Cos Cob Synagogue decision postponed.

As predicted. I’m told the atmosphere was “vicious’. I’ve received a couple of pretty awful anti-semitic comments that I’ve consigned to the trash bin and I find that discouraging. I’m neutral on this issue – I live in Riverside, the traffic won’t affect me and I have friends who are members of the congregation, so I’ll mind my own business – and I recognize the legitimacy of the neighbors’ concerns about bulk, traffic and, maybe, noise, but I’m disheartened to see that there’s still such hatred present in town. Of course, there’s no reason Greenwich should be different from the rest of the world, but I’d hoped we were a little more evolved than, say, France.

Which is not to say that to oppose the synagogue is to hate Jews – some of the opponents are Jewish themselves and it’s entirely understandable that any neighbor of this development, of any religion, wouldn’t like it, but there’s an ugly substrata in that opposition that should be weeded out. I think I’ll post the next horrible comment I receive, just to expose the hatred. Or not – I’ll make that decision when I come to it, or it comes to me.

43 Comments

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43 responses to “Cos Cob Synagogue decision postponed.

  1. Anonymous

    Funny comment on Patch this morning from a friend of Lou Caravella’s who tries to blame some “fledgling” real estate broker as the mastermind behind this evil plot–poor Lou must be an innocent bystander

  2. Greenwich Libertarian

    What I find most interesting here is that I always assumed that most of your readers were like me: interested in smaller government that does not infringe on the rights of private homeowners. This is not a religious issue. It simply involves a homeowner’s right to sell his property to whomever he wants. The town government should not be permitted to stand in the way of this because of a few rabble rousers. If the neighbors take issue with that, they can pool their money and purchase the property.

  3. Cos Cobber

    GL, thats all nice talk until something like this happens in a very dense neighborhood. its a 20k sq ft building w/100 space parking lot land on a very narrow lot which will abutt 9 or so residential homes. the parking will have to run right up agaist the property lines to squeeze this in. bye-bye home values.

    CF, those anti semitic comments are an absolute shame.

    too bad they cannot strike a deal with the Tuchman estate across the street from this site.

  4. Demmerkrat Patriot

    Libertarian: The property has been sold. The question is whether a new 100 space parking lot, pre-school, and house of worship should be built amidst (and surrounded by) residences.

    The interesting note is the congregation turned down the already zoned house of worship at 471 Stanwich Road because it wasn’t “convenient.” So, I guess the potential new neighbors can say that a large parking lot and temple is not “convenient” for them.

  5. Westchesterer

    This is the problem with zoning laws. Is it your property or your neighbors? Did you pay for it, or did your neighbors? You can expect a big lawsuit against the town if this doesn’t pass, even if it slowed down. It happened in Westchester when a planning board slowed down the development of a Church.

    When you restrict any property owner from using the property as he wishes you invite the mob to dictate rights. A buffer must exist between the civilian mob and the individual. Otherwise the mob will vote to destroy the individuals it disapproves of.

  6. InfoDiva

    I was here in town in 1985 when the lawsuit brought to remove the cross on the Cos Cob firehouse scratched the veneer of polite Greenwich society and exposed the ugly anti-Semitism that existed beneath it. I. for one, am not in the least bit surprised to hear that the disease still flourishes here almost 30 years later.

  7. Walt

    Dude –
    All Jews are not alike, and I think it is racist of you to think otherwise. So what are we talking about here? I need to know to make an informed decision.
    Are we talking Ultra-Orthodox? You know, like the ones in Brooklyn? The ones that frighten regular Jews and the goyum? The ones that wear the really cool hats like this guy?
    http://www.pbs.org/newshour/indepth_coverage/middle_east/slideshow_jerusalem/?page=3

    Or are we talking your run of the mill beanie wearing Jew?

