Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Nuns Aren't Taking It Any More...

News & Commentary

Nuns Aren't Taking It Any More:
Wage Public Campaign To Protect Kids
As Town Blocks School Parking Lot

The Cool Justice Report
Sept. 5, 2006

EDITOR'S NOTE: This column is available for reprint courtesy of The Cool Justice Report, http://cooljustice.blogspot.com

Jesus never said to turn the other cheek when the safety of youngsters was at risk.

So it is with the gallant and gracious Felician Sisters of Enfield. Their mission is to spread the good word by contemplation and action. The nuns in Enfield are the action kind. They are just like their predecessors who were kicked out of Russia in 1864 after they took in orphans, poor women and the disabled and nursed all sides in a bloody civil conflict. The Felician community had most humble beginnings in Poland as that country was partitioned by Russia, Prussia and Austria.

Now, the town of Enfield is trying to kick the Felician Sisters out of a school they have run in various forms since 1944. Lame and cowardly town officials are rolling over for bloodthirsty political and business interests who have no conscience when traffic accidents are waiting to happen right under their stinking schnozzles. Local legislators who might exert influence are stunningly silent, washing their hands of responsibility.

I have been privileged to know several of the sisters who serve as teachers and administrators at the Enfield Montessori School. They have literally given decades of their lives to serve the young and the families of Enfield. They are inspiring.

The simple issue at hand is a parking lot and the safety of little ones who are dropped off on a front lawn and picked up on busy Route 5 every school day. All the sisters have been trying to do is move the parking lot to the back yard, away from the highway

The Felician Sisters came to Enfield in 1932, establishing a religious province with a fitting name, Our Lady of the Angels. They opened a school 12 years later at 1370 Enfield St. (Route 5) The town of Enfield would not pay for its own kindergarten until the late 1960's. Meanwhile, the sisters would educate as many as 325 kindergarteners a year. Currently, the private school saves the town about $350,000 annually in education expenses.

Out of the blue, the Enfield zoning enforcement officer tried to shut down the parking area for the school in December 2003. The town has been going gangbusters to shut down the lot and the school ever since. At the same time, the town has allowed a nearby medical complex and a public school to expand parking.

The Enfield Zoning Board of Appeals revoked the shutdown order after an exhaustive hearing. Atty. Ken Slater of Hartford's Halloran &Sage, representing the Enfield Montessori School and the sisters, presented incontrovertible evidence showing the parking area had been used for at least 40 years, prior to the establishment of special permit regulations that had been cited in the sham shutdown effort. Justice was done, or so it seemed.

Vans are big. Children are small. Luck can only last so long before someone is injured or killed in the small parking area by the highway. Why is such a simple proposition so difficult to accomplish? There are no good answers.

As the controversy played out, a prominent and politically-powerful opponent of the school surfaced. He is Anthony Troiano, the school's next door neighbor, a major business and property owner in Enfield. The slogan for one of his businesses is, "Neighbors Helping Neighbors." If such slogans were honest, Troiano's would be, "Neighbors Shafting Neighbors."

I went to see Big Anthony as the controversy raged, but he wouldn't answer his door or the phone. Big Anthony has a pretty nice ride in Enfield. At one point, he and his partners owed the town about $40,000 in property taxes, but the town still paid them about $180,000 to repair cop cars and other vehicles. Big Anthony scares a lot of people in town. They are terrified of crossing him. And so they do his bidding or they are silent like sheep. Now a successful developer, his projects move through the approval process like greased-lightning.

Troiano once told town officials "historic vegetation" would be destroyed if the nuns moved the parking area behind the school. That area is not so far from where similarly "historic vegetation" - some of us call it grass - was removed to make way for Troiano's pool and cabana.

Action against the Montessori School began only after it sought to add an activity room and move the parking area. Brendan Belgey, an accountant with a practice in town, attended Enfield Montessori in 1965.

"My mother parked in the lot where I drop off my child," Begley said. Begley said the sisters, like any other property owners, should be able to do whatever is legally proper on their 11 acres of land without political interference. The activity room is needed, he said, so youngsters can stretch their legs outside the classroom once in a while.

"I believe Mr. Troiano doesn't want this [improvements to the school] to happen for whatever reason," Begley said. "I think he was a catalyst and he used his influence."

The Montessori School's victory before the Enfield Zoning Board of Appeals was short-lived. Some town officials assented when the Enfield Planning & Zoning Commission decided to sue its own ZBA, seeking to reinstate the parking area shutdown order. I guess that's the way they spell gratitude and appreciation in Enfield.

