The Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice and community members met with Mayor Bill Finch to address environmental problems in the city’s East End, a low-income neighborhood. Residents accuse Mark IV, company they say is operating “illegally” at 1473-1481 Seaview Ave., is causing health problems affecting children and adults in the neighborhood.
Juan Hernandez said, “I have lived in Bridgeport for over 50 years. I want that company removed from my backyard.”
Hernandez told Mayor Finch that if he, as an ordinary citizen, does anything illegal he would be fined. Why then, he asked, is a company that is operating illegally not fined? Finch promised he will arrange another meeting with the residents and the city attorney will be present.
Hernandez said he has a month-old granddaughter and is worried she will get sick because of the high volume of dirt around the house. He said he can measure the dirt accumulated in his swimming pool. He said it goes as high as a half inch. Ted Meekins, a member of the East End Community Council, handed a bundle of petitions to the mayor.
“Residents are getting sick and they don’t want that company there,” said Meekins. He said the asthma rate in that neighborhood is very high. He added that the dirt from the company’s operation goes straight to the nearby river.
Mayor Finch said, “This is not a conspiracy. I don’t know why this case has been unsolved for such a long time. I was not in charge when the company began operation, but we will arrange a meeting with the property’s owner to get to the bottom of this matter.
The owner is Manuel Moutinho, who lives in Eaton.
Eric Colon, who lives at 1487 Seaview Ave., said, “I have contacted several agencies regarding the matter. All of them tell me that because the case is in court, there is nothing they can do. My children don’t have a normal live like any other kid in other neighborhood. They can’t play outside because of the dust. I have to put plastic around all the windows. I have to put filters on the vents and furnace. A couple of years after they began operations, my two sons developed some type of sickness related to asthma known as ‘croup.’”
The City Council members who represent the district were the company is operating are James Halloway and Andre Baker. In an interview with The Park City Independent, Baker said it appears the company is operating illegally.
When asked whether Mark IV should be fined, he answered he doesn’t know. He added that if the city changes the City Charter in regard to limits on property use, future problems could be avoided.
Judge Carmen Lopez was present at the meeting, assisting the residents with the complaint. She said she did a document search on the case.
The case was introduced to court on Nov. 14, 2006. Records show: A comply/cease and desist order was served on Manuel Moutinho, c/o Mark IV Construction, 1473-1481 Seaview Ave. The order states that a contractor storage yard was established without zoning approvals in a coastal area management and an I-LI zone at the above address. An order to cease and desist the use of the property as a contractor’s storage yard was issued by Milford Thompson, the zoning enforcement officer of the city of Bridgeport.
On June 15, 2007 Mark IV filed an appeal of the Zoning Board of Appeals decision in Superior Court. The appeal was referred as first appeal with docket No. CV07-4021091S. ZBA is listed as defendant. Since then, the the matter has been in dispute. Community leaders say the City Attorney’s Office is not pursuing the case with severity because the company is a big contributor to political campaigns of members of the current City Hall administration.
In an interview with The Park City Independent, Councilman Holloway said, “They shouldn’t be there. The lot was sold by the city of Bridgeport in 1996 to Deked Central Corporation. He added, “I don’t understand why this case has been in court for such a long time.
Dr. Mark A. Mitchell, chairman of Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice, in an interview with The Park City Independent, said that they have met several times to address the matter.
He said that the group has has contacted Mark IV and requested a response to residents’ concerns. But rather than try to resolve the matter, the company preferred to take the case to court, Mitchell said.
A community organizer for the coalition said that several times she contacted personnel from Mark IV about the matter and they didn’t give their names, saying they were only the company’s employees.