Daily Archives: December 8, 2009

Well, at least I’m not a trader for SAC

Wanna come up to Crown Lane and go long Citi with me?

      The FBI is back digging into Little Stevie Cohen’s trading company for insider trading. Nothing too surprising about that, but get this:

One of the SAC employees Kang interviewed during his investigation was former SAC analyst Andrew Tong, who accused his male supervisor, Ping Jiang, then a top SAC trader, of forcing him to have oral sex, dress in women’s clothes and take female hormones, Reuters said.

I read yesterday that SAC Capital has made 27% a year since inception. I’m amazed they have time to do that. As an aside, the fellow to the left looks a lot like a certain Riversider I knew who abruptly left Stevie’s employ a few years ago. You don’t suppose ….


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Maybe there is life after death after all

33 Dairy Road

We are seeing some real sales lately and here’s another. This two-acre teardown on Dairy, offering a fine view of the water tower and priced at $3.595, just sold for $3.150 million, more than I would have expected. Builders, take heart.


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More movement?

Perhaps – my memory has let me down on #9 “The Avenue” up Bedford way, reported as under contract (asking $1.095) today. There’s at least one foreclosure pending on that street and if this is it, then we’re witnessing death throes, not market life. But there are at least two houses for sale on that street so maybe not.

Similarly, 98 Hillcrest Road is reported under contract today but I thought it had enjoyed that status since early November. Did the first deal fall through? Is it just being reported again for jollies? Who knows? Anyway, it’s no longer available.

And, while not actively listed, 1 Ford Lane Tomac Lane went back to the lender December 5th – next step, a few months from now, will be an auction. We’d been working on this but couldn’t get the parties together before time ran out, unfortunately.

30 Crescent Lane, taken over by its lender in August, is still not available for sale – the former owner is holding on and has tied things up in court, claiming a tenant’s status. I don’t blame the man at all – when you have nowhere to go, you don’t voluntarily shove off into the night because some bank asks you to. But eventually, he’ll lose – times are not good out there.


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Down a notch from the Mariani price range

11 Somerset Lane


I liked this little Riverside house, even with its noisy location near I-95. The owners put some money into fixing it up and it had a decent back yard. Best of all, if your car got dirty and you were nice to him, Mark Curtis of Splash would come over from his house and give it a washing. 

Well perhaps that last part isn’t true, but I did like the house. It started in May at $940,000, which didn’t seem as unlikely then as it did a few months later with the market still moribund but it was eventually cut into the $8’s and sold today for an even $800,000. They paid $629 for it in 2002 and put in a new roof, furnace and kitchen so probably didn’t gain all that much but these days, walking away from a closing with cash in your pocket is a triumph all by itself. Assessment is $1,002,000, by the way, but the assessments on Somerset are all crazy – they must have sent a deaf appraiser over to do the job.

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There’s still money in town and some people are spending it

1 Meadowcroft

Mark Mariani’s spec job off of Grahampton, priced at $11.9 million has gone to contract (to a Russ Pruner client). Not my cup of tea but no one asked me, did they? This sat around for awhile and cut its price from $14.5 but I’m sure Mr. Mariani will make out just fine: he paid $5.2 for the land, so there’s plenty of room to cover the interest and still pocket a nice profit.

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And the Pioneer Award goes to …

Hurry, Ma, there's a hangin' at Dead Rock 'fore noon!

Kenny Biros, who last night became the first prisoner to be executed with a new form of drug. Considering the fellow stabbed a 21-year-old 91 times,  chopped her into little bits and scattered her in three states, it’s a little annoying to read that he spent 18 years on Death Row, but I suppose progress takes time.

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Wonders never cease department: a sensible op-ed in the WaPo

I saw the headline of this essay by Anne Applebaum:”In Switzerland, Towers of Fear” and assumed it would be another soppy plea for tolerance and understanding of the mad bombers and their progeny. It is not. It’s more tolerant than I’d be, but the issue and the problem presented by Muslims in Europe is presented well.

There are many explanations for this phenomenon (the best is found in Christopher Caldwell’s recent book, “Reflections on the Revolution in Europe”), but, to put it very crudely, they boil down to one thing: Because of mistakes made by Europeans and by the Muslim immigrants who live beside them, the two groups have, over the past several decades, failed to integrate. Two or even three generations after their arrival, some European Muslims still live in separate communities. They often go to separate schools. And a small but vocal minority openly refuses to respect the laws and customs of their adopted countries.

No European government has found a way to deal with this phenomenon. Those that have tried often find themselves running up against their own civil rights and legal traditions. The Danes, determined to limit the number of foreign spouses entering Denmark through arranged marriages, decided that they had no choice but to make it more difficult for all Danes to marry foreigners. The French, realizing that the headscarf had become a symbol of political affiliation in some French schools, found themselves limiting the rights of all students to wear religious clothing, including yarmulkes, to school.

