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New, Safer Stamford Train Station

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Renovation of the downtown Stamford train station has completed its turnaround

July 13, 2004

By Gabrielle Birkner, Staff Writer

STAMFORD -- In the late 1980s and early 1990s, friends would warn Steve Canna that walking at night to the Stamford train station from his Landmark Square office meant a potentially life-threatening risk.

Stamford.jpg

Until recently the railroad station was a scary place, said Canna, an accountant who has commuted to Stamford from Milford since 1987.

"I used to carry a briefcase more for protection than anything else," said Canna, recalling stairwells that smelled of urine and dark and dirty pedestrian tunnels that were a haven for Stamford's homeless population.

The drug deals, muggings and assaults that were commonplace at the Stamford station until the late 1990s had Canna and thousands of other commuters on edge.

A March 16, 1995, editorial in The Advocate addressed the issue of safety at the railroad station. "It is essential that people coming to the city and the train station feel safe," it read. "Too often, though, occasional accounts of passengers accosted by drug addicts and muggers have been sufficient to intimidate people and make them rethink using the train station, or even working or living here."

But the recently completed $79 million station renovation and security improvements in and around the station have fostered a sense of safety among those who use the Stamford train station. The state took over operation of the station from the city in 2000.

In 1998, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority opened a police substation on the transportation center's lower level.

MTA Police Deputy Chief Sean McLaughlin said there are at least two officers on duty at all times -- one patrolling the station and another monitoring the closed-circuit security cameras located at potential flashpoints.

With better security, "the general friendliness of the station has improved," McLaughlin said.

Canna also said the presence of the nearby investment bank UBS has improved conditions at the railroad station.

"Now that there's UBS, there's more people around and more activity going on," Canna said of the company, which moved its North American headquarters to Stamford in the mid-1990s and employs about 4,000 people.

StamfordStation.jpg

Increased safety at the Stamford train station is part of a larger trend of decreased crime throughout the city, Mayor Dannel Malloy said. Since Malloy took office in 1995, crime has dropped 63.7 percent, and last year Stamford was named the fourth-safest city in the country, according to statistics compiled by the FBI.

Malloy said until recently much of the city's crime took place around the Interstate 95 corridor, adjacent to the railroad station.

"We've expanded the ability of (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) police to make arrests at adjoining properties through an ordinance," he said. "Lots of people used to use (the station), as they do now, and they said they felt less safe than they do now."

Greenwich resident Anne Gilmore feels the difference. A decade ago, she said, the Stamford station was "no place you'd ever want to get off."

"It's safer now, and though it's not the most beautiful place in the world, it's definitely well lit and seems to have security guards around," she said. "I've been at the station late at night, and I get the feeling that the whole level of the community has gone up."

The influx of reverse commuters -- people who commute from New York City to Stamford -- has also played a part in making the station feel more secure. "There's more people, more bodies, more often," she said.

David Lavado, a transportation principal engineer with the Connecticut DOT, oversaw the station renovation, which took place from June 1998 to July 2003. He said the station's construction and upgrades -- including sodium vapor florescent lighting on the train platforms, in the pedestrian tunnels and waiting areas -- have contributed to the increased sense of security. Lavado also pointed to improved maintenance since the state'stakeover of the station.

"Now it's a very open type of structure," he said. "There are not a lot of corners where you can't see what's behind you. . . . The areas are lit, making safer pedestrian movement, and the overall appearance of the structure make people feel more comfortable there."

The city of Stamford, the Connecticut Department of Transportation, the MTA police and station management all had a hand in making the station feel more secure.

"Credit goes all around," McLaughlin said.

From The Stamford Advocate

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This one should go in the NYC Forum. Stamford is well within the pull of NYC and owes its existance to its proximity to Manhattan.

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I kind of agree, but at the same time I don't think that Stamford is even on NYC's radar. While I'm on this subject, if anybody from RI is reading this then can you tell me if I'm wrong for thinking that if Providence became significantly larger as a metro then Stamford is what Warwick would end up looking like? The first time I went there I swear my first thought was about "Warwick in the future". I know somebody that lives there and it's very suburban in feel. It's like a bunch of people living in a giant office park. One last thing, the grass at Pepsi's HQ (despite the fact that the building is hideous) is by far the softest grass I've ever felt. Some spots are softer than others so feel around (barefoot) for a while for a really good patch (closer to the sides of the park where there's shade is great). If you haven't been there and you're in the area, go. Their art collection is impressive too.

P.S. Is Stamford on an Amtrak line? If so, is it the same line as Providence (ours goes to NYC so I don't see why it wouldn't)? I'd like to take the train there.

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It is. You pass through Stamford if you're headed to NYC from the north, so you can take the Amtrak directly from Providence to Stamford. I've been through Warwick before on I-95 and Amtrak. Warwick has more of a suburb look to it and Stamford looks more like an edge city, like White Plains, NY (that is, it's more built up). It's possible that Warwick could look like that in the future if they can do enough to lure businesses there. I don't really know much about Warwick to know how quickly it's developing.

But if Stamford's not on NYC's radar, then not much else is. They lured employers there, and I'm sure more than a few of them came from Manhattan, trying to get away from NYC's high rents and taxes and to be closer to their employees, many of them former Manhattanites who decided they wanted nice places to raise kids and headed to Fairfield and Westchester Counties. Pepsi is one of those companies (although it is in nearby Purchase, NY so it hasn't left the state completely.) And a large number of people there still go to NYC for entertainment and work. If they didn't, Metro-North's New Haven Line trains wouldn't be so heavily patronized.

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I kind of agree, but at the same time I don't think that Stamford is even on NYC's radar.

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No it's not really a place that anyone in New York gives a second thought about, but it is firmly within the NYC metro, I actually have a friend who commuted from the East Side to Stamford for a while.

I can totally see the area near the train station/airport in Warwick becoming Stanford-ish. Though I think the Warwick plans call for more residential, so there may actually be some street life in Warwick, which is lacking in Stamford.

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