A Developer and an Out-of-the-Box Suggestion for Affordable Housing in Stamford Suburbs

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Before he shared his suggestion, Richard Freedman warned Zoom viewers that it was “radical.” He offered it during a virtual public hearing on Stamford’s affordable housing plan, due to the state on June 1.  Freedman, a for-profit developer who also creates affordable housing through his family’s non-profit foundation, said Stamford provides about 40 percent of the below market rate units in the region. Amid a state mandate for housing accessible to all income levels, Stamford has done “more than its fair share,” Freedman told the Stamford Planning Board, host of the hearing.  Surrounding towns have not, he said.  Stamford exceeds

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Bullish on Revenues, Stamford Bumps up Mill Rate, Takes Aim at School Renovation Costs

Board of Finance members went through the city’s revenue lines Tuesday night, working to set a new mill rate for Stamford taxpayers. As they did, one thing became clear – Vice Chair Mary Lou Rinaldi is bullish on Stamford. Rinaldi, confident of the city’s prospects for the 2022-23 fiscal year, suggested half a dozen hikes in revenue projections. She proposed increasing the expected revenue from building-permit fees to $6.75 million, or $250,000 more. “People are still doing new construction and renovation, so I think increasing this projection slightly is a good move,” Rinaldi said.  The board passed her proposal unanimously. 

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Stamford Death Raises Dangers of Illegal Housing

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On May 2, the friends of a 46-year-old Stamford man could not reach him by telephone, so they went to the door of his basement apartment in a single-family house downtown. They heard the shower running. They knocked, but the man did not answer. They called police. Officers arrived, heard the shower – and that the man always responds to phone messages from his friends – and decided to force the door open. They found the man, identified for now only as a native of Morocco, dead in the running shower. There were no wounds, no signs of foul play,

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Stamford Releases $237k Study Detailing Local Housing Needs

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Stamford is fast becoming a city of high-earning renters, but home ownership, for many, is slipping out of reach. Low- and moderate-income homeowners are leaving Stamford, and renters at those salary levels are struggling to survive – if they can find affordable units in a market that falls far short of demand.  Though Stamford creates more affordable housing units, by far, than any municipality in Fairfield County, it is nowhere near enough. So concludes a 10-month study commissioned by Stamford officials to fulfill a mandate from Hartford to develop a housing affordability plan.  State lawmakers confronting the state’s strong demand

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Stamford Marijuana Dispensary Wins Local Approvals, Plans 12 Cash Registers

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It could be that Fine Fettle Dispensary will handle 40 to 50 recreational marijuana customers per hour when it opens in Stamford. To prepare for such a large number of transactions, Fine Fettle CEO Benjamin Zachs plans to install 12 cash registers. He expanded the number of parking spaces beyond what zoning regulations require for his Research Drive shop, and will ask customers to order online and visit only to pick up. If all goes as planned, Zachs thinks he can serve each customer in 2.5 to 4 minutes, he told members of the Zoning Board Monday. Board members approved

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Stamford Schools Face Wave of No-Confidence Votes

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For two months, votes of no-confidence in Stamford’s school superintendent have trickled in. They began in early March with Westhill, the city’s largest high school, where two-thirds of the tenured teachers cited a lack of confidence in the superintendent, Tamu Lucero, saying she leaves them out of important decisions – particularly one to switch to a block schedule in the fall. That was followed a week later by a no-confidence vote from the city’s smallest high school, the Academy of Information Technology & Engineering, where 42 of 51 tenured teachers cited the same reasons. In late March it was Turn

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City Reps. Vote Cuts for Mill River Park, Cite Unequal Funding of Stamford Parks

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In the final meeting to decide on Stamford’s $626 million budget for the coming fiscal year, members of the Board of Representatives spent an hour and a half talking about one park. The discussion can be summarized by paraphrasing a famous line from George Orwell’s 1945 novel, Animal Farm: All parks are equal, but some parks are more equal than others. It describes the thinking among city representatives who voted to cut $175,200 from Mill River Park, the jewel of downtown Stamford. Mill River is an expanding greenway with a sparkling stream visited by elegant egrets and surrounded by blossoming

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Safety, Crowding, and Policing a Concern in Stamford Parks, as Child Recovers in Hospital

