When they finish in London, the GHS Money Pit should be ready for its own renovation

GHS Auditorium entrance foyer (as envisioned) Credit: Peter Tesei

GHS Auditorium entrance foyer (as envisioned)
Credit: Peter Tesei

First underwater tunnel in the world to be restored to its original splendor.

Touted as the birthplace of the modern Metro system, the first underwater tunnel in the world – built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and his father Marc – is one of the most important sites in engineering history.

Until the London benefactors can be lured over here to help out, perhaps our town officials will consider alternative revenue sources to help defray the cost of  (trying to) block PCB seepage:

In its heyday it hosted market stalls, fire-eaters, an infamous fundraising banquet when still part-finished, and later, unwanted prostitution.

8 Comments

Filed under MISA

8 responses to “When they finish in London, the GHS Money Pit should be ready for its own renovation

  1. Anonymous

    Wasn’t MISA supposed to have the same cofferdam done at the World Trade Center and that was reassurance to not worry about water leakage? We are not even 20% constructed and they missed the design?

    Liberal intellectuals wonder why the “people” have lost faith in their government. Could it be that in the past marvelous structures such as the Brooklyn Bridge could be done—and now we can’t even get an addition done at the high school?

    • During the Depression, the land for the Empire State Building was assembled and the building completed in 18 months Couldn’t do it in 18 years, today; in fact, it’s likely that, like the proposed West Side Highway, you couldn’t build it at all.
      No Hard Hats!

  2. Sadly, MISA cannot be rented out to anyone for any purpose.

    “MISA” was originally proposed as “The Greenwich Performing Arts Center”, whereupon neighbors advised BOE the GHS site had not been, and could never be, rezoned to allow commercial use; but remained “residential”, in perpetuity, pursuant to eminent domain settlement terms.

    These terms were reaffirmed by The Board of Education in an Executive Session vote leading to a Settlement with neighbors on July 22, 2003, in the form of 3 Court Orders on file in Stamford Superior Court.

    Because the proposed “Greenwich Performing Arts Center” was envisioned as a commercial building, it could not be built in a residential zone.

    So BOE, in its infinite wisdom, changed the name of the building to “MISA”; the “A” standing for “Auditorium”; and positioned approvals as “GHS Music Instruction Space and Auditorium Renovation”.

    Both the eminent domain settlement, and the 3 court orders obtained in 2003, stipulate GHS is subject to the most strict residential zone requirements in effect at any time since the high school was built on the GHS site in the late 1960s.

    That includes:

    MISA cannot be rented out — it is for use only for curriculum-related activities.

    MISA cannot be used after school hours, or any time when school is not in session.

    MISA cannot be more than 35 feet high.

    MISA must comply with FAR regulations.

    MISA must comply with wetlands regulations.

    There must always be 750 on-site parking spaces.

    BOE must obtain all federal wetlands permits before construction can commence…

    The list goes on and on and on, as you well know. You are both a real estate broker and an attorney. You know the rules and regulations applied to residential properties. They all strictly apply to MISA “in perpetuity” pursuant to court orders requiring all future Boards of Education to honor the terms of the Settlement or face Contempt of Court sanctions.

    The request for bids sent out by TOG specifies MISA must strictly conform to Town of Greenwich R-12 and R-20 restrictions because no variances will be granted.

    (That was what the “Stadium Lights” settlement was all about. Neighbors allowed installation of four 70 foot-high light poles, in return for stipulations by BOE; TOG; P&Z; PZBA; Selectmen; Legal Department; RTM; and Greenwich Public Schools that no additional variances would ever be granted on the entire 55 acre GHS site.)

    Outgoing BOE Chairperson, and current MISA Building Committee Member, Leslie Moriarty, is on record, with regard to the Court Order referenced above, saying:

    “They won’t enforce it.”

    We’ll see.

    Bill Effros
    Bill@Effros.com

    • Bill, are you saying that the Music Hall: “cannot be used after school hours, or any time when school is not in session.”
      Like, at night? For weekend performances? I thought the project was a boondoggle since it was first proposed, but I never realized that that Mickey and Judy won’t be able to put on a show for Mom and Dad. Holy begeezus.

