Update: On Friday First Selectman Fred Camillo said during his radio show that the town was working on a deal so the community sailing program at Greenwich Point would not lose a season in summer 2022.
“Unfortunately when someone sends out an email like that without all the facts, people immediately respond. We saw people go online basically blaming the town,” he said, adding that he spent 3-1/2 hour responding to emails. “I tell people, call us, give them a chance to respond before you jump to a conclusion.”
“All along Parks & Rec has been told this vendor they were going to be closing down that area due to construction of the Chimes building, but they intended to have someone run a sailing program, but at a different spot while construction is going on,” Camillo explained, noting that an Request for Proposal was going out.
Meanwhile this weekend the Greenwich Point Conservancy shared a statement, saying they were surprised and saddened to learn that the Greenwich Community Sailing program was leaving Greenwich Point.
“They have long been a much-loved presence at the Chimes Building and Greenwich Point, and the GPC deeply values the contributions they have made to the community over the years. We would highlight that not only did we hope for them to continue their presence at the Chimes Building, but we worked with them on our initial designs for the restored spaces at the building, and the ‘watersports’ section of the first floor – to be occupied by the sailing program – was expanded from what they presently use and was custom designed for their program. It is our hope that Greenwich Community Sailing will return Greenwich Point and continue their great contributions to the community.
Original story: On Tuesday night a letter from Jane Pimentel on behalf of Greenwich Community Sailing to customers said that after 24 years they will not reopen at Tod’s Point in the 2022 season.
The letter, which was shared on Next Door, said, “Our relationship with the town has reached a point where we are no longer able to run a sustainable business. GCS’s main priority has always been providing accessible boating experiences to our community, and we would have kept the doors open if it was at all feasible.”
The letter from Pimentel who is President of Longshore Sailing School, which does business in town as Greenwich Community sailing, said, “The town could not guarantee that the Chimes Building would be usable next year or the year after, which made it risky for us to invest money into buying new boats necessary to keep running safely.”
Pimentel said the timeline made it impossible to complete a lease with the town until after students are enrolled, staff hired and new equipment purchased.
“For example, many of you probably remember the 2019 season when we were operating under a tent for early June, and in 2020 when we could not get the go-ahead until 3 days before we opened,” Pimentel added in her letter. Lastly, she said with the future of the Chimes Building constantly up in the air, the program is no longer permitted to store inventory on the premises during the off season.
“This means many hours of labor to load and unload every piece of equipment, rental trucks, and the storage for all of our sailboats. This cost alone would eliminate our profit margin, even during a successful season,” she said.
On Wednesday, Greenwich’s Parks & Rec Dept issued a statement saying they were surprised by Pimentel’s statement, saying that they had had an active relationship with the company since 2019.
The Parks & Rec statement explained that when a private business uses a Town-owned facility, the Town uses the competitive bid process, and an RFP was published on Jan 26, 2021 for a Sailing School and Boat Rental Operator, and that Longsore sailing School Inc, dba Greenwich Community Sailing, the sole respondent, requested a 65% rent reduction from the Town’s minimum posted requirement per season.
Parks & Rec said they negotiated a 50% rent reduction, from $15,000 for the full season to $7,500 for the full season, in exchange for removing the optional renewal years from the contract. Longshore Sailing School Inc executed the negotiated agreement in April 2021.
Parks & Rec said that with the ongoing public-private partnership for the Chimes Building Restoration, the following statement was clearly articulated in the RFP on Jan 26, 2021 and included in the executed agreement:
“There will likely be a period of time in which the Chimes Building and surrounding area will be closed for construction. The Town has limited control over the timing of this project. The Town will give reasonable notice to the Licensee regarding commencement of the construction. Should the construction affect the Licensee’s use of the Premises during the term of the License, the following options are available to the Town and to the Licensee:
a). The Town may choose to offer the Licensee an alternate location at Greenwich Point for the Licensee to operate its Sailing School and Boat Rental. This option would strictly be a change in the identification of the Premises. Should the Town so Offer, and should the Licensee accept the alternate location, all remaining terms of the License would remain in full effect.
b). The Town and the Licensee may terminate the License as set forth in Paragraph 11 of this License.
c). The Licensee acknowledges that the construction may alter the layout/square footage of the Chimes Building.