    I think if it is the first group of Jews, property values adjacent to the site should increase, as they WALK to the synagogue, making these properties MORE valuable. And traffic wouldn’t increase as they aren’t driving. Plus they all like to live together, away from the heathen WASP’s and Catholics.

    If it is just the regular every day run of the mill Jew, I have to think about that a little more.
    So let me know.
    Your Pal,
    Walt

  8. anonymous

    Time for Tom Leher:

  9. Anonymous

    Does anyone know Greenwich P&Z laws/regulations–are religious buildings considered residential or commercial? Seems like a gray area unless there is a specific stipulation in the law how they should be treated.

    • Fudrucker will know but I’m pretty sure churches are permitted in residential zones as “special exceptions”, meaning they can be built, after review, but not as a matter of (unfettered) right. So to answer your question, they are neither residential nor commercial, they’re churches, a separate category.

  10. Greewnich Mom, M&P

    Westchesterer, I respectfully disagree. If a strip club buys property in a residential neighborhood, does that mean they can “use the property as they wish”? Or even a doctor’s office or an animal hospital??? There are zoning regulations for a reason. Granted, the zoning regulations in Greenwich are quite zealous and restrictive, but this is the town we choose to live in and these are the rules we must live by.

    CF, I would guess (and hope) that the majority of the comments have nothing to do with religion and anti-Semitism and everything to do with residents feeling anguish, stress and anger. I would never think of building a 5,000 sq foot home in the middle of the commercial buildings on the Post Road or Greenwich Avenue, why is it OK for a 200,000 sq foot building with 100 parking spaces to be in the middle of a residential neighborhood? I live in the area, I oppose this development and yes, I am a practicing Jew!

    • The only quibble I have with your analysis, M&P, is that the contemplated building would be 20,000, not 200,000 sq. ft. That’s big enough, granted, but not as bad as you think – or that was a typo, but I might as well correct the impression that a California mega-church is coming to town.

  11. Pete

    “Big enough” Just to put it in some perspective, the property is zoned R-12, minimum lot size – 12,000 sq. ft. FAR is .315 equating to 3,780 sq. ft. on a conforming lot. 20,000 is over five times that.

  12. Walt

    Dude -
    And maybe we get these guys:

    They seem like they would be fun to chill with.
    Your Pal,
    Walt

  13. Demmerkrat,
    Caravella’s have not sold their property yet. The contracts are contingent upon town approval of connecting the bifurcated parts. I plan on attending the lighting of the “Cos Cob Association” bash this Saturday. I must say Randy has brass ones!

  14. Westchesterer

    The problem with “this is the town we choose to live in” is that it’s not true. Many people have lived in their villages and towns before and during the passage of hostile zoning laws that restrict property rights. The choice to live in the town came before the decision to enact the zoning laws. Thus it wasn’t a choice to live in a town with restrictions on private property.

    Zoning laws are destroying property values and stopping builders from investing in old, unwanted properties and reviving them. Zoning laws are making it a burden for residents to construction additions, pools, or other structures they desire on their property.

    I don’t believe the civilian mob has a responsibility to tell people what they can or cannot do on their own property. If you believe it is so, one day the civilian mob may vote your house as common land and available for common use. Why should the civilian mob have the ability to tell the individual how to use his property? When you no longer defend private property rights for all people, be ready for the consequences of your utopian world.

  15. Westchesterer: So true. And the best example that your point is the folly of the Belfry in Katonah. The homeowners were banned by the Town from razing a home that was their right to do. The historical preservation board beat them down and cost them a fortune and raised their ugly heads until the homeowners were forced to keep a portion of the home erect. The homeowners rights were severely violated but the preservationists made THEM out to be villains of the worst order.
    http://earthoceanskyredux.com/2012/05/15/the-belfry-demolition-permit-to-be-granted/

    That said, I do not live near the proposed construction in Cos Cob. I do not know what I would do or say if it were in my back yard. So my two cents is worthless and I defer to those who do have to contend with the issue, but I do worry that Towns are taking away homeowners rights.

