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CT Construction Digest Monday September 21, 2020

Amazon is expanding its network of Connecticut warehouses, drawing protests from organized labor for its reliance on nonunion contractors

Stephen Singer  Amazon is expanding its network of warehouses in Connecticut, drawn by open space coveted in the crowded Northeast and access to nearby highways that bring the lucrative and populous region within its grasp. The state also offers something the online retail giant is not looking for: protests from organized labor and its Democratic allies in the legislature angry that nonunion labor is used to build the massive warehouses.

“We’re going to put Amazon on notice about the exploitation of workers,” said Joe Toner, president of the Hartford Building Trades Council.

The building trades unions, Connecticut AFL-CIO, leaders of the General Assembly’s Labor Committee and others say Amazon’s hiring of out-of-state contractors on a 3.5 million square-foot distribution center in Windsor puts Connecticut at risk of a COVID-19 outbreak. Organized labor has asked, without success, Gov. Ned Lamont to issue an executive order establishing out-of-state construction firms, unlike Connecticut contractors, as non-essential and requiring 14-day quarantines.

Amazon said in a statement it requires its employees, general contractor and all subcontractors to comply with applicable COVID-19 regulations, including executive orders, that allow “workers supporting the construction of critical infrastructure to continue work.”

Critics also cited A&D Welding, a Winston, Ga., contractor that was issued three stop work orders by the Connecticut Department of Labor for failing to contribute to workers compensation. Toner said nonunion contractors have underbid their union counterparts by paying as much as $50 an hour less per worker in pay and benefits.

“If that’s what we’re hanging our hats on in Connecticut, that’s pretty sad," he said.

A&D Welding did not return a call seeking comment.

The facility, which Amazon said in May would hire 1,000 workers over two years, is the retailer’s second center in Windsor. Town officials are reviewing a special use site plan application for a third, a so-called package distribution facility in an existing building.

Windsor is fortunate to have access to the state’s transportation network and large parcels of privately owned land, he said. The town is not focused exclusively on warehouses, but also has welcomed manufacturing and financial services firms, Town Manager Peter Souza said.

Amazon in June announced plans for a fulfillment center in Cromwell that, with the proposed Windsor site, would be its ninth center in Connecticut.

Internet sales are surging with shoppers avoiding the risks of contracting COVID-19 by using online sites and avoiding brick-and-mortar retailers. And Amazon is under pressure from competitors such as Walmart, which is using its thousands of stores for same-day delivery of online orders.

Amazon also has become a political target. On Monday, unions and the leaders of the General Assembly’s labor committee plan to protest Amazon’s “irresponsible and unsafe labor practices” with a press conference outside Amazon’s distribution center in Windsor.

With a market value of nearly $1.5 trillion, Amazon generated $280 billion in revenue last year. The retail giant has been criticized by unions and liberal Democrats for what they say is low pay for warehouse workers and pitting cities and states against each other to win favorable economic development aid.

Windsor Mayor Donald S. Trinks will not be joining the protest.

I’m sure there are a lot of first selectmen and mayors who would give their left arm for what we’ve got,'' he said.

After accounting for nearly $7.5 million in a real estate abatement over three years and $1.3 million in a building permit reduction, Windsor will receive $10.5 million in tax revenue from Amazon over the same period, Souza said.

Trinks said the financial breaks were the result of negotiations between Windsor and Amazon, which sought to pay zero taxes over seven years. “They knew that wouldn’t happen,” he said.

“I hope Amazon thinks we’re business-friendly,” the mayor said. “We’re not giving away the store by any means.”

State Rep. Christopher Davis, R-Ellington, compared unions and their legislative allies with U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who took credit for helping to scuttle Amazon’s second headquarters planned for Queens.

“I don’t understand why there’s such opposition to creating hundreds, if not thousands of jobs in the Hartford area,” he said. “We should not be doing anything to prevent this from happening.”

With millions of dollars at stake, CT’s diversity contracting program leaves minorities behind, reform advocates say

Matt Pilon  State agencies spend more than $100 million a year doing business with minority-owned small businesses in Connecticut, well exceeding targets enshrined in state law, but business people of color say they are getting short-changed.

As Black Lives Matter protests around the country this year have drawn attention to police brutality against minorities and other institutional racism, a decades-long fight over a Connecticut program designed to alleviate historic disparities experienced by minority-owned companies trying to win state contracts has churned on with no apparent resolution in sight.  The situation with the state’s Supplier Diversity Program has led to frustration and feelings of hopelessness among some minority entrepreneurs who have been pushing reforms with little success.

