Say, here’s a surprise: Harbor Point neighbors don’t want a large house to be built

Harbor Point petitions the P&Z

Harbor Point petitions the P&Z

The residents of Harbor Point, that very nice waterside community down at the end of Riverside’s Indian Head Road, are famously litigious, suing each other over driveway basketball poles, roof lines, any new construction at all if it will affect someone’s view and often, just for fun.

So it’s hardly news that the neighborhood turned out with pitchforks and torches at Tuesday night’s P&Z hearing to oppose William and Fran Deutsch’s plan to build a 10,000 sq. ft. maxi-pad on the very tip of the peninsula, screaming for blood. Even hardened land use lawyer Tom Heagney, representing the Deutsches, was taken aback. Addressing commission member Frankly Ernest, Heagney said:

“Frankly when they met with some of the neighbors 10 days ago they were appalled by some of those neighbors’ behavior,” Heagney said. “It gave them great pause as to whether, frankly, if they want to live there.”

For once, I have a certain sympathy for the Harbor Point residents in their opposition to change, because the Deutsch’s proposed mansion will replace an unobtrusive, single-story contemporary that has occupied the point in quiet obscurity since the 1960s. The Deutsch house will tower over the area: picture John Paul Tudor Jones’s house casting the Belle Haven clubhouse into shadow, and you get the affect. But perhaps the association should have bought that property itself and preserved the view long ago: no one who pays $13 million for a piece of land as the Deutsches did is likely to want to live in a modest piece of modern architectural history, so this development should have been expected. “Buy your view” is always good advice.

On the other hand, there is a certain schadenfreude in all this: the Deutsches bought this property directly from the seller without the benefit of a blood sucking real estate agent. Nothing improper about that, of course, but had they used an agent with some local knowledge they would have learned of Harbor Point’s long history of blocking new houses and the animosity that would be spewed onto anyone daring to try it. I know of one would be buyer who walked from a substantial deposit years ago after months of fighting and being blackballed at the Riverside Yacht Club  because, he said ” I don’t want to live where everyone hates me”. And at least two potential buyers for this property passed on it for the same reason. The (doctor) who lost his deposit was taken by surprise by the antipathy because he was new to town – the others, life-long Riverside residents, were fully aware of Harbor Point’s attitude and didn’t take the risk.

There’s also the bonus feature of this particular spot, one that I mentioned last summer, when news of its purchase was first reported: the peninsula the present house sits on offers the best underwater rock structure and thus the most attractive waters for striped bass along the entire Greenwich shoreline. The rocks draw fish and the fish draw fishermen, who on most summer nights, depending on the tides, anchor 25 yards offshore from midnight to dawn and fish. The soft lights from their craft, the quiet murmuring of radios, the occasional calls out to each other with progress reports and excited yelling when there’s a fish on provide a wonderful ambience to the pescatorial set; for the unhappy owner of a $25 million mansion 75-feet away, perhaps not so much.

I’d have told the Deutsches all this, but they never asked.

26 Pilot Rock

26 Pilot Rock

UPDATE: Hey, they weren’t kidding about selling the place. Listed today, at $16.9 million.  I’m not sure why they should get $3.6 million above what they paid for it, just for finding out that the place is surrounded by unpleasant people, but perhaps the price is negotiable.

UPDATE II: saw it at today’s open house and was reminded, again, that this is the most spectacular piece of waterfront in Greenwich, with views stretching from the NYC skyline to the southwest to way, way up Long Island Sound to the east. Well worth sharing with a few fishermen.


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35 responses to “Say, here’s a surprise: Harbor Point neighbors don’t want a large house to be built

  1. Gary misch

    As you point out, local knowledge is everything.

  2. Tuesday at P&Z night was Alice-in-wonderland once again. Our Commissioners of protecting property value and the quality of neighborhood life seemed unable to grasp their own standards of when NOT to allow by “special exception” rules a 193,000 cu.ft. behemoth towering 59 feet over Greenwich Cove placed upon the top of pilot’s rock, a special and unique spot if there ever was one.

    Yet a few minutes later, when Cinderella markets wanted to bring their specialty food shop to West Putnam Ave, the same Commissioners wanted to see photos of the display shelf arrangements and product lines offered by Cinderella in its East Hampton and Southampton shops. (I swear I am not making this up.)

