To the glut of signs everywhere in town, add this one on Church Lane near the Y:
Let’s hope the quarter-hour bells at nearby Christ & Holy Trinity Church are still okay.
To the glut of signs everywhere in town, add this one on Church Lane near the Y:
Let’s hope the quarter-hour bells at nearby Christ & Holy Trinity Church are still okay.
Rob Reeves issued the following statement, in response to questions about the Westport Family Y’s childcare and gymnastics situations:
We thank the concerned parents for attending our meeting on Tuesday evening. The Family Y has been actively searching for suitable alternate sites for its child care services, as well as its gymnastics programs, for nearly 2 years, soon after the decision was made to proceed with constructing our new Y facility at Mahackeno in stages.
The first phase is a 54,000-square foot facility with all the features and amenities that will allow us to continue to offer people of all ages and abilities the opportunity to live healthier, more engaged lives. Ultimately, we intend to enlarge our Y at Mahackeno to the 102,000-square foot facility approved by all local authorities. That expansion is designed to include a separate child care wing and gymnastics center.
As we strive to open our modern new Y late next summer, we’re also continuing to explore all options to find suitable temporary locations in our service area – namely Westport and Weston, and possibly parts of Norwalk – for our child care and gymnastics programs. The problem has been in finding space that meets our standards, satisfies local and state licensing and zoning requirements, and is affordable. Such a location for our child care program simply hasn’t been on the market.
The Y’s after-school programs for school-age children, including Kinderkids, taking place this school year at Saugatuck Elementary School, will continue as currently structured. And we’re hopeful that a suitable alternate site for our acclaimed gymnastics program, with its own stringent requirements, can be found.
In the meantime, we’re hopeful that, somehow, we will be able to find a suitable location for the 35 families currently served by our NYAEC-accredited child care program in the time frame we’re working with. But we realize time is running short, and we see no alternative other than keeping our child care families informed so that they can make the best decisions going forward for themselves and their children.
Last week, families with children in the Westport Y’s Early Learning Programs received a letter from Tasha Dennison, senior director of child care.
In September, she wrote, the Y had “great hopes” of signing a lease for an “ideal location” to house its Early Learning Programs. That would be a “temporary home,” because a child care wing at the new Mahackeno facility must wait for the 2nd phase of construction to be completed. No official timetable has been set for Phase 2. Phase 1 will open next fall.
Dennison’s letter says “with extreme sadness” that the alternate site — believed to be St. Luke Church — “is no longer an option. The circumstances are unfortunate and beyond our control.”
While the Y continues to search for a new home for its Early Learning Programs, Dennison wrote that finding a suitable location — one that meets state and national Y standards — is “quite challenging.” She warned that if a new site is not found by January 1, the program will end July 1.
Parents are devastated. They worry where their children will go. They claim the Early Learning Program — which serves approximately 100 children, ages 6 weeks to 6 years, and is beloved for its dedicated teachers, engaging curriculum and community engagement — was not in the 5-year plan for the Y. And they are saddened that staff — some of whom have been with the program for over 16 years — will lose their jobs.
Y leaders held a meeting last night with parents. The Y outlined its challenges: securing a large enough space, at an affordable cost (both rent and converting it to meet licensing requirements); overcoming aversion to childcare programs by neighboring tenants; providing outdoor space.
They also discussed the problems of finding or redesigning space in Phase 1 now under construction, including a modular unit and the Sunny Lane home the Y owns.
Other alternatives proposed included the Kemper-Gunn House (currently located next to the Y on Church Lane, it’s slated to be moved across Elm Street to the Baldwin parking lot), and asking other childcare programs not currently offering full-time sessions, such as Earthplace, to expand their offerings.
A woman who attended the meeting, and contacted “06880″ this morning, said she left “with a disappointed heart and very low expectations” for the future of the programs. She called the meeting “raucous and contentious from the beginning,” with “heated discussion from parents.”
She said that each alternative proposed by parents was met with “derisive comments that dismissed options as untenable, even with offers to fundraise, offers to facilitate public outreach and generate community awareness of the plight, and all other manners of assistance….Our offers to assist in any capacity, speak on behalf to elected officials, town representatives, and various boards of oversight were brusquely rebuffed.”