There is, therefore, nothing especially Swiss, or especially isolationist, about the recent referendum result. A similar question, put in a similar way, might well have led to a similar result anywhere in Europe. In fact, fear of Islamist extremism shapes all European politics far more than anyone ever acknowledges. The growth of the “far right” parties in the recent past is almost always connected to fear of Islamist extremism. The opposition to Turkish membership in the European Union — which would mean that Turks could eventually work freely in any member state — stems from the same set of fears, though almost no one ever says this.

The referendum on the construction of minarets is no different. No one quite says what the real issue is, but everybody knows: As grotesquely unfair as a referendum to ban minarets may have been to hundreds of thousands of ordinary, well-integrated Muslims, I have no doubt that the Swiss voted in favor primarily because they don’t have much Islamic extremism — and they don’t want any.

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Sound like boots Ruth LeBlanc would wear!

Pig merde stompers for Mademoiselle?

Old School Grump suggests that Orvis carries a line of 100% rubber, handmade French  boots by Le Chameau, ordinarily priced at the improbable price of $429. Even adjusting for the Euro’s appreciation, that seems a more appropriate price for truffles, not boots, but they look pretty cool, so I’ll watch out for a discount on Saturday.


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So, how’s that downtown condo scene working out?

25 W. Elm

Unit 22 in this project sold for $625,000 in 2004, and again for $725,000 in ’06. It came back up for sale this past September priced at just $562,500 and today it’s been marked down to $425,000. Assessment is $469,000.

The seller has another, smaller unit for sale, #13, which, if the assessments for this building are accurate, still has some room to drop. It sold for $330,000 in 2001, was placed up for sale unsuccessfully in 2006 at $605,000 and returned to the market in September at $498,000. Today it’s asking $375,000, but its assessment is just $314,000. I’d start there.

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Oooh, that global warming will do anything!

BBC: Canadian study predicts 40% decline in Indian fishery due to global warming. Just three years ago, the same BBC reported that fish would soon disappear because of pollution and overfishing. For some reason, today’s BBC report made no mention of any possible cause for the sorry state of the fish population except global warming.

I’m quite used to BBC reporting being whored out to suit its editorial position, but what about the British Columbian “scientists” who produced the report cited by the Brits? Imagine for a minute that you were a scientist looking for funding. Would you be more likely to get cash if you (a) proposed documenting how over-fishing and pollution were wiping out fish stocks  as conclusively and repeatedly documented over the past decades? or (b) blaming the same phenomenon on global warming? If you answered “a”, then you probably don’t think the global warming emails revealed anything wrong with the state of scientific research today.

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A contract

We’ve been talking about corrupt builders and diet cookies this morning because there is nothing happening in the real estate world – 11 houses on the open house tour today, all retreads. But now at last, a contract has been reported , after 1,000 + days, for 15 Quail Road. The place started at $6.250 in 2006, slowly dropped through the fives and fours and was at $3.99 million when a buyer turned up. Assessment is $3.5 million, which is probably about where this will end up. I think it has a pretty big lien on it arising from unrelated issues but presumably some cash has been freed up somewhere to make this deal happen.


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Stop the presses! Diet cookies don’t work!

Does this hat make me look fat?


The Wall Street Journal says so.  The new owner of the Journal keeps saying he’s going to start charging for content but this kind of intrepid reporting would probably do better if it were free.


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Orvis warehouse sale starts this Saturday

Come for Hooper's autograph!

I wrote last spring about this Orvis deal, held up in the old Comp -US store in Norwalk on Route One and now they’re doing it again. Pretty good deals, like fly rods for 1/2 price and tons of ridiculously over-priced Orvis clothing marked down to 19 bucks. I can’t guarantee you’ll see the Madoff boys or the Hoops there, but given their change in financial circumstances, where else would they shop?

Best part: the original price tags are still attached so you can give someone a $325 sweater and only you will know that you paid less than $20. Unless they try to return it of course, but by that time, the sale will be over and the store closed.


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Developer off to the pokey

At least he's in a HOBI "Best Prison" winner

New Canaan developer/builder Richard Girouard pled guilty just before Thanksgiving to bank bribery and, in an unrelated case, wire fraud. Nobody sent word to me in the woods. But I’m sorry – he built good houses, including several down here in Greenwich (Bramble Lane in Riverside and that three-unit project on Lockwood in Old Greenwich, plus others). The bribery scheme was hatched in 2002 so he can’t blame the market for his woes – more likely, plain old over-extension and greed.

When he was first arrested I pointed out that his lawyer’s assertion that “Mssr. Girouard is looking forward to his day in court” rang a bit hollow, seeing as his own lawyer had already pled guilty to the scheme. So it’s hardly surprising that, like every other defendant whose mouthpiece makes that bold assertion, Girouard spent his only “day in court” on his knees, begging for mercy.


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