Some say the legislature’s failure to address the matter adds yet another societal barrier to those already faced by many minorities in Connecticut and elsewhere, including higher rates of poverty, unemployment and business failure.

The coronavirus pandemic has painted an increasingly dire picture, particularly for entrepreneurs of color. Across the country, 41% of Black-owned businesses and 32% of Latino-owned companies closed their doors temporarily or permanently in April, compared with one-quarter of women-owned companies and 22% of all businesses, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. Connecticut’s supplier diversity program, commonly referred to as a contract set-aside program, directs most state agencies to make a good faith effort to spend 25% of their annual contract dollars with Connecticut small businesses (defined as firms with $15 million in annual revenue or less).

Of that slice of the pie, 25% is supposed to go to small companies owned by specific racial and ethnic minorities, such as Black, Hispanic and Native American entrepreneurs, as well as by women of any race, including those who are white.

That means out of all the money Connecticut agencies spend on contracts, for anything from architectural work to masonry and janitorial services, 6.25% of the total pie is supposed to go to so-called “minority business enterprises.”

“You’re talking 6.25% out of 100%,” said Bernard Thomas, chairman of the Connecticut Minority Construction Council and owner of Hartford-based construction consulting firm BT Solutions. “That’s a huge problem right there.”

Minority business owners have long argued that the target is too small to accurately reflect the challenges they face in bidding on public work and winning favor with larger contractors who can subcontract them for taxpayer-funded projects. They also say that people of color actually tend to receive an even smaller share of contracts because the program — unlike similar ones in other states, like Massachusetts — lumps together minority-owned companies with women-owned firms that may not be led by an ethnic minority.

Fred McKinney, a Quinnipiac business professor as well as the owner of a consulting business, said 6.25% of state agency contracts is not helping the economic development of racial and ethnic communities in Connecticut.

“The state’s procurement policies are not currently designed to promote the economic development of Black and brown communities in the state,” McKinney said. “That’s a fact.”

Agencies exceed, but numbers can mislead

On the whole, Connecticut agencies routinely spend much more than 6.25% of their annual contract expenditures on certified minority business enterprises.

All combined, agencies spent nearly $901 million on such contracts between 2012 and 2019, compared to their set-aside target of just $257 million for that period, according to data from the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) and the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO), which oversee certification of minority enterprises and set-aside program performance, respectively.

But minority business owners say the numbers mask the truth.

Besides Thomas and McKinney, a number of other advocates — including Minority Construction Council Executive Director Jennifer-Little Greer, Sen. Douglas McCrory (D-Hartford), and Peter Hurst, CEO of the Bridgeport-based Greater New England Minority Supplier Development Council — are convinced that women-owned businesses are getting a disproportionate share of the diversity program’s already modest set-aside, leaving crumbs for firms owned by racial and ethnic minority owners.“I can assure you that if you broke it out, you would see the numbers are skewed toward women,” said Hurst, of the supplier council. “It would expose an unfortunate reality.”

Complicating matters is the fact that the state has not publicly reported a more detailed breakout of the contract allocations for more than a decade, making it difficult to say with certainty whether some groups are being treated unfairly compared to others, and if so, to what extent.

That’s led to calls for a new disparity study, which would help determine an updated set-aside target and prove the extent to which there is discrimination against minority enterprises in the contractng process.

However, lawmakers have failed to fund a study in recent years. It could cost $2 million and require a complex analysis of how many minority-owned firms have capacity to handle various types of state contracts in a geographic market, and the extent to which they are getting an unequal portion of work.

The state’s last formal disparity study was conducted in 1992 and determined the 6.25% minority set-aside target that remains in place today, despite untold economic shifts since then. “They just need to put the money behind it,” said the Minority Construction Council’s Little-Greer of a disparity study. “Currently, because everything is being lumped together, the numbers are being skewed.”

There is some evidence from CHRO — which has advocated consistently for disparity-study funding — that women-owned companies were faring better than minority-owned firms back in the mid-2000s.

A 2009 CHRO report revealed that in 2008, 38% of all certified minority enterprises were owned by minorities, while 60% were women-owned firms. However, minority-owned firms received just 15% of the contract dollars allocated that year, while women received 82%.

The Hartford Business Journal requested a similar breakout from DAS for the past decade, but the agency said it couldn’t provide it before press time because the data was not in easily usable formats. CHRO, meanwhile, ignored interview requests for this story.

