Cyberhood News Victorian Historic District. Waterbury, Connecticut. Historic District Residential Community. 

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HILLSIDE HISTORIAN
Special Section July 2010
Hillside's famous newspaper now online
Yeshiva Property Issues Revisited

YESHIVA PROPERTIES
NEIGHBORHOOD BLIGHT ...

UNAPPRECIATED,  NEGLECTED,  ABANDONED
AND NOW IN FORECLOSURE!
June 16, 2010

Three residential Hillside properties owned by the Waterbury Yeshiva Gedolah sit abandoned and vandalized with unpaid mortgages and unpaid city taxes.  Reliable neighborhood sources have informed us that the Naugatuck Bank has foreclosed on these three and is taking a claim action on a fourth occupied residence with the same Yeshiva ownership.
These properties have been vandal targets for years and been a source of numerous complaints by area residents.
Once stately, architecturally significant dwellings contributing to the historic heritage of Waterbury and Hillside, the three homes are neglected, unsecured and are being ravaged for scrap.
                 
            continued ...
                 

YESHIVA PROPERTIES
after years of neglect and abandonment ...
NOW IN FORECLOSURE
(cont'd)

Mansions of our industrial forefathers and their families are congregated in the Hillside Historic District, and all are included in the National Register of Historic Places compiled within the Federal listings of the Hillside Historic District.
Several of these mansions were purchased by the Yeshiva Gedolah earlier in this decade for dormitories. The first of which was the Hayden Homestead at 146 Pine Street, purchased the first year of the Yeshiva with an intent of converting it to a 40 bed dorm.
Neighbors happened upon the event of the truckload of mattresses being moved in and questioned city officials as the mansion is zoned as a one family home and as such limited, by law, to no more than 5 unrelated persons in the dwelling unit.
Fire officials notified the Yeshiva personnel that only the first two floors could be used in any circumstance as the requirement of a fire door, smoke control, system was required for more than two floors of occupancy. Fire officials further detailed to the Yeshiva all renovations needed to bring the building up to code for extended residential use.  Health and Zoning officials informed the organization of the 5 person rule and a myriad of other requirements to make the building comply with city codes for a dormitory use. The Yeshiva opted to not make the costly changes to the historic home and reduced the number of students to a number nearer to 5, though obviously exceeded to any casual observer.
Gary O'Conner, the attorney who put the Yeshiva contract together, met with the group as a representative of the City, and told them with "definity" that they could not sidestep or run roughshod over city ordinances in creating living spaces for students of the school and that they had to abide by the regulations of the City, same as all other citizens.
If recollection is correct, property of a condo on Cables Avenue was then traded to the Zembruski family for their 2 family home at 133 Pine Street and an additional purchase of a duplex at 15-17 Hillside Avenue was completed and housed 5 or so young men in each side of this dwelling.
Right after the mid-decade mark, Alderman Dennis Odle of Overlook happened upon a literal bus load of Yeshiva students all departing a luxury coach on Farmington Avenue in Overlook and swarming into two houses on the street. He subsequently learned that city officials admittedly had been looking the other way as new dorms had been created throughout the Overlook neighborhood.
Everyone involved seems to have "just plain forgotten" the written warnings and violations of 146 Pine Street just a couple of years earlier.
Odle took the City and the Yeshiva to task and the dorms were closed, and students moved into the Carlton Towers apartments which had been purchased by the Yeshiva to resolve their housing issues.
The three buildings in Hillside used as dorms were soon thereafter vacated and abandoned and have remained so to this day. One is boarded up and the other two unsecured according to our sources.
The deteriorated condition of these buildings is accented additionally by the total neglect of the two buildings of the Yeshiva Campus that situate on the North side of Buckingham Street, the former UConn administration building (white) and immediately to its East the Hart Homestead (reddish).

The undeniable neglect of the two campus buildings on Buckingham is a direct violation of the terms of the lease, which the city is, for some reason, unwilling to enforce!
In February 2009, Steve Gambini, acting on behalf of the Mayor, sent a letter to the Aldermen stating maintenance of the campus buildings of the Yeshiva (formerly UConn) was "substantially compliant".  You look at the photos on the following linked page and you decide.  Most were taken in 2009 shortly after the letter was sent to the Aldermen and conditions have only deteriorated since.

FULL COPY OF GAMBINI LETTER AND HILLSIDE
RESPONSE.

LINK TO PHOTOS OF YESHIVA PROPERTIES

LINKS TO NATIONAL REGISTER HISTORIC
DOCUMENTATION HIGHLIGHTED WITHIN DOCUMENT
 

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.
from the Historian's Archives ...