Westport Y CEO Rob Reeves was in a meeting this morning, and unavailable for comment.
Meanwhile, another meeting is set for tonight. This one will address the concerns of another set of parents: those concerned that the long-running gymnastics and dance programs will also no longer be offered at Mahackeno.
Those spaces too are scheduled for inclusion in Phase 2.
The Y’s new building at Mahackeno is moving toward completion.
The Kemper-Gunn House (above, background) — now next to the Y — will be moved across Elm Street, to the Baldwin parking lot.
And Bedford Square — the new commercial/retail/office complex on Church Lane — is moving ahead to find tenants.
All the signs are there for new excitement downtown.
Doubleday Field — between Saugatuck and Kings Highway Elementary Schools — honors “Doc” Doubleday. From 1923 to 1957, he served the Westport YMCA as physical director, then membership director.
Generations of members knew Doc as the friendly face behind the front desk. Scott Smith — the Y’s current communications director and resident “story teller” — sent Doc’s son Ed’s remembrances along to “06880.” As we celebrate Veterans Day, it’s a great look back to the 1940s, and the impact of World War II.
The war was a very depressing time. Westport lost some 40 young, vibrant boys and men.
When my dad stayed late to close the Y, he would peck away at the typewriter. I finally asked him about it. He said he wrote notes to all the young men he knew in the service all over the world. He had a 3×5 card file with the name and address of each serviceman, their likes and dislikes, friends’ names, hobbies, etc. He said they needed to know that we at home cared about them.
Every so often he came home with a tear in his eye, and a heavy heart. Another Westport boy had been killed.
During the war years Al Bresslin, who was then the physical director, set up a “commando course” in the gym. There were parallel bars draped with mats to climb over, a low balance beam (footbridge), flying rings to swing over an imaginary river, a large pipe to crawl through, and finally a straight dash to the finish line. Everyone was timed weekly. Bill Krause was always the fastest.
There were all kinds of clubs at the Y: chess, checkers, airplane model building, stamp collecting and boxing. We had ping pong and pool tournaments.
Dad would ask why he didn’t see one or another of my friends at the Y anymore. Sometimes their parents didn’t have the $2 membership fee. He somehow came up with the money, and a Y membership card would magically arrive at the boy’s home. It meant so much to them.
At the height of the war, all able-bodied men were off fighting. In the summer, farmers called Doc at the Y for labor. He’d round us up. We got on our bikes and headed out early mornings to hoe cabbage, pick tomatoes and corn, weed onions, etc. My friends and I were 12-14 years old. A 10-hour day, for $2.50, was good money for us.
In the fall, Herb Baldwin asked Dad to find kids to pick apples at his Bayberry Lane orchard. We got 3 cents a bushel, but it was fun. We’d pick and eat, then take a break and throw the bad apples at each other.
One day, Mr. Baldwin loaded us in a truck to help a friend on a farm in Fairfield. At noon we went up to the big garage to eat our lunch. Mrs. Rudkin offered us great homemade bread. The farm was named after a big tupelo tree that grew on the property. They’re also known as pepperidge trees. Imagine that: I was there at the beginning of Pepperidge Farms!
On August 17, 1945 the Westport Town Crier headlined pictures and names of all the young men who didn’t come home. My dad said, “Eddie, keep this paper. Every Memorial Day, take this out and look at it. Then say a prayer and thank all those who served our country.”
I have that newspaper today. Every Memorial Day I re-read it. It still hurts, almost 70 years later.
When the war ended, the town celebrated V-J Day with a big gathering on the front steps of the Y. Soon, the boys began to come home. Some came to the Y first. They’d walk up to the front desk, throw down their duffel bag, reach over the desk, throw out their hands and say, “I’m home, Doc!” Tears formed in their eyes, and his.
Doc retired from the Y in 1957, and moved with my mom to Florida. She passed first. We lost Doc in 1972. He was 87.
Doc loved his years at the Y. I hope he will be remembered as someone who did what he could to make Westport a better place to live, and raise a family.
(This story is part of the Y’s 90th anniversary celebration. For more, click here.)
