Daily Archives: May 27, 2011

And what use will green wood be to “artisans”?

Greenwich tree warden demands that the scrub trees chopped down at the high school be turned over to “artisans” for their use. I’m willing to bet no one wants nor can use the stuff, but perhaps if it’s dried a few years in Peter Malkin’s living room it will become a valuable commodity.

 

 

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Connecticut’s latest folly

Reader John sends along this link to a Hartford Courant editorial concerning the New Britain busway, its costs and the payoff to Aetna. $569 million (before cost overruns) for a nine-mile route including this:

The state paid Aetna $3.3 million for that quarter of an acre strip, part of a parking lot and a slice of a grassy knoll. Hartford puts the value on that property at about $213,000, or 6.5 percent of what the state paid. Most of it will be used for a station. It paid Aetna $2.3 million more for about two-thirds of an acre at the corner of Hawthorn and Sigourney for road reconfiguration. Hartford assesses the value of that property at $229,900.

 

Hartford’s corruption pales against that of Washington but we’re a small state – our crooks may be more reachable.

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Uh oh – another bank fraud case?

(Bumped, to draw attention to some requested editing)

Fred DeCaro, father and son, are under FDIC investigation for their doings at the former USA Bank, based, briefly, in Port Chester. Teri Buhl has the story, and it’s a juicy one, replete with allegations of fraud, general skullduggery and, supposedly, Freddie III, our Republican Registrar of Voters here in Greenwich, showing up at a disgruntled investor’s home with a bag of cash.

An interesting cast of characters here, including that New Canaan developer Girouard, currently incarcerated, a New Canaan real estate broker [who doesn't want to be identified in this post,  so you'll have to go to the article itself to find her name]  and the owner of Luca’s Steakhouse. [She Who Cannot Be Named] insists that she was an innocent victim and no doubt she’ll call Walter Noel for help with that defense.

These are just allegations and unlike those surrounding that frisky Frog DSK, there aren’t enough facts publicly released to make a determination of the strength of the FDIC’s investigation.  Still, if I were a DeCaro, I might want to book a room for the Cheslock halfway house now, just in case – it seems that even 26,000 square feet may not be enough space to accommodate all of our Greenwich felons.

Fat Freddy II

Hogs get fed, pigs get slaughtered

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Pakistan’s going to Hell in a handbasket

The military fears that its highest ranks have been infiltrated by the bad  (badder) guys and the Taliban has announced that it won’t attack the nuclear arsenal because it expects to take over soon and wants the weapons in good working order. Scariest thought of all? Obama’s at our helm.

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Tobacco Road sells in Riverside

168 Riverside Avenue

Sold for $950,000 today. Never on the MLS (an agent sold it to her own client) but I suppose the seller got the best he could. We knew it as the “Blakemore House” growing up but that was long ago and the current owner seemed more interested in collecting junked cars than, say, mowing the lawn. I’m sure the neighbors will be delighted.

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FDIC: going after the small fry

 Why is the FDIC concentrating on small, failed community banks and not the real players? You know the answer to that, surely. Goldman Sachs will fight them for years and has the resources to do so while the DeCaros of the world will run out of money and fold. A DeCaro scalp counts just as much as one from Goldman, to a bureaucrat, so why pick a difficult target? And besides, you don’t really think Congress would sit idly by while their pal Chris Dodd or, God forbid, Barney Frank was prosecuted, do you?

(h/t, Teri Buhl)

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It’s always in the last place you look

Missing man found in Louisiana swamp. A smart guy who, once he figured out he was lost, found a dry spot and waited for rescuers to find him. It took several days but that’s exactly the advice I used to give my hunter safety students and something kids should learn too. Much easier to find a stationary target than a wandering one. I’m glad he’s alright, he sounds like a cool sort of guy – president of a university in Colombia.

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A short sale from hell, but it closed today

142 Cat Rock

This house sold new in 2005 for $4.050 million. The new owner put a ton of money into it and in 2007 put it back up for sale at $5.450. He fell upon hard times and today, thanks to Fudrucker’s incredible perseverance and negotiating skills and my clients’ patience (I myself try to find these deals and then get the hell out of the way), we closed at $2.4 million. That’s a good deal.

Next up? I’m planning on spending a portion of the holiday weekend drafting a grievance against Burt Hoffman, Esq., a Stamford lawyer who claimed to be negotiating on behalf of the sellers? The bank? Himself, really, and who extracted a fee that, so far as I can read and understand applicable law, is entirely illegal. I guess we’ll see, but it will keep Burt busy over the summer, and that’s satisfaction enough. Well, almost enough.