McCrory said he believes the data will show that not much has changed about the diversity program since 2008.

“94% of the work can go to white men in this state and the other 6% can go to their wives and we would still be in compliance with the policies of the state of Connecticut,” said McCrory, who is Black. “We’ve been at this the last 30 years and we’ve changed nothing.”

Fact finding

Getting a disparity study off the ground has proven surprisingly difficult.

Lawmakers in 2011 farmed out the task to the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering (CASE), but after approximately four years of work, the nonprofit group, which was paid $755,000 for the first three phases of its analysis, was unable to get additional funding for a final crucial phase. CHRO officials and others criticized CASE for being unqualified to conduct such a complex study on a topic with which it was unfamiliar.

Terri Clark, CASE’s executive director, told HBJ that she stands by the group’s first three phases of analysis, and noted that CASE had hired an advisor who is an attorney and expert in disparity studies.

CASE’s initial reports found evidence of disparities by race, ethnicity and gender for factors such as business formation, earnings, credit access, homeownership and home lending, but the final phase of the study, which would have analyzed the presence, availability and utilization of minority-owned firms in Connecticut for state contracts — crucial pieces of a disparity study — was never funded.

Over the past few legislative sessions, lawmakers have filed bills proposing that CHRO or other entities conduct the disparity study instead of CASE, but funding has not come through.

The stakes of a new study would be high. It could find that some minority groups are more disadvantaged than others and therefore deserve a higher percentage of contract revenue.

It’s also possible that it finds there is less disparity than expected, which could lead to lower set-asides for minority groups. The need for the study to make changes to the set-aside program stems from a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that Richmond, Virginia’s diversity program was unconstitutional because it was not based on actual evidence that minority-owned firms faced disparities. The simple fact that the minority population in the Richmond area was greater than the amount of contracts won by minority-owned firms was not sufficient evidence, judges ruled.

While there’s been legislation in recent years seeking to make piecemeal changes to Connecticut’s diversity program, lawmakers and officials have been wary to make them absent an updated study.

“Any changes [to the contract set-aside program] made without the backing of a disparity study could put the whole program at risk if it were challenged in court,” DAS spokeswoman Lora Rae Anderson said. “We want to make sure that if the legislature votes for changes, that they have the tools to do it right, and in a way that will make long lasting change.”

Amazon eyes third Windsor facility 

Greg Bordonaro mazon seems to be finding a nice home in Windsor.

Not only is the e-commerce giant currently constructing its second major facility in town --  a $230 million, 823,000-square-foot  fulfillment center on former tobacco farmland at 1201 Kennedy Road and 1 Joseph Lane -- it’s planning a third major location there.

Amazon is seeking town approval to repurpose an existing 154,496-square-foot light industrial building at 100 Helmsford Way into a  “last mile” package delivery station. 

Trailer trucks transport packages to delivery stations from other Amazon fulfillment and sortation centers. The packages are unloaded into the building where they are sorted, picked and reloaded into delivery vehicles inside the building. The delivery vehicles are typically vans. 

The Helmsford Way property was built in 1994 and is currently vacant. It was most recently occupied by Arrow Recovery, a company that specialized in computer-equipment recovery.

Amazon doesn’t have plans to expand the building but it will make interior and exterior modifications to the property, according to its project application. 

Jim Burke, Windsor’s economic development director, said Amazon needs the approval from the planning and zoning commission, which is set to review the proposal at its Oct. 13 meeting.

Burke said the delivery station would employ about 40 full-time workers, not including drivers who would bring goods to and from the facility, many of whom are employed by third-party companies. 

Growing Windsor presence

The delivery facility would represent Amazon’s third major Windsor operation. 

Amazon's first 1.5 million-square-foot distribution facility at 200 Old Iron Ore Road came online in 2015.

In June the town approved a three-year tax abatement for Amazon to build a new 823,000-square-foot distribution hub at 1201 Kennedy Road and 1 Joseph Lane.Indiana developer Scannell Properties has already begun construction of the massive fulfillment center on 147 acres owned by the Thrall family farm, which is slated to be ready by next year Burke said.

A recent Hartford Business Journal analysis of Amazon’s presence in Connecticut shows that it currently occupies more than 3 million square feet in Windsor, North Haven, Cromwell, Stratford, Wallingford, Bristol, Enfield, Trumbull, Orange and at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks. It also plans to occupy another 1-plus million square feet at facilities in Windsor, Wallingford and Danbury in the next year.

