Governor Malloy’s Visit To Staples On Monday NOT A No-Brainer

Governor Dannel Malloy will be in the Staples High School fieldhouse next Monday (September 29) at 1 p.m.

He’ll sign a bill passed by the legislature earlier this year regarding concussion treatment and education in youth sports. A group of Westport mothers spearheaded the effort.

Here comes the governor.

Here comes the governor.

 

About That Winslow Park Painting…

On many weekends over the past few years — probably while stuck at the Post Road/Compo Road traffic light — drivers have noticed a man and an easel in Winslow Park.

He’s set up on the grass. Facing banks on the other 3 corners, he’s been hard at work, painting.

Youngsters crowd around the unfinished painting.

Youngsters crowd around the unfinished painting.

Who is he?

Alert “06880” reader Russell Sherman reports that his name is Stanley Lewis. An accomplished artist, he’s finally finished his work.

It’s on display at the Betty Cunningham Gallery in New York, through October 25.

Stan Lewis Winslow Park painting

Lewis and his wife Karen live in Northampton, Massachusetts. But they spend a lot of time in Westport. Two of their 3 children — daughter Catherine and son Tim — have moved here.

Lewis loves Westport — and not just because he’s got 4 grandchildren in town, and the scenery is beautiful.

There are little things, like this: A year or so after he began painting, the town put up a new Winslow Park sign. It was right in the line of sight he was working on.

When Parks & Recreation director Stuart McCarthy heard of the problem, his crew moved the the sign.

Who says Westport is no longer an arts community?

Hurry! This eBay Offer Won’t Last Forever!

You can get anything you need for your life on eBay.

For death, too.

Right now, for example, you can bid on a Willowbrook  cemetery mausoleum. It fits “two (2) caskets and one (1) urn” comfortably.

The Willowbrook mausoleum.

The Willowbrook mausoleum.

The starting bid is just $2,900.  Thanks to PayPal, 12 months financing is available.

The sellor (loulou0605) has 100% positive feedback.

But that’s not all! There’s “free local pickup”!

The auction ends Wednesday, at 10:25 a.m. So act now.

This offer will expire before you do.

(Here’s the direct eBay link to this mausoleum offer.)

Hark! Shakespeare Didst Nearly Come To Stony Point

In many communities, no one wants to live next to the railroad station.

Westport is not “many communities.” Here, Stony Point is one of the most desirable spots in town.

Ann Sheffer — a longtime resident of that winding, riverfront peninsula whose entrance is directly off the train station parking lot — sent along a Westport News clipping that tells the fascinating back story of Stony Point.

Stony Point today (left of the river). The train station and tracks are at top.

Stony Point today (left of the river). The train station and tracks are at top.

Written in 1977 by Shirley Land — who knew everything about everything — it describes a New York banker, his wife and 2 daughters. They lived in a handsome Victorian mansion with “turrets and filigree curlicues.” The grounds included an enormous carriage house, gardener’s cottage, barn and hothouse.

It was the Cockeroft family’s country home, built around 1890. They traveled there by steam launch from New York City, tying up at a Stony Point boathouse.

The Cockerofts’ was one of “the 3 great showplaces” in Westport. The other 2 were the Hockanum mansion on Cross Highway, and the Meads’ estate on Hillspoint.

After the daughters inherited the home, the New York, New Haven & Hartford railroad inquired about purchasing some of the land for a new train station. (The original one was on the other side of the river.)

The sisters agreed, but only if the railroad built a solid brick wall, 1675 feet long, to provide privacy and quiet.

The Stony Point wall today. It separates the peninsula from the train station.

The Stony Point wall today. It separates the peninsula from the train station.

When the 2nd daughter died, she bequeathed the estate to the Hospital for the  Crippled and Ruptured (whose name was later changed, mercifully, to the New York Hospital for Special Surgery).

But the property fell into disuse. Eventually the hospital sold Stony Point to Birmingham and Asti, real estate developers.

Around 1950, Lawrence Langner of the Theatre Guild, Lincoln Kirstein of Lincoln Center and arts patron Joseph Verner Reed tried to build an American Shakespeare Theatre and Academy there. Proximity to the train station was a major piece of the plan.

The price for all 21 acres: $200,000.

But, Land wrote, “the hand of fate and the town fathers combined to defeat the efforts of the theatre people.” Many residents objected. There were also concerns that it would draw audiences away from the Westport Country Playhouse. (Others argued that a Shakespeare Theatre would enhance the town’s reputation as an arts community.)

The theater was never built in Westport. It opened in the aptly named town of Stratford, Connecticut in 1955, and was moderately successful until ceasing operations 30 years later.

In Westport, the Cockeroft estate remained empty.

The entrance to Stony Point.

The entrance to Stony Point.

In 1956 Westporters Leo Nevas and Nat Greenberg, along with Hartford’s Louis Fox, bought the property for residential development. Before they could start, however, vandals attacked the main house. They ripped out bathtubs, hacked up fireplaces, and smashed mirrors and statues. The developers asked the fire department to burn what remained to the ground.

