Thursday, May 21, 2009

Hamilton Avenue: The Boondoggle Continues...

Having heard some glowing reports of the (finally!) finished (supposedly) Hamilton Avenue School, your scribe was much looking forward to the community open house yesterday evening. But what a disappointment awaited him!

Long, soulless corridors. A senseless U-shaped design that meant one has to walk around three sides of a square to get from one arm of the U to the other. Insufficient parking space. Narrow traffic lanes with high concrete curbs that allow of no misjudgment. And a final sharp drop onto St. Roch Avenue that is sure to snag your tailpipe unless you are driving a high-suspension SUV.

And that's just for starters. The media center is probably the smallest of any in Greenwich. And the air in it is stale, hot, and unbreatheable. Do you want your children to learn how to read, too, dear reader? Then make sure not to send them here.

Of course, the media center was like the North Pole compared to the art room. It was stifling. How can children learn anything in such a torrid and stuffy environment?

But the administrative areas are heremtically sealed, so presumably the administrators can do whatever it is they do (or don't do) in comfort. And the long, soulless corridors, that would make a state prison guard proud, are also nice and cool. But turn off into a classroom, and all bets are off.

The "new" Ham Ave is probably the only school in Greenwich, if not all of Connecticut, that does not have a gymnasium, or a cafeteria, or an auditorium. Instead, it has all three functions jammed together into a single space. Whose brainstorm was this? Just the labor costs alone to transform it from one function into another are mind-boggling. And how pleasant to be eating your lunch right after the sweaty morning PE class. What insanity!

Your scribe ran into Leslie Tarkington of the BET who said, breathlessly, "Isn't it wonderful?" Your scribe replied, equally breathlessly, "Wait till you get to the media center and the art room" - having just come from them, of course.

This morning he ran into Dean Goss of the RTM, who said that the Ham Ave Building Committee was "aware" of a "problem" with the ventilation system. Well, hallelujah! Their awareness that there continue to be problems with the boondoggle that ate Greenwich will surely make everything all right. Perhaps they'll even be able to persuade the Board of Health or the Town's Building Inspector, or whatever State of Connecticut oversight bodies may also have jusrisdiction, that their "awareness" means that this years-late, untold millions over budget nightmare of a train wreck is somehow actually on track. But your scribe, for one, doesn't think so.

The only positive aspect of your scribe's self-guided tour (the format for the evening) was the happy faces of the young children, who are glad (at last!) to be out of the wretched modulars in which most of them have spent the bulk of their elementary educational years. Most of them had no idea what a media center or an art room was. Well, unfortunately, perhaps they still don't.

And so, dear reader, if you want to see your tax dollars at work, be sure to visit the architectural marvel that is the "new" Hamilton Avenue School. Be sure to admire the lovely cornerstone, that gives a date of 2008 (apparently it had to be retro-engineered to accomodate the passage of time as the project lurched from pillar to post, but whoever was in charge of the redating process had his bifocals askew). And, of course, be sure to thank your local administrators and building committee members who made this great Wonder of the World possible.


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