Pic Of The Day #1043

Levitt Pavilion: closed for winter (Photo/Larry Untermeyer)

Goodbye, Garelick & Herbs. Hello, GG & Joe’s.

After 6 years in Saugatuck Center, Garelick and Herbs is leaving.

Owner Jason Garelick told the Westport News, “I had a 5-year lease on our Saugatuck store and the past several months, we were going month-to-month, since our lease ended in 2019. It wasn’t drawing as many customers as it was in the past.

“Parking is tight in the area. You couldn’t get into the lot because of the train traffic. We were mostly only drawing customers from one section of Westport. In Saugatuck, you rely more on customers coming from the train station.

“Also, we were busier during the summer time. Closing a store is always a difficult decision and the area is great, but it just wasn’t worth it for us.”

The final day is Saturday, February 29. The flagship store in Southport, and the Greenwich location, will remain open.

Meanwhile, a new place is getting ready to open on Parker Harding Plaza. It’s near the rear door of Rye Ridge Deli, closer to TD Bank.

GG and Joe’s will feature acai bowls, coffee and toast. Yes, toast.

The sign in the window says they’ll open this winter.

They better hurry. Spring arrives in 24 days.

Tired Of Traffic? Drive To These Meetings!

If you’ve lived in Westport more than 12 seconds, you know the traffic here sucks.

And it’s getting exponentially worse.

Beyond bitching about it to your friends, neighbors and on “06880” though, what can you do?

Well, you can go to a meeting with your RTM members, and representatives of the Selectman’s Office, Public Works and the Police. They want to hear your concerns about traffic — not just vehicles, but pedestrians and bicyclists too.

 

Sessions are set up by RTM district. So you’ll talk about your actual neighborhood — not just the usual chokepoints.

All sessions take place in the Town Hall auditorium, at 7 p.m. The schedule:

  • Districts 2 & 3: Tuesday, March 3
  • Districts 1 & 4: Monday, March 9
  • Districts 6 & 8: Monday, March 16
  • Districts 5 & 7: Tuesday, March 31
  • District 9: Monday, April 13

Don’t know your district? Click here for a map.

There’s plenty of parking at Town Hall. But leave early. You never know about the traffic!

Waiting in line at the Imperial Avenue light.

Podcasts A-Plenty

Today is Podcast Day at the Westport Library.

Chip Stephens

At noon, yours truly introduces “06880: The Podcast.” Once a month, I’ll chat with an intriguing Westporter. We’ll talk about life in this wild, wacky, wonderful place we call home. Today’s guest is Chip Stephens: native Westporter, longtime Planning and Zoning Commission member, civic volunteer, and great raconteur.

Then at 6 p.m., Lindsay Czarniak and Marysol Castro chat for the weekly Persona podcast.

Lindsay Czarniak

Czarniak was the first anchor to serve as solo host for ESPN’s SportsCenter. She’s now a studio host for Fox Sports’ NASCAR coverage, and a sideline reporter on NFL games.

Castro is the in-stadium voice of the New York Mets, the first Latina in that role for a Major League Baseball team. She has been a weather anchor on “Good Morning America,” and “The Early Show,” as well as a reporter on ESPN.

Marysol Castro

Both podcasts will be available later in a variety of formats, including the library website and its social media. The Persona app can be downloaded wherever you get your podcasts.

The public is invited to both events, at the Library Forum.

 

Saving Main Street

Everyone talks about the empty storefronts on Main Street.

Evan Chevrier documented them.

The other day the 9-year Westport resident — a New York-based TV producer — went up and down the fabled artery, with a camera.

This is what he found:

“Most are quick to blame greedy landlords and their unsustainable rents,” he says. “And they may be right.

“But our only chance at saving Main Street is to take our fight to the people who can do something about it.

“Most building owners have no vested interest in the preservation of our downtown area. They only care about their bottom line. And for them an empty lot in Westport is barely a blip on the radar.

“It’s up to our town leadership to step up, and stop waiting around for things to get better on their own. And they need to do it before it’s too late, and Main Street becomes a ghost town.”

Thoughts? Is this a local government issue? Can town officials affect or impact landlords? Is there a citizen-oriented, out-of-the-box solution? Click “Comments” below.

