Daily Archives: July 27, 2009

Here’s a surprise: Dodd pocketing huge sums from big drug companies

As a self-proclaimed champion of the people, Connecticut’s Friend of Mario expresses dismay that the big guys are dumping money on his head. “No no no, I don’t want it!” he cried yesterday as yet another pharma employee arrived pusing another wheelbarrow of cash. “It’s too much, I just don’t deserve it”. Dodd denies that this surprising influx of cash has anything to do with him taking over the ObamaCare program on behalf of his co-conspirator Ted Kennedy. Asked if he intended to return any of the loot the Senator clutched a wad of bills to his chest and said, “it’s mine. I earned it,I want it. Screw off.”

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Housing prices still have 15% to drop?

Calculated Risk thinks so,and has some interesting charts to back him up. The author points out that while sales activity may resume, sale prices will probably continue to fall – in the last real estate crash, prices kept dropping five years after sales picked up. This is common sense, to me – lower prices, more sales. My opinion is that there are many Greenwich houses that aren’t even close to 15% of their final disposition price. I keep pointing houses that are selling for their assessed value (or less) for a reason: Two years ago, that number represented 70% of what was perceived to be a house’s full market price and we were in fact seeing houses sell for a multiple (2.3, in Riverside) of that assessed value. Now, the majority of houses selling are at the assessed value, meaning they have lost 30% of what was once considered their value and even more when you toss in the old multiple.

But that’s the houses that are selling. Those that aren’t are mostly priced way above assessed value so my guess is that they’ll have to fall to at least that before they sell. And if Calculated Risk is right, when they hit that benchmark they have another 15% to go. Sellers who are renting out their houses in the hope that the market will return to 2007 levels soon are in for disappointment.

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Won’t some Colombian investor please have a talk with Andres?

While poor Walter Noel is stuck cadging free drinks at the Bathing Club in the Hamptons (where he was blackballed from membership, but can still walk the hallowed grounds if accompanied by a member) and is banned from his digs at the Round Hill Club, son-in-law Andres Piedrahita is busy living it up on stolen money. Turns out, he’s off cruising the high seas on his new $30 million yacht he bought this June. That’s not just showing no remorse, that’s rubbing defrauded investors’ noses in it. Could be dangerous, Andres.

"Two mojitos, Walter and then I believe the master stateroom's head needs attending to."

"Two mojitos, Walter and then I believe the master stateroom's head needs attending to."

Greetings from Bogata!

Greetings from Bogata!

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Jim Himes won’t send his kids to Washington schools but poor D.C.residents must

A reader complains that I unfairly mailgned Jim Himes for voting to shut down charter schools in D.C. when in fact, the reader says, he never did. Well perhaps I’m guilty of shorthand. What Himes did vote for was the 2009 Omnibus Spending Bill which contained a provision, slipped in at the behest of the NEA, to end the school voucher pilot program which awarded a few thousand lucky students $7,500 with which to pay for an education at a school free from the horrors of the D.C. union-run schools. The vote is here. The Senate also voted to kill this threat to unions and not surprisingly, Dodd voted to kill it, Lieberman voted to keep it alive. That’s why this is Lieberman’s last term, of course.

Why is this hypocrisy of the worst order? Because no one in Washington with a choice sends their kids to the public schools there. Not Obama, not Jim Himes. But they will deny the same choice to poor students so as to curry favor with the NEA. Trading kids’ lives for votes is despicable, to me. Not to Himes, or Dodd.

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Jim Himes for school board?

Desparate to avoid losing his seat to Republican Scott Frantz and not content with quitting his job as Congressman and either (a) running for Greenwich Tax Collector; or (b) Governor of Alaska, our Cos Cob rep is now trying to weasel into a position on the School Board. In a memo to fellow Demmerkrats, cleverly drafted to hide his true intentions, Himes pretends to advocate a three (or four, if he can get that Drupals fellow to come out into the light) candidate fight for the two positions on the Board reserved for Democrats. Knowledgeable observers (that would be Edgar Martins) see Himes’ letter as nothing but a ploy to set the local Demmerkrat party against each other, brother against brother, everybody against Chris Von Keyserling, etc. – and in the ensuing confusion, claim one of the seats as his own.

Can Himes handle Board duties as well as those of the tax collector’s? Can even make their meetings if he’s busy skinning mooses in Alaska? Hey, what do I know? I’m still waiting for a board position to be reserved for a Libertarian so we can begin shutting down the entire mess, but the folks at MyleftNutmeg are all atwitter and what concerns them concerns me – sort of, kind of. By the way, I find it instructive that Himes, like all liberals, wouldn’t dream of subjecting his children to the public schools of Washington, D.C. He’s keeping them safe up here, while voting to shut down Washington’s charter schools – can’t threaten those beneficent teachers’ unions, eh?

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Bottom story of the day – outpouring of support for Gates from academia

Wait a minute, you mean that college professors are supporting a black professional victim/scholar over a white policeman? That certainly sets my view of academia on its ear!