Already employing thousands of workers in Connecticut, area real estate brokers say the company is eyeing additional locations in the eastern and western regions of the state as the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the online shopping boom.

Doubletree by Hilton hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for construction of an expanded hospitality complex in Bristol

Susan Corica BRISTOL – Speaking remotely from California, the owner of the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel hosted a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday afternoon for construction of an expanded hospitality complex on Century Drive.

The $25 million project will feature a new 50,000 square foot Bristol Event Center and a 90-suite HOME2 Suites by Hilton hotel on six acres behind the existing hotel, which is located off Route 229. Construction is estimated to take 18 months.

The whole thing is owned by Gerald Niznick, a Las Vegas entrepreneur who first made his fortune in the dental implant business. The existing hotel is managed by Prestige Hospitality Group, which will also manage the new complex.

The groundbreaking was attended by Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu and representatives of the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce, the Barnes Group, ESPN, and others connected or interested in the project.

Niznick appeared on a big screen, explaining that he and his wife Reesa were unable to travel to Connecticut due to the covid-19 pandemic travel restrictions. “But this gives us an opportunity to showcase the latest technology in visual and media communications, a technology that will be incorporated into the new event center,” he said.

He recalled when they were in Bristol in 2013 to celebrate the grand opening of the DoubleTree, which he had taken over from Clarion Hotels International and completely renovated and expanded.

“Seven successful years later we’re here to expand on that success and break ground on an exciting new hospitality complex,” he said. “Reesa and I are looking forward to seeing you at the ribbon cutting ceremony when we can be there in person to celebrate.”

He presented a slideshow highlighting features of the new project, including two hospitality suites, a ballroom, outside seating accommodating up to 750 people conference style or 450 people for sit-down dinners/weddings, an underground parking garage, pedestrian walkways connecting the two new hospitality venues with the existing hotel, outdoor gathering areas for private parties and photographs, and more.

The underground parking will have 110 parking spots, in addition to 250 outdoor parking spots.

Zoppo-Sassu called the groundbreaking a “momentous occasion.”

She compared Niznick’s entrepreneurial and inventive personality to that of significant figures from Bristol’s past, such as clockmaker Gideon Roberts, Wallace Barnes who founded the Barnes Group as a spring-making company, manufacturer Albert Rockwell, and ESPN founder Bill Rasmussen.

“So here in Bristol we can’t be more thrilled to welcome this project,” she said, “and the fact that we the city will be the beneficiary of this investment for many years to come.”

Lynn Dell, general manager of the DoubleTree and the new Bristol Events Center, said “over the past seven years this hotel has become one of the most successful hotels in our brand. As of this morning I’m proud to say that we’re number nine out of 405 DoubleTree hotels in the United States.”

Cindy Bombard, president/CEO of the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce, said she is especially excited because her organization puts on trade shows for two manufacturing associations.

“This is awesome for us to have, because we’ve had to take our trade shows out of the area because of the heaviness of the equipment,” she said.

Bombard noted that she has put on many events at the hotel, starting from when it was a Clarion property.

“I have watched this corner transform into something so much more than I could have possibly imagined. We have worked with Lynn and her team in having our events here over many years and having this added onto what is already a fabulous facility will make it that much better -- not only for Bristol but for the region,” she said.

Israeli company seeks to buy Oxford power plant owner

Luther Turmelle An Israeli electric generation company has signed a letter of intent to acquire a majority ownership stake in the Maryland company that owns the Towantic Energy Center power plant in Oxford.

When completed, the deal with Competitive Power Ventures would give Tel Aviv-based OPC Energy its first entry into the U.S. power generation market. The terms of the letter of intent call for OPC to spend up to $800 million to acquire a 70 percent ownership stake.

OPC Energy is negotiating with several Israeli institutional investors and financial partners to acquire the remaining 30 percent ownership stake in Competitive Power Ventures.

Giora Almogi, OPC Energy’s chief executive officer, said company officials have searched for about a year trying to find the best way to enter the electric generation industry in the United States.

“There is growing momentum for increased development of renewable energy and a focus on a lower carbon approach to electricity supply,” Almogi said in a statement.

The Towantic Energy Center power plant is located in Woodruff Hill Industrial Park and began operating in 2018. It is fueled by natural gas and generates 805 megawatts of electricity, which is enough energy to power 800,000 homes.

