So cancel the whole thing

Greenwich High Music Palace (as proposed)

Greenwich High Music Palace (as proposed)

Supporters of the GHS music palace say budget cuts will render the project moot.

Since a major reason for building the new auditorium is to improve sound quality, Cirigliano said getting rid of the orchestra pit would defeat some of the purpose.

“Without that, we’re not getting much improvement for the renovation,” Cirigliano said.

GHS Band Director John Yoon is concerned that renovating the current auditorium — which has poor acoustics, with sound not traveling properly and students struggling to sing over the HVAC system — would not produce sufficient practice areas. He said that since the sloped floor would have to be leveled off, the ceiling would not be high enough.

“If they’re going to use the existing auditorium, the ceiling has to be 19 to 20 feet, tops,” Yoon said. “We produce a huge amount of sound. That has to be displaced. By using the existing auditorium space, we’re throwing that out the window. We’re going to spend the money and we’re not going to do it right. Again.”

Even the editors of Greenwich Time, always ready to support spending money that belongs to Greenwich taxpayers, has suggested that we discard this boondoggle. In an editorial on March 15th the paper said:

“If the current auditorium is an indicator, town children, and town residents, will use this building for 40 years or more. Do it right, or don’t do it.”

Who could disagree?

46 Comments

Filed under MISA

46 responses to “So cancel the whole thing

  1. The auditorium in the old high school had excellent acoustics as I recall; I remember as a kid being taken to a concert there by the Indianapolis Symphony (don’t laugh, it’s a fine band!) and the sound was terrific. Does that auditorium still exist or was it chopped up to make room for the bureaucrats’ offices?

    • FF

      It was torn off the back, in large part because the Town fathers at the time thought if they kept the space, it would eventually be filled with bureaucrats

      • What I heard FF, was that while the town was squabbling over more room for bureaucrats, talk started up about what a perfect space it would be for moderate housing.
        So it was torn down immediately. Don’t know if there was truth to that rumor but it does sound likely.

  2. Mr. 85 Broad Street

    Between the cost of the MISA and the cost of the soil remediation, you could build a brand new high school which would have something for everyone, not just the performing arts students. Why not demolish the existing school, cap the whole site (since groundwater migration doesn’t seem to be an issue) and run an RFP for private developers to redevelop the site?
    That’s exactly what happened to the old Raybestos factory in Stratford which was a super fund site..

    • Cos Cobber

      Thats a intriguing idea, 85 Broad.

      I’m in the camp of either build what was planned or cancel the project. To further scale back the design would result in only a newer and cleaner version of what they already have which would be a complete waste.

    • Mickster

      Amen..amen..can you give me an amen???

      • firsttimebuyer

        GHS parent of singing daughter here. Seconding Mickster’s Amen. Build a new high school! The high school is old and in poor repair. Building anything on a toxic site is dumb and wasteful.

        • FF

          The old high school, now Town Hall, was decommissioned after 44 years of use. Next year, the “new” GHS will be 44 years old. Hell, baseball stadia are demolished after 20 years these days. Build a new one

  3. Corn Fields

    If we build it who will come?
    (This is George’s straight line, what did Gracie reply?

  4. dogwalker

    The article has a nice photo of an Emma Fountain. . . . Reminds me of that song, Things that make you go hummmmmm.

    • Anonymous

      I can’t keep track of all the Fountains—they are everywhere….Gideon, Anthony, Kat, the NY Times Fountain…..who can keep track? One thing is for sure–they sure all have a wit and a sharp view of things…and we are all the better for it.

    • Emma is no direct relation, so far as I know, and I’m sure that will come as a great relief to her.

  5. An RTM Land Use member compared this situation at GHS to an 1882 play by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, “An Enemy of the people” (original Norwegian title: En folkefiende).

