RIP “Needle Park”

In the 1960s, the small park on the corner of the Post Road and Main Street was called “Needle Park.”  Supposedly, teenagers shot up heroin there.

In reality, the spot — adjacent to what was then the library, graced with benches, flowers and a fountain donated by the Sheffer Family — was a great place for playing guitar, protesting the war, hanging out and making out.

The library moved across the street.  Shops and banks (and Starbucks) moved in.  The park fell into disuse.

In May, it was bulldozed.  A construction worker assured me that, after renovation, it would still look like a park.

More like a parking lot.

“Public access” continues to be guaranteed, I am told.  But the only “public” that will ever set foot on that uninviting expanse of concrete that once was Needle Park is whoever goes into whatever store happens to have its door there.

29 responses to “RIP “Needle Park”

  1. Billy Nistico

    If I remember correctly, there is a deed restriction on that property in relation to having that area remain a public place/park. I wonder if anything can be done?

    • The restriction apparently only guarantees public access. So anyone can go into the new “park.” And you can eat your lunch on the concrete steps. Enjoy!

  2. …and with the P&Z so focused on downtown, it’s hard to believe they neglected to protect the park. Maybe if we let Waldman build a 6 story parking lot, they’ll put a bench back in the park. Sad.

    • T I seldom blog but felt compelled in this instance. I was told by the architect that benches have been ordered and will be placed in the park. The prior rendition of this park had the same amount of green space and i think the new steps coming off the sidewalk make the entire park more attractive and inviting. Lastly, and maybe i am wrong, but i think it was Mr. Waldman who donated all the benches which run up and down the street. If not for developers like the owners of the park in question and Mr. Waldman, our downtown would continue to deteriorate and loose its charming new england feel. I like the new Gray Goose spot and Urban Outfitters, I think the Nike store, West Elm, Jack Wills, Theory, the new Gap and brooks brothers building, and all the other new national and mom and pops stores are great. Get a grip people and enjoy the fantastic town you have instead of sitting at home and blogging about the actions and improvements of others.

  3. That is a bummer. Not the contractor’s fault but still a bummer. Where’s the soul.

  4. Ah, I remember Needle Park well. I grew up in that park!!! So many of us hung out there in the late 60’s, early 70’s, eating pizza from the Westport Pizzera and Egg Rolls from some chinese resturant that used to be downtown. I remeber when Main street was a two way street!! Park sure doesn’t look the same. I was home in October. A lot has changed.

  5. If ya wanted proof that “David’s Vision” can’t be trusted, here’s the poster. 🙂

    • “David” wasn’t involved with this project.

      This project had to go through dual meetings of the architecture review board and the historic commission…those meetings are and continue to be public. In the future, please attend these meetings so the needs of property owners and residents (and whoever wants to participate) can be addressed.

      Personally, I think this is an improvement over the existing, but a lot more could have been done.

  6. That is so sad. Another example of business and profits winning over something to benefit most of the people.

  7. As a child in the 60’s I remember when the building on the corner of Riverside Ave/Wilton Rd/Wright St and the Post Rd. sprang up from nowhere based on variances granted to developers years before that. Then it was the house on Gorham Island. This was over 40 years ago. The horse has left the barn in Westport for quite some time now. Why was Sherwood Square renamed Sconset Square? Probably because some NY based real estate marketer thought the many addled New Yorkers bound for the Cape would get lost and spend their money in Westport instead. “Sherwood is a meaningless name, time to rebrand it!” Never mind that the name Sherwood goes back hundreds of years in Westport’s history. I know! Let’s rename Jesup Green to Jesus Green! We’ll only have to change one letter on the signage. We have our memories, “No they can’t take that away from me.”

  8. It does not matter what the contractor did; there would be whining and wailing from those who have many opinions, but no skin in the game.

    • Actually, as a longtime Westporter I feel I have a lot of skin in the game. Needle Park used to be part of the Westport Public Library. It’s a short walk away from the old fire headquarters which is soon to be the facade of an eagerly awaited mall. A short walk from that is the old Town Hall, which aspires to be a furniture store. And, then another short walk up the Post Road is Barron’s South – once private, now public open space that will soon be a nursing home. All of these properties were once cherished town assets, and now for reasons good, bad and perhaps short sighted they no longer are (we may own Barron’s South after the nursing home is built, but few will cherish it). For decades, all of Westport has and apparently continues to shed a lot of skin.

