Criticisms of Stamford are arbitrary

Criticisms of Stamford are arbitrary

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If I had to describe Stamford’s culture I think I’d start with the food. We’ve got really good food in this city. What’s more, we’ve got many local, independent restaurants that have stayed the same for decades. These places don’t try too hard. They’re fun. They do what Anthony Bourdain called “simple, good things” really, really well. And they’re unique. They only exist here. That’s a common theme running through Stamford’s identity. You can see it on the buildings, the righteous griminess, the no frills, zero pomp attitude that contrasts starkly with its counterparts in the wealthy suburbs that surround it. Like many great, multicultural cities, there’s a place for everyone in Stamford. You can be different in this city. We like it that way. We prefer it. That attitude’s produced a unique culture, a dignified culture. Most importantly, it’s a culture that definitely does not suck.

Reading Arthur Augustyn’s recent op-ed, you get none of that. In Arthur’s world, Stamford is a barbarian kingdom, a hive of feral Neil Diamond fans whose only redemption lies in the civilizing effects of new bike lanes and apartment buildings. The piece argues that there’s nothing in Stamford worth saving, that the shiny and new has a moral imperative to annex the tried and tested. Taken to its natural conclusion, Arthur’s argument ends with all of Stamford’s wonderful social and economic diversity reduced to the urban equivalent of a soulless strip mall, stacked with the same 10 stores that appear everywhere else in the country. And look, that’s not an argument against density, far from it. Instead it’s a call for more community driven development, for better communication on the issues so that Stamford’s population isn’t pitted against each other every time a controversial zoning application arises. It also helps not to dehumanize anyone who disagrees with you as an immoral troglodyt e. I get that Arthur is trying to be provocative, but you can’t assign value to an entire community based on a vote on the Board of Representatives. Stamford, in all its complexity, is so much more than that.

Ultimately, its not my responsibility to explain to Arthur and people like him why Stamford’s culture deserves to exist. His criticisms are essentially arbitrary. As such, I hope he can forgive me for being arbitrary in return. Stamford is a great place, dare I say the greatest. I don’t have to prove it, I don’t have to justify, because Stamford’s value can’t be counted on a spreadsheet or measured in tall buildings or bike lanes. It appears more subtly, like a deep sigh when you return from a long journey, a breath of relief that announces you’re home. It’s visible in the lives and actions of the thousands and thousands who’ve called Stamford home, who’ve long toiled to build a city that means so much to so many people from so many different walks of life. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s a fragile thing. And in the end, it’s a thing that should be celebrated, not dismissed so carelessly.

Steven Kolenberg is a former member of the Stamford Board of Representatives.

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Jorge Oliveira

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