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Waterfront still sells

45 Byram Shore

45 Byram Shore

This is a beautiful, 1896 house on Byram Shore Road that was purchased for $5.375 million in 1999, completely renovated over the years since then and put up for sale at $13.250 million in 2008. From what I understand, that sum represented a loss to the seller but 2008 was not the year to try to recapture that money. It finally went to contract July 1st and closed today for $8.5 million. That’s obviously a very large sum of money, but also represents an excellent buy, considering replacement cost and the 1.85 acres in an R-20 zone. Assessed value is $8.434 million.

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Why should I be the only one to get crank emails?

Why would Chris do this to me?

Why would Chris do this to me?

My cousin Henry is answering science questions over at the New York Times. But for heavens’ sake, don’t restrict yourself to questions about science – Henry knows everything and will be happy to tell you so. And if by some miracle you manage to stump him his son Walker, who really does know everything, will answer for him. So go for it – how long should grits simmer? If God is  omnipotent, can he make a rock so big he can’t move it? What if Superman had fought for the Nazis? Henry’s ready for all comers.

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More contracts

19 Dingletown

19 Dingletown

This house on Dingletown sold for $1.6 million in 1998, came back on last year for $2.495 and gradually dropped back close to its 1998 price, $1.695. Even at that, I wasn’t impressed, as it is incredibly tired, shares a driveway and, while it has a decent sideyard, backs up to a swamp. But someone likes it enough to buy it and it’s reported under contract today. Assessment is $1.649 million.

14 Bayside, a split-level in Riverside, listed at $1.475, dropped to $1.250 and is now under contract. I’d have thought $995  - $1.1 million, tops. Assessment is $1.096.

276 Riversville is not under contract but the seller is approaching getting serious. He listed it for $4.495 in 2004, dropped it slowly as he put it on and pulled it off the market over the years and is now back with it, asking $2.7 million. Assessment is $2.1.

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Greenwich Democrats in disarray

Three weeks after Ed Krumiech’s sudden withdrawal from the race,  Greenwich Democrats are still without a candidate to run with Lin Lavery. Ace reporter Edgar Martins has learned that Congressman Jim Himes has been attempting to throw his weight behind Riverside’s Ernest Drupals, but, under pressure from Lavery, who doesn’t like the man, may instead advance Drupals for the school board vacancy.

If Himes can’t supply a candidate, who will run for the prestigious position of Third Selectman? I suggest Franklin Bloomer – we’ve been serious for too long in this town.

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Riverside sale?

60 Meadow

60 Meadow

Rumor has it that this 1932 house on the corner of Willow and Meadow which came on the market last week for $3.9 million already has a buyer. I saw it last week and again yesterday and it’s a charming place, beautifully renovated and expanded by the current owners but I’d have pegged it at $3.4, $3.5 , even with its acre of land, because there’s still a lot of work to do upstairs if someone wants a modern master bedroom suite.  But it’s also my experience that when a resident of a particular neighborhood really wants a particular house, they’ll pay to make sure they get it. Club Road, also in Riverside, has seen some astonishing prices precisely because of this phenomenon.  So if the rumor’s true, that’s great – it shows that there is money out there. My guess is that a lot of buyers have held off because they didn’t know where the bottom was. Now that it seems likely that, for some properties, the bulk of their price deterioration has taken place, buyers are committing to what they want. That does not mean that there aren’t still a huge number of houses for sale that have yet to approach their proper value and those aren’t going anywhere, in my opinion. But if you see a house that you like now, and the price is fair, grab it; don’t assume that there’s no one else out there buying.

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Chairman of House Judiciary: why pretend to read the Energy Bill when it’s to long and too difficult for me to understand?

John Conyers, until the past election known solely for his annual introduction of a slavery reparations bill and, of course, graft, is now the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. His ascension to power has obviously done nothing to improve his literacy or his study habits because yesterday he announced he had no intention of reading the bill he just voted for. “It’s over 1,000 pages long,” he whined, “it would take me two days to read it and I’d need two lawyers to explain it to me.” I know that we get the government we deserve but between Rangel, Peloisi, Conyers and Dodd, this is beginnig to seem like cruel and unusual punishment.

And consider this: if the man is too stupid to read and understand this bill, what’s he going to do when he’s running the nation’s medical care?

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Someone actually wants to sell in Belle Haven, apparently

67 Harbor Drive

67 Harbor Drive

This beautiful old house was built in 1936 (it must have been swell to have money during the Depression) and last updated twenty years ago, but it’s 8,500 sq. ft. on 1.89 acres in a great part of Belle Haven with fantastic views of Long Island Sound. Non-Greenwich readers will choke when I say this, but at $11.950 million, I think it’s a pretty good buy. Really – this is Belle Haven, for heaven’s sake, and inferior sites with inferior houses have sold for far more. I realize that was then and this is now, but I think the listing agent, Janey Galbreath, slapped a sensible sticker on this one. Open house is tomorrow and I haven’t seen it yet, but I’d say land value alone supports this price and the house itself is a bonus.

