Bring Back Needle Park!

After the recent removal of cherry trees and ivy, Westport’s attention has been focused on the former YMCA’s former Bedford building.

Across the street, meanwhile, a sterile little plaza just sits there.

It was not always thus. Back in the day — when the Library occupied the space now filled with Freshii and Starbucks — the corner of the Post Road and Main Street was an actual park. Westporters enjoyed benches, flowers, and a fountain donated by the Sheffer family.

In the 1960s it became known as Needle Park. That’s where Westport’s alleged heroin users — both of them — allegedly shot up. In reality, it was just a great hangout for high school kids smoking a little weed.

I defy you to find anyone shooting up in this photo.

I defy you to find anyone shooting up in this photo.

Now — after several renovations (not “improvements”) — the place is a monument to concrete. It’s even less inviting than the “plazas” New York developers built in exchange for adding 30 more stories to their glass monuments.

Those developers did everything they could to make their public spaces unusable.

The latest incarnation of the old Needle Park does the same.

Library park

As alert “06880” reader Remy Chevalier points out, one of the benches is not level with the ground. That, he says, is “a nasty little trick developers use when they don’t actually want anybody sitting on them and loitering.”

A crooked -- and hardly welcoming -- bench. That's a level on top, showing that it's not level.

A crooked — and hardly welcoming — bench. That’s a level on top, showing that it’s not level.

Remy publishes a great blog, called Greenburbs. It shows what towns like Westport can look like if people in power really care about how human beings interact with their environment.

And make no mistake: Whoever is responsible for that grim “park” across the street from the old Y/new Bedford Square clearly abused his power.

7 responses to “Bring Back Needle Park!

  1. In the day, we just called it “the Park” and Beth Smollin was always there with her radio covered with Chickita Bananna stickers providing music for all. RIP Sunny!

  2. Since the latest work done to the park was to add the handicapped ramps, I wonder if there was a requirement to also add the hard surfaces which would make it easier to get from the curb to the ramp.

    But I certainly agree that this little corner isn’t very welcoming to sit and have lunch for example. On the other hand, the view is usually bumper-to-bumper traffic….

  3. Michael Calise

    When the Library sold the building they owned the park but the town owned the land under part of their building and they needed it to sell their building and finance the new building. I argued for a swap. The park for the land. Unfortunately the library lobby was too strong and all we got was an agreement for public access which has been poorly enforced.

  4. Elisabeth Keane

    Remember when Christina’s Restaurant was in that building? The entrance was through the little park which was attractive with plantings, an arbor and nice benches. A local artist (I no longer remember who) created lovely murals inside the restaurant. The view of traffic from the little park was somewhat obscured by the trellis and plantings. It was a nice place to sit for a few minutes before resuming one’s itinerary. For most of the year the weather was pleasant enough so that if we had to wait a few minutes for a table on a busy day we often chose to wait in the little park. The current incredibly unappealing space need not be so despite hard surfaces and ramp. One could plant something appropriate for the site and add proper benches if One so desired which, clearly, One does not. With all the talk about enhancing Main Street’s visual appeal, is this little park included in the conversation or will it remain the sore thumb of the streetscape?

  5. Dick Lowenstein

    I’ll never forget the Saturday morning, 30 years ago, when I saw a man sleeping off his hangover and next to his head was an empty bottle of Chivas Regal. Only in Westport!

  6. I spent alot of time in that park as a teenager with 2 great guys. Dana Dorta and Jack Rea, both gone now.