June 2008
NEIGHBORHOOD LEADERS
MEET WITH CITY OFFICIALS
ON YESHIVA CONTRACT
ISSUES

Representatives of the Hillside Historic District met with officials in the Mayor's office recently to discuss the general issues of enforcement of the Yeshiva Contract for the Hillside Campus it leases from the City.
For the city were Jarjura, Steve Gambini and Joe Geary on and off.  For Hillside were Shep Wilde, Josh Angelus, Joe Reynolds and Tom Ferrere.
Terms of the contract require the Waterbury Talmudic Institute, AKA Yeshiva Gedolah,  to maintain the campus buildings on Hillside Ave and Buckingham Streets to a defined standard.  These buildings and grounds include the UConn classroom, auditorium, and science building; the cedar shingled converted office building at the corner of  Buckingham and Prospect; the former UConn Administration Building on Buckingham Street (white) and the "Hart" house on Buckingham directly at the top of Prospect (red). and the central building of the campus, the Benedict Miller House, listed individually as one of Waterbury's greatest architectural treasures, on the National Register of Historic Places.
Among other issues, the Benedict-Miller house had missing gutters and leaders, broken windows and beginning masonry and wood damage caused by water from the absence of the gutters and leaders.  The South side of the structure (front) was also in need of painting and minor restorative work.
The (white) administrative building on Buckingham Street was severely in need of paint, window glass replacement amongst other issues.
The "Hart" house (red) on Buckingham Street needed to be secured, in dire need of paint restoration and had more than its share of broken windows.  The fence was also damaged and remained dangerous and unrepaired.
The Mayor informed the group that he was of the knowledge that the Yeshiva Gedolah was nearly broke and "was borrowing from Peter to pay Paul" just to get by on daily expenses.
He expressed concern that if the city pushed too hard, the organization might up and leave the campus abandoned.
He was reminded that the
Torah Umesorah of New York has contractually guaranteed in writing, within the very contract we were discussing, all revenues due the city in the event of a default by the Yeshiva Gedolah would be paid by Torah Umesorah for the duration of the 50 year lease.
The Mayor was totally uninterested in that fact, as was he also uninterested in contacting the Torah Umesorah as they had additionally guaranteed the financial success of the Yeshiva for the first 10 years of the contract. 
Neighborhood leaders thought it might be a beneficial move to everyone to see if the New York Guarantor would help the local group with the funding shortfalls the Mayor had informed the gathering that existed.  Again, the Mayor showed no interest, and even ran through a monologue of any such action to recoup monies would probably wind up in endless court battles and probably little or no recovery.
The Mayor additionally informed the Hillside group that Family Services on Murray Street (directly behind the old Administrative building) had approached the city and the Yeshiva about leasing the Administrative Building (white one) to expand their own operations in an adjacent building.  The Yeshiva, according to the Mayor, has completely turned down the request of family Services, stating emphatically the Yeshiva itself has "PLANS" for the building.
Neighborhood leaders also raised the contractual issues relating to required numbers of families required to move into Hillside within the first designated number of years and were told the issue would be referred to Corporation Counsel.  That is generally like throwing your hopes and dreams into a "Black Hole".
The Mayor assured the group he would get right onto getting the Risk Manager to enforce the contract and the Building Officials to take responsibility of inspecting the campus regularly.
Have you ever felt like you completely wasted the best part of the day?
If a contract cannot be enforced, then shame on the persons who wrote and executed it for the city.
The fact that the city is just not willing to enforce content ... SHAME!

Follow-Up
Steve Gambini learned that the Yeshiva was MONTHS behind on the lease payments and needed an extention to pay 3 months to current (Dec 2008).
Risk Manager would not assume responsibility to maintain contract compliance, even regarding a single issue of insurance as raised by the Board of Aldermen.  Building officials reportedly did not feel it was their job to inspect the campus regularly, if even at all.  The Comptrollers Office was not even designated to insure timely and accurate lease payments are received by the city as they do for other city contracts.
No one in the city wanted to participate in the enforcement of the contract, including the Aldermen.  The Mayor designated Steve Gambini of his office to the contract enforcer!
What kind of administration lets city departments dictate to a Mayor what they will and will not do???
Hillside will conduct its own assessments from time to time of campus conditions and contractual compliances.