I heard a rumor third-hand, so I have no idea whether it’s true, but supposedly another broker pitched for this listing by suggesting a $25 million asking price. Gee I hope that’s true, because it would mean that at least one seller is wise enough not to let someone “buy” a listing and then watch it sit for five years as the price gets whittled down. Price it right and sell it applies to low-end houses and high.

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Charles Rangel wants you to pay higher taxes, not him

NY Post - sleeping it off

NY Post - sleeping it off

The fat pig pictured here is the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Comittee and thus responsible for drafting our tax code. So when he calls for a higher tax rate, he’s got more clout than that idiot-kin Rep. Conyers and his own demand that whites pay slavery reperations. The Wall Street Journal has an editorial today outlining some of the graft and deceit of Rangeland just in case you missed it, I reproduce most of it here.

Ever notice that those who endorse high taxes and those who actually pay them aren’t the same people? Consider the curious case of Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel, who is leading the charge for a new 5.4-percentage point income tax surcharge and recently called it “the moral thing to do.” About his own tax liability he seems less, well, fervent.

Exhibit A concerns a rental property Mr. Rangel purchased in 1987 at the Punta Cana Yacht Club in the Dominican Republic. The rental income from that property ought to be substantial since it is a luxury beach-front villa and is more often than not rented out. But when the National Legal and Policy Center looked at Mr. Rangel’s House financial disclosure forms in August, it noted that his reported income looked suspiciously low. In 2004 and 2005, he reported no more than $5,000, and in 2006 and 2007 no income at all from the property.

The Congressman initially denied there was any unreported income. But reporters quickly showed that the villa is among the most desirable at Punta Cana and that it rents for $500 a night in the low season, and as much as $1,100 a night in peak season. Last year it was fully booked between December 15 and April 15.

Mr. Rangel soon admitted having failed to report rental income of $75,000 over the years. First he blamed his wife for the oversight because he said she was supposed to be managing the property. Then he blamed the language barrier. “Every time I thought I was getting somewhere, they’d start speaking Spanish,” Mr. Rangel explained.

Mr. Rangel promised last fall to amend his tax returns, pay what is due and correct the information on his annual financial disclosure form. But the deadline for the 2008 filing was May 15 and as of last week he still had not filed. His press spokesman declined to answer questions about anything related to his ethics problems.

Besides not paying those pesky taxes, Mr. Rangel had other reasons for wanting to hide income. As the tenant of four rent-stabilized apartments in Harlem, the Congressman needed to keep his annual reported income below $175,000, lest he be ineligible as a hardship case for rent control. (He also used one of the apartments as an office in violation of rent-control rules, but that’s another story.)

Mr. Rangel said last fall that “I never had any idea that I got any income’’ from the villa. Try using that one the next time the IRS comes after you. Equally interesting is his claim that he didn’t know that the developer of the Dominican Republic villa had converted his $52,000 mortgage to an interest-free loan in 1990. That would seem to violate House rules on gifts, which say Members may only accept loans on “terms that are generally available to the public.” Try getting an interest-free loan from your banker.

The National Legal and Policy Center also says it has confirmed that Mr. Rangel owned a home in Washington from 1971-2000 and during that time claimed a “homestead” exemption that allowed him to save on his District of Columbia property taxes. However, the homestead exemption only applies to a principal residence, and the Washington home could not have qualified as such since Mr. Rangel’s rent-stabilized apartments in New York have the same requirement.

You probably are thinking, “this is no worse than what Chris Dodd’s been up to and no one’s picking on him” and you’ be right. But maybe Pelosi and Reid should begin to make good on their promise to “drain the swamp” and eliminate the “culture of corruption” and do something about both Rangel and the Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee this year. Will that happen? The odds are far greater that you’ll be enjoying a tax increase next year.

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A Riverside folly

50 cent taste, Greenwich money

50 cent taste, Greenwich money

Reader from the Bayou asks,

“We spent a good amount of time on the water this weekend, and nearly fell out of our boat when we saw the prep work for the monstrosity going up…how to describe this…behind or above Scott Frantz’s place, next to the house that used to belong to the Urchiolis or perhaps still does.  It’s in Riverside, I’d call this Meadow Road South or maybe Red Coat Road east.  Do you know what I am talking about?  The footprint looks big enough to be a Costco.  Let us know what is in store, heh heh.”

That would be the new residence of one Rutherford R. Romaine IV, and his wife, Carole, being erected at 137 Meadow Road in Riverside. As approved by the P&Z last week (5-0), this four-acre site in the RA-1 zone will comprise 19,431 sq. feet and more (far more) than 150,000 square feet and includes two pools, one indoor, one outdoor, and God knows how many baths. It is rumored that Mr. Rutherford IV bought the plans for Olga the Russian’s house on Simmons Lane and expanded on them but that’s merely speculation – this kind of excess is available in any WalMart Architectural plan set, priced at $19.95. Last I knew, Ms. Carole Romaine is past the breeding age and her children must be grown by now, so I assume the happy couple intends to occupy this place by themselves with, perhaps, a few servants. There will be a guest wing for Lord Thomas Friedman to enjoy when he visits. It should be bliss.

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