You just have to park in the back.
Well, the waaaaay back.
Yesterday — as noted on WestportNow — the town’s School Bus Task Force toured Baron’s South. The town is exploring ways to save the $250,000 we spend each year leasing space from Dattco, on Post Road East across from Playhouse Square.
Meanwhile, tomorrow (Wednesday, December 18, 2 p.m., Town Hall Room 201), the Planning and Zoning Commission’s open space subcommittee meets. They’ll discuss rezoning certain areas of town as — you guessed it — open space.
One example: Baron’s South. Right now, Winslow Park — across the Post Road, on Compo North — is zoned as open space. But Baron’s South is considered residential.
That means the town could sell it. A housing project could be built there.
Or it could be used for bus parking.
The P&Z open space meeting is open to the public. No word on whether School Bus Task Force members will also attend.
iFloat is a downtown oasis of relaxation and rejuvenation.
Last year, owner David Conneely thought of putting up decorations to brighten the drab Main Street scene. But he was too busy — that’s what happens when you run a business that helps people slow down — so it never happened.
This year, he lit some candles. He wasn’t satisfied, but it was a start.
Yesterday, he read an “06880” post about another dismal, decorations-less downtown holiday season.
This morning — as in, 2 a.m. — David was hard at work adding color to the iFloat windows above Oscar’s.
He’s proud of his work. And, he notes, he bought the lights locally. So he looks forward to bringing his receipt to the Spotted Horse, for a free dessert.
Most people drive down Myrtle Avenue on their way to — or from — somewhere else.
Some head to Town Hall, or the Westport Historical Society. Others use it as a shortcut to or from town.
But to the folks who live in the handsome homes there, Myrtle Avenue is not a narrow through street. It’s a neighborhood.
In the hustle and bustle of modern Westport life, though, it seldom felt like one.
Last year, Estelle Margolis — she lives at #72 — invited everyone to her lovingly maintained 1790 home. Neighbors Rondi Charleston and Page Englehart helped plan the get-together.
Over 2 dozen neighbors showed up. Some were old-timers; others had just moved in. They talked about who they were, where they came from, and what brought them to Westport.
They named themselves the MAGs — for Myrtle Avenue Gang — and shared e-mail addresses.
Since then, they’ve had more cocktail parties in various homes. They arrive early, and stay late.
Beyond the food and drink, Estelle says, “We’ve found out how everyone on the street is interesting, caring and kind.”
The most recent MAG party was last Sunday. It’s a busy time of year, but plenty of people came. In the holiday spirit, Estelle asked them to bring kids’ books. They’ll be delivered to a Bridgeport home for abused mothers and children.
“MAGs are now much more than neighbors,” Estelle says. “We are dear friends, very close by, all available for help that any one of us might need.”
“Estelle brought us together in the spirit of love and support, as only she can,” notes Rondi Charleston. “We are so grateful for her.”
“We feel very lucky we landed on Myrtle Avenue,” Estelle says, speaking for so many MAGs.
“We’re in the heart of downtown Westport — and as close to heaven as we can get!”
In 2005, President Bush signed into law a bill pushed by the NRA. It shields gun manufacturers from most forms of civil litigation.
But yesterday — the day after the 2nd anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre — 10 Newtown families sued Bushmaster Firearms, the maker of the gun used in that rampage.
Josh Koskoff represents the victims. Last night, the 1984 Staples High School graduate and longtime Westport resident talked to Rachel Maddow about that wrongful death suit.
It’s a tough case, he admitted. Gun manufacturers have broad immunity.
“This is an industry that makes the world’s most dangerous product,” he said. “But you can’t sue them.”
However, he told the MSNBC host, he’s undaunted. His clients are “so worthy.” He and his colleagues at Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder believe they have found a way to win.
“We’ve got a case here,” the attorney told Maddow.
It’s clear he feels a personal stake in this battle.
“If we didn’t take this case — in our own backyard — we might as well just fold up,” he said.
Maddow said that Bushmaster refused to comment.
(To see the Koskoff interview, click on “The Rachel Maddow Show.”)
(Hat tip to Peter Propp)
Despite this morning’s post, there are some holiday decorations downtown.
But they’re not Christmas lights.
And they’re not where you might expect them.
Alert “06880” reader Jeff Giannone sent along this shot:
A menorah stands ready for tonight’s celebration of Hanukkah — the “Festival of Lights.” Set for 6:30 p.m., it’s sponsored by the 4 synagogues in town. All Westporters — of all faiths — are invited.
