And we’re back!

Taking a pause

Bears 1, Hunter 0, which is exactly how I hoped it would turn out – the idea was to traipse up and down (small) mountains and hang out with the guys. All very manly and mostly unproductive. One bear lost his life to the cause but not by me. I did get lots of mud spattered all over my Honda Ridgeline, making it look a little less suburban and mas macho. Cool.

Haven’t checked real estate transactions yet but one reader sent me this link to the Greenwich Reform Synagogue’s plan to buy “The Mayor of Cos Cob”, Lou Caravella’s property on Orchard.  The neighbors are up in arms, naturally, and vowing to stop it, but it will be a fun battle – this will involve First Amendment issues and won’t be a fight over a drive-thru window at Starbucks. Remember the Cos Cob cross, if you’re feeling nostalgic for tooth and claw neighborhood love fests. This quote from a concerned citizen aptly sums up the spirit of cooperation, understanding and neighborly reasonableness we can anticipate: “We’re willing to listen to them, but our position is totally non-negotiable,” said one opponent, Nicole Cranberg Crosby. Whoo boy, fasten your seat belts.

If I had to guess, by the way, I’d expect to see a for sale sign on Caravella’s son Randy’s liquor store shortly. Randy’s selling his property to the Jews along with the self-proclaimed Mayor and it’s unlikely, given the tenor of the neighborhood even before the battle shapes up, that many locals will be stopping by to stock up on booze from Randy’s shelves. He’s getting a good price for his land, however, and he can always join his father in Florida and thumb his nose at his former customers from there.

All that said, and in full understanding of basic human nature that abhors change of any kind, I wonder whether, long-term, a new synagogue will seriously affect the neighbors’ lives – certainly it won’t “completely destroy our property values”, as one hysterical woman insisted to Greenwich Time. St. Paul’s Episcopal church opened up down the street from my childhood home in Riverside in, I think, 1956, and Riverside home values seem to have survived just fine. Of course Episcopalians are a dying breed, having lost all political power and most of their beliefs, but that wasn’t the case fifty years ago, when the church did generate a fair amount of traffic on Sundays and no one moved out, houses weren’t abandoned. Besides, it’s my understanding that synagogues are active only during the High Holy Days and remain shuttered and unused the rest of the time, so what’s a little traffic ten days a year? Should be some great entertainment at the P&Z hearings the next few years.

30 Comments

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30 responses to “And we’re back!

  1. LAK

    My thoughts exactly! Would they rather have condominiums built on this site? This story reminds me of the Mosque they want to build here in Norwalk. This ain’t over yet either!

    Saw a house on Cary Rd. Waste of time! Was hoping to see you there.

    • Could have saved you that trip, LAK – I like Carey Road, a lot, but this teardown has a boulder instead of a back yard and no meaningful access to the river. It is the historical site of “the swing”, however, and certain cops in town may have fond memories of (a) using it as kids and (b) as policemen, cutting it down every year as a rite of summer: Kops vs. Kids. Other than that, it’s a bust.

  2. browbeater44

    welcome back

  3. AJ

    To say you’re willing to listen, but your position is totally non-negotiable is a non sequitur, aka bullsheet.

    I’m confused: either the land is zoned to allow such construction or it isn’t, so what’s there to talk about, and where does the first amendment come in? Of course if they’re looking for a variance, good luck: they’ve been impossible to get for years, even where they make sense. Take, for instance, that little house on the west side of Ferris Drive, directly across the street from Rockmere. He’s wedged between a commercial property on the corner of the Post Road and Ferris, and the Thruway, right up against the Thruway, in fact. I know that he tried to get his property rezoned a number of years ago as commercial and they wouldn’t let him have it — a decision that made absolutely no sense. Maybe, he just didn’t grovel enough.

    • The First Amendment comes into play because of freedom of religion – protected far more than commercial activity. As for zoning, I’m not exactly sure whether churches are allowed as a matter of right or whether they need a special exception but again, this is no an application for a hamburger joint and its opponents will have a tough time defeating it. Not impossible, I suppose, but a tough time nonetheless.