  16. Cos Cobber

    Gang, its all about balance. Greenwich is relatively liberal with zoning, particularly when compared with Westchester.

  17. Greenwich Mom, M&P

    Thanks CF-that was a typo on my part (albeit, a big one!) Thanks for the correction and I think 20,000 sq feet is big enough! Especially in a neighborhood of homes mainly in the 1800-2500 sq foot range.

  18. Anonymous

    articles like this (f’ing zoning zealots) make me enjoy more the idea of moving to 100 acres in the middle of montana. if it wasn’t for the snow, the weather in general, and the lack of good strip clubs, i’d be all over it.

  19. The Ghost of the FAR Czar

    CF – you are correct on the need for a special exception from the Board of Appeals. A non-residential use (religious) in a residential zone. The interesting point is that to get a special exception, you are supposed to pass a seven point test. I think this proposal has trouble with at least three of them: 1) be in accordance with the Town’s Plan of Conservation and Development, 2) will not create a traffic hazard or congestion and 3) will not be detrimental to the neighborhood or its residents or alter he neighborhood’s essential characteristics. I think Tom Heageny has his work cut out for him on this one.

  20. pick an issue....

    This entire issue is antisemitic. If anything, this is a dumpy part of town that will see property values increase since people look for neighbors that are similar. Maybe this would give people a reason to live here besides the fact it is a cheaper part of town. It is definitely not considered the DESIRABLE part of Greenwich. In fact, comparisons with another church or school vs strip clubs would seem more appropriate. Maybe it would be couched as a “family” neighborhood. Beautiful commercial buildings or gorgeous churches cleanup the run down aspects of Rt 1. I am still not sure why having a parking lot next to your property line is bad. It only gives you more opportunity for using the space for playing etc. Maybe making sure garbage or dumpsters are not near those lines. However, their reasons are very thin. This could be an opportunity for MORE neighborhood space for those tiny lots. Also, the town is trying to preserve the “old” and prevent additions, pools and regentrification. Eventually, quaint becomes rundown and too difficult. With the new taxes and mediocre schools I am not sure what Mayflower high horse people sit on. Also, this is not a proud moment for Jews to be pointing fingers at other Jews. This is just a deflection of the issue of space and control and a Greenwich reputation. I support anything that can rebuild an area. This what happened to the UWS (upper west side) in the late 90s. There was a large group who didn’t want new or box stores etc now look at the area from Columbus circle up to the 90s. progress people progress

  21. Fred2

    “This entire issue is antisemitic.”

    Somehow I doubt it. If this were a Episcopal Church doing the same thing you get EXACTLY the same whining and hand-wringing, minus the Jew Haters, but plus the anti-Christian crowd.

  22. RaisedinRiverside

    Where exactly in Cos Con is this going to be? Is it right off the Post Rd where there are already a lot of commercial building and parking lots, or is it being stuck right in the middle of a completely residential neighborhood?

    If a 20,000sf non-residential building and parking lot was going to be built adjacent to my property, I’d be pissed. Regardless if what the building is used for, that will have an impact on homeowners in the immediate area and I get why they’re upset.

  23. hmmm

    you can be anti-christian and not a peep from anyone but you talk affirmative action and you’re a racist or if you’re upset about a synagogue going up you’re antisemitic…interesting they do vote the same way…but that’s where the similiarities seem to end….

    anyway….

    if i read the article correctly there are jewish folks in the area that are against it as well, please verify and report back…

    and i think one of the other commenters in this thread said she was jewish (practicing in fact) and she was against it…is she antisemitic too?

  24. Westchesterer

    Yeah, the anti-semitic notion seems a little absurd. If it was a Catholic church, or a mosque, I’m sure you would have the same statists against private property rights. The real problem is that so many people seem to believe that they have a right to tell someone how to use their property. This is getting worse and the thugish Planning and Zoning boards are only Kafkaesque kangaroo courts. It’s sickening that they get away with outright theft of private property.

