can't show that he made good on one of the biggest promises he made the first time he ran.

He didn't move the bodies.

It appears the NLDC, with its clinging cronies, is going to be around longer than anyone might have thought, a wound that won't heal.

This is the opinion of David Collins

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