Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Yachts in Norwalk, Houses in Bridgeport

Big expensive boats are starting to arrive in Norwalk for the 32nd annual Norwalk International In-Water Boat Show. Meanwhile in Bridgeport, officials announced a deal to develop 50 vacant acres on the city's Long Island Sound waterfront. There's no real connection between the two, but reading about them in this morning's papers highlighted for me again the tremendous economic disparity in our region. It also made me wonder not for the first time about the morality of tremendous wealth and the consumerism it allows.

What am I talking about? For one thing, the waste of resources inherent in luxury motor yachts. This Stamford Advocate story cites a marketing guy thus:

Walsh said his Tiara 5800 Sovran with a 650-gallon tank gets about 55 gallons per hour at 30 knots.

Let me do some math here: 30 knots is 34.5 miles per hour. So when this Tiara 5800 Sovran travels for one hour at 34.5 miles per hour, it uses 55 gallons of gas. That's 55 gallons of gas to travel 34.5 miles.

Compare that to a car that gets 20 miles to the gallon. If it travels for one hour at 34.5 miles per hour, it uses about one and a half gallons of gas.

When the extremely wealthy use resources at outrageous rates, or when they build and heat and illuminate a 12,000-square-foot house, do they even think about issues like global warming? Or do they simply think: I worked hard, I have a lot of money, I'm not going to deny myself anything now, I deserve this? More likely, they don't think about it at all.

Here's another item from the boat show story:

Run by the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the show is not a trade show but a consumer event designed to sell boats, Pritko said. Prices range from a few hundred dollars up to several million dollars. The grandest, dubbed Queen of the Show, is the 70-foot Azimut 68, priced at $2.6 million.

"It's nicer than most people's houses," Pritko said about the yacht scheduled to arrive tomorrow.

The $2.6 million yacht is nicer than most people's houses. In Bridgeport, meanwhile, the city wants a developer to include 3,000 housing units (apartments, presumably) in its big Steel Pier redevelopment, which is terrific. But (according to the Connecticut Post) here's what they'll be fighting about in Bridgeport: houses for families making $60,000 a year:

The agreement would also require Bridgeport Landing to construct 300 units of affordable housing — 250 units of which would be constructed off-site from the Steel Point project itself.

This was not good news to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, which had been pressuring the city for 30 percent of the Steel Point housing units be set aside for low-income tenants.

ACORN spokesman Nicholas Graber-Grace said Monday that the low-income housing needs of the city are not being met by the Steel Point agreement.

"There would not even be affordable for people who have a decent salary — if you're making $40,000 or $50,000 per year, you couldn't afford them. They would only affordable for people making over $65,000," he said. "This is the biggest development in the city's history — huge tracts of land given over to the developer. How could it benefit the people of Bridgeport, when he only wants to build luxury units? The city does have the leverage — this is prime real estate, on the Sound."

I'm not here to turn into an advocate for the poor and the downtrodden. And lord knows I live in a nice house in a nice town. But the contrast is too stark to ignore: in one city, there's a display of consumerism that borders on the grotesque, while a few miles up I-95 they'll be fighting over whether a new development has enough room for families making $60,000 a year.

One more thing.
The Tiara 5800 Sovran with a 650-gallon tank that gets about 55 gallons per hour at 30 knots?

"We've already sold 16 of these."

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Blogger Tamara said...

Bigger is better, right? It's the American way! These are the same folks that tear down mid-century modern gems to build McMansions.

8:59 AM  
Anonymous Emmett said...

Living in the Black Rock section of Bridgeport, I feel like I am suspended between the two worlds you describe. Black Rock is equidistant from downtown Bridgeport and downtown Fairfield. The times that I drive from the ferry terminal and go directly to Fairfield for dinner can be particularly jarring. Personally, I think it is only a matter of time before southern Bridgeport is a part of the Gold Coast, but I hope it can become such with minimal impact on the poor who live there now. Let's not forget that one of the principles of smart growth is "providing quality housing for people of all income levels."

12:35 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

I went to UCONN in 1974 and met a bunch of kids from Bridgeport. Most of these kids got athletic scholarships because they were poor; all the "richies" went to private colleges. They talked fondly of Bridgeport but all wanted a way out, as it was a rough, dirty, mean old mill and manufacturing town.

Watch the area grow into an exclusive area where you can park million dollar boats next to million dollar condo homes. It's happening everywhere. Just like the development in New London that went to the US Supreme Court, Kelo, you'll see more of this "revitalization" happening.

What that means is that the middle class must move out. /sam

1:32 PM  

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