All that remains of the original estate, Land wrote, is “the charming gate house, an immaculate gray and white Victorian structure just inside the gate; a pair of antique marble urns on the site of the old mansion where a newer home now stands; and the fine carriage house-garage, remodeled to be sure, but bearing the visible imprint of bygone grandeur.”

Oh, and a few small doors set into the long brick wall. Once upon a time, they must have provided an amazing view.

Downtown Starbucks Closes!

Alert “06880” reader Ed Hulina reports that the Parker Harding Plaza Starbucks will close at 5 p.m. today.

Not to worry, mocha frappucino freaks. It’s temporary. They’ll reopen in 10 days, on October 1.

Ed says the reason is a long-overdue remodeling. Perhaps this time they’ll do the right thing and put the seating on the window side facing the river, rather than the dark corner looking out on Post Road traffic.

Starbucks

Ed also worries that the move will force coffee addicts to the “diner” Starbucks, 1.6 miles east. That would flood an already overcrowded parking lot, where drivers are congenitally unable to follow signs or otherwise act like normal human beings.

So “06880” reminds you: There are 2 other Starbuckses in Westport. One is inside Barnes & Noble. The other is in Super Stop & Shop.

There’s also one on the Post Road in Fairfield, and another next to Stew Leonard’s in Norwalk.

Of course, there’s always Dunkin’ Donuts…

Flash! Great Photos From Colorflash!

David Pogue clearly does not have enough to do.

The Westporter only founded Yahoo Tech, writes a monthly column for Scientific American, hosts science shows on PBS’ “Nova,” serves as a “CBS Sunday Morning” correspondent, and is one of the world’s best-selling how-to authors.

So with all his free time this morning he went down to Sherwood Island, where Westport-based Phoebe’s Friends had organized a “Colorflash 5K.”

Over 1200 people ran (or walked).  They were splashed with color dust at 4 stations. Post-race festivities included food trucks.

All proceeds will be donated to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center for Pediatric Cancer Research.

David’s other talents include photography. He took these shots, and shares them with “06880” readers.

Thanks, David, Phoebe, phriends, and all who participated. Looks like a blast!

Colorflash 2 - David Pogue

Colorflash 3 - David Pogue

Colorflash 1 - David Pogue

(All photos/David Pogue)

 

Compo Hill Gets Leveled

Alert “06880” reader JP Vellotti wonders what’s going on with the upper parking lot behind Compo Acres Shopping Center. The hill is being leveled:

Compo Acres hill

I told him it was supposed to be for employees, but it’s been underutilized for decades because no one wants to trudge up there.

Too bad, JP said. It provided a great vantage point to watch classic parking battles unfold.

Help Pours In For Vera Mercer

On August 27, Vera Mercer was a passenger in a car. A friend from childhood — Gwendolyn Buskie — was driving Vera to Bridgeport Hospital for a C-section.

On I-95 in New Haven, they were struck by a tractor trailer, and pushed into the back of another truck. Gwendolyn was killed. Vera — a 1991 graduate of Staples High School — sustained major injuries to her brain and other internal organs.

She survived 3 surgeries that day. One was an emergency delivery of 7 pound, 4 ounce Camryn Faith.

Nearly a month later, Vera remains in the ICU. She is improving, but faces a long road to recovery. She still cannot speak.

Vera Mercer

Vera Mercer

Vera’s mother lives with the family. She suffers from dementia and other ailments requiring round-the-clock supervision. Vera had been her primary caretaker.

Vera’s friends — including many Staples classmates — are raising funds for Vera, via GoFundMe. They’ll help pay rent and utilities, and child and daycare for her 11-year-old son Christian and newborn Camryn (who has yet to meet her mother).

In the 1st 2 days since the fund started, over $7,000 was raised. Staples’ Class of ’91 is helping pass the word.

“06880” is proud to do the same.

(For more information, and to donate money to Vera Mercer, click GoFundMe.com.)

Gloria Floats Away

John Kantor reports that “Gloria” — Westport’s beloved oyster boat — broke her mooring off his Longshore Sailing School Friday night. She drifted onto nearby Hendrick’s Point.

Her owner — oysterman Alan Sterling — died in early July.

Gloria’s been on her own ever since.

(Photo/John Kantor)

(Photo/John Kantor)

Chip Stephens: Why I Voted No

In the wake of Thursday night’s 6-1 vote by the Planning & Zoning Commission defeating a text amendment that would have permitted development of senior housing on the Baron’s South property, Chip Stephens sent this statement to all Westporters:

As chair of the Planning & Zoning, I owe you my explanation of our decision on text amendment 677.

Let me address 3 points that drove me to my position. There were more, but these were the biggest issues in my decision: fairness, density and open space.

Chip Stephens

Chip Stephens

Fairness. 20% is the bare minimum affordability required of most projects, mandated by state statute. It is the minimum that also entails fairness of the affordable units, so they are not clustered by themselves, and match the same quality and size as other units.

