Tuesday, May 6, 2008

What's the Biggest Issue Facing Stamford?

Me, out of the blue to a friend: So, what do you think the biggest issue facing Stamford is?
Friend: The Towers of Death. They're dead space. (Referring to the two round, low-income high rises smack in the middle of town.)
Me: But people live there.
Friend: I know, but think about it. It's valuable space wasted. There's no retail, no public spaces. It's the middle of downtown, but I wouldn't want to park there at night.

I'm not sure if those towers are our biggest problem, but we all think they are hideous. If I wanted to get deep into it, I'd talk about Stamford's crazy extremes of rich and poor and our changing real estate needs, but that's too much for my allergy-riddled brain. We all read the same newspaper articles, but what's your personal take on the subject? What's the biggest issue facing Stamford?

If you vote for taxes or real estate as a big issue, try to make it spicy and dramatic. I find anything related to math boring*, but if you get emotional, or give concrete examples, I can comprehend.

I vote for the issue of schools being OK for young families. Like the two towers, that issue encompasses taxes, housing, and socioeconomics. Good schools reflect a population that wants to invest in a place and stick around to make it the best it can be. In the recent news, the Stamford schools say to prospective home buyers, "Maybe you should buy in Fairfield and just take the train!"

*Off topic: I used to do fine in math, but now it makes me feel nauseous. I took a look at the SAT Math a few months ago and truly felt like throwing up. It looked incomprehensible. I also feel sick when I listen to the Beach Boys, Jimmy Buffett, and a certain a cappella group from my college. It's not rational; it's a physiological reaction to the sound/idea/association. I can't explain it, other than to say I am very attuned to music. For example, my husband can easily tolerate a bad song on the radio, but I instantly freak out and have to change it.


Kevin McKeever said...

I think the decaying infrastructure is among the biggies. Roads out of repair and crowded, park facilities not being outdated, electrical grid being overloaded, sewer/water pipes crumbling, packed yet rundown trains. If you don't rebuild, people won't come.

Schools are on there because good schools bring in young families with cash to spend in the local economy (toys, clothes, food, overpriced strollers, tutoring services, etc.) and helps keep property values up (see: Darien, Greenwich and New Cannan).

The lack of reasonably priced housing for is also an issue. The GOPers on the board of finance like to moan about how older people on fixed income can't afford to stay in Stamford, but neither can young childless bloggers with disposable income who like to visit high-end restaurants.

NOTE: One of those big ugly towers (St. John's Towers) is scheduled to come down in the next year or two. Maybe they can throw the rubble in the big Hole in the Ground next to the Stamford Town Center and build a new environmental magnet school there.

Or a dog park.

JT said...

Always Uncool hit it on the head.

Making housing (rental or home buying) more accessable to young people is lacking.

Transportation/ City Planning is making strides, but might not be keeping pace with all the development. I think there needs to be a focus on developing neighboorhood centers and then connecting them to each other. Glenbrook and Springdale are trying to move in this direction

Overall I think there are just a few growing pains of a town thats becoming a city. You might not know it from all the local complaining, but Stamford is looked at real success story for developing small city.

Anonymous said...

Excellent question, Stamford Talk! It's equally challenging to answer.

I think the affordable housing issue is a huge one for everyone, not just single people or the elderly. Young families face the same struggles.

I've thought alot about the Saint John's towers myself,as well. They have been around forever and certainly are an eyesoar. But they do remind me often about the lower income families in Stamford forced to live under those horrid conditions. Let's face it, if you don't have the right education or the right job, you really don't have a chance.

As for the schools ... ugh. I won't even go there. I'm just hoping they'll have it cleared up by the time Princess gets to Kindergarten... or maybe my third!

Unknown said...

Housing, Housing, Housing. Those of us who were fortunate enough to buy homes in the 90's, don't have the same worries that those who rent or purchased later do. The places for lower income are in bad shape and they are barely being replaced with similar affordability. The St. John's Towers for lower middle class will not be replaced by housing that the same can afford. People who cannot afford the $600,000 condos, rent and rent is outrageous. So where do these people go that have lived there lives in Stamford?

Amanda said...

Stamford has become too expensive for many young working couples. When we began looking for condos a couple years ago, Stamford immediately was too expensive. So where do a lot of people like us end up? Norwalk (boooo). The Rte 7 corridor is chock full of condos at a reasonable price for people like myself. And my friends who have children now & need a house? They moved north. Newtown. Trumbull. Stratford. I am from Fairfield County, my heart is here. Our combined income is well over 6 figures and we are fiscally responsible, but unless one of hits the jackpot - we'll be moving north as well to get a home that will fit our needs and with more land. Unless you're making really good money, it's next to impossible to live here without a hefty price tag.

Ali said...

My vote is for traffic. Luckily, I have a reverse commute, but getting off 95 and into Stamford is quite a task these days. It's like a free for all! No one respects traffic signals and there is a complete "me first" driving mentality. I guess that's just the area in general though. It's just frustrating to see the cops parked at Dunkin' Donuts (sorry to stereotype, but they really are parked there!) sipping coffee while traffic gets backed up on Elm Street all the way back by the high school.