Naturally, this is costing Enfield taxpayers truckloads of money. How much? The town manager and the mayor aren't talking. Neither is the legal department. They are actually farming out the work, paying expert counsel from out of town so one municipal department can sue another. I asked the legal department to produce records showing the cost, through a formal request under the state's Freedom of Information Act. I also asked the legal department to search for records indicating any communications about a possible housing project that has been discussed in town - to be built on the Montessori School property. The requests are pending.

The Felician Sisters are about to unveil a public information program which will demonstrate the full force of their dual mission: contemplation and action. "Stop the Nonsense!" Sister Francine Mary demands in a flyer that will be distributed with various parish newsletters this month. They are asking citizens to call or write the mayor and council members, as well as state and federal officials, to help them protect their students.

Meanwhile, the battling town agencies - P & Z and ZBA - and the sisters will be in Hartford Superior Court Sept. 12, 2006 as the town inexplicably continues its vendetta against the Montessori School.

Now is the time for the good citizens of Enfield to stand up and demand that their public servants stop this despicable course of action.

Andy Thibault, author of Law &Justice In Everyday Life and a private investigator, is an adjunct lecturer of English and a mentor in the MFA writing program at Western Connecticut State University. He also serves as a, consulting editor for the literary journal Connecticut Review. Website,www.andythibault.com, and Blog, http://cooljustice.blogspot.com


*FOI request Enfield re- attempt to thwart safety-related parking plans 9-5-06

* [background follows request]

Tues., 9-5-06

Ms. Maria Stavropoulos, Sr. Asst. Town Atty.
Town of Enfield, 820 Enfield St.
Enfield, CT 06082
Phone (203) 253-6405
Fax (860) 253-6362

by Fax, e-mail and regular mail

Dear Atty. Stavropoulos:

This is a formal request for prompt production of documents in accordance with the state Freedom of Information Act. This correspondence follows several calls to your office and the town manager today.

I request copies of any and all billing records related to work that was farmed out by the town in Re: Enfield Planning & Zoning Commission v. Enfield Zoning Board of Appeals. The law firms receiving this work include Branse & Willis of Glastonbury and O'Malley, Deneen, Messina & Oswecki of Windsor. Also, please provide any memos indicating who authorized these expenditures and how much was authorized.

As you know, this litigation is related to attempts by the town and certain citizens to thwart safety-related plans for parking at the Enfield Montessori School, the site of schools run by the Felician Sisters since 1944. Please also provide records showing hours spent by the legal department on these matters

As you might also know, there has been discussion in town of a possible development project that certain business leaders might like to undertake at the site of the Montessori School. Therefore, I ask that you undertake a global search of any and all town records for memos, phone logs or other data that could point to possible unethical or illegal conduct or influence in these matters.

By prompt, I mean immediately, unless you can demonstrate to the FOI Commission that this would interfere with the normal course of business. This information is vital to the public interest. Accordingly, I request a waiver of any and all fees. You may fax or mail the data to the contact information listed above.

Thank you very much.


Andy Thibault

Copies to state Freedom of Information Commission,
Gov. Rell, Chief State's Attorney


background: Enfield Thwarts Sisters' Attempts To Protect Students

hearing scheduled 9-12-06 Hartford Superior Court
ZBA had approved parking lot, then was sued
by Zoning Commission.

Cool Justice
Revenge Of The Nerds & Losers

Law Tribune Newspapers
September 6, 2004

The Red Guards of Chairman Mao's Cultural Revolution had nothing on the nerds and losers who make up many so-called Historic District Commissions in Connecticut.

Under the murky cover of ambiance, aesthetics and historical integrity - subjects about which they demonstrate little understanding - these minions of the in-crowd routinely trample on the civil and property rights of ordinary citizens. Woe to the uninitiated who come before such agencies just trying to improve their property. If they don't belong to the right club, drink at the same parties or have political juice, they are screwed. It doesn't matter what precedents might have been set or what is fair and just. These "Hysterical District Commissions," as they are commonly known, just make it all up as they go along. In some cases, they or their colleagues at town hall will even lie about their intended victims.

In the name of justice and historical accuracy, I say we lock the heads and arms of these evildoers in the stocks at town greens every Friday in Connecticut. Mere public ridicule might not be enough, however. In some cases, burning at the stake is clearly justified.

I could pick virtually any town, but let's start with Enfield. Just as in any small town, there are movers and shakers - those whose voices in public and in private carry more weight than they should in a democracy. When they tell politicians and town officials to jump, they jump.

Not everyone jumps, though. In Enfield, it was a few nuns who said, "We are holding our ground. We are going to protect our children."

These nuns are the Felician Sisters who established a school in town in 1944. That was more than 25 years before the Enfield Public Schools introduced kindergarten. At one point, the Sisters served 312 kindergarteners for the town.