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For most of the five years Jeff Stella has been a city representative, he has raised the prospect of danger at Lione Park. On Sunday, something perilous happened. An 11-year-old on a swing was struck by a car that careened through the playground fence. The child, at last check, was in stable condition. “When I heard, I prayed his injuries weren’t serious,” said Stella, whose district on Stamford’s West Side includes the busy park. “Then I thought, ‘This has been one of my fears, and now it happened.’” The woman behind the wheel, 54-year-old Mikel Lyneel of Stamford, was charged

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Below-Market-Rate Housing in Stamford, a Model, and ‘a Mess’

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Housing was a hot topic in this year’s almost-ended legislative session at the state capitol. Advocates pushed for measures to increase the amount of affordable housing in Connecticut, one of the most expensive places to live in the country. Towns pushed back, saying they will fight to preserve their character, particularly since developers are taking advantage of a law that allows them to bypass local zoning regulations if they build projects with a certain percentage of affordable units.  Each municipality now is working on a plan – due to the state on June 30 – for how it will boost

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Fiscal Committee Messages Priorities with $940,000 in Cuts From Stamford Budget

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City Rep. Monica Di Costanzo ticked off page numbers to the sound of Fiscal Committee members flipping through the budget book.  “Sixty-one, sixty-two, sixty-three,” Di Costanzo said, reading through the 555 pages and checking to see whether Board of Representatives committee members at city hall – and those watching on Zoom – raised a hand to propose a cut. “Page 88, Department of Operations, road maintenance,” Di Costanzo, the committee co-chair, continued. No hands went up. “Page 129, beaches … page 149, traffic analyst position …” Representatives Monday night proposed few cuts at first, even for the big-ticket items –

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Stamford Debates Housing Reforms Aimed at Connecticut’s Suburbs and Small Towns

In some places they’re called mother-in-law suites, in others illegal apartments. Whatever the reference – zoning officials say ADU for “accessory dwelling unit” – they’ve come to be called controversial in the hot debate over how to alleviate the state’s affordable housing crisis. Housing advocates say ADUs are a vehicle for creating more affordable rental units and greater access to Connecticut’s wealthy towns, where crime is low and quality of education is high. Last year legislators passed a law legalizing ADUs statewide. It allows them to be built in single-family houses as of right, meaning without a zoning variance, special

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Stamford Reps Question How a Score of 55 Beats a 74 for Firefighter Testing and Promotions

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The test is scored precisely, down to decimals. Yet results can be rounded. A grade may be set to define passing and failing. But not necessarily. Earning the highest score could mean a promotion. Or not. Members of the Stamford Board of Representatives said this week they are confused about how firefighters and police officers are evaluated on exams they take when they want a promotion. During the board’s Personnel Committee meeting, representatives requested an explanation of the rules after a firefighter was promoted March 28 to deputy fire marshal even though he scored 19 points lower than the runner-up.

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After Planning Approval, Finance Blocks Glenbrook School Sale for Housing

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The old Glenbrook School offers a primer on why the affordable housing issue is contentious. Stamford officials made a plan to sell the vacant school-turned-community center to a contractor to convert it into much-needed housing for working people. Officials had a long list of demands for the developer of the century-old building on Crescent Street:  create a good number of affordable rental units ensure density won’t overwhelm the neighborhood provide enough parking for the number of units generate revenue for the city work within existing zoning regulations preserve the historic stone and stucco facade offer space for community use A

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Ukrainian Community in Stamford Lives in Two Worlds

Svitlana Cano lives in two worlds. The first is safe and normal in Stamford, where Cano goes to work each day and raises her son, who is nearly 4, with her husband and help from her visiting mother.  The second is far away, reachable only by signals in the ether that allow intermittent cell phone connections, text messaging and Facetime videos. It’s a world full of suffering, and completely horrifying. It’s Cano’s native Ukraine, where her father, brother, sister-in-law, grandmother and other relatives and friends live day to day on prayers that invading Russians will not kill them. “It was

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Stamford Expected to Set Stricter Limits on Parking Commercial Vehicles

In Norwalk, a car-service operator regularly parked five limousines along the curbs in front of his house. In Milford, someone repeatedly parked a huge oil-leaking truck in a residential neighborhood. In Monroe, officials declared that public property cannot be used to subsidize private companies. The frustration is documented in news stories from multiple towns for a dozen years – officials are struggling to find ways to stop commercial vehicle owners from parking on residential streets. Now Stamford is close to passing a beefed-up ordinance designed to do a better job of it. The ordinance, slated for a public hearing later

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Stamford Officials Express Shock as Receding Water Table Blamed for Structural Collapse