    Plot from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/An_Enemy_of_the_People:

    Dr. Thomas Stockmann is a popular citizen of a small coastal town in Norway. The town has recently invested a large amount of public and private money towards the development of baths, a project led by Dr. Stockmann and his brother, Peter Stockmann, the Mayor. The town is expecting a surge in tourism and prosperity from the new baths, said to be of great medicinal value, and as such, the baths are a source of great local pride. However, just as the baths are proving successful, Dr. Stockmann discovers that waste products from the town’s tannery are contaminating the waters, causing serious illness amongst the tourists. He expects this important discovery to be his greatest achievement, and promptly sends a detailed report to the Mayor, which includes a proposed solution which would come at a considerable cost to the town.

    To his surprise, Dr. Stockmann finds it difficult to get through to the authorities. They seem unable to appreciate the seriousness of the issue and unwilling to publicly acknowledge and address the problem because it could mean financial ruin for the town. As the conflict develops, the Mayor warns his brother that he should “acquiesce in subordinating himself to the community.” Dr. Stockmann refuses to accept this, and holds a town meeting at Captain Horster’s house in order to persuade people that the baths must be closed.

    The townspeople — eagerly anticipating the prosperity that the baths will bring — refuse to accept Dr. Stockmann’s claims, and his friends and allies, who had explicitly given support for his campaign, turn against him en masse. He is taunted and denounced as a lunatic, an “Enemy of the People.” In a scathing rebuttal of both the Victorian notion of community and the principles of democracy, Dr. Stockmann proclaims that in matters of right and wrong, the individual is superior to the multitude, which is easily led by self-advancing demagogues. Dr. Stockmann sums up Ibsen’s denunciation of the masses, with the memorable quote “…the strongest man in the world is the man who stands most alone.” He also says: “A minority may be right; a majority is always wrong.”

  6. Stanwich

    Anthony Fountain is right. The old auditorium was fine, if not a bit shabby. I would agree that more practice space was necessary and perhaps a general upgrade.

    How many students are actively involved in music/theater at GHS? From what I remember, theater was dominated by a core group of students and one particular English teacher. For all the theater performances, it seemed there was a handful of students who had all the roles. There seemed to be a fairly large number of students involved in music but it wasn’t huge.

    WTF are they doing with nearly $40 million!!!!! Unbelievably stupid expense. I don’t know who to blame but this is out of control. Add to that the remediation instigated by this project and the sky is the limit.

    Imagine if the project had been a renovation of the existing space and small addition of practice space. The PCB’s in the ground would have remained safely contained and we would have been none the worse for it. We could have been done with this for $5-10 million.

  7. Anonymous

    Ah, CF, you wisely recall GTime’s own words…..let us see if there will be a new editorial to (yabba dabba dabba do) explain the new version talking points.

  8. Anonymous

    I still don’t understand how a fire station and an auditorium can cost nearly $50MM each. I admit I have no expertize in the construction business, but if you want to see what you can do in the private sector check out the whole new school campus Episcopal Academy built from scratch just outside Philly. I think the project including land was close to $150MM but it still seems the construction dollar goes further outside of the public sector.

    • TheWizard

      Many architects and engineers unnecessarily complicate and overdesign projects, which I’ve always suspected is very handy when one works on a commission basis.

      I’m not saying that’s what is happening here, but I know firsthand the practice is widespread.

  9. Anonymous

    Said on GTime website:

    I guess if you keep telling the lie over and over again someone might believe it (but I doubt it).

    The amount in question is not for just for the “Broadway auditorium”, but also for three large rehearsal rooms, an electronic music lab, a recording studio, small ensemble rehearsal rooms, music library space, individual practice rooms, teacher office space, and appropriate storage for instruments, uniforms and equipment. All are standard fare for a modern high school and all would be included if a high school was built today.

    And the price tag went up for two reasons:
    1. the school was built on toxic soil
    2. the resultant delays meant that the window of construction firms begging for work has closed

    Your opinions are not backed by facts and reflect only your political agenda. Greenwich residents can hardly claim that they are burdened by taxes. Perhaps you’d like to take a look at what you’d pay in other Fairfield County towns. Or over the line in Westchester. We have taxes that are the envy of those communities. This would not change even if we built a “Broadway auditorium” every year!