Town leaders and the Hystericals demonstrated their appreciation in recent years by claiming the Sisters had operated the school illegally. It has been a Montessori School since 1965. Luckily for the Sisters, archives document state certification to 1944.

An engineering study conducted this year shows that children are at risk because of limited parking that causes backups on busy Route 5. The Sisters want to plant grass over a parking lot near the front of the property and move parking to the back. The Hystericals have denied parking proposals three times, saying, among other things, that the ambiance would suffer. They say the ambiance would suffer because the parking would be moved virtually out of sight and the children would be safer. It doesn't matter that another nearby school, a nursing home and a physical therapist all have parking in front.

To understand this illogic, one must understand politics.

The next door neighbor, Big Anthony Troiano, owns a lot of businesses and property in town. At one point, Big Anthony and his partners owed the town about $40,000 in property taxes, but the town still paid them about $180,000 over two years to repair cop cars and other vehicles.

Big Anthony told the Hystericals "historic vegetation" would be destroyed if the nuns put a parking lot behind the school. They listened and no one howled in laughter. This historic vegetation sprang from grass seed planted a few months ago. It must be different from the historic vegetation that Big Anthony surgically removed a few yards away for his cabana and pool.


Cool Justice
Party Down With Sister Anastasia

Law Tribune Newspapers
September 13, 2004

The hottest hunk of woman I've encountered lately - outside of family, of course - is Sister Mary Anastasia.

I felt the light of Sister Mary Anastasia shine on me during a recent visit to the Montessori School she runs in Enfield. She has been teaching there for 36 years, helping toddlers and somewhat older youngsters learn words by touching and feeling and seeing.

Her order, the Felician Sisters, has been running schools at the site since 1944. It's on Enfield Street, a major road with big houses and big lawns and lots of traffic.

These days, Sister Mary Anastasia jets around in a walker. "I could never sit in an office all day," she tells me. "Life begins at 60 … " Her body is frail and worn, but this person is one of the strongest, brightest and warmest people I have ever met. She is a humble jester. She is tough and beautiful. She is a quiet and relentless warrior.

Sister Mary Anastasia convinces me that if God loves the meek, he most certainly loves those with backbone. For Sister Mary Anastasia is taking on a rotten town government filled with gutless worms who are living off taxpayers and failing to stand up for what is right and good.

I talked to a cop about this school. He knows a child who attends. He knows that the parents must drop off their child very early to avoid congestion and safety hazards. He was very friendly and outgoing during this portion of the conversation.

Then, I asked him about the political juice of a few people who don't want the nuns to relocate their parking lot from the front to the back of the school. The sisters would replace the gravel in front with grass, and expand parking in the back. The cop's tone changed. "I don't know anything about that," he said. The conversation was over.

"We have a solution, but they [the Historic District Commission] won't let us do it," Sister Mary Anastasia told me. "That's what I don't understand. This is our first experience with politics. This whole fiasco doesn't make any sense."

Three times the Historic District Commission rejected the parking plan.

"We have pre-schoolers," Sister Mary Anastasia said. "With these big vans, you can't see those little kids. We're lucky we haven't had a serious accident."

I asked Richard Tatoian, the Historic District chairman, about an engineering report showing children are at risk because of traffic back-ups.

"That was their opinion," Tatoian said. "Safety issues are not paramount." I asked Tatoian, as I had asked the cop, about the political juice of the next door neighbor - large landholder and business leader Anthony Troiano -- who has vigorously opposed the plan.

"That had no effect that he is a property owner and a businessman," Tatoian said.

Yeah, that's a good one. Or, if I may say so politely, I'm skeptical.

In Enfield, Big Anthony Troiano gets what Big Anthony Troiano wants. If he wants a zone change for a business, he gets it. If he wants hundreds of thousands of dollars of town business while he and his partners are tax delinquents, he gets it. If one of his buildings gets shut down for cocaine trafficking, he gets a deal with prosecutors to find a new tenant. And if Big Anthony wants the Historic District Commission to stomp on a parking plan the nuns have for kids, that's what happens. I went to see Big Anthony at his house, left a card and then called one of his businesses. I'm still waiting to hear back.

Meanwhile, there's a slight chance a judge will see what is going on here and do the right thing. The Felician Sisters have filed an appeal with the Superior Court. Let's see how much taxpayers want to pay to subsidize Big Anthony and his minions in the war against the nuns and their students.


Anonymous said...

Big Anthony's wife is on the Historical Commission. Her cousin is the police chief.

Anonymous said...

The enfield Democrats are completely corrupt, they dole out favors through the planning and zoning comm.anthony depace is the enforcer for big anthony troiano,.

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