Noting that the Pop Up Park’s volunteer organizers had failed to obtain insurance, a sponsor or Special Events permit to operate the makeshift gathering space downtown—conditions laid out last month—members of the Police Commission on Wednesday night withdrew their approval of a necessary street closure for the park.
Though the Board of Selectmen this month granted conditional approval for a three-week run, those who operate it came to find that the sponsors they found were “not excited about the new conditions” attached to it, according to Barbara Wilson, a member of the volunteer Pop Up Park committee.
“All of our sponsors have withdrawn because they did not feel the items that we had to address and accept were in their best interests,” Wilson told members of the Police Commission at their regular meeting.
“So we don’t have any sponsors. Additionally, the sponsor we had that was going to pay for insurance has withdrawn after talking with legal counsel. He said it has come up that the Pop Up Park Committee is not insured, is not in charge of the park, that ultimately the Chamber [of Commerce] and merchants have the final say on anything and everything in the park and that leaves him and them in a legal bind if anything does happen. And it also puts at risk the Pop Up Park Committee members. So, our insurance is not here.”
Police Commission Chairman Sperry DeCew and Commissioners Paul Foley and Jim McLaughlin voted 3-0 to rescind the conditional approval they had granted last month.
“It strikes me that it’s fairly straightforward that if you do not have insurance, that we are constrained not to allow the street to be closed due to the liabilities involved,” DeCew said.
He later told Wilson: “I am sorry it didn’t work out for you.”
The vote closes a tumultuous few months for the Pop Up Park committee, which had won approval in April for a seven-week season, thrown into question in June and—after the selectmen initially signaled that they would nix it—approved a shorter run but on conditions that the volunteers ultimately found unworkable.
Wilson in a statement supplied to NewCanaanite.com reviewed the Pop Up Park’s history of hard-won approvals, and ultimately said that the volunteers decided to step away from it for this year.
“After months of planning and anticipation, it is with regret that the Pop-Up Park Committee has decided to suspend our operations for the 2018 season,” the statement said.
It continued: “We want to thank the New Canaan Chamber of Commerce and the Town for their efforts to come to some sort of agreement, but feel that our small volunteer committee cannot go forward under the terms required. Although the PuP was designed and intended to increase foot traffic in the village, it is clear that some merchants believe that they have not benefitted. Additionally, if the PuP Committee is to insure this event, we cannot allow others to control and have final say as to the events, layout, plans and operations of the park when we always consider the community, pedestrian access, and safety as our first priority. We hope that in the near future the town will revisit the recommendations in its many studies to form a Business Improvement District or Economic Development Commission that also includes members of the public and the Chamber, to finally implement the recommendations in its many POCDs and Strategic Plans. We feel that this would have been very helpful to our efforts, and beneficial to the merchants and the greater community.”
Though Wilson said the town is poised to issue its Special Events permit for the Pop Up Park, the Commissioners during a brief exchange with her said that since the volunteers did not have it in hand, that condition also was not met.