FINN: Evicting BOE “Squatters” Seems to Be A Priority in Town…what’s the urgency and, more importantly, what’s the plan?”

Submitted by Jim Finn, Greenwich

Have you heard about the First Selectman’s plan to kick the Board of Education out of the historic Havemeyer building because they are “squatters”?

There are certain things that are true in life – like Obama’s birth certificate and the deed from H.O. Havemeyer in 1892 that generously contributed to the town “for educational purposes” the building in which the Board of Education resides on Greenwich Avenue.

The deed definitely does not say: Let’s lease the building to Pottery Barn.

It is a gem of a building with great “bones”.

However, according to the League of Women Voters, maintenance of our public infrastructure has been disastrously underfunded for nearly two decades. No surprise, Havemeyer has also suffered from deferred maintenance.

But, unlike how the First Selectman portrayed the situation last week, the building is not falling apart like, say, Central Middle School.

In fact, the special committee that the First Selectman organized in 2022 to look at repurposing the building confirmed that it is structurally sound but needs about $24 million in updates, according to the facilities master plan – a far cry from the $50 million number the First Selectman quoted. And it certainly doesn’t make a case for spending $3 million annually on commercial office space befitting a hedge fund.

As BOE member Laura Kostin pointed out at last week’s board meeting, a 15-year contract would be $45 million…why would we kick the BOE out of its own building instead of updating the space?

And, guess what?

Here’s the kicker: according to town attorney, Aamina Ahmad, “any future repurposing of the building would require the approval of the BOE.”

Guess the BOE are not “squatters” after all.

I think we need to take a step back and ask: what’s going on here and what’s the urgency?

We have been told that we have a window of opportunity and a chance “to return Havemeyer to the people”…I’d suggest the people otherwise known as taxpayers with school children are already utilizing the building.

Something doesn’t smell right here.

There is an agenda here that we are not fully aware of because what was proposed last week makes no sense.

In the BET Chairman’s budget message to the RTM last week, Harry Fisher mentioned under opportunities and risks, “the likely transition of Greenwich Public Schools out of the Havemeyer building and determining the highest, best and most appropriate use.”

Before we “transition” out of Havemeyer, I think we need to know more about what the plan is.

I’m pretty sure a deal with a bankrupt company – WeWork – is not a plan I want to sign up for.

Jim Finn is a resident of Cos Cob and an RTM member from District 8. His views are his own.