Parks & Rec said Greenwich Community Sailing’s season ended as planned on Sept 30, 2021. On Oct 26, 2021, Parks & Rec met with the private sponsors of the Chimes Building renovation o clarify a construction time frame. They said, “The project will be in the regulatory land use and gift acceptance processes and construction is not anticipated to begin until fall 2022.”
Lastly, they said they plan to publish a RFP by the end of this month for a Sailing School and Boat Rental Operator and prefer to secure a multi-year optional agreement and plan to include the same commitment to find a temporary location to operate the sailing school while the Chimes Building construction is underway.
“The Department’s intention is to have the agreement executed in January 2022 so that the vendor cold plan well in advance for the 2022 season and work with the department for a temporary location for the 2023 season,” they wrote in the statement, adding, “We still plan to publish the RFP this month and hope that all parties interested in this operation will submit a proposal.”
Pimentel’s letter concluded by saying that the future of Greenwich Community Sailing was uncertain, but it might be possible for a new version of the program to return if the Town of Greenwich gives the program priority at Tod’s Point. She urged the public to reach out ot elected officials and Parks & Rec, which they have.
On Next Door a number residents who have used the kayak rentals and sailing classes at GCS expressed dismay.
Pimentel said her Westport location, Longshore Sailing School, will operate in the 2022 season, and that Greenwich Community Sailing gift cards will be eligible for use there, and a discount on programming will be extended to Greenwich residents there as well.
Our relationship with the town has reached a point where we are no longer able to run a sustainable business. GCS’s main priority has alway been providing accessible boating experiences to our community, and we would have kept the doors open if it was at all feasible. There are three main reasons that GCS will not be opening for 2022 1) The Town could not guarantee that the Chimes Building would be usable next year or the year after, which made it risky for us to invest money into buying new boats necessary to keep running safely. 2) The Town’s timeline for lease approval required us to enroll students, hire staff, and buy new equipment all before the lease became official. For example, many of you probably remember the 2019 season when we were operating under a tent for early June, and in 2020 when we could not get the go-ahead until 3 days before we opened. 3) Lastly, with the future of the Chimes Building constantly up in the air, we are no longer permitted to store inventory on the premises during the off season. This means many hours of labor to load and unload every piece of equipment, rental trucks, and the storage for all of our sailboats. This cost alone would eliminate our profit margin, even during a successful season. We do not know what this means for the years to come. There is a chance that GCS, or some version of it, will return if the Town is willing to prioritize a sailing program on Tod’s Point. This is even more likely if the public reaches out to the elected officials and Parks and Recreation Department, but it is impossible to say at this time. Our Westport location, Longshore Sailing School will be opening for the 2022 season. All GCS gift cards will be eligible for use at LSS. We will also be extending a discount on programming to all Greenwich residents enrolling in Longshore Sailing School programs. I am disappointed by the closure. We are grateful for the support from all of our customers over the last 24 years. We love what we do and seeing the smiles on our students’ and renters’ faces is a huge bonus. We are grateful for the support from all of the staff at Greenwich Point and the Old Greenwich Yacht Club. I’d especially like to thank Mike Mark, Larry Imbrogno and Frank Brantner. My role as General Manager at GCS brought me to Connecticut. Now CT is my forever home. The people of Greenwich welcomed me with open arms, for that, I thank you. Thank you to our entire staff. Past and present. GCS is a community of people from different groups of friends, schools and even countries. We’ve come together each year to work together to provide a safe and fun environment for our peers and our customers. GCS would not exist without the staff. GCS is what you make of it. For many of our staff, it has been home. Sincerely, Jane Pimentel