Monday, May 12, 2008

Life in SoFa: Cheap Labor, Traffic, BMWs

There’s an interesting article in the Fairfield Weekly called "White Wash: An artist-housecleaner sounds off on the Fairfield County wealth gap." The gossip Jodi Strmiska dishes on her clients is ordinary, but I liked hearing a personal story about commuting down here to do service-related jobs.

A few things about Stamford jump out at me. First of all, notice how our beloved Stamford is left off her map: In coastal Fairfield County, the line between rich and poor is drawn along a south-north axis. The highest concentration of wealth exists in southern towns like Greenwich, Darien and New Canaan, whereas the highest concentration of poverty and near-poverty exists in northern cities and towns like Bridgeport, Stratford and Shelton.
Stamford, you're an anomaly, and I like that about you. I want you to improve some of your problems while retaining your "I'm different" attitude. Let's work together to be a place in SoFa (oooooooooooh I just made that up!!!!!!!!!) that retains a diverse population. As many readers commented in last week's post "What's the Biggest Issue Facing Stamford?", ordinary people have trouble affording homes in Stamford. Even families making well over $100,000 a year find it hard to buy a home comfortably and are forced to move to Norwalk. Hence another post I have planned, "Can Stamford Talk afford to stay in Stamford?"

I find the rich-poor divisions Strmiska portrays depressing, but I know they're true. It's the nature of the FC: The service economy, which employs the majority of working poor in Fairfield County, insures the perpetuation of the suburban gated-community and the urban ghetto. They have to commute to Greenwich or New Canaan to their jobs as nannies, housekeepers, landscapers or contractors, and come home to underfunded Bridgeport or Stratford, towns that often mean one thing— a bedroom— to the day-laborers who are the backbone of the service sector in Fairfield County.

Yup. We can bitch about day laborers and traffic on 95, but those are natural results of the way this area works. C.R.E.A.M.! ("Cash Rules Everything Around Me," Wu-Tang Clan song) I hate to say it, but sometimes it feels like cash rules a whole heck of a lot down here. I think one of the area's biggest challenges is how to live here and not get
a) too focused on material goods
b) too down that you can't afford the beautiful things other people have.

I never thought I was a material person, but now that my Civic and I are getting older, I find myself craving a BMW 6 series. I can't afford that car, but I want that car, because I see some beautiful ones in my gym's parking lot at 6am. That car has started to look normal- and, in my fantasies, attainable- to me. That car is not normal, and this area is not normal. We have some very, very, very rich people around here, and we have a lot of poor people. I'm in the middle and I feel pretty damn lucky about that.

If it's hard for adults to keep perspective, it must horrible for kids. If I were a poor kid in Stamford, I'm not sure how I'd deal with seeing other kids driving nice cars, using their iPhones and talking about fancy vacations. If you have money, this area is awesome; there are so many ways to spend it. If you don't... well, you're stuck on 95, living in an ugly apartment, and unable to enjoy a lot of the activities around here. Thank goodness Stamford has some beautiful parks, the free summer concerts, and... uh, that's pretty much all the free stuff around here, right?

Can you imagine living in this area with no money?

Related Stamford Talk posts:

March 3, 2008-- Illegal Immigrants: Not Job-Stealers, but Subject to Raids and Arrests in Danbury

February 24, 2008-- Stamford Day Laborers= Criminals?

February 22, 2008-- Day Laborer = Illegal Immigrant?


JT said...

Hang tough, Stamford needs you! Norwalk really does suck, it’s a spread out mess. Their crown jewel of SoNo is also highly overrated.

anon said...

People who don't live in Norwalk think it sucks. Just like people who don't live in Stamford think IT sucks.

I live in New Canaan, and I think they both suck, but not as much as Darien sucks.

But SoNo is pretty cool, not overrated at all especially if you know how it was 20 years ago like I do.

Amanda said...

Haha, I love the emphasis on Norwalk. I guess that was in response to my previous post.

Terry - I totally agree, Darien sucks the worst.

To be fair...Norwalk has some nice areas. I do enjoy walking at the beach, shopping at Stew Leonards (sometimes), having a drink in Sono. I am also appreciative of the fact that we were able to get our feet in the door to home ownership since we couldn't afford a condo that FIT OUR NEEDS in Stamford.

I agree with what you're saying that the mentality as a whole in FC is askew. But I think I am perfectly entitled to get a home that has everything I WANT in it. I don't want to buy a place in Stamford within budget that needs a lot of work, or doesn't have a decent amount of land, and the kitchen looks like it was last remodeled in the early 80s. If you do a search for 450-500K homes in Stamford, than do the same search in even Trumbull or Newtown, the difference is ridiculous.

I think it was Joey K who mentioned this wasn't the case 15 or so years ago. My guess is that statement included much of Southern FFD County. As a first time home buyer, I personally felt forced out of Stamford. And of course that had to do with market conditions at the time we bought as well.