    Yes, EOS, I can see that happening and expect it to happen more often in the future. The thugs at the P&Z will tell you that you have no right to raze your house because they deem it historical. That amounts to a taking and should be unconstitutional. The courts are a hit or miss, often siding with the local municipalities. What happened to property rights? Why are land owners allowing local thugs to steal their land and their rights to use it?

  25. Mr. 85 Broad Street

    Westchesterer,
    Because unfortunately the Supreme Court said its OK. Kelo vs. the City of New London.

  26. Westchesterer

    I’m not talking about eminent domain. Local zoning laws are routinely changing, affecting the property rights of homeowners in the jurisdiction. Some laws, like FAR or Green Space amount to a takings of private property because the specific law excludes your ability to use your property. Other laws deny the construction of houses on vacant lots due to changes in zoning laws that have affected the vacant lot making it substandard in reliance to the current zoning law. This is an outright taking of the property since it has little to no use without a building permit and little to no compensation value. If you have a single family vacant lot, and the village changes the zoning of your parcel making it substandard, you’re pretty much screwed unless you can prove you have made substantial capital improvement like a foundation, sewer and utility. That’s why you see foundations that sit for years on lots that are unsold spec homes.

  27. Riverside Chick

    It’s all going to come down to attnys bickering about what the definition of congestion and traffic hazard is for months and months.

  28. Well said, Riverside Chick….
    We need a real Town Plan voted on by all residents including the 22,000 property owners.
    All we have is Zoning Loophole Lotterey.
    Plan Of Constant Dabblement is a joke that a lot of people have been duped into thinking the staff dollars have been spent well.

  29. hmmm

    no one is duped about staff dollars being spent well it’s seems impossible to do anything about it (and it’s designed that way) unless all 22,000 property owners show up at once

  30. Greenwich Citizen

    There are zoning laws and building requirements which protect areas from overdevelopment and man-made flooding. This is a residential neighborhood which is comprised of cape cod style homes which date from the early and mid 20th century. Most of the lots are 1/4 acre. There are three pedestrian crosswalks (one with a stop sign, two without) in the immediate Orchard Street area, which involve school children from two different schools. The additional traffic in this dense residential neighborhood will be a nightmare.

    I walk by 92-96 Orchard Street several times a week to get to the trails that go through the Pinetum. The section of Orchard Street under discussion is windy and narrow, and I take my life in my hands every time I cross the pedestrian crosswalk at @100 Orchard Street – and this is even before the lots at 92-96 Orchard are overdeveloped!

    I attended the P&Z hearing. Tom Heagney was almost guffawed out of the room when he weaseled around direct written statements made by the Rabbi about the scope of the envisioned development, which would also involve a lot at 22 Ossee Place. He came across as a dishonest snake oil salesman, frankly, and may have done more harm than good to his clients that night.

    The lots involved include wetlands, and the neighborhood is right to also be concerned about man-made flooding issues – overdevelopment will potentially cause flooding to the neighbors, and Orchard Street as well. The water has to go somewhere, and covering up green space with a 20,000 sq. ft. building and a parking lot for 100 cars will direct the the water to the neighbors and also to Orchard Street. Parts of Grove Street and Orchard Street were under mandatory evacuation orders during Superstorm Sandy, despite the fact that they are far from both the Sound and tidal waterways. This area of Cos Cob has become prone to flooding, and overdevelopment will only exacerbate the issue.

  31. Tim Lee

    Westchesterer, you may well be right as a general principle about the evil of planning and zoning laws affecting property rights, but that is the world we live in, particularly in Greenwich. I live very close to the proposed synagogue and when my wife and I bought the property we believed we were buying in a residential area, not an area about to be developed with a large development including a very large car park. We paid a lot of money for our property relative to what we would have paid in a much more freewheeling area of the country without restrictive zoning laws (parts of Texas, say). If this development goes ahead we will lose a lot of money presumably, as the area in effect becomes ‘mixed use’. Even though you may be a libertarian if you were in the same position you would oppose it, and you would be justified in doing so.

