Stamford is a wonderfully diverse city, made up of many small diverse communities. That is the charm of Stamford, or at least it used to be, before development ran rampant.
Over my lifetime I have seen many, many change to our fair city, some good, some not so good.
Historical Stamford is disappearing piece by piece. The downtown was rebuilt in the name of Urban Renewal, the entire South End community was taken over by glass and steel high rises in Harbor Point. We have lost entire communities in the name of progress, we have replaced school buildings with corporate headquarters, other buildings have been torn down and replaced by apartment buildings. As I said, a lot of changes over my 67-year lifetime, some good, some not so good. I will leave the decision as to which is which to the public at large, as my opinion is simply that of a single taxpayer.
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The one constant over the years is that mayoral administrations are poor property owners, stewards and landlords. All too often the City of Stamford will decommission a perfectly good surplus building, allow it to fall into a state of disrepair and decay to the point where the city declares it unsafe and either tears it down or sells it to a developer for a ridiculously low price, far below the market value.
Now there are some properties (slivers of land here and there that I do not have a problem selling off) and then there are buildings such as the Glenbrook Community Center on Crescent Street and the old Police Precinct 2 on Haig Avenue, the Hunt Center in Courtland Park that have been abandoned by the city and left to decay. These buildings were built by our ancestors, the carpenters, and stonemasons and numerous other tradespeople that moved to Stamford over the past 381 years. These were our parents, grandparents, and our great grandparents who came to this city to build a new life and raise their families. They built their homes, their farms and businesses, their churches and government buildings in their effort to build a lasting community. These buildings, (while not historical in the same sense as the Stamford Old Town Hall, the Capitol building in Hartford, the U.S. Capitol, the White House or other historic buildings throughout the country or around the world) are part of Stamford’s history and should be treated as such. The question is whether or not there a willingness within our city government to preserve what is left of our history? If the past is prologue, I regretfully must say the willingness to preserve history is absent from Stamford Government.
Some say that Stamford needs affordable housing, and I don’t disagree. But to the extent that we have literally allowed a handful of developers reshape this city in the image they desired, why didn’t past officials hold these developer’s feet to the fire and demand that they build real affordable housing instead of allowing tradeoffs like fee in lieu agreements. How much development can our infrastructure handle? We have municipal services (police, fire, public works etc.) that are severely understaffed, resulting in huge overtime pay outs, and let’s not forget the wear and tear on our roads and schools, the water pollution control system, our water supply, and our electrical grid.
Aquarion publicly says that our water issues are caused by lawn irrigation, and that the thousands of new apartments with sinks, showers, toilets and pools have absolutely no effect whatsoever on our dwindling water supply. I highly doubt the veracity of that statement.
Regarding Stamford’s surplus buildings, as Stamford continues to grow, I firmly believe that we will need additional space to house new and/or expanded services. The City of Stamford spent approximately $2 million dollars to acquire the Hoyt-Barnum House and adjacent land in order to relocate it 5 miles away in order to build our new Police Headquarters. If we sell off all our surplus property, which developer will we have to lease or purchase buildings from?
I support keeping the Glenbrook Community center as a community center, and I urge the City to reconsider the demolition of the Hunt Center and look into ways the rebuild/restore and re-use at least a portion of the building. With regard to the Old Police Station Precinct 2 on Haig Avenue, I can think of several uses for that building that I feel the neighbors would support.
People will say that the process of restoring these long forgotten and abandoned properties will be extremely expensive. My answer to that is that there are grants available on both the state and federal level that can be applied for and secured by the city. Look at any city around the country and you will find that there are at least a couple of historical buildings in many of them. In Denver, Colorado the Public School System Facility Management manages over 16 million square feet of space in 226 schools, located in 177 DPS owned facilities and 10 administrative facilities. Altogether, 17% of their facilities are registered historic landmarks.
One middle school in Denver was built in 1921 and is still in use.
It can be done…Stamford can do better and must make the effort!
Jeffrey T. Curtis, Sr.
Curtis is President of the Stamford Board of Representatives