We just noticed?

Members of the RTM are concerned that Greenwich seems to be charging too little for its assets and they’re paying particular attention to Greenwich Plaza, which generates little to no income for our town, thanks to a 70-year-lease (with a 20-year extension).

Long Island Sound - now you see it, now you don't

I was 14 when this deal went down but even at that tender age I was amazed at the power local politicians had to enrich themselves and their friends at the expense of a town asleep at the wheel. If, as the Godfather said, “one man with a briefcase can steal more than one hundred men with guns”, politicians make lawyers look like the losers they are. I’m sorry now I didn’t remember that lesson as I made my career choices.

Lowell Weicker – you recall the fat fraud, don’t you? The man who brought the income tax and gambling to Connecticut? – Lowell was first Selectman back in 1967 with aspirations for higher office which his close friend, Greenwich resident and real estate developer  Harry Ashforth was willing to fund, but “for a price, Ugarte, for a price”. And that price was that Weicker “rented” Ashforth the air rights next to the Greenwich train station for a handful of magic beans and a sackful of cash delivered to “Applejack Farm” and Ashforth got to build his office complex. Until those buildings went up, there was a wonderful view of Long Island Sound from anywhere on Greenwich Avenue; not after.

So the town got screwed, Ashforth got rich(er) and Lowell shook the dust off from this podunk town and headed to Washington. The rest, sadly, is history.


Filed under Uncategorized

14 responses to “We just noticed?

  1. AJ

    What do you expect, he lived on Round Hill Road. Didn’t the steel frame of Greenwich Plaza blow down in a sudden wind storm when it was under construction? An omen that should have been heeded?

  2. Cos Cobber

    Off the cuff, two points…1) the town better think twice if its attempts to break leases it has already lawfully entered into and 2) I view the air rights lease as nothing more than a structured user fee/misc income stream for the town. The town isnt necessarily getting ripped off on the air rights lease because if its below market then the building has a higher value and bam – the town gets to hit the building with higher property taxes. Conversely, if the air rights fee is jacked up, the building is worth less and therefore shall pay less property taxes.

    If there is any gripe to be had about taxes in this town its the amazing and reliable rate at which most all housing continues to sell at well over assessed value….what is up with that?

  3. Cal

    AJ – Yes, it did collapse. I believe it was #2 (East Building). Ironically, I ended up working in that building in the early 80’s. It had a terrible AC system…would die in the summertime.

  4. Chimney

    It was Lowell Weicker, and Brad McGill, then head of P&Z that allowed this sweetheart deal and completely blocked off the beautiful view down the Ave to the sound from the Pickwick Hotel.

  5. Bill Clark


  6. AJ

    Ah, it was a sad day when they tore down the beautiful old Pickwick Arms Hotel — plenty of pics of it on Google images — only to replace it with that ugly “campus style” Xerox building. The top of the Avenue was forever changed and lost a lot of its Charm. The geniuses at Xerox, who after their engineers developed the wysiwyg Apple computer system, gave it all away to Steve Jobs, seeing absolutely no future in it — morons. A good example of the idiocy of corporate welfare that props up old dinosaurs with no vision that are on their way to extinction at the expense of and to the disadvantage of new start-ups that could be the jobs of the future if only they weren’t being hammered into the ground by unfair crony sponsored competition.

    • I agree with you about the Pickwick Arms, AJ, but Xerox has done a pretty good job reinventing unlike Kodak, which never could grasp the idea that its business was dying. The trouble out in Palo Alto was that no one knew what Xerox engineers had not even, really, Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. That’s a telling comment about very large corporations and how they can become dinosaurs, but it also says good things about competition and free markets – the nimble and innovative will win out, often.

  7. GPD Folk

    I grew up a block away on Grigg Street….the steel of Greenwich Plaza # 2 collapsed during a freak wind storm in November of 1969. The Canadian Indian steel workers were able to descend from the steel work before the collapse and promptly retreated to Hegarty’s across the street!

  8. Greenwich Gal

    Steve Jobs knew exactly what Xerox had and that was the origins of Apple’s icon system. Xerox didn’t know what to do with it, much to their chagrin. Read the Bio – it is pretty good.

  9. The sales pitch was commercial propeties would not “burden our school system”. So encourage commercial growth with lower taxes instead of more students in the then top school system in the State. When this failed “planning” experiment started the Avenue was 2 way, it has been all downhill since then. State Supreme Courts have found taxing property at lower rates was not constitutional. If we imposed the same rate on the cubicles as we homeowners pay we could pay for fixing many of expensive “infrastructure” costs they burden us with especially the drianage problems brought on by the bigger roads to comfy the commuters.

  10. Cos Cobber

    But Peter, at least we have commercial property to tax. We are lucky. Ridgefield, Weston, Fairfield and others with sky high residential property taxes would love to have our collection of commercial property. We need balance, fair commercial property taxes, but nothing over zealous. Greenwich needs to continue to be a good place for business, we will regret it otherwise in the long run.

    • CC, you’d have to check the numbers but if memory serves we discovered as a town that we were spending more servicing commercial office space than we were collecting and so we stopped expanding the zones where such activity is permitted. Again, I’m operating on memory here and that’s always a dubious proposition, but I think that’s the story.

    • We should plan for the future.
      What would the Greenwich Plaza bring in over the last 40 plus years if there were 24, 2,000 sq.ft. luxuury condos ?

  11. Cos Cobber

    Chris, how could that possibly make any sense unless you are ignoring the school budget altogether. Do the commercial businesses clog the human services office? Do they send children to school at 16k a pop per annum? Do they clog up the legal system (toss up on that one), Do they burden public medical facilities?