    To the commenter, and one or two others, who describe the area as ‘a dump’, you should come and look at it, walk in the woods opposite. My wife and I chose to live in the area rather than Old Greenwich. We and others around us have put a lot of effort and money into improving our own homes. It is true that the actual house that the synagogue bought needs to be demolished but the area immediately around it is well kept and attractive, in my opinion a nicer area to live than Old Greenwich. Those in the congregation or in favor of the development are not going to make any friends or win the argument by making derogatory comments about the neighborhood.

    • Tim, I really do understand the neighbors’ concerns about size, etc. but the one thing I believe I can assure you on is that permitting a church in a residential neighborhood will not make it a “mixed use” neighborhood. Greenwich zoning rules, like that those of every other town whose zoning code I’m familiar with, anticipate and even encourage churches in the residential zones, so erecting a church does not jeopardize the overall zoning scheme. While I don’t have data to prove it (or disprove it), I doubt that a church will harm your property values. But while I don’t know that for certain, I am absolutely sure that permitting a church does not open the door to factories, retail or any other commercial uses, just as a school going in won’t change permitted uses.

    • Trojan Horse

      Thank you, Tim! Here here! We picked this area over Old Greenwich because of its charm and convenience. Old Greenwich is lovely, but we can’t afford to waste time sitting in Sound Beach Avenue traffic. My favorite house is a perfect little 800 sq. foot cottage that looks like it was snatched from the beaches of Martha’s Vineyard.

  32. Cos Cobber

    CF, if they were building this on twice as much land there would be room to provide some buffer / screening and thus, a very different situation. its hard to imagine 100 spaces and 20k sq ft building not overwhelming the neighbors on this narrow – interior lot.

    You know what this will look like, those houses on Taylor Drive in Cos Cob immediately behind the CVS and Post Office. These homes will have backyards overlooking a parking lot just like those homes on Taylor Drive. The difference of course is that Rte 1 commercial activity predates the residential use on Taylor, so no one sheds a tear (nor should they).

    Too bad they couldnt strike a deal to develop on the tuchman property which has 8+ acres across the street from this site.

    Who knows how this will play out. Ultimately I’d like to see another site selected and I hope its in Cos Cob so we can all put this antisemitic notion to bed.

  33. hmmm

    cobber,

    that’s a silly statement and you’re falling into the routine of feeling guilty…anti-semitism has nothing to do with it and cos cob is not anti-semitic so it doesn’t need to be in cos cob just “to put the antisemitic notion to bed”…please do not be suckered into that thought process…

  34. pick an issue....

    love your irony… If emotions were not so high and if the temple has legal rights to build then I would have them pay to enrich the area (pay for previous and preventative flooding issues, new sidewalks, landscaping around the lot). These are all expensive items that the neighbors could make someone else pay for. This could work for all. I am not sure how the 8 acres across the st. plays into this. – someone explain.

  35. Trojan Horse

    I certainly know a Trojan Horse when I see one. The GRS President’s own blog, which can be seen here: http://grs.org/2012/07 says that they are looking to increase membership, and also need a minimum of 20,000 sq. ft, with room to add another 5,000 sq. ft. So much for their new and improved public stance that they now want to build a smaller building!

    To pick an issue : the neighbors should also demand the installation of multiple crossing guards – not for the purpose of blocking the already heavy Orchard Street traffic (so worshipers and partiers alike can zip in and out of their 100-space parking lot and back up traffic for the rest of the folks who need to use Orchard Street) but for the purpose of protecting the community at large – especially the pedestrians who use the two cross-walks that are within 5 -10 houses in either direction of the proposed development site.