Opposition Grows to Synagogue's Plans to Build in Cos Cob [UPDATED]

The 150-family Greenwich Reform Synagogue congregation wants to set down roots in Cos Cob.


Update, Nov. 15, 6:55 p.m.:

Neighbors and Greenwich town officials are lining up in opposition to the Greenwich Reform Synagogue’s (GRS) plans to buy three parcels of Cos Cob land to build a synagogue, classroom space and other amenities.

“For someone who lives on the street, I am concerned for obvious reasons—traffic, safety, quality of life and the character of the neighborhood,” Greenwich Selectman Drew Marzullo told Greenwich Patch Thursday. “I reserve further comment until meeting with the synagogue.”

The synagogue has purchased one Orchard Street parcel and has plans to purchase a second on the street, along with a parcel on Osee Place, all of which are contiguous to As someone who lives on the street, I am concerned for obvious reasons—traffic, safety, quality of life and the character of the neighborhood,” Selectman Drew Marzullo one another and would form an L-shaped piece of land when combined. That land is where the GRS wants to build a 20,000 square foot facility with worship, classroom and kitchen space, along with 100 parking spaces.

The parcel at 92 Orchard St. is owned by former Greenwich Tax Collector Lou Caravella, known as the ‘Mayor of Cos Cob.’ The owner of the 22 Osee Pl. is his son Randy Caravella.

Robert Birnbaum, the head of the GRS’s board, has said the organization notified nearby residents and wants to meet with them after Thanksgiving.

“It’s not against religion but about the quality of life,” said Selectman David Theis, who lives about a half-mile away on Sinoway Road in Cos Cob. “People take a lot of pride in t his neighborhood. I feel it is not an appropriate use for a non-residential purpose to encroach upon a very traditional neighborhood.” He also said there are issues with wetlands and a high concentration of impervious surfaces in the area.

"There is too much development and pavement in the area that affects storm runoff," Theis said.

Drika Constantino, who’s lived in the neighborhood since 2000 with her husband who’s a lifelong neighborhood resident, said, “I think we feel really invested in the neighborhood and Cos Cob and this is something that’s important to us.” She added, “Our feeling is that it’s much too large and commercial a project to be in that location.”

Constantino added she’s concerned about the impact the project will have on the neighborhing Pomerance wildlife sanctuary. “It’s a wildlife sanctuary. To have a parking lot there …to have that large of a building there is totally out of character for the neighborhood.”

Comments posted to the original Patch story show that “200 residents”  have banded together and that they are gathering signatures for a petition opposing the project. Residents plan to meet Saturday to discuss the project.

Constantino  said, “I think it’s a good idea in the wrong place.”

Original story, Nov. 15, 5:59 a.m.

Greenwich Reform Synagogue has plans to purchase three parcels of land in the Orchard Street area of Cos Cob to establish a permanent home for the 150-family congregation.

The synagogue's chairman of the board of directors, Robert Birnbaum, told Greenwich Patch Wednesday that Greenwich Reform Synagogue (GRS) wants to establish a house of worship in Cos Cob after years of renting space in various locations in town. Currently, the congregation uses space at the First Congregational Church of Old Greenwich and classroom space for its school at the Stanwich School on Old Church Road.

Birnbaum said GRS already has purchased 92 Orchard St. in Cos Cob and hope to close on the purchases of 96 Orchard and 22 Osee Pl. by year's end. The combined lots would give the synagogue about 2 acres of land. The synagogue paid $900,000 for the 92 Orchard St., according to records filed Oct. 2 in the Greenwich Tax Assessor's office.

The synagogue has been seeking a permanent location after it sold its 11.5 acre campus on Stanwich Road last March to the private Stanwich School which is expanding its facilities.

Birnbaum said the congregation will be seeking proposals from architects on the design of the facility that will include a sanctuary, classrooms and meeting space. He said the building committee has begun interviewing architectural firms to design the plans and expects it will take about six months before the documents and an application for planning and zoning approvals are submitted to the town.

The congregation has sent a letter to neighbors informing them of the pending plans.


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"We understand that these changes may come as a surprise to you, and we are extremely sensitive to that We pride ourselves on being an inclusive group, and we are available to hear your feedback and perspective," according to the letter. "We will take all of your input very seriously, and it is our sincere hope and intent that our new building will add additional value to what we know is a close-knit, terrific neighborhood."

After sending that letter, "We have had many emails and phone calls with neighbors" Birnbaum said. "Some were seeking information, some expressing support, some expressing concerns…there’s a group of neighbors who have concerns we will be meeting with them to discuss it with them after Thanksgiving."

According to the GRS website the facility will be approximately 20,000 square feet of usable space above ground and require parking for  about 100 cars. Birnbaum said it is premature to say how much the project will cost but estimates range between $6 and $8 million. However, the congregation has the financial resources from the sale of its Stanwich Road campus.

*The time stamp of this story has been updated for layout purposes.

BW November 19, 2012 at 02:21 PM
Just go to www.coscobneedsyou.com or email us at info@coscobneedsyou.com to be put on our distribution list
RRD November 20, 2012 at 03:01 AM
I would invite anyone who feels this is a good idea to come to Orchard st or Valleywood road or Osee place at dusk or as it turns dark. To increase traffic in an already cogested area is NOT safe. There is a blind spot on Orchard where there would be an entrance or exit to parking. In addition, if a car is parked on the street on Osee place it is difficult for another to pass (what would happen if there was an emergency). Valleywood is very busy with no sidewalks. I would hate to see someone get hurt. I think the town is opening itself up for more lawsuits
Gregory Edmundt Von Hess November 21, 2012 at 03:44 PM
Jennifer, Mindlessly lumping me into some sort of “anti-Semite hatred’ category simply b/c I suggest moving the Synagogue to a logistical traffic friendly area dilutes any level of credibility you attempt to position yourself as having in this discussion.
Gregory Edmundt Von Hess December 03, 2012 at 03:44 PM
To Jennifers point no-one complains about the Churches… They all have been there for well over 150+ years and are an iatrical part of the Old Greenwich fabric for 7 generations, so what’s there to complain about? Again to Jennifers point "OG being more temple friendly”...... Well, since she’s very adamant about getting her temple build put it on her street Sound Beach Ave since It won’t create any sort of traffic, noise, congestion etc I feel the corner of Beach and Shore road (where the brown shingled house is) would be a splendid little spot for it and conveniently placed in her backyard. Hey Jenn were all for it!
Concerned Citizen December 04, 2012 at 07:27 PM
Mr. Schneider: I have gained a lot of valuable information through the back and forth discussion on these blogs. There was very little useful information presented at the P&Z by the GRS lawyer. On the contrary, I encourage all citizens to make full use of our rights to free speech ..... And post, post, post away! And write to the P&Z if you are so inclined.


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