As floods threaten Greenwich homes, leadership is lacking

Newsletter Volume 1 • Number 43

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In early September 2021, rainfall from Hurricane Ida sent a roiling flash flood into Pemberwick. Cars floated in garages, water inundated boilers and furnaces, muck washed away family belongings, and residents rushed to higher ground to escape the rising torrent.

Flooding in the Pemberwick section of Greenwich in the overnight hours between September 1 and 2, 2021. Source: Greenwich Free Press

Climate scientists say the record rainfall Hurricane Ida unleashed is typical of the storms to come. The flash flooding that Pemberwick and other parts of Greenwich are repeatedly experiencing won’t go away. The problem is exacerbated by Greenwich’s antiquated drainage systems, many of which are too small to handle the surge from these increasingly frequent and ferocious storms.

Smart money would focus on taking action to mitigate climate change, and investing in resilience. But, our town’s Republican leaders have followed a familiar path of delay and denial. A report on our capital planning process found that without a strategic plan, Greenwich has no way to prioritize the $1.5 billion on its wish list, leaving any planning up to the whims of the party with the tie breaking vote on the Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET), which, for 98 of the last 100 years has been the Republican party.

Other communities are leading.

Neighboring communities like Stamford are taking action. Last week Stamford mayor Caroline Simmons signed an executive order to increase energy efficiency in government buildings, promote net-zero construction, develop an electric vehicle strategy and take other steps to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions. By contrast, even though the CT Office of Climate and Health has projected a 20 inch sea level rise by 2050 – almost 2 feet –Greenwich political leaders won’t even acknowledge there is a climate emergency. allows you to see your risk of flooding using data based on peer-reviewed research from flood modelers.

Instead of protecting neighborhoods in low-lying areas, our elected Republican officials, always looking to scrimp on public infrastructure investment, have shifted responsibility to others. Some residents have taken it upon themselves to prevent lakes from forming on their property. Engineer Daniel Abaroa goes out to clear debris from the culvert on Palmer Hill Road, which he has repeatedly warned is too small to handle the water streaming into it.

Only Democrats are on this.

It is only thanks to President Biden’s America Rescue Plan (ARP) and the CT Department of Transportation (DOT) that any significant flood mitigation is taking place at all in Greenwich. Funding from the ARP is paying for improvements in drainage at Pemberwick Park ($2 million), at Windsor Road/Valley Drive ($400,000), at Harding Road ($750,000), and at the Byram River Levi ($500,000). The $3 million to rebuild the North Street Bridge is expected to be paid for by the state Local Transportation Capital Improvement Program, a program that also paid for the $2.5 million reconstruction of the Sound Beach Ave. bridge. And the CT DOT is paying to raise the road at Route 1 and Hillside to prevent flooding. 

The largest investment comes from President Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which will provide $40 million through the US Army Corps of Engineers for decreasing flooding along the Byram River. The funding was fought for and secured by Congressman Jim Himes (D, CT-04), and Democratic Senators Dick Blumenthal and Chris Murphy.

Raise your homes. That’s Greenwich’s plan.

But Greenwich needs municipal leaders who demonstrate a similar level of commitment to flood prevention. Greenwich has a volunteer Board of Flood Control and Erosion which has created a “Big List” prioritizing flood control projects, such as additional culverts at Cider Mill Brook, a Glenville Road Bridge replacement, and dozens of storm drain, trash rack and culvert replacements. Will any of these recommendations get funded? If the party line cuts by the BET to our schools, police and fire department capital budget requests are any guide, the answer is likely “no.”  

So the Department of Public Works is saying instead that homeowners have to take matters into their own hands and raise their homes. That’s it. That’s the “plan.” You’re on your own. Good luck! The town will make that the official line when they speak to residents of the Strickland Brook drainage area on May 10. 

Delaying funding for flood control costs all of us more money. Pemberwick residents report that insurance premiums for their homes have gone up 300-400% and the resale values of their homes have fallen. Delays also endanger lives and property. We already know that storms will be more frequent and more powerful, and we know that Greenwich is vulnerable. We deserve leaders who believe in planning and prevention, not in looking the other way. Greenwich deserves better.

Legislative updates

State expected to have second highest budget surplus in CT history

The state budget surplus increased $163 million Monday and the new projected operating surplus is $1.58 billion, according to new analysis by the state Office of Policy and Management. That puts CT in the enviable position of deciding what to do with the excess. “Connecticut remains on solid financial footing, due in part to the fiscal guardrails that have ended the cycle of lurching from one financial crisis to the next,” said Secretary Beckham. The governor and assembly are now negotiating over a budget that provides a  balance between tax relief, and needed funding for schools and nonprofits.

How’s Greenwich doing? Let us know your priorities for our town by completing this short survey.

May 6

Drop in for coffee and conversation, meet fellow Democrats and get involved. Saturday May 6, 10:00 a.m., Coffee for Good. 48 Maple Avenue

May 12 & 13

Native Plant Sale, Greenwich Land Trust. While supplies last. Your chance to buy locally grown native plants to attract pollinators and sustain wildlife. $10/plant, $8 for ten or more. Greenwich Land Trust, 370 Round Hill Road

May 15

Vietnam War veterans ceremony. If you or someone you know served during the Vietnam War era,  our state and town governments would like to recognize you in a special ceremony to mark the 50 year anniversary of the War. Please contact Ken Borsuk in the First Selectman’s office by May 7 at 203-622-7702 or e-mail

May 23

March with the Greenwich Democrats in the Greenwich Town Party Parade on May 23rd. Meet us at parade staging site at 4:45 pm: Amogerone Parking Lot (between Greenwich Avenue and Mason Street, behind CVS). Parade starts 5:15 pm. Party in the Park to follow 6-8 pm with live music and food.

May 30

Don’t miss this conversation between our witty local commentator David Rafferty and our Congressman Jim Himes, a senior member of the Intelligence and Financial Services committees. 101 Field Point Road

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Volume 1, Number 43 • May 4, 2023
Paid for by the Greenwich Democratic Town Committee.
Greenwich Democratic Town CommitteeP.O. Box 126Greenwich, CT 06836