  4. Walt

    Dude –
    Welcome back!!

    Did you really go bear hunting? I thought for sure you were out to slaughter Bambi. Does bear hunting work like deer hunting? Can you only shoot the boy bears? How do you know it’s a boy bear? Do you have to get close enough to see if it has balls before you blast it? That could be pretty dangerous.

    Do you stick your finger in bear shit to see if you are hot on their trail? Pour bear piss all over yourself to attract them? Did you sleep in tents and eat over a campfire? Did any locals grab you by your ear and make you squeal like a pig? Do you sit in a tree all day like a dodo bird to hunt bear, or do you walk around looking for bear caves?

    Anyhows, let’s have more details Jeremiah Johnson. I went to a boring book party and got stuck talking to this joker face:

    http://www.newyorksocialdiary.com/node/1908742

    Your Pal,
    Walt

  5. Anonymous

    I’m glad to hear you had a great time in Pa., might as well take the rest of the week off and come back after Thanksgiving. :)

  6. Cos Cobber

    I feel bad for these people and I disagree, it will devalue their homes because of the tight compact density of this neighborhood vs. St Paul’s which has room for set back and buffer from its couple of neighbors.

    This infill site will end up bordering a total of 10 homes! Yikes, it’s not directly abutting two or three homes, but 10. No one establishing a home in this neighborhood could ever have anticipated something like this to come along. We are not talking about a chase bank on US 1. or some home owner foolish enough to have bought a home adjacent to a commercial plaza….this is a high density residential neighborhood.

    take a look:

    http://coscobneedsyou.com/

    I love randy’s liquor store, frequent it often. His wine ideas are always solid and his banter is fun too. I agree with your sentiments however, he must plan on leaving town to pull this stunt.

  7. KMA

    I hope Cos Cob gets a great Jewish deli like Ben’s on Long Island. They have the best knishes and pastrami!

  8. Lousy Lou

    Were you not told about this about two years ago on this blog that lousy lou had something up his sleeve. He had his neighbor taxed far higher than his own property. And the neighbor of lou was living in an old run down slum of a house overgrown with weeds and the old lady neighbor was paying higher taxes than Lou was. Thankfully they got rid of Lou in Town Hall. Why did anyone want him.? He was pushing over 70 years or more. A few tax dollars were probably collected in his own pocket. His trusted elderly secretaries either look the other way or probably can not see anymore anyway.

  9. History Repeats Itself

    http://christopherfountain.wordpress.com/2009/02/13/lou-caravella-a-crook-not-on-these-numbers/#comments

    Your own blog forsaw this deal 3 (three!) F#@$ing years ago. You got prophets for readers. Here it here first should be on your masthead CF.
    Lou was planning this BS years ago. Doesn’t anybody read this blog! The truth is in the comments of your readers.

  10. Why I Left Greenwich

    This should be the title to this blog entry. It is crap like this going on in this already way too crowded town that drives people out. Churches deep in neighborhoods instead of in town, great idea. Plus sky high prices for land fuel the build up everywhere. Launch the SKUD missles. This fight will be fought land (what is left f it), sea (wetllands), and air (rights)

  11. AJ

    Are churches subject to FAR?

  12. Seems strange to me that this synagogue would go from Stanwich Road all the way over to Old Greenwich. That drive requires a toll and passport, doesn’t it? People often (but not always) choose a church by its proximity to their neighborhood so I wonder why there wasn’t a search for new property closer to their old digs?
    When the Stanwich Congregational Church built new on Taconic, in a raaaaather pricey corner of that road, I don’t remember any squawks.

    Welcome home. You missed one hell of a party here. Walt and Peeps sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g. AJ showed home movies and slides. Cos Cobber told great jokes. I had police tell FF he had to show ID to get in and he was so indignant, he went home. A good time had by all. We missed you.

