Opinion: Evolve and gain perspective

  • 48 people were killed in the attack on Mpeketoni in Kenya.
  • ISIS is forming an extremist Islamic terrorist state.
  • 200+ Nigerian girls are still missing.
  • 3 Israeli teenagers were found murdered in the West Bank last week after being kidnapped last month.
  • 239 people’s relatives are still waiting to hear what happened to their loved ones that were on Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370

Our world is in constant turmoil, in it, people are murdered, kidnapped and go missing daily. Amongst this chaos we find ourselves living in relative tranquility. We don’t go to bed wondering if someone will knock on our door and kill us because we are Christian, as they have in Mpeketoni, Kenya. As we send our kids to school, we don’t worry that extremists will kidnap our children as they did in Nigeria. It is fair to say that by comparison, most of us live a charmed and peaceful life. With that said, it is amazing that in the small beachside town of Rowayton, CT so many neighbors have lost perspective of how truly lucky they are, and how many more important battles there are to fight besides “No Farm Creek.”

Driving down the streets of Rowayton one can’t help but notice the growing signage “No Farm Creek” that litter the once unperturbed lawns. People have gone to great lengths and spent an unimaginable amount of time, energy, and one must believe money, devoted to creating these hate signs. As someone that grew up in Rowayton, it saddens and concerns me that so many people have lost perspective of what is truly important. That rather than teaching the next generation to love and help thy neighbor, people are occupied spreading dissension and slander. As your children pull out their required reading this summer and begin to ask the meaning of the classic “Lord of the Flies,” a novel that highlights the choice between living peaceably and prioritizing the good of the group versus giving in to the instinct to gratify one’s immediate desires and act irrationally to dominate others, let’s consider who elects to be in which camp.

At the end of May, the Wall Street Journal published an article titled, “Rowayton, Where ‘People Talk to Each Other’ Has Reputation of Being Friendly Place.” Once a true statement, it now forces me to ask the question, how is it possible that a town defined by friendship and congeniality, can so quickly and easily be divided and inciting malicious conduct? Those of you who are Rowaytoners at heart, that have spent the last decades of your life here, remember the friendly, small fishing village that once existed. Over the years houses that could be inhabited for $200,000 have been raised and torn down and now it is nearly impossible to find a home for under a million dollars. We have accepted and welcomed this change. Life is a process and we evolve and adapt.

As your neighbors have accepted the fact that you renovated your home, or removed a hundred year old tree, or imposed on their view, I ask why you can’t continue to evolve and promote these elementary values of mutual kindness? Why can’t you put things in perspective and see how lucky your family is to live in this town that the Wall Street Journal defines as a friendly place? Why is it that your biggest concern is a potential house on Nearwater Road by an architect that has not only contributed to the beautification and fabric of your community with the design of Rowayton Market where you buy your food, both Rowayton Banks, the buildings that house the hardware store and the barber shop, as well as dozens of homes in Rowayton?

Beyond the confines of Rowayton, he has also played a lead role in the revitalization and modernization of the city of Norwalk with the design of the restaurants you frequent in SoNo and the Stepping Stones Museum where you educate and play with your children. He is bound by the zoning and environmental rules that apply to everyone.

Why is your biggest concern that an honored and respected architect wants to build a home for himself on a property that he owns when there is so much struggle not only going on in the world, but even in the neighboring South Norwalk projects where your children’s classmates are forced to think about how they can stay safe and fed?

It’s time to let this battle go, evolve and gain some perspective.


12 responses to “Opinion: Evolve and gain perspective”

  1. Suzanne

    This idea of perspective, whatever the conclusions about the outlined issue, is well taken. I sometimes ask myself, given the daily headlines of chaos, lack, human degradation and destruction in the world, why so many here get so excited about the relatively small, insignificant matters of daily life. You are right, Ms. Friedman, there are higher values to which we can all aspire, me especially included. Thank you for your thoughtful piece.

  2. One and Done.

    Build the mosque there.

  3. TG

    Ms. Friedman, there is a certain irony in accusing your neighbors of losing perspective and focusing on this comparatively small matter while writing a lengthy letter for publication speaking for the opposing side. Especially when dressing down your neighbors for siding with a decision that would do two things for the greater good outside of Rowayton- preserving open nature spaces and permitting access to those outside of a Rowayton to enjoy- including those poor South Norwalk kids, should they choose to take a walk there.

  4. Jenny Friedman

    TG something to consider, that money you are spending on buying the preserve could go towards education for the Norwalk School system along with many more things that can benefit these children far greater than a “walk in nature”. I’m sure if you visited Roton Middle School or Brien McMahon High School, both of which I attended, the kids would agree they need new text books, meal plans etc. more than they need a good ol walk in nature.

  5. Independent Voter

    A quick search online on the author turns up numerous connections to the Beinfield clan. Hardly an objective viewpoint.

  6. Lisa Thomson

    First off, there is a contract in place for a sale to the Land Trust. Mr. Beinfield agreed to sell the property to the NLT – perhaps begrudgingly, but he did agree to sell after public pressure appealed to his sense of the greater community good.

    It should be pointed out that Mr. Beinfield is being compensated for his trouble – both in terms of a profit, tax credits and his name-sake forever linked to this piece of property.

    Secondly, while many of the tragedies outlined in Ms. Friedman’s letter are valid points- the examples seem a wee bit over the top. One cannot compare ‘open space’ to the tragedies occurring around the world. But that doesn’t mean that a community shouldn’t speak up – particularly after it just finished raising $4M for preserving the Farm Creek area.

