Greenwich Time (Sunday)
Why we can’t have nice things in Greenwich
Spending lots of money on municipal planning studies by expensive consultants and then ignoring their recommendations sounds wasteful. But in Greenwich, that’s what passes for “fiscal responsibility” by our Republican Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET). Adequate playing fields? Nope, not now
In December 2020, independent consultants presented Greenwich with a plan to improve our tired athletic fields, worn down from excessive use, experiencing drainage problems, not ADA accessible, and insufficient to meet demand. The report found that Greenwich has a field deficit of nearly 1,600 playable hours, equivalent to four large fields. The condition of town fields has been a source of frustration for years.
The consultants evaluated 27 of the town’s fields (Teufel, Eastern Civic Center, and Binney among them) and provided detailed recommendations. In 2022 our Parks and Recreation Department submitted a five-year plan to address some of these concerns. These funds were approved.
Then something odd happened.
In the following year’s budget, projects in the five year capital plan simply vanished.
• Teufel field, one of our most popular softball/baseball fields, was dropped entirely.
• The Eastern Greenwich Civic Center playing fields, which received more support than the building itself during a public hearing, are now pushed back two more years to 2029 and funding cut in half.
• Binney Park’s fields have disappeared from the five year plan. These fields are often partially closed due to inadequate drainage and their turf conditions suffer from overuse. There is no spectator seating or ADA access.
The five year capital improvement budget for our playing fields went from $7.2 million in FY22-23 to $550,000 in FY23-24, an almost 92 percent reduction. Just another casualty of the unrealistic capital budget guidelines adopted on a party line vote by BET Republicans.
And, this isn’t the first time
Bicycle safety … not this year
Back in 2000, Greenwich paid $25,000 for consultants to develop a Bicycle Master Plan to identify ways to get around town safely without using cars. In the 22 years since the release of that study, exactly $0 capital dollars have been allocated toward implementing its recommendations. This year’s capital budget looks exactly as it did 15 years ago, with a recommendation that $50,000 be allocated for this purpose next year.
Fire coverage … not today, thanks
In 2020, in response to requests to improve fire response times in the northwest section of Greenwich, the town paid $100,000 for a study to assess the situation. The study concluded that fire coverage in the northwest section was indeed inadequate. Nevertheless, since the publication of that report, every year Republican BET members have rejected requests from the fire department to add more staff.
It’s not for a lack of means
Why spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on studies to address long-neglected problems in town, and then toss the recommendations into the trash? It’s certainly not a lack of means. Greenwich’s grand list is the richest in the state, and at $34 billion, the largest in Greenwich history.
So when it comes to private assets, we are flush. Is it that we can’t afford to have nice community assets, such as ADA compliant schools and streets, decent playing fields, sensible bicycle paths, and adequate fire coverage? Or is it that our Republican leaders just don’t care?
Greenwich deserves smart civic planning. This November the choice will be yours. Vote for all six Democratic members of the Board of Estimate and Taxation. Greenwich deserves better.