This idea was dismissed in the original sub-text. It showed that affordable units would be limited to 1 bedroom, not necessarily the same size and type. It was later withdrawn due to concerns of the commissioners.

It was obvious from the start that the project planners were trying for the very minimum affordability offering they could get away with, in order to satisfy the developer’s “needs.”

Then we were told there would be a second tier of “moderate” affordable units (20%, with the possibility of being raised to 25%). This level may be moderate to some, but in reality was out of reach for many Westporters of that certain age. Believe it or not, not all have $1 million or more left in home equity or resources when they reach the qualifying age. Add to this the true price of market-driven units (the new 60 %).

Also, the affordability of the nursing or memory units was not addressed. Both of those units were guaranteed to be very profitable and very pricey, but merited very little discussion in the proposal (understandably so, to sell this project).

My  biggest problem regarding fairness was that we were told to “believe” that well-deserving Westporters would be the first and only to qualify for these subsidized units. What is a “deserving” Westporter ? Who decides this? On what basis?

Is it a lifelong resident? A resident of less than, say, 5 years? One who rented, or was on subsidized housing, or just summered in Westport and spent the balance of the time in Florida?

Is it a paid elected official? A non-paid elected official? A Little League coach, teacher, artistic contributor or longtime charitable volunteer ?

Chip Stephens wonders who would determine which "deserving" Westporters would be able to live at the Baron's South housing complex.

Chip Stephens wonders who would determine which “deserving” Westporters would be able to live at the Baron’s South housing complex.

Would there be a point system of lifelong taxes paid, of public and charitable activity, or would it just be whoever was the longest on the list of those wishing this type of housing?

Who would make that decision, and who makes the rules of what is right and fair? Would these decisions and rules be challenged by social advocates, using laws that “protect” the poor, religious rights, or race and nationality? This is a very slippery slope I believe we would face with such an exclusionary policy, whether state and federal funds were involved or not.  There is no certain promise or guarantee of such a “deserving Westport” — only entitlement.

Density. Regulations that set a cap on multifamily housing units to limit density were enacted by prior commissions. That cap is close to being reached. With hundreds of units being considered and on the drawing boards, we better be thinking about what kind of density we envision here in the next 3-5 years.

Do we accept the eventual morphing of Westport into a community like many Westchester County neighbors?  The recent downtown planning survey showed very strong agreement that residents appreciate the character and rural nature of the town today — not of the town of the 1950s, ’60s or ’70s. When we envision hundreds of new multifamily units, how will that impact our resources, taxes, schools and infrastructure?

Yes, the sub-text proposed said that raising this cap would apply to this one “issue” (though it did open the door to at least 13 qualifying locations). Nothing we face at P and Z is one-off. Just look at the issue of preservation of historic houses, or listen to developers use previous “one-offs” to justify their proposals.  This is a discussion which we all face now. It will intensify over the coming months.

Chip Stephens worries about other proposals for multifamily housing that are in the pipeline.

Chip Stephens worries about other proposals for multifamily housing that are in the pipeline.

Open space. Westport open space, both public and private, is a finite resource. Once developed, open space is unlikely to revert back. Robert Moses tried to run multi-lane highways through Central Park in the ’60s. If not for the efforts of those looking to maintain New York’s open space as a sacred cow, today’s city would be much different.

Our beaches, open spaces and parks are not out of the reach of development. Such use has been discussed beyond just this project. Some people want more athletic fields, new art venues, new community center space, more affordable housing. All are very well-intentioned, laudable goals.  But there is only so much free space left in this town. When it is gone, it is gone.

We need to balance our goals, expectations and well-intentioned wants with the realities of limited space, our fragile watershed, etc. Our predecessors on earlier P&Z Commissions, along with others, worked long hours and gave great thought to the regulations that make Westport what it is today.

As your  current commissioners, we are the guardians of those rules. Of course, we are open to all who look to alter those rules to fit their intentions, whether socially or financially driven. It is our mandate to fairly consider all that comes before us. But it is our responsibility to judge in the spirit of  yesterday’s lessons, today’s opinions, and tomorrow’s inheritance of the legacy we leave behind.

The Planning & Zoning Commission must consider many different  -- and often competing -- "town character" interests when interpreting existing regulations, and crafting  new ones. Chip

The Planning & Zoning Commission must consider many different — and often competing — “town character” interests when interpreting existing regulations, and crafting new ones.

In conclusion: Remember, there still stands a regulation allowing a project of the Baron South type. That has not changed.

To those who are passionate and committed to this: The door is not shut. To all who that came and spoke both for and against; to those who worked hard over the past years on this effort, and to those who agree or disagree with our decision:  We gave it our best. We gave it an abundance of our time and thought. We gave all their chance to speak and their voices heard. We did what we saw as right, affirming Westport’s regulations and character.

We stand on our decision. I hope this helps you understand it.