    Now that’s your zoning process at work. And to quote the chairman, “In Greenwich we plan by zoning.” If you fail to plan, your plan will fail.

  3. Mickster

    Looks like the corner of Sheephill and Post Rd is going to be changed too. 35,000 sq ft

    • FRF

      What’s JF planning for the corner of sheephill and route 1?

      • Mickster

        No idea – just spotted it at the end of the GTime article – I suspect it’s something along the lines of whats on Neil Lane and Post Road – mixed use – professional offices on retail level and apts/condos upstairs.

  4. anony

    If you want a water view, buy a house on the water and pay the taxes for that view. Otherwise, Non-waterfront Wannabe, stfu.

    • Anonymous

      The attack on property rights is comical. If the proposed building complies with existing zoning the neighbors should totally STFU.

  5. FRF

    Can the neighbors at harbor point really block a house from being built?

    What about the behemoth built on the other peninsula at the end of Indian Point?
    That seemed to move hell and earth rather quickly. No?

    • That one is not in Harbor Point; lucky owners.

      • Riverside

        Harbor Point has a rule that you need to get 19 of 36 “yes” votes to approve a building project. When things get controversial, some owners “abstain” as they don’t want to get involved, but the way the rules are written that counts as a “no” (since its not a yes, which is what is required). I know of at least one really nice project that was turned down twice, even though most neighbors claimed to support it, the first time getting 18 “yes” votes (and 12 “no” votes) and the second time getting only 15 votes (and 8 “no” votes). The owners gave up and flipped the property.

        There are guidelines for what can and can’t be done, but the neighbors there mostly ignore them, and do as they please. The loudest voices (often the biggest jerks) seem to prevail, and there is a history of challenging even the most attractive and sensitively designed proposed house (I am not opining on this current one).

        I know a number of people who would not live in Harbor Point if you gave them the property.

  6. Walt

    Dude –
    You sanctimonious, hypocritical, double talking little TWAT!! And I mean that fondly.

    Let’s call a spade a spade, shall we? You are just all pissy that they cut you out of a commission. Six percent of $13 million is it? That is a lot of Ben Franklins!! It’s like what? $2.3 million, if I did my gazzintas correctly?

    So you fault the Douches for not paying you MILLIONS OF DOLLARS to tell them their neighbors are BETTER THAN THOU TURD BURGERS!!! THIS IS GREENWICH!! You don’t think they knew that? And that you were somehow screwed out of a big payday by not providing them with this top secret nugget of information? There is this thing called “Google” you know, where they could get all this information FOR FREE!!

    I find your hubris STAGGERING!! You big headed, pompous, egomaniacal little dingleberry. No offense meant.

    And how long did it take you to work “schadenfreude” into your post? Feeling all happy with yourself now, aren’t you?

    You loser.
    Your Pal,

    • Your math is way off: 20% of $13 million is $23 million so yes, I’m pissed. And I’m more impressed with my working “pescatorial” into the post than plain old schadenfreude (although “Frankly Ernest” wasn’t bad either).

    • AJ

      Yeah, but Walt, didn’t you know that if it’s free, it must have no value. And that in Greenwich, people have been known to get upset and indignant over someone trying to sell them something for less than they could have paid. What? Do you think I cannot afford full price?

      I am glad, though, that you brought up the turd burger, the ultimate in recycling, and the ultimate solution in saving the planet and ending world hunger. Chomping down a little transmogrified bile is the ultimate in going green. And in putting the symbol of the ouroboros into practical use, perhaps, a path to immortality, aka everlasting life.

      Have a liberal serving, my Liberal friends: Gaia will thank you for your appetite for supporting the Green Movement. Al Gore will salute you.

  7. AJ

    I believe that in California people have successfully sued neighbors to have trees removed that blocked their waterfront view. As for houses or other buildings, I don’t know of any incidents.

  8. Anonymous

    Can the association veto something over and above the decision of P&Z? Are there any restrictive covenants that say beachfront guy has to keep his house smaller than the neighbors?

  9. Ernesto Caballo

    Maybe you should get off your ass and try and sell a few homes instead of spending your time with misquotes, inkorrect spelling and inncorrect information. You weren’t ment to be a writer. Perhaps you wood be better off fishing under a rock.