    • Orchard is Cos Cob, hence the decision to locate there and get a cheap rate on snow plowing in winter.
      The congregation has been looking for a site for a long time, in fact, and I believe Stanwich was considered a temporary location. As for Stanwich Church, they were subjected to the same opposition at many proposed sites before finally getting approval way up out of town.
      Sorry I missed your party-Fudrucker is still fuming!

  13. Anon

    Wasn’t the Cary Road swing commonly referred to as ‘The cable”?

  14. Anonymous

    As a fan of your blog and Greenwich resident who happens to be Jewish, I must take issue with one of your statements above. While you are correct that the busiest time of year at a synagogue is during the High Holidays, they are not shuttered the rest of the year. Sabbath services are held weekly (with additional services for other holidays), and many synagogues offer programming, charity, and other services both to their members and the community at large. Next to the home, synagogues are the center of Jewish life. I understand the point you were making is that this does not seem to be a big deal. I agree — nothing I described above should have a significant impact on the neighborhood. Nevertheless, an educated person with an on-line following should at least have a basic understanding of the religion(s) of his neighbors.

    • In fact, I was just poking fun at my Jewish friends, many of whom are deeply observant while others admit to me that, like Christmas/Easter Christians, they don’t attend services regularly. You’ll notice, I hope, that I made room to tease members of my own former branch of Protestantism – i’m an equal opportunity teaser-or offender, if you wish to interpret it that way, but I hope you won’t. Either way, and at the risk of offending the Indians, I wish you a blessed Thanksgiving.

  15. Stanwich

    Here is a thought, what about Greenwich Reform shacking up with the church on Indian Rock. That parcel is big and the entrance is across from Central Middle School — no residential on that street except for Ponderosa. I say cut a deal with the church to put up a synagogue on the same lot and ask the PNZ for a variance for more parking. If done correctly, you keep the Cos Cob residents happy, the synagogue saves money and the church would bring in some money for an underutilized asset. That is a far better plan than fighting it out with residents who don’t want you cramming a commercial sized building in a residential neighborhood.

  16. Cos Cobber

    Stanwich, the Diamond Hill church on Rte 1 also seems very underutilizied as well.

    My reading of the zoning is that special use permit is required from the P&Z to build a religous building anywhere in town.

    • I think that’s exactly right, CC – special use permit required. Gives the neighbors a toehold to oppose it, but there will certainly be fireworks before this is settled, one way or the other. We’ll get the usual cries of Greenwich anti-semitism and sadly, I’ve already received one post, consigned to the trash, expressing just that hatred. There are some very legitimate reasons to oppose the synagogue, although from my Riverside perspective I’m in the “what’s the big deal?” camp, and by “legitimate”, I mean reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with anti-semitism. Still, I expect that will be the theme when the media picks up this story – makes a nice headline.

  17. Greenwich Atheist

    You buy a home near a commercial establishment and you are surprised when they operate a business? I am shocked, shocked to find gambling going on in here!

  18. Cos Cobber

    Bottomline CF, its a terribly narrow site to shoehorn a public use facility. If this gets approved, they better landscape the heck out of the borders and keep the parking lights low.

    Sure glad I never took a serious look at that beautiful home at the corner of Orchard and Valleywood.

  19. Cos Cobber

    GA, what are you saying? This location isnt at all near a commercial establishment….see the link I posted.

  20. JD

    It’s pretty close to Rinaldi’s Deli, and that place has at least five trucks in front of it from 6:00 AM onward, every day. Synagogues are not particularly raucous places…

  21. Cos cobber

    Rinaldi’s store is as old as the neighborhood…. It’s non conforming grandfathered zoning. They should step in the shoes of rinaldi’s.

  22. JD

    Yeah, but I thouht the concern was traffic and a non-residential establishment in a residential neighborhood. Seems that there’s a precedent, though not a 20,000 square foot one. I grew up in California and there were a number of very nice homes right across the street from our synagogue. I don’t think an architecturally pleasing facility would affect property values, but I guess I understand the fear. Sort of.