Three years ago, New Haven mayor John DeStefano and then-East Haven mayor April Capone came to an agreement over Tweed-New Haven Airport. Many likened it to the Camp David Accord between Egypt and Israel. (I see it more as the 1973 Paris Peace Accord, with New Haven in the role of the U.S. to East Haven's North Vietnam.)
Yet to even the casual observer of past (and some present) hostilities, several questions remain unanswered. There are a few things we'd like to know regarding the "victims."
First question: Why buy a house near an airport? Think about it. If you went to look at a house in a neighborhood where the neighboring houses' windows were broken, the trash cans knocked over and graffiti was prominent, you'd be thinking, "You know, maybe I don't want to live here." If the house were near a highway like I-95, or near railroad tracks, that would certainly figure in your decision to buy, would it not? What makes an airport, ANY airport, different?
Next questions: Did the realtor tell you there was an airport nearby? Did a plane fly overhead when you were looking at the house? In the case of the latter question, I recall one of my co-workers and his wife looking at a house when an aircraft flew overhead, prompting him to ask, "What was that?" The realtor's response? "Oh, nothing." Was there aircraft residue on the house when you looked? Or could it have been scrubbed off before the Open House? And bear in mind that many Open Houses are on Sunday, when airport activity is minimal, so there is likely little or no smell of burnt kerosene,either.
It has always been my opinion that a homebuyer protection bill compelling realtors to divulge an airport's existence, with acknowledgment signed by the buyer, should be State law. Question: Are the homeowners around Tweed in favor of one to prevent future mistakes? Or should future homeowners "find out for themselves"?
And, while we're on the subject, this leads to the question of why there has never been a misrepresntation suit filed agains any realtor. If you bought a car and the steering gave way as you rounded a curve, causing the car to crash, would you sue the city for putting that curve in the road? Of course not. Yet, no one has ever taken a realtor to court for "neglecting" to mention the airport's location (unlike those real estate ads that trumpet, "convenient to train," "steps to bus line," or "near I-95), or, at the least, downplaying its impact. Not one suit filed.
On the issue of property values, we ask:Do you really expect to have lower taxes AND higher property values at the same time? If you do, perhaps I can interest you in a ringside seat to the Muhammed Ali-Cassius Clay fight. Quite simply put, you can't have it both ways. If, as is claimed, the airport has lowered property values, why haven't homeowners been more aggressive with their respective local governments to lower the tax mill rate? There was one half-hearted attempt during the first coming of the Maturo administration, with the mayor's remark of "we can't lower taxes based on where someone lives." And, like the realtors, East Haven Town Hall never saw the inside of a courtroom defendant's seat, either. East Haven residents were quite content to let it go at that.
No, in their crusade against "big business," East Shore homeowners took on a not-for-profit airport over a multi-million-dollar real estate industry.
I know I'm not going to get the answers to these questions, because to answer them would require admitting some lack of integrity. And please, PLEASE don't insult my intelligence with the "chicken or egg" answer: "Well, there were folks living out here before the airport was built." And you'd be right, there were. And THEY seemed to have no problem with its construction and subsequent operation, aviation being nowhere near as safe then as it is now. To this I say anyone who was alive when the airport was dedicated please step forward. Not anyone who's been living there 20 or 30 or even 40 years ago.
Again, I know the answers to these questions won't be forthcoming (for one thing, few if any people read these blogs anyway), but I would hope that it would spur some legislation to see that this ongoing real estate swindle never happens again.
It starts with the words, "I was misled."