  10. Anonymous

    We used a local broker with lots of local knowledge to buy our house, but it was your blog that provided the background information we needed to negotiate successfully with the seller. So thanks Chris for the free information and sorry another broker got the commission!

  11. Anonymous

    + 1 for the harbor point folks.

    I like the subdued ranch house w/ mature plantings.

    If a guy wants to build a massive mansion (2004 called) in the style of the 1920s, go to byram

  12. AJ

    I always liked the house on 26 Pilot Rock because it blended so nicely with the landscape. I think the original owner was a guy named Wang who owned a computer company, though I liked the place best when it was just a part of Walhall. See pic, scroll to bottom of page to last three photos:

    So now that the new owners have found out that all the neighbors, who no doubt have considerable cash, are willing to fight tooth and nail to prevent any changes to the property; they think the property is worth 3.6 million more? How many days on the market before the property tax eats up any potential gain? I would think that they would have to find someone who likes the house as is, or sell at a discount. One nice thing: I think the grounds are high enough above the high water mark to avoid having to be put up on stilts.

    • Cobra

      My memory of the early ’60’s is quite hazy but, as I recall, the original owner may have been named Phillips, a high level executive at one of the networks, perhaps CBS. If this is the house I’m remembering, it had the first “media room” I had seen to date, perhaps constructed so the dude could screen program pilots. His son, John, was an acquaintance and, as I recall, a nice guy. If a Mr. Wang owned it at some time, he might be one of the brothers who founded Computer Associates.

      • AJ

        You are most likely right, now that you mention it. I seem to recall hearing that Mr. Wang bought it in the mid-sixties and that the company was Computer Associates; in any event, the house blends well with the landscape; not some gaudy bauble of the nouveau riche.

        • Anonymous

          I love it when people get judgemental about other people’s property rights. You almost sound like a Democrat.

        • AJ

          Don’t you know, you’re living in America. You have the right to do what the government tells you, well, except for your opinions on art and architecture: most, but not all trivialities are still left up to you. Do you prefer Kandinsky over Miro, or Frank Lloyd Wright over Stanford White? You are still free to choose. Do you have the right to eat non GMOs and not pay for someone else’s grand music hall dreams? Forget about it! But if you’re a gaudy bauble, look at me kind of guy, then you should go for it. Just don’t be surprised when your neighbors try to put a lid on it.

  13. if the owners wanted to have fun, they could pull a George Lucas and tell the neighbors that the property will be developed for low income housing

  14. FRF

    On the corner of Hurlingham and Cowdray (north gate Conyers Farm) there is this pesky pile of dirt and a very impressive foundation, with a 40 ft retaining wall.
    Only problem is, the “project” has looked basically the same since ’08
    The CF association approved the XXXL maxipad then, but what they failed to include in their bylaws was a time limit to complete such a home.

    Fast forward to today and you guessed it…lawyers
    The owner (just to throw people off a bit snd quiet the whispers that he’d gone broke), bought the house across the street, and rents the house next door.

    So what’s the hold up??

    Stay tuned!

    • Backcountry

      On the contrary, the Conyers Farm bylaws DO have a time limit to complete a house (2 years, with extensions available if the project is progressing well) and the owner of this one, a guy named Lee Weinstein, sued the association and claimed the rule was invalid. The association recently won the suit, and Weinstein now must finish the house within 2 years (there was a settlement after the ruling and this was the result).

      Weinstein did buy the house across the street (a giant red brick house that was a wreck (out of an estate) for about $4M. He had been renting next door, but as you can imagine he and his family are persona-non-grata in Conyers and he couldn’t get his rental renewed (his wife has social aspirations, and she is furious with her husband, no shock there).

  15. Anonymous

    i’d cut down the trees and paint a ginat middle finger on each wall that faced the neighbors.

  16. Anonymous

    Wasn’t there another post on this house where they cut a driveway across the property or something? Did it disappear or was I imagining things.

    • There was, and it was indeed carved across the property, but I thought I had been asked by the listing agent to take it down so I did, being a polite kind of guy. Turns out, the owner was upset about my disclosure of the town’s favorite fishing hole but hey, I’m not that polite.