STAMFORD – Members of the Board of Representatives said they were taken aback when they heard that Harbor Point’s signature building, The Lofts at Yale & Towne, is falling apart. The owner told a city commission this week that The Lofts, a 225-unit apartment building converted from the century-old Yale & Towne lock factory, must be demolished. The wood pilings that support the building are rotting, the structure is tilting and sinking, the facade is shifting vertically and horizontally, walls are cracked, floors are slanted, and window and door frames are bowed, the owner said. The Lofts, which opened in

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Stamford Board of Education Denies Teacher Grievance in Thursday Meeting

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STAMFORD — The Stamford Board of Education voted 2-1 on Thursday to deny a grievance by the city’s teachers union alleging that Associate Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Amy Beldotti violated board policy by failing to involve teachers in the decision to change high school scheduling beginning next fall.  The grievance was spurred by a proposal to transition the current high school schedules to what is called a 4×4 hybrid block schedule — a model which schedules students to attend 90-minute sections of the same four classes each day for the fall semester, and then switch to four new classes

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Scheduling Change Prompts Grievance Hearing, Resistance from Stamford Teachers

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STAMFORD — The city’s public school teachers have come out in force against a proposed change in scheduling at Stamford high schools which the district’s administrators say is needed to help address the large number of students currently failing classes.  The Board of Education will be hearing a grievance on Thursday from the local teachers union regarding the district administration’s alleged failure to include teachers in the decision to adopt the new schedule at the district’s three high schools.  CT Examiner spoke with a number of teachers who say that a new schedule will not solve the underlying problems —

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‘A Disaster,’ Says Architect, As Owner Moves to Demolish 225-Unit Lofts at Yale & Towne

STAMFORD – The 225-unit Lofts at Yale & Towne, the first building to go up in the Harbor Point luxury apartment development, must be torn down, the owner told a city commission Tuesday night. The 800-foot-long building, converted from the historic Yale & Towne lock factory, is tilting and sinking, and the facade is “moving” vertically and horizontally, said Mor Regensburger, vice president of project management for the owner, Gaia Real Estate of New York. The situation is “a disaster,” an architect for Gaia told the Historic Preservation Advisory Commission, which would weigh in on whatever Gaia would build to

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Stamford Reps Grill Public Safety Officials, BLT About Feb. 1 Collapse

STAMFORD – Board of Representatives President Jeff Curtis did some quick math during a heated meeting about the concrete slab that collapsed into the garage of Allure, a newly built South End luxury high-rise. Curtis figured that the 15-by-20-foot slab, 12 inches thick, weighed about 57,000 pounds. “Good thing it didn’t fall on anybody,” Curtis said. But it could have, which is why Curtis and other city representatives grilled public-safety officials and the owner of the high-rise, developer Building & Land Technology, about their response to the Feb. 1 collapse. City officials have determined that the collapse occurred about 1:10

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On Housing and Beaches, Stamford Reps. Tell State, ‘Mind Your Business’

STAMFORD – City representatives have a message for the state: Mind your business. Members of the Stamford Board of Representatives this month reacted to two bills before the state legislature that would dictate to towns how to regulate parking near beaches.  The bills now are likely dead, but city representatives said they want the state to stop poking its nose into local authority over zoning matters, too. State legislators said the reason for the beach bills was that towns use parking policies and fees to block non-residents from visiting. Public beaches should be more accessible, legislators said, since most towns

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City Expands Probe to Target 6 or 7 Stamford High-Rises For Possible Safety Violations

STAMFORD – The city’s concerns about the safety of apartment high-rises in the Harbor Point development have expanded to include several more buildings. On Friday evening Mayor Caroline Simmons posted on the city’s website a letter to the co-president of Building & Land Technology, the development company that owns the buildings, seeking access to Allure – where a slab of concrete collapsed last month – and six or seven other high-rises. “The city will require access to inspect the … locations to determine whether additional inconsistencies exist between submitted documentation and actual conditions that might implicate public safety concerns,” Simmons

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Bedbugs Stymie Stamford Mattress Recycling as Statewide Efforts Expand

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Anyone who purchases a mattress in Connecticut is charged an extra $11.75. It’s true for the box spring, too. The fees are mandated by state law to cover the cost of recycling discarded mattresses and box springs. The little-known Connecticut Mattress Stewardship Program has big aims – keep discarded mattresses out of landfills; repurpose the materials; save towns money on trash-hauling costs; stop people from dumping mattresses in the street; and provide jobs at recycling centers that break down mattresses and box springs. The voluntary program, which began in 2015, was a ground-breaker, said Tom Metzner, an environmental analyst with