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Longtop and the thieving Chinese

China’s central bank conniving with customers to defraud investors. On the one hand, I have little sympathy with investors who get burned by the Chinese or the Russians. Both countries are thoroughly corrupt, with no rule of law (unlike our own fine system here in the USA) and you’re pretty much guaranteed of not getting what you’ve paid for. But maybe it’s like refusing to buy into the dot.com boom or invest with Madoff – everyone else is doing it and if you won’t, your customers will go elsewhere.

But I wouldn’t do it, just as I try very hard to avoid food made in China.

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Franklin Bloomer quits RTM

According to the dead tree version of Greenwich Post, there’s an opening on the RTM District 5 slate due to Bloomer moving out of town. That’s fine.

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Not so bad

14 W. End

Not a bad little house on West End Avenue in Old Greenwich, reduced today to $999,000. The owners couldn’t move it at $1.245 so they added a new master bath and dropped the price. For a single guy like myself or a couple, even with an infant, this is an ultra-convenient location. I kind of like it.

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Tragedy of the commons

NOAA refuses to place bluefin tuna on endangered species list. Sen. Olympia Snowe stood up for her commercial fishermen constituents, but what will she and they do for an encore when these giants disappear in ten years?

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Price cut

13  Huntzinger, a decent house on an undersized (1.3 acres in an RA-2 zone) lot, sold for $4.050 million in 2002, had some renovations performed in 2006 and was relisted this year at $3.950. It dropped to $3.595 today.

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Pending sales drop nationally, not in Greenwich

Pending sales on a national basis look pretty bleak, down 26% ytd from 2010, 7% from last month. From what I can see parsing the Greenwich MLS, we’re doing better than that. Here’s what I come up with on pending (contracts and accepted offers*):

2011

YTD: 260

April: 72

May: 77

2010

YTD: 231

April: 78

May: 81

2006

YTD: 321

April: 88

May: 91

*Accepted offers often fall through these days, as appraised value fails to meet underwriting standards, so the 2011 totals may be overstated. I didn’t know how the national figures were compiled so I included A/Os in the Greenwich compilation.

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New Price for Riverside Lane land: $630

99 Riverside Lane

Sold for $630,000 from a (silly) initial asking price of $795. In 2003 and 2004, tear downs on this NoPo street were selling for $650 – 680 and the prices rose as high as $800 in ’05 and ’06. It’s been pretty much downhill since, with a sale just this past March at $600.

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There’s the Patriot Act and then there’s the secret Patriot Act

And the latter is even scarier than the former, says this senator. (The Act was signed into law by Obama’s “robo-pen” last midnight – Harry Reid pushed it through).

“We’re getting to a gap between what the public thinks the law says and what
the American government secretly thinks the law says,” Wyden told Danger Room in
an interview in his Senate office. “When you’ve got that kind of a gap, you’re
going to have a problem on your hands.”

What exactly does Wyden mean by that? As a member of the intelligence
committee, he laments that he can’t precisely explain without disclosing
classified information. But one component of the Patriot Act in particular gives
him immense pause: the so-called “business-records
provision
,” which empowers the FBI to get businesses, medical offices, banks
and other organizations to turn over any “tangible things” it deems relevant to
a security investigation.

“It is fair to say that the business-records provision is a part of the
Patriot Act that I am extremely interested in reforming,” Wyden says. “I know a
fair amount about how it’s interpreted, and I am going to keep pushing, as I
have, to get more information about how the Patriot Act is being interpreted
declassified. I think the public has a right to public debate about it.”

That’s why Wyden and his colleague Sen. Mark Udall offered an amendment
on Tuesday to the Patriot Act reauthorization
.

The amendment, first reported by Marcy Wheeler, blasts the administration for
secretly reinterpret[ing] public laws and statutes.” It would compel the Attorney
General to “publicly disclose the United States Government’s official
interpretation of the USA Patriot Act.” And, intriguingly, it refers to
“intelligence-collection authorities” embedded in the Patriot Act that the
administration briefed the Senate about in February.

Wyden says he “can’t answer” any specific questions about how the government
thinks it can use the Patriot Act. That would risk revealing classified
information — something Wyden considers an abuse of government secrecy. He
believes the techniques themselves should stay secret, but the rationale for
using their legal use under Patriot ought to be disclosed.

“I draw a sharp line between the secret interpretation of the law, which I
believe is a growing problem, and protecting operations and methods in the
intelligence area, which have to be protected,” he says.