So head down to the site of the recently vacated Y.
Or — as it was once known — the Young Men’s Christian Association.
Meanwhile, if you don’t like the (lack of) Christmas lights downtown — and many Westporters apparently don’t — just head a mile or so south.
Continuing their relatively new — but much-loved — tradition, Al’s Angels has made sure the Bridge Street* Bridge is a beacon of good cheer this holiday season.
Al’s Angels does so much good, for children and families challenged by cancer, rare blood diseases, AIDS, domestic violence and financial hardship.
And for all the rest of us too, with so much to be grateful for already.
Thanks, Al’s Angels, for making Saugatuck shine even brighter!
*aka William Cribari
Longtime and very alert “06880” reader David Meth is feeling a bit Grinchy this holiday season. He writes:
Westport of the past had Christmas Spirit. Main Street was lit in colorful lights.
Now what remains are cold, impersonal tiny white beads strung across the street from the rooftops of the stores. They slice the street off from the spirit of Christmas, and greet the New Year with darkness and shadow.
This lifeless garrote that threatens to surgically eviscerate Main Street from heaven above is not even turned on to illuminate the plastic banner wishing whoever dares to look up a Happy Holiday.
The town’s attitude is whispered in bold letters: We Don’t Care! Just Come Spend!
The horrible, isolating white thread of lights decorating the (impossible-to-call “Christmas”) tree in front of Town Hall is not only an embarrassment. It is an offense.
If it were not for the small, colorfully lit tree in front of the offices of Millman and Aarons, there would be no color at all.
So who cares least: Town Hall or the Downtown Merchants Association? How much more do red, green and blue lights cost in electricity to add life to the graveyard called Main Street?
There are over 125 miles of roads in Westport. But through November 28 of this year, 6.4% of all reported traffic incidents happened on one small stretch of the Post Road: between Maple and Bulkley Avenues.
That’s the area with no traffic lights, and a couple of dangerous crosswalks. Four pedestrians have been killed there since 2008.
It’s also the spot where a developer hopes to tear down the Westport Inn, and replace it with a 200-unit apartment complex.
“This is not a NIMBY issue,” says a neighbor opposing the proposal. Jan Winston is president of the Lansdowne Condominium complex, across the street and a few yards east of the site.
Winston — a 28-year resident of the condos — points out that directly across from Lansdowne is the former “trailer park.” Now called Sasco Creek Village, it is being modernized — and enlarged. When completed next year, there will be 93 units of affordable housing, up from the current 72.
“There hasn’t been a peep from us” about the increased housing across the street, Winston says. “Many residents of Lansdowne fully support” affordable housing.
However, he notes, part of the what is driving the Westport Inn proposal is Connecticut’s Affordable Housing Statute. Known as “8-30G,” it allows developers to add “affordable units” that override local zoning regulations, in towns where less than 10 percent of the housing stock is considered affordable.
“You can’t put another 200 units there,” says longtime Lansdowne resident Mike Turin. “The number of cars accessing and exiting the Post Road in that area will be overwhelming.”
Winston and Turin know there is plenty of opposition to the new plan, for many reasons. Westporters are concerned about the impact on schools, wetlands, sewers and the height of the proposed complex. Winston also acknowledges that Westport is far from the state’s 10% affordable housing mandate.
However, he says, “this particular development — with 373 parking spaces for 200 units — is not the way to get there. It terrifies us.”
He foresees tremendous traffic issues. It’s simply too dense for the 2.4-acre property. Lansdowne, he notes, has 90 units on 34 acres.
So where could the next affordable housing complex in Westport be built?
“I have no clue,” Winston admits. “I don’t pretend to be a surrogate for the P&Z.
“I just want to know 2 things. What are the rules — not only for affordable housing, but safety on this really dangerous stretch of road? And how does the town get to the right goal?”
Westporters take pride in our cutting-edge library. The Maker Space, 3-D printer — if it’s creative and new, Maxine Bleiweis and her staff are all over it.
But sometimes you just need a typewriter.
Again, the library rides to the rescue.
An old IBM Selectric sits all alone in a cubicle overlooking Jesup Green, just waiting for someone to peck away.
Still, the library draws the line somewhere. Long ago, the wooden card catalog went to that great reading room in the sky.
(Hat tip to Fred Cantor)