Letter: Put Neighbor to Neighbor Pantry Building in Location of Temporary Fire House, at Horseneck Lot

Letter to the editor submitted from Paul Keeler, Field Point Rd, Greenwich

As I read the recent coverage of the proposed ‘Neighbor-To-Neighbor’ site abutting the Christ Church property and subsequently drove past the site, a few problems quickly came to mind:
difficult enter/exit; this major traffic point on the Post Road will surely cause congestion – has P+Z looked at the difficulty of left turns in, and left turns out of the access roadway ? Will yet another traffic light ultimately be necessary?;
– wetlands & watercourse effect; I understand that the current landscape is already problematic in times of heavy precipitation;
– ‘quality of life’ disruptions effecting abutting neighbors; this proposal introduces a ‘commercial-type’ utilization in a historically residential zone, with church and cemetery boarders; I assume this will be characterized by frequent truck delivery, and a large volume of autos, as I further understand the facility will serve residents of Port Chester, NY  and Stamford, CT, as well as families in Greenwich.
Upon further thought, I have identified a better sited, already existing facility, that will become available at 2016 year end –
The temporary central firehouse facility in the Horseneck Lane Parking Lot at Exit 3 on I-95.
While I am not familiar with it’s interior, conceptually it would appear to be a very viable alternative for the ‘Neighbor-To-Neighbor’ proposed facility. As I see it moving forward:
– Christ Church and the Town swap land, so taxpayers come out whole;
– surely the conversion of the current fire station facility will be considerably more economic that the ‘ground-up’ construction on the Christ Church property;
– dramatically easier access for all users of the facility, including delivery trucks, and local and non-local facility users; no traffic impact;
– this heavily commercial area surrounding the firehouse facility is much more homogeneous fit for this type of facility, than is the bucolic area encompassing Christ Church.
– The Horseneck Lane facility would address all of the concerns mentioned above.
Let all the involved parties consider this alternative.
Paul Keeler
480 Field Point Road

 

  • Julie B.

    Are you aware that Neighbor to Neighbor has been operating in the Christ Church campus for years. So there would be no difference in the traffic flow. At one of the P&Z meetings, someone from the Junior League (located directly across the street) stated that she sees the comings and goings of cars and trucks at N2N on a regular basis and has never seen a problem.

    There was testimony by an expert about the water issue. He stated emphatically that there would be no problem.

    No commercial-type operation is being introduced to this site. N2N has been there for years.

    Does it disrupt the abutting neighbors? Of course, who wouldn’t prefer looking out at a lawn rather than a building? Many, many longer term resident downtown and in other areas of town feel the same way, but have had large structure erected within 5 feet of their property, as opposed to the 85 foot setback proposed here.

    The temporary firehouse? My immediate reaction would not be publishable. But what about needed commuter parking?

    • A. E. Anthony

      Mr. Paul Keeler makes some excellent and thoughtful points. I also understand there are 3 other available and more suitable sites along the Post Road. Since the Historic District Commission of Greenwich unanimously voted “No” on the proposal as it is (due to huge size of 6,700 sq. ft. and inappropriate architectural design in an historic district), why not further explore locations that are more suitable? This Nationally Recognized Historic District has remained almost untouched for 150 years. Why not preserve history and the green space of this site? ….not many green spaces left….

  • Julie B.

    Of course, why not have Neighbor to Neighbor go through the time and expense of yet ANOTHER search for a suitable sight? Why would one long, extensive search be enough? Where were the neighbors when that was going on, one wonders, since they claim to support Neighbor to Neighbor?

    The Commission made a couple of suggestions for changes to the design, after which they would entertain the application again. They did not reject the idea of the building altogether.

  • achris von Keyserling

    Once a false premise is established, false conclusions are easy. The Putnam Park Association has continually characterized the Neighbor to Neighbor project as a “commercial” operation similar to Whole Foods. It has blithely stated that several other suitable locations exist.
    It has implied, if not stated, that some 900 residents would be grievously damaged.
    The facts are completely different. N2N has operated for forty years on the Christ Church site, just a few hundred feet from the new site on the same property. The service is a charitable distribution of clothing and food, not gourmet meat and delicacies for high profit. No increase in service or clientele is expected, as demand is driven by economic climate which has peaked, not dazzling marketing programs. All other potential locations have been exhaustively examined and eliminated. Only the rear of four units of all the Putnam Park / Putnam Hill 25 acre campus are directly opposite an 100 foot setback of the new N2N building. ( While the complainant Putnam Park /Putnam Hill has only a 25 foot setback on its borders, including garages and service buildings on the property line.)
    Swapping commuter parking for non-existent parcels of Christ Church properties pure pipe dream, whatever is i9n the pipe.

    Build a once in a century facility to secure public health and service for another 75 years.

  • Leigh Grant

    While Neighbor to Neighbor is a fine and worthy charity that is growing and needs a new home, it is disturbing that this new home is proposed to be on the Tomes-Higgins House park – where it is not situated today.

    This application is not appropriate for two reasons.

    The proposed pseudo-Victorian, prefabricated structure is far too big. It’s footprint is larger than that of the house. It upsets the scale of the park and buildings and their relationship to the house. It competes with the house. In the second point in the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Preservation―which includes the adaptive reuse as has already happened here with the house and carriage house―it says: “The historic character of a property will be retained and preserved. The …alteration of features, spaces, and spatial relationships that characterize a property will be avoided.” These are common sense historic preservation principles. The preservation firm who preserved the house followed these guidelines. That is not true of this application. I add to it the comments of Chris Wigren of the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation in 1999: “Artistically and historically, it’s very valuable. The house itself has survived with relatively little alteration, and the grounds are there to add to that piece of the whole picture. It’s just not a house by itself, and it’s just not the landscape by itself. It’s architecture and landscape that are designed to complement each other.”

    Secondly, despite all good intentions, the imposition of this building by special permit begins the process of taking this property apart. It sets a precedent. The proposed building is not related to the house. It would not have been sited on this property. The use of the building is not related to the house. It brings in the very urbanization that the architect of the house, Calvert Vaux, abhorred. It reduces the natural setting. It alters the historical landscape. It impacts the serenity of the park. The owners of the building are not the owners of the land. Today, we are told, the use of the building will not grow. It will not need more asphalt, more space. It will not impact the house anymore than it does today. What about tomorrow?

    The Tomes-Higgins House and its carriage house are documented, published buildings. To quote Yale professor of Art History, G. L. Hersey: “if you knew how rare such buildings are and how frail are their chances to survive, you would move heaven and earth to see to it that the one piece of Victorian heritage that lies in your hands would be cherished.”