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Greenwich Workers Struggle With Affordable Housing

GREENWICH, Conn. — Like many officers and public employees, Lt. Kraig Gray of the Greenwich Police Department lives an hour away — and that's on a good day, when there's no traffic on Interstate 95. During double shifts and in emergency situations, officers who live far away sleep in Spartan-like bunks because few can afford to live in town.

“It’s used frequently,” Gray said of the bunks. He typically stays with his mother-in-law in Port Chester when necessary. But the bunks can accommodate 10 male officers and four female officers in separate dormitory rooms. Not all officers on a shift can be accommodated.

“It is part of the thought process in the 24-hour-a-day cycle we operate under,” said Gray. “It can be an issue if there’s a traffic jam and an emergency situation. What happens is, the officers must stay until oncoming officers can get there. So it is an issue, and it need not be in an emergency, it can happen during other busy times.”

Currently, there is no formal public housing program for town employees in Greenwich. Terry Mardula, deputy director of the Greenwich Housing Authority , said this problem is nothing new. “We would love to be able to make affordable for town employees,” said Mardula. “We just don’t have the land. We tried to build some affordable housing, but it usually gets knocked down.”

Many private schools in Greenwich offer housing for faculty and staff. Greenwich Country Day School provides housing for 60 percent of its faculty. Greenwich Hospital offers subsidized housing for employees who make $55,500 to $61,200 a year.

In 1997, the housing authority purchased one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments in Greenwich Close Apartments on Brookside Drive for town employees, as a gesture of the authority’s board, Mardula said.

The board lowered rent to 60 percent of the going rate. Originally, a three-bedroom apartment would cost $2,500 a month, $2,200 for a two-bedroom and $1,700 for a one-bedroom. Since the purchase, rents have decreased. And in the 13-plus years since the purchase, only two apartments have been vacated.

“The town itself doing something for their employees would seem like a great idea, but as far as what we did, we thought it would be a nice gesture to make housing available at a reduced rent,” said Mardula. “Anything we do now or in the future can add onto what we already have in Armstrong Court or Wilbur Peck and wouldn’t address the needs of public employees.”

However, Fire Chief Robert Kick said even if there was affordable housing available, he didn’t think many of the firefighters would use it. “A lot of them have families with children, and it doesn’t attract them,” he said. “It doesn’t really affect us greatly. ... Obviously for unplanned emergencies such as a large structural fire, we usually spend our on-duty force and volunteers, and by then we can bring in off-duty people who live farther away to subsidize efforts.”

Where do you stand on the issue of the town providing affordable housing for public employees? Send responses to or comment below.

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