Monthly Archives: August 2015

So I was wrong

26 Thornhill Rd

26 Thornhill Rd

26 Thornhill Road, a little cape off Riverside Lane in NoPo, has sold for $880,000. A year ago, after it had hit the market in the $9’s I predicted it would sell quickly. It didn’t, perhaps because the owner quickly decided to rent it for $4,400, which is a pretty good return on a house she’d owned since 1956 or so.

[April, 2014]

26 Thornhill Road, NoPo Riverside, $939,000. I had this listing back in 2005 when it was priced (not by me) at $1.150 and we couldn’t sell it. Now Fran Ward at Shore & Country has it and I think it will sell quickly at its better price. Thornhill is a quite little street that runs between Riverside Land and Sheephill with just about zero through-traffic, and this house is – or was in 2005, in great condition, with a decent back yard. Its trouble lay in the location of its master bedroom, which was placed atop an add-on living room with no real connection to the rest of the house except by descending the stairs into that living room, crossing through the kitchen and then into the rest of the house. That’s a great layout for a family with teenagers; for those with toddlers, not so much. As I recall there’s not an inch of expansion room to spare here, so the obvious solution of adding an upstairs passageway won’t work. But if you can live with the layout, this is a very nice house for the money.


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A jewel of a house? A (costume) jewelry designer’s house, at any rate

109 Pecksland Road

109 Pecksland Road

109 Pecksland Road has sold, for $3.2 million. That’s a curious price, because the place expired, unsold, last October while asking $2.995 million. Why would someone pay more than what they know the seller was willing to accept a few months ago? I don’t know – if you run into the new owners at a cocktail party, ask them.

I think I did a decent enough summary of this place back in August, 2013, so I’ll just paste here what I wrote then.

…. 109 Pecksland, a 1755 house that was rendered unrecognizable as such long ago but still clings to three of the original acres, has chopped another $400,000 off its price and is now asking $3.295 million. David Ogilvy brought this on back in 2011 for $4.7 and after that failed, another agent picked it up, cut its price to $3.695 and added the information on its listing sheet that the property was owned by a “life balance guru”. That’s a term I certainly don’t recognize nor, judging from the lack of results, does anyone else. My guess is that this price cut will be more helpful in finding a buyer than pyramid power.


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Back (again) from Greenwich

151 Stanwich Road

151 Stanwich Road

Another lightning trip down to Greenwich today to attend to some real estate business (this time, leaving Portland @4:30 AM and heading back @1, no traffic, 5 hour drives each time. While I was away, lots of sales from Friday were reported. These were contracts from earlier months, mind you, but everyone wants to close before school starts.

151 Stanwich Road sold for $2,386,815 (I think that kind of penny-ante negotiating is boring, but some parties seem to enjoy it). This place started off as a package of two lots, the main one, which is what just sold, and a guest cottage, each on its own acre, and asking, back in April, 2012, $4.495 million for the whole.The seller seems to have finally thrown in the towel and offered just the main house on its acre, for $2.6 million this past June, and a contract was signed a month later.

The listing, by the way, shows a full 4,792 square feet, but that’s an error, left over from the original listing encompassed both parcels and houses: the main house has just 3,333 sq.ft., according to its tax card, and the cottage adds an extra 1,224. That adds up to 4,557, and so I have no idea where still another 235 feet can be found on the property: perhaps in Tamar Lurie’s purse.

The seller paid $900,000 for that cottage back in 1999, so the profit on the whole package, if there is to be one at all, is going to have to be found in this sale of the main house.


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Can we no longer call a spade a spade?

A sheriff was gunned down in Houston and, according to local media, the police are looking for a “dark-complexioned man”.

We report, you decide: does this look like a man with a deep tan?

And isn't it exclusionary to even refer to Xre as a

And isn’t it exclusionary to even refer to Xre as a “man”?