I shouldn't be complaining because I do know how lucky & fortunate we are, I just miss living here. And Norwalk sucks.


Anonymous said...

Stamford is a great city ,norwalk sucks, Dirty
and new canaan is a joke lilly white with nothing there.

Anonymous said...

WHy so harsh on Darien? I live in Stamford and have my entire life, however, if I were to move, it would be to Darien in a heartbeat. My kids go to preschool there and I have found the families super welcoming and friendly. The schools there are AMAZING unlike KT Murphy which is my districted school in Stamford.

Stamford Talk said...

Come on KG, everyone knows it is fashionable to hate Darien! I lived there 2 years and it was enh. Very pleasant, but I was 24, and it had nothing to offer me except Post Corner Pizza and that nice beach near the Y. I'm sure with a family it would be great. Darien gets knocked because the population is not what we call varied, and that's stigma-y around here. We are haters on the all-white towns. Greenwich has housing projects on both ends of town, so Greenwich is actually somewhat- gasp- diverse. Therefore, Darien, you are the punching bag.

Norwalk, Norwalk. It's fashionable to hate you too, altho not as clear cut of a case. I lived there for one terrible year, so I'm not just going on hearsay and SoNo Loft experiences when I say that I hate your guts. There is no central area (library and artsy movie theatre on one side of 95, restos on the other, a mile away) and the drive home from Greenwich at 4pm did some serious damage to my mental health that year. Maybe I'm just not tough enough for Norwalk.

If I could survive the commute, I'd do Norwalk Talk and make the best of it... but just like coach Eric Taylor should have stayed at Dillon High on Friday Night Lights Season 2, I know I should stay in Stamford.

Anonymous said...

OK - a wu-tang clan reference?


What is the 'fa' in SoFa? I reread a few times but still couldn't figure it out...

Anonymous said...

Southern Fairfield... duh :)

Anonymous said...

Don't understand what New Canaan and Darien have going for them besides the schools. Greenwich is great, Stamford is decent and Norwalk along the water is good.

anon said...

New Canaan...

Schools, safety, great sports programs for kids, Waveny Park is a treasure, and we gots the nicest downtown of any place in FF County. Tons of great shops and restaurants.

And yeah, we're pretty lilly white. But why does that make New Canaan a joke?

Anonymous said...

It is not an accident that places like Darien end up that white. Yes, property prices are a factor, but wealth does come in different shades--Greenwich knows this (to a certain extent), why has Darien not gotten the memo?

Yeah, if you know nice people in Darien, good for you, I do too. I still think it's creepy to live in such a homogenous place and not feel somehow complicit.

patty said...

Certainly you've heard Aryan Darien. In my experience, it's not so far from the truth. The days of realtors talking up Darien over Westport because "Well, the Jews like Westport" are absolutely not behind Darien.

Anonymous said...

Funny Patty, but I think you are listening to heresay from the past. Isnt that being a bit close minded? I have 2 children in preschool there and there are Jewish children in their preschool. My son was actually invited to a Hanakah celebration at his classmate's home in December in Darien. I think it may have been a different place in the past but the bad rap has followed and people keep the stigma alive with their comments that are based on ignorance. I am a third generation Stamford girl but if I were to go anyplace else in FF County, it would be Darien.

Anonymous said...

new canan has a downtown? where is it?
What shops they have nothing there,They just live there so there kids don't have to go to school with black kids.

anon said...

Yep, New Canaan has a downtown, though we generally refer to it as a Business District. It's called Main Street. Another main thoroughfare is called Elm Street.

As far as not wanting to go to school with black kids, that really has nothing to do with anything. Your comments are not only wrong, but they're offensive generalizations and racist stereotypes. What if I said people in BPT live there because they don't want their kids to go to school with white kids? What if I said Stamford sucks because it's dark as the night itself? All I would be doing is turning your own horrific comments around.

anon said...

Also, it spelled New Canaan. Not New Canan. The education of yobird continues. Fly away yobird. Brush that chip off your shoulder. Be free.

Anonymous said...

You see, when you tell the truth it hurts. stay in that chedee town.
and when its time to make money come to stamford. and don't forget to send your kids with the nannys this summer. lol

anon said...

Please yobird. Your mayor's house was just shot at in a drive-by. 'Nuff said.


Anonymous said...

How about this kids: I moved to FC in 1976, couldn't afford Stamford, monthly rent for a one bedroom (1 Strawberry Hill or some such) was $410 per month and I couldn't swing it, so I lived in Milford. Then Shelton called, bigger and cheaper, then bought a house in Fairfield, and upgraded to Stamford in 1994. Commuted to NYC for 20 years, made it to Westover in 1997. Take the long view, you can get there if you want.