  10. Anonymous

    I also don’t agree with the concept that only a narrow group of students who are involved in music and theater will use the space–doesn’t the whole student body benefit from having a better, bigger auditorium? My understanding is that the current auditorium only seats about one-third of the students at a time so it’s pretty useless

    And a larger auditorium means that more of the community can attend events there….

    • firsttimebuyer

      There are almost 3,000 students at the high school. No way can they build an auditorium to fit that many.

    • Cobra

      I was under the impression that the GHS is a high school, not a music conservatory. Why not invest a few bucks to improve the school’s basic educational needs, such as math, science, literature, reading comprehension, language, etc., rather than blow gazillions of our tax dollars on a glitzy music palace cleverly placed atop a brownfield site?

      • firsttimebuyer

        Cobra – implementing your suggestions would improve academic performance. That would be so boring. Nothing spectacular to show for it except higher test scores.

    • Stanwich

      Yes, a narrow group of students use the theater/music facilities…ask any high school student. And there has never been a need to house all GHS students in the auditorium at once. When I attended, if you weren’t a theater freak then you’d only go to events in the auditorium 2 maybe 3 times a year and those events were held multiple times in order to have the entire school see the event. Not a big deal. Put it in perspective, this job will cost upwards of $40 million, add to our on-going repair/maintenance budget (bigger space, more to clean and maintain), and caused the discovery of ??? millions in pollutants that had been safely capped underground.

      This is a total mess and utterly useless.

    • Libertarian Advocate

      And how are the drama students acting skills improved by a $40 million auditorium? Better I think to hire a superb acting coach exhausted from years of dealing with narcissistic Broadway and Hollyweird drama queens, but I’m being redundant there.

  11. NewsJunkie

    How did Stamford manage to build a whole high school (state-of-the-art Academy of Information, Technology, and Engineering) for $45 million six years ago, yet MISA costs just as much in Greenwich now? (I’m sure future costs will propel it over the $50 million mark, not including the soil remediation). This is a ridiculous amount of money to build on land we already own. Also, isn’t MISA being overseen by the Turner Group, which turned Hamilton Ave into a money pit?

  12. Chief Scrotum

    As with most “public services”, my bet is that they are used by a small, yet vocal group only.

    Maybe ask all the taxpayers if they want this , eg, your taxes will be X going forward, because we’re borrowing $100 mill ( which we can never repay), for something which loses value every day.

  13. Balzac

    Sounding off on this blog is fine fun- we all enjoy it. But if you want to actually slow down the runaway spending train in Greenwich, you’ll have to call your RTM representative, your Board of Estimate members, and your First Selectman, and say so.

  14. Anonymous2

    The Culture Palace project is a marvelous example of what’s wrong with the culture of luxury government. Basic services, in this case test scores for math, English and science, stagnate or fall while resources are poured into narrow periphery specialties.

    Is it any wonder we have to rely on imports to fill key jobs in what’s left of our economy?

  15. From: http://www2.hn.psu.edu/faculty/jmanis/h-ibsen/enemy-people.pdf

    Hovstad. You said yesterday that the pollution of the
    water was due to impurities in the soil.
    Dr. Stockmann. Yes, unquestionably it is due to that
    poisonous morass up at Molledal.
    Hovstad. Begging your pardon, Doctor, I fancy it is due
    to quite another morass altogether.
    Dr. Stockmann. What morass?
    Hovstad. The morass that the whole life of our town is
    built on and is rotting in.
    Dr. Stockmann. What the deuce are you driving at, Hovstad?
    Hovstad. The whole of the town’s interests have, little by
    little, got into the hands of a pack of officials.
    Dr. Stockmann. Oh, come!—they are not all officials.
    Hovstad. No, but those that are not officials are at any
    rate the officials’ friends and adherents; it is the wealthy
    folk, the old families in the town, that have got us entirely
    in their hands.
    Dr. Stockmann. Yes, but after all they are men of ability
    and knowledge.
    Hovstad. Did they show any ability or knowledge when
    they laid the conduit pipes where they are now?
    Dr. Stockmann. No, of course that was a great piece of
    stupidity on their part. But that is going to be set right
    now.
    Hovstad. Do you think that will be all such plain sailing?
    Dr., Stockmann. Plain sailing or no, it has got to be
    done, anyway.
    Hovstad. Yes, provided the press takes up the question.