The Westport Family Y has changed a lot in 90 years — including its name. It’s no longer the “Young Men’s Christian Association.” So even though the Y’s actual 90th anniversary was last Thursday, officials did not plan a public birthday bash.
It was also Rosh Hashanah.
The 90th anniversary will be celebrated instead on Wednesday, September 18 (4 p.m.), with a street party on Church Lane.
Scott Smith — the Y’s communications director (a position that did not exist for most of the Y’s history) — passed along some tidbits from opening day.
The Westporter-Herald called September 5, 1923 “second to none in the history of the town. Not since the day of the official opening of Westport’s new bridge over the Saugatuck River has there been anywhere near as great a gathering as notables, both local and out of town.”
Connecticut Governor Charles E. Templeton was there. So was Edward T. Bedford, the donor of “this new and handsome Y.M.C.A. building.”
Bedford described how, as a 15-year-old, he stood outside the old Westport Hotel, watching games of pool inside. He could not go inside, “on account of the saloon.”
Years later — a wealthy man, as a director of Standard Oil — he felt honored to fill “the need of some place for boys and young men to congregate.” His “new and handsome” YMCA stood at the corner of the Post Road and Main Street — the exact site of the former Westport Hotel.
The new building featured bowling alleys, billiard tables, a gymnasium and reading room. It would be a place to exercise one’s body, and mind.
Governor Templeton noted that Bedford did not have “the opportunities the young men of today have. (However), he didn’t smoke or wile his hours away; he didn’t stay up until midnight, not at all, but instead went to bed early and then was fresh for the tasks of the day to follow.”
Bedford’s work ethic, the governor implied, would be a good model for all the young people enjoying the new YMCA to follow.
Presumably, this advice remains true today — 90 years later. Even if the Westport Family Y serves more than “young men.” More than “Christians.”
And plans to celebrate its next big anniversary in yet another “new and handsome” building.
Judy James is worried about trees.
Judy — a longtime Westporter — expressed her ”dismay at the lack of concern for the preservation of trees when presented with development plans within our commercial districts.” She referred to plans for Bedford Square — the YMCA-area complex — that eliminates mature trees on Church Lane.
“Replacement landscaping with grasses and small trees that won’t reach maturity until most adult residents have passed is simply not acceptable. Commercial owners who have the privilege of living and developing one of the most desirable downtown locations in the northeast should accommodate the retention of their town’s living history,” she said.
Referencing the removal of sycamores earlier this year at the site of the former Brook Cafe, she urged the P&Z to “not approve this project and just let ‘staff’ decide at a later date what would be acceptable landscaping…. As many of these mature trees as possible must be retained.”
David Waldman is developing Bedford Square into stores, apartments and offices. I asked him to respond.
I am familiar with the letter and understand her position. Unfortunately, in order to accommodate the need for underground parking, wider pedestrian- friendly tree-lined sidewalks, street lamps and more importantly the already fully approved design and site plan by the HDC and Architectural Review Board, the trees will have to be removed.
We will add 16 new trees (clearly not as old and mature as the 6 that exist on the sites today), but in a quantity much greater than exists today. In addition, there will be numerous planting beds, landscape planters, benches, public art, public parks and gathering spaces, pedestrian passages from Elm, Church, Post and Main and much more.
As developers we always try and retain as much history as possible. We have shown this in our current plan to retain the historic Bedford mansion and firehouse, as well as the work I have done with Patagonia, Urban Outfitters and Spotted Horse.
When we built the Spotted Horse, we removed 5 -6 very large tress and no one said a peep. Hopefully, the end result will be something all of Westport can be proud of.
Our team and all the commissions we have obtained approvals from to date are very pleased and proud with the new design that we (developers, residents, commission, HDC, ARB and many other groups) have collectively created. We feel by listening to all those interested groups, we have come up with a much better project.
Certainly, the Spotted Horse has added both energy and architectural spirit to Church Lane.
Plans for the rest of the area — including widening Church Lane and its sidewalks, and “fixing” its tough intersection with the Post Road — show plenty of greenery. True, it’s not all “mature” — but isn’t part of the problem with downtown that it’s a bit long in the tooth?
Last month, I posted a story about an odd plaque in the Westport Y.