 

SEPTEMBER 24, 2008
BENEDICT-MILLER ADVISORY
BOARD FINALLY GENERATED

Shep Wild and Tom Ferrare have been appointed by the Mayor's Office as the Hillside representatives to the Benedict-Miller Advisory Board as mandated by the contract between the City of Waterbury and the Yeshiva Gedolah, effective in 2001.
Seven years of neglect to the Mansion and grounds had brought Joshua Angelus of the Hillside Neighborhood to launch a contract enforcement effort, to generate compliance of the contractual terms by both the City and the Yeshiva.
In the years immediately preceding UConn's relocation out of the Hillside Campus, the State of Ct spent nearly $1 Million restoring the Benedict-Miller mansion.  The dwelling was turned over to the Yeshiva in 2001 with a pristine exterior and professional restorations.
The Oversight Board was contractually required to  assure these restorations were preserved and maintained.
The City has neglected this contract and property maintenance issues for the past seven years of the contract, signed in 2001.
Shep Wild, who resides immediately adjacent to the Mansion property,  has been involved with the Mansion for decades, heading up the Friends of the Benedict-Miller Mansion, LLC., an organization founded decades ago for the original restoration of this Historic Structure.  Shep was also involved in the UConn restorations.
Tom Ferrare is a Hillside resident, owner of an area plumbing concern and has been  involved with the rehabilitation of several area historic structures in the Hillside Historic District.
Rabbi Rafael Max, former Executive Director of the Yeshiva Gedolah,  returns to the scene to be one of two representatives of the Yeshiva on the Board.
On the Mansion itself, gutters are full and clogged, leaders are missing, water damage prevails in masonry and woodworkings, and the south exposure is badly in need of professional restorative repainting.
The advisory board will also advise and oversee the preservation of the interior, preserving original woods and massive hearth mantles.  The inside of the Mansion was not restored by the State, though exploratory work of Historical documentation was conducted revealing original wall coverings and colors and mechanicals.

EMAIL HILLSIDE ABOUT THE BENEDICT-MILLER MANSION

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AUGUST 22, 2008
YESHIVA SHORT OF
COMPLIANCE  WITH HILLSIDE
CAMPUS CONTRACT

SEVERAL SEGMENTS OF CONTRACT  IGNORED OR
FORGOTTEN AND NOT ENFORCED BY CITY!
Yeshiva Gedolah appears to be short of meeting the requirements of the agreement it's representatives originally signed in leasing the Hillside Avenue Campus of the former U-Conn occupancy, and Waterbury officials seem to have turned a blind eye.
OWNER OCCUPIED HOME OWNERSHIP
QUOTAS

Of Major importance to residents of Hillside is the major lack of compliance by the Yeshiva Gedolah to meet the guarantees of new families purchasing homes and living within the Hillside Historic District.
Before the commencement date of the lease, the school was required to  have moved in 15 families, with at least 5 of the families residing within the Hillside Historic District. 
In all fairness, considerably more than 15 families had moved into close proximity to the Synagogue on Roseland Avenue prior to the commencement date of the contract, but none into the Hillside Geography.  The issue was addressed at that time with representatives of the Yeshiva and they took the position that they were unaware of that Overlook and Hillside were separate as far as geography as concerned.  The Yeshiva personnel were given specifics of Hillside and the
Historic Survey Map to resolve any misconceptions.
100 families were required to be relocated to the area by the end of the 7th year, and one third of those families were required to be relocated into the Hillside Historic District.
Being at the benchmark of the 7th year, only about 5 of a required 30+ housing ownerships has been attained.
With properties so readily available in both single and multi family dwellings, there is no apparent excuse for such divergence from contract specifications. 
Families were supposed to purchase and rehabilitate existing houses in the Hillside  neighborhood and these homes were to be privately owned and not tax exempt.
The Yeshiva did itself purchase a number of homes and immediately converted them to dormitories to which the city also turned a blind eye until the issue of their illegality was raised by Aldermen.
Yeshiva personnel were advised of the illegality of any such overuse of residences in the first year of the school when they tried to convert 146 Pine Street, the historic Hayden Homestead, into a 40 bed dormitory.  Gary O'Connor, attorney for the city explained the law in detail, and the Fire Marshall and Building inspector cut the use to the 5 allowable occupants limited to the lower two stories only.  In subsequent years, numbers of city officials apparently took it upon themselves to look the other way and allow selective violations of regulatory and safety Charter provisions.  The public exposure and public pressure finally forced the city to enforce its own laws and regulations and close the illegal and unsafe facilities down.  Many of those dwellings now remain vacant and questionably still tax exempt though not used for any educationally related purpose.
Originally, Rabbi Bloom from Torah Umesorah guaranteed the city that Yeshiva related families would buy, rehabilitate and move into occupancy within Hillside.  Specific housing quotas were included in the contract and have not been remotely attained.