A Better Chance Selection Process: Not As Easy As A-B-C

“Westport parents freak out when our kids go to college. These are boys 4 years younger, coming to a completely different environment. Homesickness is natural. But the kids — and their parents — handle it well.”

I don’t know if Daphne Lewis freaked out when her own 3 kids graduated from Staples High School. But now — as head of A Better Chance of Westport‘s scholar selection committee — she has an up-front, personal view of the amazing process by which academically gifted and highly motivated young men of color leave their homes and hometowns, live in Westport, and enter a new and very different high school as freshmen.

Then she watches with pride as — despite many obstacles and challenges — they thrive, graduate, and head confidently to college.

Lewis has spent 25 years in Westport. ABC has been an integral part of our town since 2002. But she did not know much about the organization until a few years ago when her youngest son James — now a senior at Yale — became good friends with a Staples track teammate, ABC scholar Luis Cruz. (He’s about to graduate from Boston College.)

Luis Cruz as a Staples High School senior, flanked by his track teammate and great friend Oliver Hickson, and his coach Laddie Lawrence.

As an empty nester, Lewis became ABC’s coordinator of volunteer drivers — men and women who take the scholars to various activities, doctors’ appointments, friends’ houses, or wherever they need to go.

In her new role she’s in the midst of finding the next 2 young men who will join ABC’s long list of smart, talented, creative scholars.

Getting chosen for the national ABC program is an arduous task for 8th graders. Yet it’s not easy for ABC of Westport to get the cream of the crop either.

There are 300 ABC programs in the US. But the vast majority are in boarding or private day schools.

Only 20 or so are in public high schools, like Staples.

That makes us attractive to ABC candidates and their families. With no tuition, they don’t have to worry about financial aid.

The living arrangements — 8 young men share Glendarcy House just down the road from Staples, with resident directors — and the opportunity to spend weekends with host families may be more personal than dormitory living.

A community of volunteers helps Glendarcy Hosue function like a true family. (Photo/Susan Woog Wagner)

But the names and cachets of private schools can be powerful drawing cards. In addition, the idea of “public school” may be anathema to boys and their parents whose own experiences with them may be less than positive.

Which is why the selection process — bringing the strongest candidates, and their families — to see our school and town for themselves is so crucial.

Some youngsters first find out about the national ABC program from guidance counselors. Sometimes their parents are searching for a better educational opportunity for their kids. Either way, the process begins more than a year before 9th grade.

The national staff reviews applications. This year, they sent 31 to Westport.

Lewis and her committee examined each closely. Which of these boys, they wondered, had the potential to survive the rigors of our academically challenging high school? Which were involved in activities that Staples also offered? Which seemed to be the types who could meet strangers easily, advocate for themselves, and adapt to the new, very suburban and white environment of Westport?

In his 4 years as an ABC scholar, Manny Ogutu became part of the Propp and Sherman extended family.

Of course, Westport was not the only ABC program that received those applications. Our top candidates are also being courted by private schools.

Lewis’ committee narrowed the list. Then they invited 12 applicants — and their families — to Westport. Ten accepted.

ABC of Westport pays for the visits: transportation, meals, and an overnight stay at the Westport Inn.

In January, the first group arrived. They began with lunch at the Senior Center. There was an introduction to Westport’s ABC program, and informal meetings with board members and host parents.

A tour of the town followed (students and parents were taken separately). Then everyone gathered at Glendarcy House, to meet the current scholars and resident directors. The boys stayed for dinner; parents were taken to a restaurant.

The current scholars’ impressions are an important part of the selection process, Lewis notes.

The 2019-20 A Better Chances scholars.

On Monday, the students went to Staples. They spent the day visiting classes with the school’s Ambassadors (fellow teenagers).

“They feel very welcomed at Staples,” Lewis says. “They talk to a lot of people. They are very positive about that experience.”

Afterward, there were interviews in private homes with committee members. Meanwhile, their parents were given a tour of the school. (Full disclosure: I led the tour last month, and will give the next 2. If the applicants are half as amazing as their parents, in terms of motivation, insightful questions and energy, we’ve got a great group to choose from.)

It’s a whirlwind 28 hours. Then the ABC board really gets to work.

