2016 Citizen of the Year: Rick Redniss

Few lessons stick like this one did for our 2016 Citizen of the Year. It was in 1970 at Adelphi University, where Rick was studying to become a teacher, when Dr. Kirk, Rick’s favorite professor dispensed this dose of wisdom that would help shape his student’s character in ways he would never get to appreciate. Of course, Stamford is much more fortunate than the good professor. We have all been witness to Rick and the many ways he has helped shape our City. And as a bonus, all of us here tonight get to let him know how much we appreciate him.

Always a “Mr. Fix-it”, Rick used to work on his own cars and motorcycles (and his ’65 Sunbeam really did need work). So, Dr. Kirk decided to shed another pearl of wisdom, this time for focus: “If you want to fix cars, fix cars. If you want to be a teacher, then be a teacher.” And so a teacher Rick became, along with his bride, Robin, (another “pearl” Rick received from Adelphi, and from Worcester, Mass., before that) whom has stuck with him through the 47 years since.

After college, Rick and Robin received graduate degrees at Antioch College in elementary school education. They originally settled in Larchmont where Rick taught 6th grade at the Murray Avenue School while commuting to Hunter College at night, earning a degree in urban planning in 1978. At the time Robin was busy with their baby Seth, now a successful attorney (and an even more successful Dad to 3-year-old Lily, Rick and Robin ’s thoughtful granddaughter). Soon after, their daughter Lauren was born—now a professor, a critically acclaimed artist and author (and Mom to their grandsons 4-year-old Theo the precocious one, and 12-year-old Sasha, the wise). After providing Seth and Lauren with a strong foundation and a deep sense of empathy, Robin returned to teaching at Long Ridge School where she shared these gifts with the children of others for the next 25 years.

Rick grew up in Stamford with his brother Ray, the sons of Bob and Claire Redniss. Bob, who is one of our honored veterans tonight, had a small surveying and engineering firm he had started in 1957 called Parsons Bromfield & Redniss. In 1978, when Rick finally left Murray Avenue and returned to Stamford—for what began as a request for a loan from his father that turned into a summer job with his father, and then a decades-long career with his brother (and at times, Claire), no one could have foreseen the city-shaping phenomena that would become Redniss & Mead under Rick’s leadership. With the ink still wet on his urban planning degree, no experience, and neither an engineer, surveyor nor an attorney, Rick stuck his neck out and created his own profession. He became a “land-use point guard,” dishing out assists to teams made up of architects, surveyors, engineers and lawyers to gain approval for developments of all types and sizes. Of course, Rick is just as likely to talk about the assist he scored as a real point guard for Lafayette College in a game against Rutgers—but that’s another story.

It’s difficult to find a Stamford neighborhood or an aspect of its distinctive skyline that hasn’t been improved by Rick Redniss. Reflected in every project are function, beauty and the environment, created in no small part by his capacity to listen—to his clients, to his team, to the neighbors and to land use staffs and boards. And true to Dr. Kirk, Rick has remained both a student and a teacher. He studies the needs and concerns of his clients and their neighbors and teaches solutions to gain their approval. Rick has also been all backbone—he’s never taken on a project he didn’t believe in, and he will not fake sincerity.

A former Eagle Scout (like his father and brother before him) Rick has immersed himself in volunteer public service in Stamford. For over 30 years, the Boys and Girls Club of Stamford has had the benefit of his passion and energy, as he helped them complete its home on Stillwater Avenue and reopen the Yerwood Center. This year a new Fairfield County Hospice House will open on Roxbury Road, debt free, because of Rick’s vision, persistence, and talent to raise money (and to cajole in-kind contributions from many generous trades).

His other contributions are too numerous to mention but we’ll try. He’s the chair of the Veterans Park Ad Hoc Committee and is also lending his talents to Person-to-Person and Leone Park. He has served on the Stamford Historic Area Rehabilitation Program, the Mayor’s Task Force on Open Space, the Mayor ’s Task Force on Affordable Housing, and the Governor’s Blue-Ribbon Commission on Affordable Housing. He has volunteered for Stamford Land Conservation Trust, Mill River Park, the Stamford Historical Society, the DSSD, the Stamford Museum & Nature Center, the School Readiness Council, the Sisters, Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts, Temple Beth El, Agudath Sholom and the Stamford JCC, among many, many others.

Stamford is grateful to Rick Redniss for the many ways that he has demonstrated a backbone and for all the times he stuck his neck out. It’s why we admire him.