Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Southfield Area: Diversity, Boats, Hoods

A reader recently wrote a heated comment on Would You Like a Drug Deal With That? In that post, I wrote about the Southfield area of Stamford, where I lived for four years. My neighborhood was in between a gated community and a run down area. My reader took issue with the word "gated." Other than that, she shares my opinion that SF is a kickass place to live. I've had the Southfield area on my list to write about since August, so this seems like a good time to do so.

Quibble: you have to admit, that little community, I think called Dolphin Cove, is gated; there's a little guard stand. But is there actually anyone in it? If not, I take back the word gated. The intersection by the guard shack was the site of my most spectacular rollerblading wipeout. More about that at the end of this post.

There are three parts of Stamford that jut into Long Island Sound: Southfield, South End, and Shippan. (Zoom in on this map if you want.)
Southfield, the southwesternmost part of Stamford, is officially called the Waterside area, but I call it SF because of Southfield Park. And, I could only see a tiny sliver of water from my window, and only in the winter.

What I liked about SF/WS, as the reader points out, is that it's one of the few areas in Stamford where people of varying socioeconomic groups live in VERY close quarters. I think of the area as having three parts. From south to north:
1) Gated community, in which some houses have their own docks on another inlet. There are a few newish condos, and the Playtex and Conair buildings that bring in a good chunk of (speeding) employees every AM.
2) My neighborhood of families, middle-aged residents, and older people and their renters. I lived in a 2nd floor apt with 2 roommates, above our awesome Italian landlords and their yappy dog. Southfield Park is on the inlet, as are the gigantic Avalon apartment buildings.
3) A popular summer restaurant called Crabshell, a very nice marina, the run-down area by CafĂ© Moja, and I-95 and the RR tracks. People call this section the “hood,” but I’ll tell ya, I read the police reports, and most crime is NOT in that area. (It’s in the South End, the West Side north of the tracks, and the Cove area near the Grade A, where my bank got robbed.)

A 2002 New York Times article, about the building of the Avalon complex, describes the area in more general terms:

“Luxury Apartments Open in Former Industrial Area”:
"One of the most diverse neighborhoods imaginable lies between the west branch of Stamford harbor and the border of Greenwich between Interstate 95 and Long Island Sound. A vestige of old industrial Stamford called Waterside, it covers a little more than a square mile, into which are crammed small, well-kept working class homes as well as houses that are falling apart; contemporary office buildings and dilapidated old industrial buildings; tumbledown stores and yuppie restaurants, a marina, $400,000 condominiums, private homes and an affordable housing project called Waterside Green." The article says that the Avalon complex cost $ 60 million to build, and that the houses in Dolphin Cove are valued at over a million bucks.

There are a lot of great areas in Stamford, and I think Southfield/Waterside is definitely one of them. I highly recommend Southfield Park for a weekend visit. It has a baseball field, tennis courts, a playground, and a NICE path along the water. I have a feeling the majority of Stamford is unaware of this park, because the tennis counts are often free.

The rollerblading incident: I’m not a good rollerblader, but Dolphin Cove is a good area for blading because there’s hardly any traffic. So, I roll out of my hood, up to the 3 way stop by the guard shack. As I roll up, so do three other cars. Well, I can’t stop, so I hold out my arms in a grand “STOP PLEASE, COMING THROUGH” gesture. I take maybe three strides, then hit some gravel and TOTALLY WIPE OUT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE INTERSECTION, landing right on my back. Well, the cars can’t very well drive over me, so they have to wait while I look up at the sky for a moment, carefully pick myself up, and roll away. This wasn’t one of those “when you look back on it, it’s really funny” incidents. It was really, really funny at the time.

I don’t fall too much. Since I can’t stop, I don’t go very fast. And, after my “throw self onto grass to avoid high speed descent” on a slope in Darien, I know to avoid hills. I suggest the very flat Cove Island Beach for your rollerblading pleasure.


Anonymous said...

Hey, I lived on Fairfield Avenue right behind the deli for 18 months when I first moved back to Stamford. Hence immense cravings for deli sandwiches during my first months of pregnancy!

We were not exactly in "the hood", but close enough. You are right. Most of the crime is NOT in that area. We checked with the police before renting there. In addition, the only problems we ever had were with people going into the deli and blocking our driveway! I used to get so mad I took to beeping and yelling like a biiiiiach from the hood!

Can you imagine this? we had a huuuuuuuge one bedroom in Stamford with our own laundry for... get this... $800 a month! Impossible, right!? Needless to say, that made for great savings to buy the house that we moved on to.

Anonymous said...

I did not intend to have my response percieved as "heated". I just did not want readers to get the perception that Dolphin Cove was a "gated" community that segregates itself from the rest of the Waterside Community.
Unless you count the petunia's in the flower box, the gatehouse has been vacant for many, many years. It has not been manned since I moved in ten years ago. So you really can't call it "gated". I agree with you that the employees of the offices in the area go way too fast. You should see how fast I can manuever a double stroller when they come at me at god-knows how many miles per hour. Thanks for writing about Waterside. In my opinion, it really is the best place to live in Stamford.
PS- Your rollerblading story is hilarious! Thanks for all your good work on the blog. I love reading it.

Picky Eater said...

I'm TOTALLY with ya on the Waterside area. It's a great part of Stamford. I'm an East Side girl myself, but I do have envy of anyone who lives closer to the water.

The most BEAUTIFUL gem in Stamford right now is Kosciuzco Park. It's even more beautiful than Southfield Park, and it has a magnificent new walking path right on the water. The Jim Himes campaign had a great BBQ there this June which I helped to organize, and discovering this newly-opened park was my favorite part of the whole experience. I hate the cold so I haven't gone walking there recently, but it was my favorite place to walk during the summer and fall. Nicer than Cove Island, without the crowds. (No beach though.)

Your blog rocks.

Stamford Talk said...

That's so funny the gatehouse is unoccupied. I always thought I was sneaking in while the guard was off at lunch or something.
About Southfield's diversity- I just remembered that during the (2004?) elections, when I showed up at 645am to vote, the line stretched out the door, and there were people of all colors and ages and types of dress. It made me feel really proud of my neighborhood. I'd love to live there again.
I'll have to look into Kosciuzco park! (And learn how to spell it.)

Anonymous said...

Oh my god! I had the exact same experience voting that year. I got such goosebumps seeing the diversity of the community having their voice heard in the election. Its what this country is all about. Even more touching on Election Day that year was seeing the students and parents from Waterside School selling baked goods to the voters on line to raise money for their school. If you dont know, Waterside School is an independent school (private) that serves lower income families of the area. It gives these students a real chance to grow to their potential. It is an amazing school.

Stamford Talk said...

KG, I saw those goodies as well! I didn't even know there was a Waterside School until that day- I never read about it in the paper, which seems odd, since it sounds like an unusual place. I guess it's bc I don't have kids yet and/or live in WS. And, there's so much going on in this big city, it's impossible to cover it all, which is why local blogging is awesome!
I appreciate you correcting me on the "gated", and thank you for all the intelligent and informative comments!