In addition to the Towantic Energy Center, Competitive Power Ventures has power plants that run on fossil fuels in New Jersey, New York and Maryland, as well as wind farm in Oklahoma that generates 152 megawatts. The company also is in the midst of developing solar power generation facilities in Pennsylvania and central Massachusetts.

Overall, Competitive Power Ventures has power plants that either already operating or in development that have a total capacity of about 14,800 megawatts.

Company secures approvals for New London apartment complex, drops plans at Fort Trumbull

Greg Smith  New London — Pennsylvania-based A.R. Building Co. has secured approvals to start a third project in the city: an 89-unit apartment complex at 22 Georgetown Road.

It’s a companion project and adjacent to the 104-unit development at 60 Mansfield Road that was completed by A.R. in 2018 and quickly filled up. The new project is almost exclusively composed of studio and one-bedroom units, a recognition of where the rental market is currently, said attorney William Sweeney, who represents A.R. Builders.

“The market right now in the greater New London area is smaller, more compact units,” he said.

Some of the more unique features of the project include a section of townhouse-style one-bedroom units with two floors, something created to fit the topography of the land where it will be built. It also will have a pool, along with a bathhouse, patio and community space that will be shared with and serve as a “major upgrade” to the adjacent complex at 60 Mansfield Road.

Both have amenities that include fitness centers and community rooms. Sweeney said the connection between the two projects will serve to create a more vibrant community. Prices on the units have yet to be announced. The Planning and Zoning Commission on Thursday approved the coastal site plan and site development plan for the Georgetown Road project, the last major hurdle for the project to move forward. Construction is expected to start in the spring, which is close to the time when A.R. is expected to be completing work at the 98-unit apartment complex at the corner of Howard and Bank streets, the former city-owned land known as Parcel J. Construction crews are working on the brick facade.

“This is an exciting project, We’ve been really successful in New London and we want to continue that success,” Sweeney said.

The one place where A.R. no longer will be pursuing a project is at Fort Trumbull. The company has terminated negotiations with the city’s development arm, the Renaissance City Development Association, for purchase of land and development of a 104-unit residential project on the Fort Trumbull peninsula.

A.R. had been poised to be the first new development project since the area was cleared in the wake of a decision in the landmark 2005 eminent domain case Kelo v. City of New London, in which the court cleared the way for the city to take homes for the purpose of economic development.

The decision to abandon plans for a project at Fort Trumbull, Sweeney said, stems from what he called onerous requirements from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection related to the land being situated in a 100-year flood plain.

Not only do the requirements increase costs of the project and limit the number of units but also add to the complexity of the construction. Sweeney said A.R., which has a 150-unit residential complex under construction in Groton, remains committed to New London and continues to look for other opportunities.

Athletic projects at Yale, Sacred Heart remain on schedule during global pandemic

Jim Fuller  The discussions were likely detailed and meticulous as Yale University’s athletic department received approval to build a new field house at Reese Stadium, conduct renovations at Gales Ferry Boathouse Yale Field and improve the lighting at John J. Lee Amphitheater. It seems a safe assumption, however, that the topic of the campus being shut down during a global pandemic was not among the conversations.

While there were some anxious moments when officials were understandably concerned about the progress of approved capital projects during unprecedented times, the work has either been finished or still on the same timetable.

“As of right now, everything has been on schedule,” Yale Director of Athletics Vicky Chun said. “When COVID hit and the school shut down, everything was halted for capital projects. Once it was deemed OK to go back in, then everything went back to what you say ‘normal.’ In fact, because the school is closed by capital projects are going on, there is no one there to use the facilities so they are able to go in and get quite a bit of work done.”

The locker rooms and bathrooms have been updated at the Gales Ferry Boathouse, home of Yale’s powerhouse men’s rowing program. Other improvements were also wrapped up. Complaints of the quality of lighting by television crews filming games inside Lee Amphitheater did not fall on deaf ears. When there are games to be televised inside the home of Yale’s women’s volleyball and men’s and women’s basketball programs, the images will be much improved.

“The success with the teams in JLA, there is a lot of ESPN broadcasts and it always had that yellow tint so now it is gone,” Chun said. “We just basically updated the interior lighting.”

Construction at Reese Stadium, site of soccer and lacrosse practices and games, and Yale Field remains on schedule.

“I am estimated to complete [work at Reese Stadium by] May 2021,” Chun said. “There was probably a slight delay but now we have picked up time. My experience with new buildings, it is a much smoother project than if you are renovating it. That is going full steam ahead.