Placed near the stairs by the pool, it honored the “William Phelps Eno Memorial Pedestrian Mall.” Inquiring minds wondered not who Eno was — every Westporter knows he’s the Westport businessman and traffic safety pioneer who “invented” the stop sign, pedestrian crosswalk, traffic circle, 1-way street, taxi stand and pedestrian safety island — but rather, what’s up with that “memorial pedestrian mall.”
Here’s a partial answer. It’s straight from Jay Sherwood. Yes, of the Sherwoods.
I grew up at 26 Church Lane (now the Spotted Horse). My bedroom faced the street, and the 3 homes across it.
At Elm and Church Lane was Mr. Krellen’s (sp?), home, which still stands. Next was the Lewis home. In the 1940s and ’50s it was occupied by Miss Lewis (who ran the Educational Toy Store, where Metro Swim later was) and her mother. Next to that was a home with a beauty salon on the 1st floor.
In those days I could peer between the Lewis and Krellen homes, and see the hills west of the Saugatuck (Old Hill section) until Klein’s Stationery built its addition.
The Y grew in size too. First to fall (late ’60s?) was the beauty salon. Then the Lewis home made way for the Weeks Pavilion in the late ’70s. There was supposed to be an outdoor walk from the parking lot off Elm Street to Church Lane. I remember an artist’s rendition of it. But next thing I knew, the “path” was inside the new building (which was built right up to the property line).
I do not know why there was a change in plans. Perhaps the owners of 35 Church Lane did not want an open public walkway so close to their property. Funny though: Kids and even older folk always trespassed onto 35 Church, between Church Lane and the parking area in the rear. Either the “Y” was closed or they simply wanted to walk outside. They created havoc with the stone retaining wall. The problem continued until 35′s owners put up a fence along the parking area.
For Monday’s “06880″ post, I asked the 4 candidates currently running for 1st selectman to name 5 Westporters they admire.
Three included Allen Raymond.
That’s a no-brainer. The 90-year-old former publisher (and town historian) has not just lived on Compo Cove since 1922. He’s served on more boards, advised more town leaders, brokered more good and smart deals, and contributed more to every facet of life — educational, recreational, spiritual — than anyone since the Bedfords.
And they were an entire family.
But it’s not just the 1st selectman candidates and me who revere Allen Raymond. Here’s an email I got from another admirer:
“I noted the frequent mention of Allen Raymond as a person the selectman candidates would ask for guidance.
“Certainly, Allen has been a successful figure in town for many years. He is generous with both his time and his money. He has sat on almost every guiding committee we have, from church to Y to kitchen cabinet.
“He has already been honored by many organizations – including the Y’s renaming of Sunny Lane to Allen Raymond Lane.
“One more honor is coming up. On Wednesday, June 5 the Westport Rotary honors him at their annual Golf and Tennis Fundraiser at Longshore.
“But I think the real reason that people want to speak to him is because they want to know how he and others managed to get things done. How to get the purchase of Longshore done – without lawsuits and squabbling.
“How to get organizations like the Westport Historical Society and Earthplace to be sustainable, contributing, active town resources. How to draw people into a church to celebrate its history, as well as its present contributions and mission.
“I think the Rotary honor is a good reason for potential politicians, as well as friends and neighbors, to come together one more time to ask for Allen’s advice, and celebrate his ability to get things done.
I’ve walked up and down the Westport Y stairs — the ones by the pool, leading to the back parking lot — thousands of times.
But until the other day, I never stopped to read the plaque on the wall. (Full disclosure: The reason was that the stairs were gridlocked by a convoy of battle-ready baby strollers.)
The plaque honors William Phelps Eno. He’s the Westport businessman known as the “Father of Traffic Safety.” His innovations — creations, really — included the stop sign, pedestrian crosswalk, traffic circle, 1-way street, taxi stand and pedestrian safety island. He designed traffic plans for New York, Paris and London.
For many years, his worldwide traffic institute was headquartered on Saugatuck Avenue, near the Norwalk line.
(Fun fact: He never learned to drive.)
It’s nice that the Westport Y has a plaque honoring him.
But look closely. It honors the “William Phelps Eno Memorial Pedestrian Mall.”
Inquiring minds want to know: