Hundreds Unite Against Racism

Jesup Green — Westport’s historic site for anti-war, gun violence and other protests — drew several hundred people of all ages to another, this afternoon.

Organized in less than 48 hours following the national reaction to the death of George Floyd, it was as passionate as any in the past. But — coming in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic — it also marked the first large gathering here since mid-March. Masks were mandatory. Speeches were short.

But the message was powerful.

Organizer Darcy Hicks noted “the tension between wanting to stay home and keep the community safe, and the bubbling need to do something.”

RTM member Andrew Colabella and civic activist Darcy Hicks.

Police Chief Foti Koskinas read yesterday’s statement from his department condemning Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis officers.

Then he went further.

Police Chief Foti Koskinas (far right) with, from left, TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey and 1st Selectman Jim Marpe. The town’s other 2 selectman were there too.

He apologized personally to the Floyd family, for the way their loved one was treated by police.

“I am never embarrassed, and always proud, to wear this uniform,” Koskinas said. “But Mr. Floyd’s death was devastating to this department.”

He then introduced Harold Bailey, TEAM Westport chair. The head of the town’s multicultural committee said that for every George Floyd, there are “thousands of other victims, in the dark and out of sight.” Indifference, he said, is just another way of sanctioning such acts.

Bailey added that TEAM Westport is partnering with the police, Westport Library, Interfaith Clergy Association and schools, on community forums and projects.

Hicks spoke last. “As a white, privileged person, I am complicit in the death of George Floyd and others,” she said.

“I have not always been engaged in fighting racism and economic inequality.” It is not enough to be “not a racist,” she said. “People have to do things.”

 

The protest ended with a long moment of silence: 4 minutes, 23 seconds. But, Hicks noted, that was only half the amount of time George Floyd’s neck was pinned underneath a police officer’s knee.

The silence seemed to go on forever.

And it spoke volumes.

(Photo/David Vita)

(Photo/David Vita)

(All photos/Dan Woog unless otherwise noted)

COVID Roundup: Kayak, Paddle Rentals; Principal’s Personal Notes; Roly Poly; More


Longshore Sailing School opens today — in phases.

Phase 1 is kayak and paddleboard rentals online. Tomorrow (Monday, June 1), those rentals are available online, and for walk-ins.

Wednesday (June 3) is the first day for sailboat and catamaran rentals. Online reservations are suggested; walk-ins are first-come, first-served.

Click here to reserve. NOTE: Renters must present a license or photo ID at the office.

(Photo/Anne Bernier)


It’s been quite a first year for Staples High School principal Stafford Thomas.

No one could have predicted what happened in March — or since then. But in addition to shepherding the school through distance learning, keeping the lines of communication open with a series of warm, informative videos, and doing thousands of other things that no one ever taught in his education classes, the popular principal hand-wrote congratulatory notes to graduating seniors.

All 433 of them.

It doesn’t make up for what the Class of 2020 missed during their final 3 months. But if anyone still keeps scrapbooks, a note like that should go right in front.


As restaurants throughout Westport reopen, Roly Poly is closing.

Yesterday, employees were wrapping up the final wraps. The longtime franchise on Saugatuck Avenue could not make it through the COVID crisis.


The Fine Arts Festival was supposed to be this weekend. It’s been postponed. The new dates are October 17-18.

But you can still see and buy beautiful paintings, sculptures and photos from the artists who would have lined Main Street today.

Click here to browse. Then mark your calendars for the live event this fall.


One more piece of proof that Westport is on its way to reopening fully:

Our self-important, really obnoxious entitled bad parkers are back!

Compo Shopping Center (Photo/Michael Newman)

And finally … Tyrone Davis nails it:

Photo Challenge #283

If you’re relatively new to Westport, you’ve never heard of “Needle Park.”

If you grew up here, you know exactly where it was.

For decades, when the library was located on the Post Road between Main Street and Parker Harding Plaza — think Freshii and Starbucks today — it included a small outdoor gathering spot at the Post Road/Main Street corner.

With trees, bushes and benches, it may or may not have had an official name. It was a pleasant place to sit, hang out, people-watch, read or play guitar, and a perfect place for protests (Vietnam War, Nixon, you name it).

But because (supposedly) it was also a place to use and sell drugs, generations of Westporters called it “Needle Park.”

The Library owned the property. A deed ensured that it would remain open space in perpetuity. Indeed.

Sometime after the library left, and commercial real estate took over, the park turned into a concrete block. It’s now the entrance to the Pop’TArt gallery (which bears no blame for its current state; they inherited it).