    Thirdly, in a town where Planning & Zoning laws are out of date, inconsistently applied and in some cases just plain wrong – the community is left with no alternative but to speak up as a whole when something as ridiculous as this becomes an issue.

    But I go back to the first point – Mr. Beinfield agreed to sell the property. So why is he talking about a Plan B? Was this or was this not a good faith contract sale? Why should the deal fall through? What’s going on? Why is there such interference in what is supposed to be a win-win-win for Mr. Beinfield, the NLT and the greater community?

    If Mr. Beinfield’s Plan A house or Plan B house for that matter were on the road like everybody else’s – this whole mess would have been a moot point last year.

    It is interesting to note – from old historical trolley photograph – that no land existed in the 1920s. There is a photo of the trolley coming across water on pylons only – where there is now fill.

    Mr. Beinfield has an opportunity to stay the course, do the right thing with this contract and have his name associated with this piece of Farm Creek land forever for the right reasons – not for the wrong ones.

    Saving Rowayton and Norwalk from over development, whether it be Farm Creek or BJs on Main Street, is the right thing to do.

  7. After concerns were raised in April by the Pine Point Association regarding deed restrictions, I was approached by Members of the executive committee of The Norwalk Land Trust to explore what options might be available to protect this land in the event that the sale was challenged. The idea of building a modest house close to the road, and putting conservation easements on the rest of the property was a potential win win scenario. I am attaching a description of this option that was sent to people in Pine Point at the request of the President of The Norwalk Land Trust:

    In response to your request I am attaching some graphics to clarify the Plan B scenario that we had discussed. The attached snip image is a graphic that shows with a red line the furthest that a house in Plan B would extend North from Nearwater Road. That home would be limited to 3,500 square feet. This graphic also delineates the minimal impact of view lines towards The Bell Island Bridge that a home in that location would have.

    The existing cottage is outlined in red, and yellow lines within that image show how if that building were ever replaced, that the replacement structure would be a minimum of ten feet shorter in length than the existing cottage, and it would also be 25% less total floor area. A replacement structure would be limited to 15 feet in height. The second graphic is a sketch of what a replacement structure could look like. The concept for that building would be to blend into the surroundings, and feel very much at home in the estuary environment. That building is not contemplated at this time, but the future rights to reduce the scale of the existing cottage are part of the Plan B option discussed, as the existing house is vulnerable to flooding in major storm events.

    This outcome would forever protect The Old Trolley Way from further development, as conservation easements would be put in place to assure that no additional buildings would be built on the northern 329 feet of the property. The tidal estuary environment would be fully respected, and the views from The Farm Creek Preserve would be not be impacted. The owner would work with The Norwalk Land Trust to remove invasive species and to replace them with native New England salt tolerant plants, that will provide additional natural habitat.

    This solution would protect the interests of the community members that do not want a house in Farm Creek, and keep the land in private ownership, so as to avoid the concerns raised by Pine Point members, about having a public component in the Association.

    Nancy has copies of the graphics that were attached.
    This was the result of having people that care about their community getting together to try and solve problems with dialogue and creative ideas rather than lawn litter.

  8. Bill Wrenn

    Here is some perspective, Mr. Friedman. Rowayton may be friendly, but it is overdeveloped, bearing little resemblance to the fishing village it once was. Mr. Beinfield has been the beneficiary of Norwalk’s lax zoning codes, which have allowed developers to build monstrous houses on tiny lots and make millions. People opposed to his building yet another McMansion on this site wish to protect one of the few remnants of unspoiled nature left in the town. It doesn’t indicate a lack of concern for horrors and abuses taking place in other parts of the world. It is simply the desire to prevent yet another abuse against nature in our own town.

  9. Don’t Panic

    Conservation easements will also entitle Mr. Beinfeld to tax breaks, no?

  10. Skraft

    Bill Wrenn: why don’t you go back to West Norwalk? I’m sure the proposed mosque site has some significant ecological for you to puss and moan about, or is that too un-PC for you?

  11. Don’t Panic

    (b) Any municipality may, by ordinance adopted by its legislative body, establish a program under which property taxes may be abated in exchange for the transfer to the municipality of development rights, conservation easements, rights-of-way or any combination thereof, to open space land. Such ordinance shall include, but not be limited to, provisions for requirements for application for the abatement, which shall include a certified appraisal of the property proposed for abatement both with and without development rights.

    (c) The abatement may not exceed the market value of the open space land, may be transferable to any other taxable property in the municipality owned by the applicant and may exist for a period of time to be determined by the legislative body of the municipality.

  12. Casey Smith

    @ Ms. Friedman –
    “I’m sure if you visited Roton Middle School or Brien McMahon High School, both of which I attended, the kids would agree they need new text books, meal plans etc. more than they need a good ol walk in nature.”
    Last I heard, Norwalk was implementing the Common Core curriculum, which means all new textbooks and materials for ALL the schools, including Brien McMahon and Roton, not to mention Brookside — and at considerable expense, too, I might add. So crying the schools need books, particularly when the Norwalk residents were faced with a staggering 4 million dollar BOE deficit two years ago doesn’t quite cut it.
    As for the meal plan issues, you have the Federal government to thank for that, not the District or the residents.
    Reading all the comments about this issue makes it seem like there will be wall to wall people crammed onto this tiny spit of land 24/7. That doesn’t seem realistic to me at all. As a matter of fact, it reminds me of the tussle that went on between the City and the First Taxing District over a minuscule wedge of land by the Wall Street south bridge abutment a few years ago. It was all sturm and drang for a number of weeks and then finally quieted down until we’re back where we started with hardly anyone remembering it’s even there.

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