      With so much focus on “improving downtown”, it would have nice had the P&Z stepped in and actually done something, to you know, improve downtown. Doing something/anything to try and stop the removal of a public park in the literal heart of Westport would have been a good start. Mr. Corwin obviously felt differently.

      • I have lived in Westport for over 30 years. Mere longevity does not count as skin in the game. The needs of the community have changed and those needs manifest themelves in the marketplace. Those who wish to maintain the status quo fail to recognize the reality of a dynamic community. (Now is about the time someone laments the passing of the Remarkable Book Store.)

        • It was a park at the corner of Main Street and Rt. #1 that was lost for nothing. The only thing that has to do with the marketplace is that those empowered to do something about it willingly sacrificed it to the marketplace while we, the residents of Wesptort got bupkis in return. The marketplace is not an invisible force that happens magically.

          The P&Z and the 1st Selectmen have been obsessed with downtown development for a while now – funny how they missed this.

          • It was not “lost” for nothing. Someone paid to gain ownership and make the renovations. How much did you put up, speaking of bupkis? Would you prefer that commercial real estate remain vacant? How would that help the town? Land use restrictions are a form of taking; they reduce the value of real estate, and for what end? You missed your opportunity to mention the Remarkable Book Store.

            • I contend that a park in the center of town is a good thing that benefits the entire town. Our P&Z has shown a willingness to re-write zoning laws to benefit a specific few land owners (perhaps what one would call a form of “taking” from the public – no magical marketplace there). Had there been a will, a way could been found to benefit both the town and the real estate owner. Obviously, there was no will and thus no way. Fortunately, elections have consequences – at least for Mr. Corwin – as we found out last night.

              • The park may benefit some, but not everyone. You decry government intervention into the marketplace, and then you invite more. Maybe less would be better.

                • I defy government intervention that benefits the few at the expense of the many and ignores opportunities to benefit the many if it my inconvenience a select few. That is not a concept I expect many of my Westport neighbors to comprehend. …nice beach and golf course, though.

  9. All the ‘park’ does is provide a more prominent access to the store.

  10. Hell, Needle Park was a dump and looked like hell. I used to “smoke” there and watch the gals walk by. Nostaligia is good until it clouds your memory. I am beginning to like the changes I see downtown.

  11. Wow. I totally forgot about that place. It was where the “burnouts” hung out in the 80’s and then I started hanging out there. When I ran out of money playing video games at the Smoke shop and dined and dashed at Westport Pizzeria I would hang there with my friends waiting for a girl to walk by trying to look cool. So funny that I ever thought there was a “bad area” in Westport although I do remember Jessup green getting a little dicey by that brown wooden min-bus stop. Seemed like a lot of bad stuff would go down over there. Probably all in my 12 year old head.

  12. The Dude Abides

    The Crest drive-in was a bad ass place at night. “Rumbles” all the time. Of course, in the 50’s, they used to have a fight where the Police Station is now every Saturday afternoon following the “picture show.” Of course, that is when we actually had a movie theatre in town as well as bowling alley, driving range, hockey rink, trampoline center and Longshore. It was a kid’s paradise. Now? I guess they drink at Mom’s mansion?

  13. Wendy Crowther

    I remember “Needle Park” but never set foot in it as a teenager. Photo number two shows an improvement made to that same corner around 20-25 years ago. The design was meant to better match the opposite corner (the one the Y occupies) – i.e. brick, more foliage, some curves. I remember the proposed design being discussed at Y staff meetings when I worked there. That 2nd version of the park was a huge improvement from Needle days, and it had a prettier, safer vibe but it was never highly utilized. I haven’t seen the “new corner” yet because I hardly ever go downtown anymore. Based on the photo, it looks like its new purpose is to create a more obvious “front door” for the tenant that occupies the store above the concrete steps (haven’t a clue what store that is). I haven’t been in that retail space since it was Cafe Christina – still miss that place.

  14. My junkie friends never went there anyway.

  15. Who gave Needle Park it’s name anyway, and why Needle Park?