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Reflections on Portland’s demand that its shoppers use reusable grocery bags

the fewer people living, the greener the earth

the fewer people living, the greener the earth

I’ve pointed this out here before, but the sight of so many deluded Portlandites dutifully carrying armloads of reusable bags into supermarkets inspired me to repeat the warning: Unlike the paper and plastic bags Portland no longer allows, These things can kill you.

A research paper published last year by professors at the University of Pennsylvania and George Mason University found San Francisco’s ban on plastic bags has had significant negative repercussions on public health.

The study, released in August, found a spike in San Francisco hospital emergency room treatment due to E. coli infections and a 46 percent increase in deaths from foodborne illness in the three months after the bag ban went into effect in 2007. E. coli bacteria, common in the human intestine and frequent suspects in food poisoning, can range from harmless to lethal.

Laws against plastic bags often encourage the use of reusable totes to transport groceries. But as people tend to neglect washing those bags, increased food contamination becomes likely.

“Using standard estimates of the statistical value of life,” the study’s authors point out dryly, “we show that the health costs associated with the San Francisco ban swamp any budgetary savings from reduced litter.”

I spoke with a couple of checkers at Trader Joe’s about this issue, and they both told me they won’t touch the things, and insist that shoppers using them place their groceries in the bags themselves. “Absolutely disgusting,” one said. “Unbelievably filthy”, added the other.

I myself pay the cash penalty for doing so and use clean, recyclable plastic.


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If possible, Hillary’s getting even more desperate

First the came for the wetbacks, but I did not speak out ....

First they came for the wetbacks, but I did not speak out ….

Her opponents are Nazis of the worst sort: Republicans intend to round up illegals and put them in boxcars.

And Republicans, of course, are terrorists.

Hillary, is proving that Godwin’s Law which posits that, “as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1—​ that is, if an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Hitler or Nazism.” has jumped from the Internet to the physical world of politics.

As she was spewing all this hatred, by the way, word leaked out from her secret email stash that hubby Bill’s (repeated) requests for permission from the State Department to give (lucrative) speeches in North Korea and  Congo had been denied, despite his offer to donate the proceeds to his personal “charity”. At least he tried.


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Well that’s the point of it, after all

Solar panels on the Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen  residence (Mr. Brady's Tesla is out of sight, being recharged by the chauffeur).

Solar panels on the Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen residence (Mr. Brady’s Tesla is out of sight, being recharged by the chauffeur).

Powerline: Berkley study: clean energy credits go to the rich.

The Energy Institute at the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley has posted a working paper entitled “The Distributional Effects of U.S. Clean Energy Tax Credits.” The paper is a devastating indictment of who’s getting Cecil the Lion’s share of the tax credits. If this were any other cause than “green energy,” the Left would be screaming about the redistribution of income from the middle class to the upper class.

Here’s the complete abstract:

Since 2006, U.S. households have received more than $18 billion in federal income tax credits for weatherizing their homes, installing solar panels, buying hybrid and electric vehicles, and other “clean energy” investments. We use tax return data to examine the socioeconomic characteristics of program recipients. We find that these tax expenditures have gone predominantly to higher-income Americans. The bottom three income quintiles have received about 10% of all credits, while the top quintile has received about 60%. The most extreme is the program aimed at electric vehicles, where we find that the top income quintile has received about 90% of all credits. By comparing to previous work on the distributional consequences of pricing greenhouse gas emissions, we conclude that tax credits are likely to be much less attractive on distributional grounds than market mechanisms to reduce GHGs.

Market forces? Let the little people decide? Harold, get me another martini – I’m feeling faint.


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More potential Starbucks employees

They make enough noise so that you might think they are, but actually they're less than 3% of the population

They make enough noise so that you might think they are, but actually they’re less than 3% of the population

University of Tennessee tells students, professors to stop using offensive terms like “she” and “he”.

The University of Tennessee has told its staff and students to stop calling each other ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘him’ and ‘her’ – and to start referring to one another with terms like ‘xe’, ‘zir’ and ‘xyr’ instead.