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911 Dispatch Shows Confusion, Delay in Response to Apartment Collapse

STAMFORD – When a 15-by-20-foot slab of concrete collapsed into the parking garage of an apartment high-rise in Harbor Point, nobody called 911. So no firefighters responded, as they normally would. And a building official did not immediately inspect the structure to ensure it was safe for the people living in 435 units at Allure.  It’s not clear from just-released recordings of phone calls to the Stamford Fire Department on that Feb. 1 afternoon what time the slab fell.  It had to be before 3:16 p.m., when someone from the News12 cable TV station phoned to ask whether firefighters had

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Court Rulings Leave One Stamford Development Ready to Go, Another Up in the Air

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STAMFORD – Two court cases in which the city Board of Representatives went to bat for residents challenging development projects have been decided. Representatives won one case and lost the other. In each case, attorneys for the developers questioned whether signatures gathered by residents protesting changes in zoning regulations were valid. Judges in state Superior Court in Hartford, where land-use cases are heard, have ruled that a petition from residents contesting Zoning Board approval of plans for a large fitness complex in a High Ridge office park is lawful. But another petition that sought to limit the number of apartment

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Stamford, New York, London: Ukraine Anthem Has Become the World’s Song

STAMFORD – Saturday night’s musical show at Curtain Call featured Broadway tunes, Beatles hits, pop songs from the ‘70s – and an unfamiliar melody that had people catching their breath. Near the end of the show, Frank Mastrone, a Broadway veteran and creator of the event, asked audience members to stand and told them what they were about to hear. It was, “State Anthem of Ukraine.” “There was a collective gasp,” Mastrone said of the crowd at the community theater. “We are in the middle of a historic tragedy, and we’re watching it on television. People are very aware.” The

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At a Little Corner Deli, Big Ukrainian Grit is on Display

STAMFORD – In the corner of a tiny strip mall at 801 Hope St., wedged between Village Bagels and Cozy Nail Spa, Bukovina Ukrainian & Russian Deli has been in business for 15 years. But now tape covers “& Russian” on the sign over the door, and the blue and yellow flag of Ukraine flies above the deli. At Bukovina – where you’ll find herring, farmer cheese, a sandwich meat called salo, rye bread, candies and drinks imported from Ukraine – history also is served. Erasing “Russia” from the sign runs counter to culture, because Russians and Ukrainians are “Slavic

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On Stamford’s West Side, Developers Knock Down and Build New, Pricing Residents Out

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STAMFORD – There’s a sure path for unkempt century-old buildings in Stamford, especially when the housing market is hot and they sit on the edge of a thriving downtown where property is scarce. They get knocked down. And the people go with them.  Half a dozen Stamford residents spoke up for the structures, and the tenants, during a public hearing where it was decided that the 1910 brick rooming house and 1900 two-story multi-family at 41 and 45 Stillwater Ave. can go. At the time of the hearing, the owner, Artel Properties LLC, based in Los Angeles, was seeking Zoning

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After Concrete Collapse, Tenant Feels Too Unsafe to Stay in Luxury High-rise She Loves

STAMFORD – Laurel shopped carefully for an apartment for herself and her two elementary school-aged daughters. Newly divorced, she wanted a place that would make her girls happy and be easy to maintain, since it would be the first home she’d manage on her own. She fell in love with Allure, a 22-story, 435-unit waterfront high-rise in Harbor Point, a massive development project that has redrawn Stamford’s South End. Everything was new at Allure, which opened the year before Laurel moved there in 2020. She leased an apartment on the fourth floor, just below the “amenities level” that offered outdoor

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Stamford Firefighters’ Lawsuit over Test Scores Lingers as Police Win Their Cases

STAMFORD – Four years ago, four Stamford firefighters pooled their money, hired an attorney, and filed a lawsuit saying city officials fudged exam scores to decide promotions. Since then, the Stamford police union filed – and settled – a similar suit over the city’s handling of a promotional exam for sergeants. And Connecticut troopers won a case charging that state officials altered exam rules to give themselves wide discretion in choosing 27 new sergeants. But the firefighters’ self-funded suit still sits in court. A trial, once set for September 2020, now is scheduled for November. “The case started in state

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