All that remains are memories. Plus a sign — “Deeded Open Space. The public is welcome to this park and terrace” — which was last week’s Photo Challenge (click here to see). 

And which Pat Saviano, Lynn Untermeyer Miller, Dick Lowenstein and Morley Boyd all identified correctly.

Coincidentally, the tiny park was spruced up on Friday by the Westport Garden Club. It’s part of their #FridayFlowers campaign. Members promise to keep the pots — there are 2 — spruced up throughout summer.

(Photo/Topsy Siderowf)

This week’s Photo Challenge is a gorgeous one, by Mary Sikorski. If you know where in Westport you’d see this, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Mary Sikorski)

Winslow Park Plea: Dirt Bikers, Clean Up After Yourselves!

Deb Howland-Murray calls herself “a portrait artist who benefited tremendously from growing up in Westport’s artistic environment. After a sojourn for college and adventures, I returned to Westport. I have lived here for the past 35 years.” 

She writes:

Each spring people pour out of their houses and into nature, shedding months of cold the way a snake sheds its skin.

This year brings new significance to this outdoor migration: a heightened longing for beauty and distraction in the spring of COVID-19.

Maybe that’s why so many people flock to Winslow Park. They come not only to walk dogs, but to enjoy its 28 acres of sunny fields and dense woods. They are parents with children riding scooters and bikes, joggers, couples sitting in conversation on the park’s benches, and teenagers anxious to try their skills on the dirt bike jumps in one of the forested, trail-laced sections of the park.

The Winslow Park dirt bike course. (Photo/Deb Howland-Murray)

Winslow is a treasure. Now more than ever, it’s a breath of fresh air literally and figuratively. I’ve watched it come to life this spring, delighted in April’s little purple flowers, the massive trees leafing out in May, the fields that now read yellow with buttercups.

These are such a sharp contrast to the trash, broken glass and empty vape boxes carpeting the dirt bike section of the park.

Vape boxes litter the dirt bike area. (Photo/Deb Howland-Murray)

I like to watch the teenagers barreling down the course’s steep hill and becoming airborne on the ascent. But it saddens me that the fun is coupled with such disrespect for the surrounding environment, one that’s dotted with wonderful examples of human creativity as well as natural beauty.

The dirt bike course was created by enterprising teenagers, and adjacent to it there is a remarkable lean-to someone made from large branches. Next to the lean-to, a picnic table waits invitingly in the shade. I’ve seen people meditating there.

But who would want to stop there now? Who could bring their small children to play among the empty cans and vape boxes? Which paw will be the first to be sliced by glass shards? When will an unknowing puppy be drawn to the scent of food on a snack wrapper and make the unfortunate mistake of swallowing it?

Trash left on tables. The lean-to is in the back. (Photo/Deb Howland-Murray)

Don’t get me wrong. I love teenagers; I raised 5 of them. An avid skier and hunter-jumper rider, I’m all for the excitement of speed and the joy of flying through the air. I want the kids to have fun in the park. They seem like good kids, wearing their helmets and respectfully keeping a physical distance when they meet others on the trails. They’re polite.

I’m happy that they have a safe, outdoor place to congregate in small numbers at such a difficult and disappointing time to be a teenager. And I’m not interested in passing judgment on what they might or might not be drinking or smoking. That’s up to their parents.

But speaking directly to you, young people: Nature is not your trash can. The park is there for all to enjoy. Now especially, we need to add what we can to each other’s enjoyment.

The Winslow Park lean-to. (Photo/Tracy Porosoff)

Please, kiddos: Create whatever mess you want in your rooms – I certainly did. Just bring a bag with you to the park, collect your garbage and drop it in the trash cans when you exit.

We dog owners do the same. Believe me, collecting your garbage is not nearly as gross as what we are collecting and ferrying to those cans! But what if we didn’t? What if the area you enjoy was full of the kind of waste no one wants to step in?

So, c’mon. Litter-ally, place your drop in the massive bucket of consideration we need right now. It’s not too much to ask.

Pic Of The Day #1139

Tonight’s Compo Hill sunset (Photo/Lawrence Zlatkin)

Police Chief, 1st Selectman React To Minneapolis Death

Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas and 1st Selectman Jim Marpe issued this statement today:

We certainly can be counted among the many municipal and law enforcement leaders who were horrified and deeply disappointed by the recent tragedy in Minneapolis.

The Westport Police Department, like so many others across our country, has worked diligently to build relationships and trust within our communities; a trust which we and our national partners in law enforcement recognize must be incrementally earned and always carefully maintained. Fostering this trust among our community through a steadfast dedication to public service continues to be our top priority.