Surveillance under the business-records provisions has recently spiked. The
Justice Department’s official disclosure on its use of the Patriot Act,
delivered to Congress in April, reported that the government asked the Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Court for approval to collect business records 96 times in 2010
— up from just 21 requests the year before. The court didn’t reject a single request. But it
“modified” those requests 43 times, indicating to some Patriot-watchers that a
broadening of the provision is underway.

“The FISA Court is a pretty permissive body, so that suggests something novel
or particularly aggressive, not just in volume, but in the nature of the
request,” says Michelle Richardson, the ACLU’s resident Patriot Act lobbyist.
“No one has tipped their hand on this in the slightest. But we’ve come to the
conclusion that this is some kind of bulk collection. It wouldn’t be surprising
to me if it’s some kind of internet or communication-records dragnet.” (Full
disclosure: My fiancée works for the ACLU.)

The FBI deferred comment on any secret interpretation of the Patriot Act to
the Justice Department. The Justice Department said it wouldn’t have any comment
beyond a bit of March congressional testimony from its top national security
official, Todd Hinnen, who presented the type of material collected as far more
individualized and specific: “driver’s
license records, hotel records, car-rental records
, apartment-leasing
records, credit card records, and the like.”

But that’s not what Udall sees. He warned in a Tuesday statement about the
government’s “unfettered” access to bulk citizen data, like “a cellphone
company’s phone records.” In a Senate floor speech on Tuesday, Udall urged
Congress to restrict the Patriot Act’s business-records seizures to “terrorism
investigations
” — something the ostensible counterterrorism measure has
never required in its nearly 10-year existence.

Indeed, Hinnen allowed himself an out in his March testimony, saying that the
business-record provision “also” enabled “important and highly sensitive
intelligence-collection operations” to take place. Wheeler speculates those
operations include “using geolocation data from cellphones to collect
information on the whereabouts of Americans” — something our sister blog Threat
Level has reported on
extensively
.

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Make me move

15 Sherwood Farm

Withdrawn from market, asking $4.550 million. I know absolutely nothing about this house or its owners and for all I know their reasons for losing interest in selling may be entirely unrelated to the current market conditions. But I do see a fair number of houses like this that go off and I think some of them are the result of owners testing the market and, not liking the temperature, pulling out.

This house sold new in 2004 for $3.450 and, according to its listing, was left untouched during that period – certainly no work meriting the description “renovation” and, as used in Greenwich, that term means sweeping dust bunnies from under the beds and refreshing the hall flowers. It was listed for $4.550 in January with no price reduction between then and now. Today it’s off the market, six months shy of its original listing period. I’m guessing that they found no buyers willing to pay that extra $1.1 million for a used house. And why not pull the house? If you don’t have to sell right now, i wouldn’t.

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Base level for Riverside SoPo

8 Linwood

Three (tiny) bedrooms, one bath, 0.19 acre. Asked $749,000. Under contract, eleven days. Assessment, $730,000.

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Yeah, but it’s an Infinity

Head of the DNC drives a rice burner.

From the LA Times:

The new chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee was criticizing Republicans who opposed President Obama’s bailout of the American automakers union, oh, no, make that American automakers.

“If it were up to the candidates for president on the Republican side,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, “we would be driving foreign cars. They would have let the auto industry in America go down the tubes.”

So Michael O’Brien of The Hill newspaper went and checked what kind of automobile loyal-American-car-supporter Debbie Wasserman Schultz owns.

Yup, you guessed it — Japanese.

Drive as she says, not as she does.

– Andrew Malcolm

UPDATE: This buffoon hadn’t caught my attention before but she apparently has quite a track record. I Googled “Debbie Wasserman-Schwartz idiot” and came up with tons of material. I like this one, from a year ago, when she promised that the trillion dollars just spent by the Messiah would generate more jobs in 2010 than Bush did in his entire eight year term. 

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So what’s wrong with this?

Mark Zuckerberg says he will kill what he eats. The Facebook founder is apparently fed up with buying his meat neatly packaged on styrofoam trays and wrapped in plastic, and he should be. I understand vegetarians and have no quarrel with them but for carnivores to deplore hunting or to pretend that all the horrible things that happen to farm animals in  feedlots and slaughter houses have no connection to what shows up in the Whole Foods butcher section is ah, hypocritical. Sharpen those knives, Mark- I’ll be joining you for dinner.

UPDATE: on the other hand, Zuckerberg may be adopting this new dining strategy because he won’t be able to afford supermarket food. Here’s a fascinating story about a lawsuit against him claiming that he promised someone 50% of the company for funding (all of $2,000) the start up. What was initially described as ludicrous is now gaining momentum. Memo to 19-year-old would-be entrepreneurs: be careful what you promise and for God’s sake, don’t put those promises in an e-mail.

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