The Knoxville branch of the public university, which has 27,400 students, sent a memo round to its members filled with unusual new parts of speech to avoid referring to anybody’s gender.

According to a gay rights official at the university, the new language regime will make the university ‘welcoming and inclusive’ and stop people feeling ‘marginalized’.


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Why Putin so loves Obama

Shut up and let me drive

Shut up and let me drive

Charles Krauthammer explains. The only thing I disagree with Mr. Krauthammer here is that he attributes Obama’s acquiescence to naiveté and ambivalence towards Russia. I used to think that; now I don’t.

On September 5, 2014, Russian agents crossed into Estonia and kidnapped an Estonian security official. Last week, after a closed trial, Russia sentenced him to 15 years.

The reaction? The State Department issued a statement. The Nato secretary-general issued a tweet. Neither did anything. The European Union said it was too early to discuss any possible action.

The timing of this brazen violation of Nato territory — two days after President Obama visited Estonia to symbolize America’s commitment to its security — is testimony to Vladimir Putin’s contempt for the American president. He knows Obama will do nothing. Why should he think otherwise?

  • Putin breaks the arms embargo to Iran by lifting the hold on selling it S-300 missiles. Obama responds by excusing him, saying it wasn’t technically illegal and adding, with a tip of the hat to Putin’s patience: “I’m frankly surprised that it held this long.”
  • Russia mousetraps Obama at the eleventh hour of the Iran negotiations, joining Iran in demanding that the conventional weapons and ballistic missile embargos be dropped. Obama caves.
  • Putin invades Ukraine, annexes Crimea, breaks two Minsk cease-fire agreements and erases the Russia-Ukraine border. Obama’s response? Pinprick sanctions, empty threats and a continuing refusal to supply Ukraine with defensive weaponry, lest he provoke Putin.

It is true that Putin’s resentment over Russia’s lost empire long predates Obama. But for resentment to turn into revanchism — an active policy of reconquest — requires opportunity. Which is exactly what Obama’s “reset” policy has offered over the past six and a half years.

Since the end of World War II, Russia has known that what stands in the way of westward expansion was not Europe, living happily in decadent repose, but the United States as guarantor of Western security. Obama’s naivete and ambivalence have put those guarantees in question.

It began with the reset button, ostentatiously offered less than two months after Obama’s swearing-in. Followed six months later by the unilateral American cancellation of the missile shield the Poles and the Czechs had agreed to install on their territory. Again, lest Putin be upset.

By 2012, a still clueless Obama mocked Mitt Romney for saying that Russia is “without question our No. 1 geopolitical foe,” quipping oh so cleverly: “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back.” After all, he explained, “the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.”

Turned out it was 2015 calling. Obama’s own top officials have been retroactively vindicating Romney. Last month, Obama’s choice for chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff declared that “Russia presents the greatest threat to our national security.” Two weeks ago, the retiring Army chief of staff, Raymond Odierno, called Russia our “most dangerous” military threat. Obama’s own secretary of defense has gone one better: “Russia poses an existential threat to the United States.”

Turns out the Cold War is not over either. Putin is intent on reviving it. Helped immensely by Obama’s epic misjudgment of Russian intentions, the balance of power has shifted — and America’s allies feel it.

And not just the East Europeans. The president of Egypt, a country estranged from Russia for 40 years and our mainstay Arab ally in the Middle East, has twice visited Moscow within the last four months.

The Saudis, congenitally wary of Russia but shell-shocked by Obama’s grand nuclear capitulation to Iran that will make it the regional hegemon, are searching for alternatives, too. At a recent economic conference in St Petersburg, the Saudis invited Putin to Riyadh and the Russians reciprocated by inviting the new King Salman to visit Czar Vladimir in Moscow.

