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Norwalk Police Mark Bittersweet Moment

Liana Gonzalez sat on her father's shoulders Thursday afternoon, watching as a part of both of her parents' history began to come down: The old Norwalk police headquarters, vacant for more than five years, was finally being demolished.

"It's bittersweet, because this is where I started my career," said Lt. Ashley Gonzalez, one of about 12 veteran officers who came to watch as the first blows struck the brick structure.

The demolition has been long in coming. Gonzalez and his fellow officers moved into their current headquarters in spring 2005. Tearing down the old headquarters, situated between the Stepping Stones Museum for Children and the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum , has been delayed by budget concerns. The city contracted with Stamford Wrecking to take it down last May , expecting the work to be done in time for Stepping Stones' grand reopening. But federal government concerns about polychlorinated biphenyls among the building materials pushed it back to Thursday.

Mayor Richard Moccia jokingly thanked the Environmental Protection Agency for delaying the demolition so it could begin in good weather. Then he swung the first blow with a sledgehammer.

Jon Dyer watched and said Moccia had hit the side of what had been his office as facilities manager. The retiree, who works as head of security at Lockwood-Mathews, donned a hardhat Thursday morning and got one of the last tours of the building, accompanied by Brian Fischer, facilities coordinator for the museum.

"This is great for us," said Fischer. The area will be converted to green space, with reseeding funded by a state grant. "It will bring it back to what it was supposed to be, a park," he said. "It was a 30-acre compound originally, so this brings it back closer to what it was."

Officer Cesar Ramirez called the demolition "a passage," something you have to go through. Officer Carlton Giles wasn't satisfied with just one brick from the building; he got two.

Gonzalez said his wife's father had trained him in the old building. She used to go there to visit her father, the late Al Kruseski, so watching the demolition meant a lot to her, too. They have been married for four years and met through her father.

"There's a lot of memories, they all come crashing in right now," he said. "It was a great place to come to work everyday, it was an older building but this is where most of my career was."

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