“Yale Field, that is to complete renovations of the facades and structure. We were worried about the integrity and we also wanted to bring it back to its historical state and so that is a go as well.”

Chun said the plan has always been to be able to hold events at Reese Stadium and Yale Field during the construction process so the baseball and lacrosse teams won’t need to find places to play home games if the spring season starts on time.

There are more pressing concerns than the progress of construction projects due to COVID-19 but still, Chun knows things could have had a much different timetable.

“I know we are very fortunate to be able to continue with our projects with everything that is kind of going on in the world,” Chun said. “It’s something that I know our department has really appreciated.”

Chun has also been impressed with the resiliency of her staff dealing with constantly changing circumstances.

“We are still really optimistic and just trying to plan for almost every single scenario and we are not getting down when it is blown up in a day,” Chun said. “We’ve made all kinds of plans and we are going to continue to until we can implement it and we get to compete again but everybody’s understanding of where we are at so now it is zoom and really trying to stay connected. When you are in athletics, you tend to be a bit social so that has been the most difficult part.”

Sacred Heart’s plan to have a new hockey arena built by 2022 remains on schedule. There was a different set of challenges for the university to contend with.

“Every sport is doing conditioning in some way, shape or form so from that perspective, we have made some pretty significant changes,” Sacred Heart Deputy Director of Athletics Charlie Dowd said. “We actually moved a portion of our weight room upstairs at the Pitt Center to facilitate having more people work out at the same time. Strength and conditioning, we’ve instituted protocols to make sure that we are as safe and sanitary as possible including no locker room usage, no showers, a laundry system in place to ensure the kids are wearing clean clothes but it is just not traditional, you drop them off outside, you pick them up outside. We have gone through an awful lot of variations to make sure that we are doing the best to keep people safe.”

Bridgeport fires, then pays former construction manager $10k

Brian Lockhart   BRIDGEPORT — The city has paid $10,000 to avoid a prolonged legal battle with a top-level public facilities employee who was fired earlier this summer.

It is the latest of a handful of labor disputes Bridgeport has either settled or lost this year.

Nicholas Masciangelo was terminated from his job as Bridgeport’s construction manager overseeing numerous projects, from school and library work to exhibits at the Beardsley Zoo.

Neither Masciangelo, his attorney Thomas Bucci, nor Mayor Joe Ganim’s office would detail the reasons he was let go.

However, Bucci and the mayor’s office confirmed that Masciangelo was subsequently paid what the city characterized as a $10,000 “severance settlement in connection with his separation.” “The parties reached a mutually satisfactory agreement and have concluded the litigation,” Bucci said.

Masciangelo was hired in early 2017 by then-Public Facilities Director John Ricci, who was at the time seeking to do more in-house oversight of municipal projects rather than rely on private-sector construction management companies. Around that same time, for example, Ricci ended Bridgeport’s 20-year relationship with O&G Industries on school building initiatives.

Some of Masciangelo’s responsibilities included erecting the new Harding High School, renovating Central High School, building new library branches, the ongoing restoration of the City Hall facade, and constructing the zoo’s spider monkey and Andean bear habitats.

Several municipal workers and officials interviewed for this story said they were surprised Masciangelo was fired.

“It caught me for a loop,” said Council President Aidee Nieves who has been involved in the City Hall facade renovations. Reached Monday, Masciangelo said, “There’s not much I’m at liberty to say because of the agreement.”

He said he “had a very good rapport with everyone in public facilities and everyone under (Mayor) Ganim” and had “pursued the litigation to clear my name.”

Masciangelo also said he was almost immediately hired by Diversity Construction, a Cheshire-based firm he said was doing some work for the city.

According to Ganim’s office, Masciangelo’s position was “not affiliated” — meaning a non-union, political appointment — and “at this time tasks or responsibilities are reassigned to other staff.”

Masciangelo is just the latest former municipal worker who has successfully battled with City Hall.

Earlier this year Assistant Police Chief James Nardozzi received a maximum $160,000 settlement plus $80,000 worth of pension benefits and former Senior Labor Relations Officer Thomas Austin settled for $75,000. They had respectively alleged they were terminated without just cause.

And in June another upper-level public facilities staffer — Joe Tiago — returned to his job as deputy director after prevailing against the city over his firing in February 2019 for his alleged involvement in illicit scrap metal-for-cash sales.