They need to make sure their offers are to boys who will fit in well — with the house, the school and the town. But they also need to make them soon enough, so they’re competitive with the private schools.

The process is sometimes completed by early April. Sometimes it’s not finalized until late May.

“It’s a lot of work,” Lewis says. “A lot of thought goes into it. We don’t take these decisions lightly.

“But it’s so much fun meeting the boys and their families. And it’s so difficult to choose.”

For nearly 2 decades, A Better Chance of Westport has chosen well. And the young men they’ve chosen, who then choose to come here, have gotten a great deal out of their decision.

But even more, they enrich our school and community beyond measure.

(Funds to bring potential scholars and their families here — and to run Glendarcy House, and the rest of the A Better Chance of Westport program — come almost entirely through donations. This year’s Dream Event annual major fundraiser is set for Saturday, March 14, 6:30 pm at Rolling Hills Country Club in Wilton. Click here for tickets. Among the highlights of the dinner: speeches by graduates and alumni. Click below to hear then-senior Emerson Lovell’s talk.)

Pic Of The Day #1042

Rogers Septic Tanks, Post Road

Photo Challenge #269

Last week’s pre-Presidents Day Photo Challenge featured Anne Bernier’s shot of a plaque, honoring George Washington’s November 11, 1789 visit to Westport. (His 4th time here, though his only one as president.)

So where was the old Marvin Tavern — and where is the plaque today? (Click here for the photo.)

As Morley Boyd, Peter Barlow and Amy Schneider quickly noted, it stood on what we now call Post Road West, near Kings Highway South. Specifically, the plaque is at #290. That’s the United Food & Commercial Workers building, next to the empty UBS headquarters. Probably the only people who see the plaque are in the parking lot. Not a lot of foot traffic there.

According to Woody Klein’s history of Westport, President Washington spent the night of November 11, 1789 at the inn of Captain Ozias Marvin. His wife Sarah and her daughters cooked up a mammoth meal: “loaves of brown bread, pies, the finest vegetables from their farm, huge roasts hanging from an open fire.”

However, President Washington asked only for a bowl of bread, and milk. (The rest of his party enjoyed the feast.) In his diary, Washington called it “not a good house, though the people of it were disposed to do all they could to accommodate me.”

Today’s Photo Challenge seems pretty easy.

(Photo/Peter Tulupman)

Obviously, it’s 157 Riverside Avenue.

So here’s the question: Why is this a Photo Challenge?

If you know, click “Comments” below.

[OPINION] Eggs Cartons, Over Easy

Alert “06880” reader/ardent preservationist Bob Weingarten has been thinking about recycling — not just old homes, but egg cartons. He writes:

Whenever I go to a Westport supermarket to buy eggs, I see 3 different methods to packaging. (The exception is Trader Joe’s, which only sells eggs in cardboard cartons.)

Eggs are packaged in either Styrofoam, plastic with a paper advertisement on top, or cardboard cartons. Prices range from about $2.29 to over $6. Cardboard packaged eggs are the least expensive.

But that’s not the issue.

I’m concerned about the type of packaging used for eggs. Styrofoam and plastic cartons are non-recyclable; cardboard cartons can be recycled. Non-recyclable waste is a big — and costly — issue.

(Photo/Bob Weingarten)

I talked with RTM members Dick Lowenstein and Andrew Colabella. Andrew said that enforcing a town ordinance to restrict egg carton packaging is not possible. A packaging ordinance can only be enforced if the eggs were packaged on town premises.

I believe we need to do something.  There are 3 alternatives.

  1. Enact a town ordinance. I think this is possible. Westport passed an ordinance banning plastic bags, although they were not created in Westport.
  2. Encourage residence to only purchase eggs in cardboard cartons.  I switched to cardboard recently, and have no problems with the eggs. After using all the eggs, I recycle the cardboard carton. Very easy!
  3. Encourage our supermarkets to only sell eggs in a cardboard carton, as Trader Joe’s has done.

The use of cardboard cartons does not affect the taste of eggs. But it does reduce the amount of waste we place in landfills, and saves the town money for waste disposal.

Pic Of The Day #1041

Clouds over Compo Cove (Photo/Matt Murray)