By Josh LaBella
Michael Mercuriano has been an advocate for various projects and events in West Haven for decades. Mercuriano, who works in real-estate, was instrumental in getting the West Haven train station built.
Mercuriano moved to West Haven with his family when he was seven years old. He went through the public school system and got his start working in the offices of a rail road company. He eventually got his real-estate license and took classes at the University of New Haven, Yale and UConn to further his education.
Mercuriano has been involved in a number of non-profits during his time in West Haven. He said this started several decades ago.
“I was a member of the Lions Club for years back then,” said Mercuriano. “I put a few things together for them when I was president – a handicap area down by the beach.”
In the mid to late 70s Mercuriano began getting involved in municipal leadership. He served on the Redevelopment Committee for 12 years and the Economic Development Commission for six.
“In redevelopment down by the shoreline we dealt with erosion problems or different complaints,” said Mercuriano. “We also looked for what could possibly better the city.”
During his time on the Economic Development Commission, Mercuriano said he and the commission tried to find ways to bring businesses to the city – including a shopping center on Water Street, where the Haven Project is planned.
Mercuriano said the commission also worked on a plan to get a US Navy ship permanently based in West Haven during Sal Guerrera’s term but when he lost the next election the plan fell through.
Two of the organizations he was in, the Lions Club and the Chamber of Commerce, hosted the first Savin Rock Festival. He said this was before the city was involved with planning the event.
“The Chamber of Commerce ran the first festival and it had nothing to do with the city,” said Mercuriano. “The Lions Club gave the first check. That was way back in the 80s.”
Over his decades of being involved, Mercuriano said he has learned that it is hard to get plans to come to fruition in West Haven.
“It’s like a town that doesn’t seem to want to better itself sometimes,” said Mercuriano. “It’s frustrating.”
He referenced the train station, a project he and the train station committee collected thousands of signatures to bring back to West Haven. He said the city has done nothing to develop the over 1 million square feet in the surrounding area.
Mercuriano continues to push the city into developing the area. West Haven does have a plan to attempt to develop the places around the train station – they have turned it into a Transit-Oriented Development zone – but nothing has come of it yet.
Now Mercuriano is focusing his energy on bringing a carousel back to the city. He said he and other member of the Carousel Committee, a non-profit, have been in talks with different people and organizations around the country that could complete the project.
“Twice we’ve had success with vendors wanting to put up a carousel here,” said Mercuriano. “Even the city had spent $3,000 on a design for it to be put right in front of the Savin Rock Center. Then the fight stirred up about what size the carousel should be. It’s nonsense.”
Mercuriano said he grew up in the city and will continue to try and make it better.
“I always want better for this town,” said Mercuriano. “So you surround yourself with people who want the same. But you can only go so far when all the administrations are really fighting against you.”