  16. When catering to Government construction gets ridiculously expensive. How deep is an orchestra pit? Five or six feet? If an equivalent size hole and foundation was quoted for a basic home improvement project it wouldn’t cost more than $100k.

    • Cos Cobber

      Ah, but a home isnt but under prevailing wage which around here, depending on the trade (electrician, plumber, drywaller, etc) is $70 to $120 per hr including pension and health care benefits for government work depending.

      • TheWizard

        An excellent point. The Davis Bacon act should have been repealed about 30 or 40 years ago.

        I think it’s on the agenda right after term limits.

  17. OG17

    If you’re not doing it right, why bother – especially if the seating capacity won’t increase by removing the 2nd balcony. Plus Rob Mathes career seems to have gone ok despite the school facilities!!!!

    In other news the Old Greenwich Association Meeting is tonight, topics will be FEMA Regs and bridge repair, see http://www.oldgreenwich.org for the details.

  18. Greenwich Taxpayer

    I’m all for abandoning the project and putting the money into the digital learning experiment which will probably cost $37 million by the time it is implemented… (Hopefully the RTM will finally come to its senses and nix any additional monies. I can dream, can’t I?)

  19. Old Coot

    O/T: Steve Cohen puts NYC penthouse up for sale. A mere $115m.
    http://therealdeal.com/blog/2013/04/10/steven-cohens-115m-penthouse-hits-the-market/

  20. Norwalk Public Salaries

    You would be foolish to get an MD or law degree today when you could do better passing a civil servant cop fireman teacher jobs. Almost all the public employees get a pay greater than the typical doctor or lawyer with far less education years and tuition spent. We are truly suckers. AND they get a pension for life. Norwalk never got better because of these abuses.

    Click to access TOP-SALARY-2012-all-2.pdf

  21. Walt

    Dude –
    Did you see this? Anthony Weiner is considering running for Mayor of New York!!
    http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/10/weiner-by-chen/

    Why not, right? So he sent a couple of cock shots. Don’t we all? What is the big deal? How many have you sent to the GAR Evil Princess? Thousands, right? All guys do it. If you have a camera, a penis, and an internet hook up, it’s impossible not to. And no one complains that his wife is a Muslim Brotherhood plant, so why get upset about a few shots of his trouser mouse?

    Plus I have some great campaign slogans for him. Want to hear them? I know you do!!

    VOTE WEINER!! He leans left.

    Weiner will be hardon crime.

    Anthony Weiner – a real working stiff.

    Weiner – vote for him this erection (for the Chink vote, Dude)

    Weiner – You have already seen I have the balls to fix New York.

    I have lot’s more, but I should sell him the rest. With campaign slogans like these, there is no way this guy doesn’t nail it.

    Your Pal,
    Walt

    • Nobody can be that funny and not be (a) seriously mentally deranged, (b) be head writer for SNL, (c) be a blogger, or (d) all of the above.

      FYI, the following domain name is available:

      thewonderfulworldofwalt.com
      is available. Snap it up before someone else does.

  22. so, here is an excellent policy. i foresee ALL public sector pensions capped at $205k / year (or whatever amount the government deems “comfortable” for the rest of us)

  23. Interesting point that the current high school is now as old as the former one (now Town Hall). And that it is now generally acknowledged that it was a mistake to build it on what everyone in town knew was a toxic swamp, the best plan might well be to scrap it and build anew. But where would we find the acreage? Aha!—of course—the Cos Cob power plant site! 🙂

  24. Anonymous

    Chris,
    Your last comment was yesterday @ 914am
    Everything ok bud?