During difficult times such as these, it is important to reaffirm that the Westport Police Department remains resolutely committed to pursuing the goals of its mission statement through the fair and equitable treatment of all of those we encounter.

Marpe noted: “Westport’s commitment to fairness, equality and social justice is stronger than ever, and is reflected daily in the actions of our Police Department, as well as in all town departments and activities.”

COVID Roundup: Tennis, Golf, Fields News; Traffic Returns; Mexica Moves In; More


There’s plenty of good recreation news!

The tennis courts at Town Farm (North Compo Road) and Doubleday (behind Saugatuck Elementary School) open next Friday (June 5). Play is limited to singles, on only those courts with nets. For all tennis court rules and regulations, click here.

Beginning Monday (June 1), single rider and pull golf carts will be available at Longshore, through the 2 p.m. tee time. That ensures enough time for proper sanitation. Carts are limited, and available while supplies last. 

As of Friday (June 5), Longshore tee times begin at 7 a.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. They remain at 8 a.m. Mondays through Thursdays. Play is extended daily; the last tee time is 7 p.m.

And — to the delight of young athletes throughout town, and runners of all ages — fields at Wakeman, Staples High School (including the outdoor track) and Kings Highway Elementary School open for individual use and exercise on Monday (June 1).

No organized, competitive, pick-up team play, practices or games are allowed.  Groups can include no more than 5 people, and social distancing must be followed. Non-compliance may result in field closures, Parks & Recreation officials say.

NOTE: Jinny Parker (field hockey) Field at Staples, and PJ Romano Field at Saugatuck Elementary will be closed for the summer, due to construction.

Wakeman athletic fields


Every day you seen, sense and feel it: More and more activity, all around town.

Including traffic.

This was the scene yesterday on Wilton Road. A long line at the Post Road light — it’s almost a welcome sight!

(Photo/David Waldman)


It takes a lot of cojones to open a new restaurant in the midst of a pandemic

But that’s what the owners of Mexica are doing. The new spot — with similar cuisine — replaces Señor Salsa in the small Post Road West shopping center by Sylvan Lane.

Who doesn’t need a shot of tequila right now?!

(Photo/Cindy Mindell)

You know all those bottles and can you’ve been collecting since the coronavirus hit, and Stop & Shop closed their return center?

Bring ’em back. The doors are open once again.

Except 7 to 7:30 a.m., and 2 to 2:30 p.m. The room is closed then, for cleaning.


JL Rocks started at Bungalow. Now the luxury jeweler and home emporium are separate stores. But owners Jamie Camche and Wende Cohen still collaborate.

They’ve survived the Great Recession — and now, a retail apocalypse — by offering great quality, exemplary customer service, and a unique aesthetic.

Safe 1-on-1 appointments, FaceTime consultations, curbside pick-ups and shipping have kept their many loyal customers delighted.

Jamie and Wende are working together on a new project: the “City of Lights” collection. They created a series of slim, stackable rings, each highlighted with a stunning diamond. Available in 14K yellow, white and rose gold, the 5 rings are inspired by Parisian landmarks: the Arc de Triomphe, Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Palace of Versailles and Notre Dame.

So what if the coronavirus has canceled your European trip? It’s a lot less expensive to buy a beautiful ring. You’ll have it forever. And you’re helping 2 wonderful women, whose 2 stores — and close partnership — has brought joy to so many Westporters.

(The rings are available online at JL Rocks, and at Bungalow in Sconset Square.)

Jamie Camche and Wende Cohen .(Photo/Jen Goldberg for Private Portraits)


And finally … when Paul Simon wrote “America” in 1966, our nation was in the midst of convulsive change. Half a century later — battered by a pandemic, polarized by beliefs, ripped apart by race and class and so many other divisions — we’re still empty and aching. And we don’t know why.

Remembering Mark Graham

Mark Graham — native Westporter, former radio personality, and noted softball player — died this week. He was 64.

His many friends mourn the loss of a larger-than-life personality. With his father, Red Graham, he owned WMMM and Minuteman Travel. Mark spent many years on air, when 1260 AM was Westport’s local station.

Mark Graham

He was a longtime “BOSS” figure. It stands for Boys of Summer Softball, a long-running Sunday morning game behind Town Hall. Mark always stood out, in his St. Louis Cardinals uniform.

He was familiar too at the Fairfield County Hunt Club, wearing his Cards jacket and a cowboy hat.

“Mark was a gentleman, someone whose company I always enjoyed,” says Alan Neigher. “His stories of Westport in the 1950s and ’60s were unmatched for detail, humor and irony.

