Defending the CAVE people of Stamford

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Recently, I wrote and submitted an op-ed to the Stamford Advocate (9/25) in full support of the people who wanted the Glenbrook Community Center to remain a full-fledged community center, and not just the mere 3,000 maybe 4,000 square feet of “public space” promised in the proposed sales contract. (An Op-Ed which by the way was NOT printed by the Stamford Advocate) Apparently, someone at the Advocate didn’t think my opinion was worth printing. Instead, today they chose to print an op-ed titled “STAMFORD IS A CULTURAL HELLHOLE”, that was full of arrogance, negativity, name calling, and slanderous comments about the people of Stamford and the city itself.

I am appalled by the op-ed from Mr. Augustyn! He is apparently a well-educated and very articulate person, but his op-ed shows a great deal of arrogance, entitlement, immaturity, as well as an extreme lack of knowledge about Stamford and its citizenry. Where does he come off attacking the taxpayers of Stamford, who paid his salary for 2 years and 6 months while he worked for Mayor Martin? Stamford is a very diverse community made up of many different ethnicities, cultures, religions who bring a great deal to our city. Seventy-five languages are spoken in the homes of Stamford school children, 30% of our community is foreign born, Immigrants from all over the world have moved to Stamford, people from all over the country have moved to Stamford. Each and every one of them brings something to the table.

Mr. Augustyn says, “Stamford is unique because the politically engaged populace in town only expresses one consistent desire: opposition to everything. Real cities have community members who create organizations advocating in favor of things, rather than endlessly arguing against anything. Real cities have business owners that become excited at the prospect of more people coming into town to stimulate their business, populate our community, and enrich our culture. Real cities have local representatives that care to imbue the place where we live with art, culture, history, architectural beauty, walkable spaces, and connected communities”. How incredibly hypocritical! Mr. Augustyn lists history in his comment quoted above, but he is absolutely ok with demolishing our history piece by piece and refers to communities that unite as CAVE people.

Mr. Augustyn’s op-ed is a personal attack on every hardworking resident of Stamford. As a native of Stamford, I care about our history and the people. Besides being a Stamford native and taxpayer, I wear another hat as the President of the Board of Representatives for the City of Stamford. I feel it necessary to defend the Board of Representatives and our city from Mr. Augustyn’s remarks. For him to insinuate that the very diverse and dedicated group of VOLUNTEERS (who by the way are not all native Stamfordites) are not “real local representatives” offends me. We have members on the board who moved to Stamford from New York, El Salvador, Michigan, and many other locations. I am truly honored to serve with the 39 other members of the Board of Representatives, as well as many other diverse and extremely dedicated volunteers on other boards and commissions. We may not always agree on everything that comes before us, but I respect them for their service to the people of Stamford and so should you!

Mr. Augustyn is not from Stamford, and I have no idea how long he has graced our city with his presence, but I don’t think it has been very long. Some people come to Stamford with a sense of entitlement and think that they can run roughshod over the people who have deep roots in Stamford. If you don’t see things their way or disagree with them, they lump you into a group, assign it a stupid acronym (like CAVE or BANANA) and go about their business trying to cancel everything and everyone that doesn’t subscribe to their program. I’m not saying that everyone who moves to Stamford from elsewhere is entitled or arrogant at all. Many transplants to Stamford have made some serious and wonderful long-lasting contributions to this city in the past and continue to do so today.

With regard to Mr. Augustyn’s comments about the Glenbrook Community Center being in a state of disrepair, he’s absolutely correct. It is in a state of disrepair, WHY? Because his former boss, Mayor Martin and prior mayoral administrations chose, either through withholding of adequate funding, lack of interest in/or desire to maintain the building. They are the ones that allowed the GCC and other public buildings to become dilapidated and blighted. 

Mr. Augustyn remarked that “Members of the public defended this community center as if it had been personally built by their grandparents”. Mr. Augustyn, many of our grandparents and great grandparents did personally build the Community Center, the old Police Station on Haig Avenue, the Hunt Center in Courtland Park, the Old Town Hall, as well as every single church, school, and “old” building in the city. These buildings did not magically appear overnight, our ancestors physically built and paid for these buildings through their tax dollars, civic involvement, and donations.

He mentions the exact same copy/pasted bars on Bedford Street and states that “Stamford is a cultural mecca where our Marquee community events get headliners and every other artist saved to your I Pod in 2006”. Arthur, Stamford has a very vibrant and diverse cultural personality if you care to open your eyes and look. Personally, I like a wide range of music, especially Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing, Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline and Ronnie Van Zant /Lynyrd Skinner’s Free Bird, as well as many other musical genres. These songs have been and will be around much longer than some of the so-called music of today.

Mr. Augustyn summarizes our views on zoning and new building as BANANAs: Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything Else… If that was the case, please explain how the Stamford Town Center, The Urby, Harbor Point and many other buildings too numerous to mention by name got built here in Stamford? We, the CAVE people of Stamford have watched as Stamford grew from a small town, into the “2nd Largest City in the State,” the “Crown Jewel of the State” and the “fastest growing city in the state”. Stamford is far from perfect, but we are NOT a cultural hellhole as described by Mr. Augustyn.

We, the CAVE people of Stamford don’t always get our way. We have fought to no avail to save our working boatyard that was demolished without permission. Developers have recently built structures on property that does not belong to them. At some point along the way, someone forgot that increased population requires increased services! When Former Mayor Malloy was in office, we had somewhere around 310 to 325 police officers, today we have around 250. We are the second largest city, with the 4th largest Fire Department in the state. Our other municipal services are running short handed, we have had to close our transfer station on a few occasions because we can’t haul away our trash fast enough. Our park system is seriously under maintained, and our schools are in desperate need of repair.

I have no idea what Mr. Augustyn’s utopic vision of Stamford is, perhaps it’s MOSH pits, 24-hour bars, and nightclubs on every street. That may work in NYC, Las Vegas, or LA for example, but that is not Stamford, and I pray to God that it never is.

Mr. Augustyn appears to be a very angry and extremely unhappy person. For him to attack and disparage the hardworking blue-collar people of Stamford as well as our ancestors, is absolutely uncalled for and totally unacceptable.

He refers to the Hoyt-Barnum House (the oldest house in Stamford) as “a Carriage house of a rich guy that lived 200 years ago”. I will have you know that the history of Stamford is important to people who truly love Stamford warts and all. THAT SIR, IS JUST A SMALL EXAMPLE OF THE HISTORY THAT the CAVE people of Stamford care about.

I have done my research Mr. Augustyn, and though this goes against everything in my nature, I would like to politely suggest that if you are so dissatisfied with Stamford, that perhaps you should move! I hear Malibu, Venice and Los Angeles, California, Somerset, New Jersey or Framingham, Massachusetts are very nice places to live. Perhaps you would be much happier moving back to one of them. Maybe then you can find the cultural nirvana you so desperately crave.

Signed, A Proud Stamford CAVE person

Jeffrey Curtis, Sr., President
31st Board of Representatives