Even Pakistan, a traditional Chinese ally and Russian adversary, is buying Mi-35 helicopters from Russia, which is building a natural gas pipeline between Karachi and Lahore.

As John Kerry awaits his upcoming Nobel and Obama plans his presidential library (my suggestion: Havana), Putin is deciding how to best exploit the final 17 months of his Obama bonanza.

The world sees it. Obama doesn’t.


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Polo this Sunday, 3:00 PM

Last one in's a rotten egg!

Last one in’s a rotten egg!

There’s a polo game scheduled up at White Birch this weekend (game, 3:00, gates open @1), and if you’ve never been to such an event, I recommend it. While the game is no longer played with severed heads of enemies, it’s still fun to watch, because the sight and sound of these mounted teams thundering down a 300-yard-field is rally exciting and beautiful at the same time.

They used to charge ten bucks per car load for the great unwashed; it’s up to $40 now, but that’s for the car and all its passengers, so it’s still a very affordable treat – kids love it and so, too, do adults. I met a very nice, older lawyer in the courthouse once who told me how his family always made the trip up from NYC to Greenwich to watch the games: “who’d think it, a nice Jewish family from Brooklyn, having such fun? We have a great time.”

I’d skip all the baloney garb that many of the participants, mostly, it appears to me, Westchester County and north-Stamford residents all Greenwich wannabes, wear, and just enjoy it. You don’t need to know the rules, because what’s to know? The ball goes between the goal posts, it’s a point. If not, not.

Bring a lunch and refreshments if you want. I’m pretty sure refreshments aren’t served to the carload people like us, but who cares?


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I can’t stand it

Welcome to the Nutmeg State

Welcome to the Nutmeg State

I “zipped” down to Greenwich yesterday (hence the dearth of blogging) and came back up here to Portland. What should be a 4 1/2 hour drive took 6 hours, each way, with all of that delay occurring on the Merritt and I-95 (I alternated trying to escape the jams). This trip was deliberately scheduled for off-peak hours to avoid rush hour traffic, and I planned a Thursday, pre-Labor Day, with the thought that most vacationers would either already be where they wanted to be or would be leaving today or next week. Fat chance. CT has become what Long Island was, and remains, 20 years ago: a decent enough place, in some areas, once you’re there, but impossible to get there or leave with any confidence of smooth travel.

Speaking of vacationing, however, son John has spent the past few days with friends on Vinyl Heaven island, and is in good spirits and in reasonably decent shape. He’ll be back to merry Portland today, I think, ahead of the invasion.


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Cat Rock sale

2 Cat Rock Rd (representative photo)

2 Cat Rock Rd (representative photo)

2 Cat Rock Road, $1.4 million, 31 days on market. There is clearly no fourteen-year inventory in this price range.


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Sale price disclosed

16 Shoreham Club Road, which I reported was pending a couple of days ago, closed at $5.2 million. Nice price, but not the $8 million it asked when it started this process three years ago.


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93 Doubling Road – great old mansion but …

93 Doubling Rd

93 Doubling Rd

I visited 93 Doubling Road’s broker open house yesterday, and it’s truly a sight. It’s not dark inside, as I’d feared, and its been updated to modern standards (except for the laundry room, but I suspect the lady of this house won’t be spending much time there), so the buyer can move right in.

The slate tiles on the roof, 100-years-old, are literally thick enough to use as terrace paving stones and are probably good for another couple of centuries. As is the house, in all its sprawling glory. Only 4 of its original 54 acres are left, but that’s still enough for complete privacy and the tennis court, sunken out of view, is an idea whose time should never have passed. The wine racks, by the way, will hold 1,138 bottles (it took me forever to count them!), though it’s empty now, except for three magnums of champagne – a shrewd negotiator can probably get those thrown into the deal. Hell, at this price, he can probably demand that the racks be completely replenished.