Neigher also calls him “a kind and generous man.” His Graham Family Foundation helped numerous local charities, in arts, education, physical disabilities and sports. The fund was started by his parents, Red and Peggy.

Dick Kalt spoke often with Mark about the “challenges and fun” of running a radio station in town. Dick calls him “a warm and committed person, with a great sense of humor.”

Mark studied speech, dramatic arts and journalism at the University of Missouri. After working at various radio stations in New York and Connecticut, he spent 1987-97 as co-owner and operator of WMMM. In addition to broadcasting, he worked in sales, and as general manager.

The Cardinals connection came about when he was overnight news anchor at KMOX in St. Louis. He was heard in 44 states, and throughout Canada.

Radio played a part in Mark’s marriage too. He met his wife Angela while broadcasting from Saugatuck’s Festival Italiano. They were married in 1990.

In addition to his wife, Mark is survived by his son Harrison, who recently graduated from New York University.

Funeral services will be announced later. To leave an online condolence, click here.

0*6*Art*Art*0 — Week 11 Gallery

Week 11 of our online gallery features another wide variety of local Westport artwork.

Watercolors, charcoal, photos, videos, even furniture-making — it’s all here in our regular Saturday feature.

Each week, you show off your creativity and spirit; each week, we gain insights into your COVID-filled moods.

Keep sending your work. Professional, amateur, old, young — we want your paintings, collages, sketches, photos, sculptures, cartoons, whatever. Student submissions are particularly welcome!

The only rule: It must be inspired by, reflective of, or otherwise related to the times we’re going through. Email dwoog@optonline.net.

“Empty Beach” (Martin Howard)

“Staying Strong” (Elizabeth Devoll)

Staples High School art teacher Angela Simpson says, “As part of distance learning, I make demo videos for my students. For the one on how to make a multi-color registered silk screen print using an adhesive film media, I created a print of my beloved dog, Teddy. The print was a hit at home. Now I’ve been ‘commissioned’ by my son to create a version printed on a black hoodie.”

“Backwards and in Heels” (Lawrence Weisman)

Amy Saperstein made this table in her garage workshop. She says, “I must be honest. It is extremely flimsy, and likely to collapse at any moment! I found the white branch in my yard, and had the wood for the top in the garage.”

“The Beach is My Happy Place” (Amy Schneider)

“Not Venice Carnival” (Lisa Weinstein)

“Unconnected Now” (Karen Weingarten)

Susan Lloyd says, “This is Saint Dymphna, an Irish gal with a horrible backstory; patron saint of depression and anxiety. I am not Catholic; I just like saints and their histories, and of course shells.”

A video tribute, from Rob Feakins:

Ann Chernow’s garden, near Main Street. “People walking by feel good seeing these,” she says. (Photo/James Walsh)

Roseann Spengler says, “Under house arrest like Cinderella, I have discovered new friends. Making them masks is more important than making them clothes.”

“Seagulls Above a Watercolor Sky” (Photo/Patricia McMahon)

Anne Craig Unravels The Yarn Bomber Mystery

The other day, I posted a story about Anne Craig and the “yarn bomber.”

Anne — a former Fox 5 New York reporter and Channel 8 New Haven news anchor — is familiar to Westporters. She’s now a Westport mom, no longer working full-time. But she loves reporting stories about our town.

The “yarn bomber” is familiar too — though not by name. Ever since the COVID crisis began, she’s decorated Westport with beautiful designs. Trees, utility poles, light stanchions — they’ve all been transformed in the dead of night, from something we never looked at to works of art. She brings inspiration, color and hope to us all.

One of the yarn bomber’s first works, at fire headquarters. (Photo/Molly Alger)

The “06880” story deepened Westport’s interest in the mysterious artist.

It also caught her attention.

Stealthily, anonymously, the knitter contacted Anne. She left a note at the reporter’s home, using kidnapper-style letters cut out of magazines.

The first note from the yarn bomber to Anne Craig.

They continued their super-secret conversations. Anne still did not know who the yarn bomber was. But — this time using a message in a (wine) bottle — she invited Anne to come along on her next mission.

Which is how she made her next video: a mini-documentary on the yarn bombing of Amis restaurant, in Bedford Square.

Working quickly late at night, in Bedford Square.

It was the knitter’s 25th project.

She’s still anonymous. But Anne’s film — complete with music, cut-away scenes and foreshadowing — is every bit as artistic and cool as the yarn bomber’s own gifts to Westport.

From the video: The yarn bomber at work.

Now you can see it. Just click below.

Then keep your eyes open, all over this beautiful, yarn-bombed town.