      • Chris,

        The “Stadium Lights Settlement” proposed by the Town of Greenwich and accepted, without modification, by neighbors, is quite specific. In essence, neighbors dropped 3 lawsuits blocking installation of the light poles, in return for stipulations by the Town of Greenwich that the entire property could not ever be rezoned from R-12 and R-20, and that all restrictions placed on the entire property, since it was assembled as a High School, would be strictly enforced, in perpetuity, with the exception of the use of the Stadium Lights and walkway lights which could be used on 3 Friday nights a year, for regular season home varsity football games.

        The high school is in a “dark zone”. It cannot be used at night. It must remain dark, even when the 3 permitted football games are played.

        When Town attorneys presented this Settlement to Stamford Superior Court, the Judge was incredulous, and refused to believe The Town was prepared to give up so much, to get so little; notwithstanding assurances from Town Attorneys they had authority to sign the Stipulations and Court Ordered Judgments.

        I’m not sure, but I think I might have soiled my pants when I learned from my attorneys The Judge had not accepted The Settlement as presented, and had instructed Town Attorneys he would not accept the Settlement until the ramifications were explained, in detail, by The TOG Legal Department, in Executive Session, to The Board of Education; The Selectmen; The Superintendent of Greenwich Public Schools; The Planning and Zoning Commission; The Wetlands Commission; and The Representative Town Meeting; and voted on by those town agencies in recorded votes.

        Town Attorneys returned to Court on 3 occasions to request a waiver of the “vote” requirement. The Judge refused, and threatened to send out marshals to round up Board members who had not yet voted on the Settlement. He would not authorize the Settlement until Town Attorneys could prove all parties to the various suits understood and approved it in recorded votes.

        It took 6 months before all the required votes were taken. The Judge told me and my attorneys to go into an antechamber where the Town Attorney would tell me and my attorneys exactly what he had told Town Agencies, to ensure we all had the same understanding of the implications of the Settlement, before he handed down 3 Stipulations and Court Ordered Judgments on July 22, 2003.

        I have remembered that judge in my prayers, every night since.

        Bill Effros
        Bill@Effros.com

  3. Greenwich Taxpayer

    The only group that is able to use the auditorium is not for profit, e.g., Greenwich Symphony.

    • No, the auditorium cannot be used by any outside group for any purpose regardless of whether the group makes a profit or not.

      The Greenwich Symphony, specifically, cannot even play for students during regular school hours because there is no place for them to park while school is in session.

      MISA was built on a parking lot. To keep the cost in line, the underground parking was eliminated. There are now less than 500 parking spots at GHS. The cost of providing 250 more on-site parking spaces, as required by P&Z approvals, is not included in current MISA cost estimates.

      The original plan was to gobble up some of the playing field space, but that plan ran into internal PTA squabbling, and so the parking space issue was tabled.

      When the PCB issue emerged, an environmental study determined the plans for MISA did not include rainwater runoff, which is regulated by EPA and USACE. EPA requires an approved “storm water detention tank” to treat rain water before it is allowed to flow into the Town storm water system.

      The tank cannot be placed under the fields, because the fields have not yet been remediated. So the tank must be located under parking lots. It is not clear whether EPA will permit parking above the tank. In any case, the area above the tank must have it’s own storm water detention tank, which also cannot be located in the fields until the fields are remediated…

      Do you see where this is going? The High School will wind up with 12 parking spaces, 3 of which must be handicapped parking. (Because the rest of the school, also, does not appear to have a permitted storm water runoff system.) BOE will have to completely remediate the fields before it can alleviate the parking problem. Field remediation has been estimated at more than $183 million, before making allowances for storm water detention tank runoff to National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit standards…which will cost yet another pretty penny.

      In the interim, the Town has committed to providing shuttle busses from available parking sites located elsewhere in Town.

      Bill Effros
      Bill@Effros.com