Glenbrook residents question mayor’s math for Stamford Community Center rehabilitation
STAMFORD — Mayor Caroline Simmons’ first public meeting with Glenbrook residents opposed to her plan to sell their community center to an affordable housing developer led them to verify her information.
It doesn’t add up, resident Christopher Twardy said.
Simmons repeated at Wednesday’s meeting with residents what she has said many times since she began pushing forward her plan for the community center at 35 Crescent Street earlier this year – the cost of the reparation is 23 million dollars.
The Finance Council would never agree to spend so much money, Simmons said, so if the building is not sold to the developer it will deteriorate.
However, when a Glenbrook man at the meeting asked Simmons how much it would cost to renovate it as a community center, not a 51-unit housing complex, Simmons replied that she did not know. and referred the matter to a member of his administration.
The answer was $5 or $6 million, possibly more if additional work was needed to bring the systems up to code.
That’s far less than $23 million, but still too high, said Twardy, a building supply distributor who grew up in the Glenbrook area and has visited the community center for most of his life. Twardy is friends with Jerry Pia, who ran his children’s activity program at the center for decades.
“A few years ago I brought a group of specialists to GCC to look at all the systems and give Jerry an assessment of what needed to be done,” Twardy said. “The building was structurally sound. The big things are that it needs new windows and the elevator needs fixing. Some things need renovation, new paint. I would say the total cost would be between $500,000 and $1 million.
Jamie D’Agostino estimated the same amount, although he said he could include a roof replacement in the list of repairs.
D’Agostino sent the Simmons administration a proposal in which he offered to pay market price for the building, move his small computer business there along with his wife’s daycare, and leave the rest as a community center. His plan was rejected because it didn’t include affordable housing, said D’Agostino, who also grew up in the community center.
He gave a tour of the building last year, D’Agostino said.
“The building is not bad. I’m not intimidated by the condition,” said D’Agostino, a mechanical engineer. “I wouldn’t have to fix everything on the first day.”
This matches the conclusion of a 55-page facility condition assessment dated March 6, 2020, conducted by Silver Petrucelli & Associates, a Hamden firm contracted by the city.
Silver Petrucelli’s detailed report prioritizes work and details estimated costs.
The company found “urgent priority” repairs that would cost a total of $6,000.
It identified “high priority” repairs costing a total of $567,000, including $250,000 to repair windows.
The report identifies “moderate priority” repairs totaling $337,000.
The “low priority” fixes are “maintenance and cosmetic issues” that could wait five to 10 years and cost a total of $380,000, according to the report.
In total, all the work would cost $1.3 million, or just under $1 million without the low-priority repairs.
“I have a bad taste in my mouth for the way the mayor and his administration are going about it. I feel betrayed,” Twardy said. “I tried to talk to Simmons after the meeting, but someone one of her team kicked her out. I meant, ‘It’s not true what you said tonight about the $23 million. It stinks.'”
Twardy raised his hand for almost the entire half hour that Simmons and his team answered questions in the meeting. But no one called him. When he tried to speak anyway, the president and vice president of the Glenbrook Neighborhood Association, who was leading the meeting, silenced him.
Twardy said he believes it’s because of another misinformation put out by the administration – that the Glenbrook Community Center did not close due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Simmons told the meeting that the center had been closed for four years.
Twardy said that before the meeting began, he spoke with a member of Simmons’ administration who said the same thing.
“I said, ‘Sir, that’s just not true. It was a fully functioning center until they closed it with the schools when COVID started,” Twardy said. “I think after that he told them not to call me because they didn’t want me to talk about it.”
But Pia, now retired and living out of town, said the same thing in a letter he sent to the Council of Representatives. His program,
Children’s activities closed four years ago but the community center remained open, Pia wrote.
“The GCC was fully operational and the community center was only closed due to COVID on March 13, 2020, as were the buildings in the city,” Pia wrote. “The building housed all of the same programs except for an after-school program during the school year and a summer day camp for ages 5 to 12. There was a summer program for 2-5 year olds. That’s the only difference.
Simmons explained at the meeting that Stamford, like many places, is experiencing an “affordability crisis” and needs to provide lower-cost housing so college graduates can return, seniors can stay in their homes and families can pay their rent. Stamford is in particular need of “workforce housing” for employees who are essential to the city’s economy, Simmons said.
Exactly true, residents said on the day of the meeting. But, they said, the administration is not clear that if the sale goes ahead, the 51 affordable units that will be created in the community center building will not be restricted to people who live or work in Stamford.
“They lead you to think it’s for the people of Stamford, but it’s not,” resident Joe Rich said.
The developer, Darien resident John McClutchy, and his son, Todd McClutchy, of JHM Group, say in their proposal that they cannot limit the rental to Stamford residents or workers. The Simmons administration released a fact sheet stating that the selection process for who will be selected for the apartments “is yet to be determined.” Developers have used a lottery system for other properties they own to ensure the process is fair.
City Representative Sean Boeger raised another issue at the meeting that residents say is not accurately depicted. The administration says it cannot invest more money in the Glenbrook Community Center building, although other centers have been “revived” on several occasions, Boeger said.
In fact, the city contributes annually to community centers and similar organizations because they provide valuable services that the city would otherwise have to provide.
According to this year’s operating budget, the city gave $225,000 to the Boys & Girls Club-Yerwood Center, plus $145,000 to the Mary C. Rich Clubhouse and Teen Center, part of the Boys & Girls Club. Each amount was about $10,000 more than what West Side organizations received last year.
In North Stamford, the Stamford Museum & Nature Center received $1.3 million this year, similar to last year, and the Bartlett Arboretum received $334,000, up $5,000 from last year, according to the budget.
After the meeting, residents of Glenbrook said they tried to explain that their densely populated neighborhood of single and multi-family homes, small businesses, and small apartment and condo complexes already contribute to the city’s affordable housing stock. city and will contribute more in the future.
They said they just wanted to save the community center, a place that for decades offered after-school programs for children, activities for seniors, sports, dances, exercise classes, a meeting space for drug rehabilitation programs, music and art classes, and Suite.
Twardy said all eyes are on Oct. 3, when the Council of Representatives is expected to vote on whether to approve the sale of the Glenbrook Community Center.
After meeting Simmons, he doesn’t know what to expect, Twardy said.
“We have not been heard. They just tried to sell it to us using the wrong information,” he said. “I have such a bad taste in my mouth. It’s hard to swallow.”