TAX EXEMPT RESIDENTIAL
PROPERTIES

The issue of taxation was also loudly sounded in the early formulation stages prior to any contract or occupancies with Rabbi Bloom and other Torah Umesorah representatives.  The question was specifically addressed on a number of public and private occasions.  The question was as to whether Torah Umesorah, the Yeshiva or any other related entity would be buying property and using religious or other basis for making it tax exempt and further eroding the municipal tax base.  The response was always an absolute and definitive "never". 
It now takes more than two hands to count the number of tax-exempt Yeshiva owned properties, which appears to desecrate the good word of the religious institutions involved.

BENEDICT-MILLER HOUSE
ADVISORY BOARD AND APPOINTMENTS

City was required to appoint Hillside residents to serve on an advisory board regarding maintenance of Benedict-Miller house and grounds.  This has also never been done.  The Benedict-Miller House is an architectural treasure listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

BENEDICT-MILLER MANSION is the heart of both the campus property and the Hillside Historic District

The entire contract has been converted to an Adobe Acrobat file and can be viewed or downloaded here:
CLICK HERE TO VIEW CONTRACT
Note: Contract is about 1.5MB
Get Acrobat Reader
CLICK HERE TO VIEW
HILLSIDE HISTORIC DISTRICT MAP

Partners of the Yeshiva Contract
The Landlord
City of Waterbury  Office of the Mayor
236 Grand Street    Waterbury, CT 06702

The Tennant
(Yeshiva Gadolah)
Waterbury Talmudic Institute
359 Cooke Street   Waterbury, CT 06710
The tenants Guarantor
Torah Umesorah
160 Broadway    New York, NY 10038
Rabbi Mate Segal

CLICK HERE TO EMAIL HILLSIDE ABOUT THIS CONTRACT

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Aug 20, 2008
YESHIVA CONTRACT
UP FOR REVIEW
BY ALDERMEN

After a year of internal discussions, debate and intensive review the Hillside Board has decided to request the Board of Aldermen conduct a formal review of the "SUCCESSES AND FAILURES" of the contract for the Hillside Avenue Campus, formerly occupied by UConn.

From the Archives
Hillside Ave Campus Contract
Signed by City 
and Talmudic Institute

February 15, 2001
The contract between the City of Waterbury and the Talmudic Institute (the Jewish school going into the Hillside Avenue Campus) was signed November 15, 2001 by all required parties after approval of the Board of Aldermen.
Of features related directly to Hillside:
Before the commencement date of the lease, the school must have moved in 15 families, with at least 5 of the families residing within the Hillside Historic District.
100 families must be relocated to the area by the end of the 7th year, and one third of those families must be relocated into the Hillside Historic District.
Families will purchase and rehabilitate existing houses in the neighborhood and shall be privately owned and not tax exempt.
Hillside can continue to use the campus facilities for meetings and such with proper planning.
City will appoint residents to serve on an advisory board regarding maintenance of Benedict-Miller house and grounds.
The entire contract has been converted to an Adobe Acrobat file and can be viewed or downloaded here:

CLICK HERE TO VIEW CONTRACT
Note: Contract is about 1.5MB
Get Acrobat Reader

From the Archives
MAYOR and NVDC DEFEND
CONTRACT FOR
HILLSIDE AVENUE CAMPUS
3-6-2002  
MEETING WITH CITY OFFICIALS AND HILLSIDE ASSOCIATION AND PUBLIC AT THE BENEDICT-MILLER HOUSE
Questioning frequently focused on the $5,000 per month payment to be made by the Talmudic Institute for the Hillside Avenue campus via a 50 year contract.
Michael O'Connor (Director of NVDC) reasoned that all Hillside concerns had been addressed in the contract and that in lieu of rental dollars the city and neighborhood were benefiting from mandatory home purchases in Overlook and Hillside by the group, maintenance requirements for campus upkeep and preservation, increased neighborhood stability through the new occupants and the like.  Ray Rivard of the Higher Education Board rebutted that the lease amounted to 75 a sq. ft. for 80,000 sq feet instead of  the commercial average of $10 per sq ft.
Mayor Michael Jarjura stressed aspects of incorporating our new neighbors (Talmudic Institute) into our community and has already had discussions with their leadership regarding aspects of the  meticulous nature of  "Waterbury Style" property maintenance.
In particular he stressed an example he used in discussions with the Yeshiva leaders, - "In Waterbury when we trim our hedges, we don't just leave the trimmings laying on the sidewalk and lawn ... we pick up the cuttings and dispose of them properly."
His comments referenced many complaints from Overlook residents as to the "shoddy" care being taken of yards and properties already purchased by Yeshiva related families.

                 
 

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