Greenwich budget follies

Angry fisherman

Angry fisherman

And the budget season begins.

Janet Larkin asked that the BET defer or reject the Dept of Public Works request for $600,000 to repair the pier at the foot of Steamboat Rd.
She said the project had yet to be reviewed by P&Z, and questioned whether the specifications called for handicapped accessibility, which is required for a fishing pier.
“It is a visitor’s delight given the breathtaking panoramic view of the Sound,” she said. But, she added, “The pier is also regularly used by numerous fishermen. Many visitors go unwelcome at the pier, given the number of fishermen with their foreboding long poles and gear, as well as the foul fish smell from the bait and cleaning of fish.”

"Foreboding" as in creating "fearful apprehension"? A bait bucket and a fishing pole? Miss Larkin needs a psychiatrist, not a voice at a public hearing. And the pier, by the way, is flat: zero incline. Is there anything more "handicapped accessible" than a flat stretch of ground and if so, what?

And there's this one:

Campaign to Combat “Stagnant Real Estate Market”
Jim Aiello, head of first selectman’s economic advisory committee, said, Greenwich hasn’t been proactive with marketing itself. “There was a big statement made last fall by Barry Sternlicht, a Greenwich resident who said to the CNBC, ‘You can’t give away a house in Greenwich.'”
“When this went out, it was the shot heard round the world,” Aiello said. “There was all kinds of social media and because we don’t have a proactive marketing and PR person to respond to it, it lingered without a response.”

He said Greenwich commercial real estate is also lackluster, with nearly an overall 20% vacancy rate, while in the past, the rate has fluctuated between a 5 percent and 7 percent.

“A big part of our employment base is the hedge fund and private equity industry, which is going through a transformation,” he said. “We’re also seeing a lot of interest in this industry going down south, particularly Florida.”

Aiello said that $30,000 would make possible a proactive campaign to lure people in that industry back to Greenwich.
Sabine Schoenberg, also of the first selectman’s economic advisory committee also spoke in favor of the campaign.
“People talk about how the big mansions are losing value in the back country. But the truth is, it’s in every part of Greenwich. It is in Riverside. It is in middle priced homes. It is in homes below $1 million,” Schoenberg said. “The price dynamic is working across all areas and price ranges.”
Schoenberg said the media environment has changed. “On the internet, when you Google ‘Greenwich, CT, News,’ it is a sea of negative press and there is nobody there to address it in a timely manner, to respond with an alternative point of view.”
Schoenberg said the PR/media effort would be a public-private collaboration, with between $75,000 and $100,000 raised privately, in addition to the $30,000 sought from the town.

If Aiello et als are concerned about hedge funds leaving Greenwich they should address their concerns to Hartford, which as recently as yesterday saw the introduction of yet another new proposal to tax hedge fund participants. We should perhaps save the $30,000 Aiello seeks and offer it as a lottery prize: buy a house now, win a $30,000 gift certificate from Morgan Manhattan to be used when you move.

As for Schoenberg's contention that prices are dropping in the under-a-million category, the figures don't back her up. I expect that, eventually, if houses that once sold for $5 million continue to be available for half that, then lesser homes will drop in price too but so far, that's not happening. And regardless, a town-sponsored PR campaign touting the wonders available in our back country is unlikely to prevent the market shift that's taking place.

And if she really wants to sell her project at 130 Old Church Road, currently stuck at $3.795 million and going nowhere, she should drop its price - market rules apply to everyone, even members of the "first selectman's economic advisory committee" (is there really such a thing? It probably needs new members).