Anonymous said...

You missed the mark on downtown Stamford's biggest problem child. It's THE BIG HOLE. There it sits, opposite a shopping mall. 4 acres of prime real estate right in the center of town. It's about $34 mil. if you want it (call me; I'm a real estate agent). It's a crime that this prime real estate is allowed to sit, unused and unloved. OK, so they pay a million or so in taxes each year. Please, please, develop it. Ideas, ideas, ideas: A property in search on one and a bank with the deep pockets to lend a hand.

Stamford Talk said...

But why is the hole the biggest problem? (Also, which hole... there are two! One on Atlantic, one on Tresser.) How would another big ole office building help the problems every one else is talking about?

@ JT- I like the idea of neighborhood centers. I read in the Advocate about the possibility of Trolleys connecting downtown with Bull’s Head. I still don’t see why a trolley and not a bus, but...

@Amanda- Maybe we can split the cost of a duplex in Stamford and live happily ever after side by side!

Anonymous said...

traffic; "gang" related shootings; certain unfair residential real estate tax assessments; the taking down of the cherry trees in Mill River Park :(

other than that, I love Stamford and it's thrivingness :) the "hole in the ground" doesn't bother me...someone must be paying a mortgage on it, sux for them :rolleyes:

Anonymous said...

oh and the left side of Bedford Street, vacant. Such a waste, c'mon Mr. Lodato make it happen already!

Anonymous said...

My biggest problem is that cute single women aren't throwing themselves at me.

Seriously, I hate the traffic on hope st. when I try to go downtown, it takes 20 minutes to drive three miles. I hate that I'm going to have to park a mile away to go to the cove come memorial day...and I hate how damn expensive entertainment is around here.

Amanda said...

ST, sounds great! I really do miss LIVING HERE even though I spend the majority of my time in town.

Also, I agree THE HOLE is a waste of prime real estate, but it really doesn't bother me that much.

My biggest gripe lately is regarding the poor excuse of traffic cops they have working over here in the midst of the South End project. And by working, I mean not working at all. It makes me furious.

Anonymous said...

This morning I was walking across the street at a CROSSWALK and somebody started to slow down, and then when i started to walk, sped up again and almost hit me. So I'm going to have to add 'drivers are nutjobs' to my list.

Anonymous said...

Well, now that the Town Center is getting a Zara, I'd say all of our problems are solved!

Ok, ok. I think our biggest problems are a broken school system and a Board of Education that is filled with short-sighted, unqualified bureaucrats.

But aside from that, like I said, pretty psyched about the Zara.

Anonymous said...

Stamford mall is getting a Zara!? OK, that's the best news I've heard in a long time.

As to the question - Stamford needs to be more pedestrian friendly. What's up with the huge 3 lane boulevards in downtown? I'm going to go European and suggest to close Bedford so it's pedestrian only.
And on a similar note, the nutty drivers who need a reminder that they need to look both ways and check the sidewalk and/or crosswalk when they're turning onto a street, not just look in the direction of traffic.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE the idea of turning Bedford into a pedestrian-only street. Has anyone ever been to Church Street in Burlington, VT? It's incredible. I think it's about 6-8 blocks of pedestrian-only, lined with restaurants and shops and hippie musicians. Great place to walk around. Great place to drink. SO much better than a mall.

Zach Lowe said...

how about the sudden lack of a robust newspaper?

Anonymous said...

Lots of good ideas here, but I'd especially like to see Stamford more pedestrian-friendly - and let's not forget bicycles.

We need bike lanes and bike racks everywhere; a pedestrian crosswalk at every bus shelter; a pedestrian bridge at Broad Street & Washington Blvd. Allow bicycle commuters on Metro-North during peak hours.

And instead of cars zipping from one red light to the next, we could have a slow, steady flow of traffic if some of those lights were replaced with roundabouts.


Anonymous said...

I could not agree more with the comment from several people about THE HOLE. I pass it every day going to work and it boggles the mind that such prime real estate has been left to rot!

If all my Stamford downtown dreams came true, that space would be transformed into a tiered outdoor public space with surrounding retail, a la Greenville, SC and their INCREDIBLE Falls Park space. See www.fallspark.com (ok so it wouldn't have the natural water feature, but we could move in that direction!)

gutierrez.a said...

The biggest Problem is those damn mexicans. I cant even stop in the east side without fourty of them crowding around my car. mexicans more like mexicants. cant get their lives together, cant dislaplin their kids, cant clean their front yard. they took my jeeeyyyaaaabbbb.

besides that what about that giant hole in the floor of downtown. Why cant we put a plaza or something there its really wierd that we havent found any uses for it. and the other vaccent lot down the street there are like thirty little stops that you can just put concrete over and kids will find some use for it. skateboarding or whatever roller hockey, drug dealing you know kids stuff

gutierrez.a said...

i apologize that was confusing ment to say "there are thirty lots around downtown why dont we do something about it.