But that price: $14 million, is going to be a tough sell. I heard one very, very experienced agent, someone who’s sold plenty of homes in this price range, say, “it’s absolutely magnificent, but it’s going to take a special buyer.” That’s true of any house in this price range, of course: buyers in the $9 million-and-up category are thin, but that hasn’t stopped 71 other Greenwich owners from putting their houses up for sale in that price range. Of course, only 12 houses asking $9 + sold in the past year (and many of them fell below that threshold in the final negotiations), but that’s good news for buyers: with 14 years of inventory out there, there’s plenty of time to look.


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Cry, our beloved country

New Math

New Math

So I’m in Starbucks this morning, and my tab came to $2.78. “Here”, says I, proffering three pennies, “I’ve got three cents, for the quarter.”

“Barrista”, baffled look on her face: “I’ve already rung it up on the computer, but I guess I can do the math.”

Not wishing to engage in an old-math training session at 6:45, I took pity on the girl, and accepted my $0.22 change.

From her diction, and because, after McDonalds, Starbucks probably hires more college graduates than any other large retailer in US (though McDonalds is switching to law grads – they’re cheaper), I assume this girl was the beneficiary of at least some post-high school education, yet she can’t add or subtract. Older readers will remember when the kids at McDonalds used to tally up orders on order pads manually and, with rare exceptions, come up with the right total. They even managed to make change.

The Asians are going to eat our lunch (and drink our coffee).


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I’d noticed the girls were getting a little long in the tooth

Junior League Cotillion

Junior League Cotillion

Greenwich Junior League seeking new members.


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Naked lunch

Sour grapes

Sour grapes

Feminists outraged that bar used topless women as serving trays.

An upmarket Sydney bar has caused outrage after hiring women to lie naked on the table with food on their bodies during a major event – with the models even made to hand feed guests.

People are threatening to boycott Cruise Bar, a popular venue at the Overseas Passenger Terminal in Sydney’s Circular Quay, following the spectacle at their relaunch party on Wednesday night.

Women’s advocate Melinda Tankard-Reist is one of the many objectors and she hopes people take a stand against the bar for ‘objectifying’ women.

‘I hope people decide to boycott Cruise Bar en masse for treating women like trays,’ Ms Tankard-Reist told Daily Mail Australia.

‘It is part of the ongoing objectification of women to use them as serving trays and just part of the buffet,’ said Ms Tankard-Reist. ‘It suggests they are part of the buffet really – saying “help yourself to the women’s bodies”.

Were the models paid? Then this is merely an act of capitalism between consenting adults, and that should be the end of the matter. Besides, Australia, birthplace of the dwarf-tossing game, has always celebrated the slightly outrageous. My kind of place (although I’d probably pass on eating a banana retrieved from the body of one of these ladies).


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And one more big ticket home, complete with big ticket loss

Buy this house or the dog gets it

Buy this house or the dog gets it

26 Mayfair Lane, a 1936 home on 5 acres asking $5.495 million, down from its original asking price of $7.2, has a contract. Sellers paid $6.250 for it in 2006 and claim to have renovated it in 2008, though the red formica kitchen counters undercut that claim, at least a little.

To me, it’s a “meh”. To some buyer, however, it has appeal. Old and in the way, to my taste.


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Almost no real estate activity today, but there’s this

16 Shoreham Club

16 Shoreham Club

16 Shoreham Club Road, Old Greenwich, reports a pending contract. Asking price, $5.595 million. Funky house, but I remember seeing it back in 2013 when it first came on, asking $7.995 million, and thinking, “no friggin’ way”. To be honest, I’m a little surprised it’s found a buyer now, even at this price.


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Elephant graveyard

170 Old Mill Rd

170 Old Mill Rd

170 Old Mill Road, purchased new for $8.850 million in 2006, has been for sale since 2012, without success. Today it’s dropped its price to $5.1 million.

Zillow estimates its worth at $7,869,872, which shows you what Zillow doesn’t know about the market for 13,000, 9-year-old homes in this part of Greenwich.


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