Roundup: Affordable Housing, Gilbertie’s, I-95 Noise …

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Last night’s meeting on a 5-year plan for affordable housing — co-sponsored by the Democratic, Republican, Save Westport Now and Coalition for Westport political parties — drew some interesting comments.

Among them: a proposal to install metered parking downtown. The proceeds — estimated to be $1 million or so annually — could be used to create a substantial affordable housing fund.

With Westport’s credit rating, the town could borrow $20 million.

1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker and Planning & Zoning Commission chair Danielle Dobin at last night’s Town Hall meeting on affordable housing. (Photo/Jimmy Izzo)

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A couple of months ago, “06880” gave a shout-out to Gilbertie’s Herbs & Garden Center. This year, Westport’s 2nd-oldest family business celebrates its 100th anniversary.*

At the time, they were beginning to plan a huge celebration. Now they’re ready to announce details.

The free bash is set for June 4, from noon to 5 p.m. at the garden center on Sylvan Lane South.

The very popular Mystic Bowie’s Talking Dreads will headline the bash. Reggae artists Kale Wale will warm up the crowd.

There’s a petting zoo for kids, and artisans and craft vendors for older folks.

Also on tap: a town-wide scavenger hunt too, with prizes. It will focus on the town’s most historic business, ending (of course) at Gilbertie’s.

Plus 3 food trucks, an ice cream truck and beer vendors.

Antonio Gilbertie — who arrived in Saugatuck in 1919 from Italy, and started out selling flowers from a Sylvan greenhouse — probably listened to opera, not reggae. But he’ll probably be looking down from above, with a proud smile.

*Who’s #1? Gault — by a long shot. The energy company was founded in 1863 — nearly 60 years before Gilberties!

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“06880” reader Jim McKay* wants to raise a ruckus.

His subject: noise.

Jim writes: “In 1958, I-95 sliced through Saugatuck, and other areas of Westport.

“A lot has changed since then. There’s more people, more traffic, more trucks. And more noise.

“The Connecticut Department of Transportation has a number of redesign plans for sections of 95. They include Greenwich, and Westport/Norwalk.

“A few days ago, under pressure from Greenwich town leaders and citizens, Governor Lamont asked CT DOT to revisit the Greenwich project and include possible noise mitigation plans.

“Now is the time for our Westport town leaders and citizens to demand equal revisions to the existing plans, to make sure it include noise mitigation.

“Noise has gotten worse. It will continue to do so. We have a unique opportunity to include noise mitigation before the project goes forward. It must be an incremental cost now — not a massive capital project 20 years in the future.”

*Not the sportscaster. He died in 2008.

Traffic — and noise — have increased since I-95 (then called the Connecticut Turnpike) neared completion in 1957,

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Staples Players’ production of “The Descendants” drew raves. Audiences old and (particularly) young delighted in a never-bef0re-seen production of Disney’s tale.

It’s a tradition for the high school troupe to raise awareness of important causes — and funds — at their shows. This year was especially important.

Costumed actors were on hand as audiences left the theater. It turned into a great photo opportunity for children, and their new high school heroes.

Their parents gave generously. Over 2 weekends, Players collected $8,400 for Save the Children’s Ukraine relief efforts.

Quinn Mulvey (Mal), and a new friend. (Photo/Kerry Long)

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On Saturday, a Westporter was out for a run. A few yards over the Fairfield line, where Old Road becomes Wakeman Lane, he spotted a car balanced on a stone wall, halfway into the woods.

That was bad enough. But the kicker is the bumper sticker.

It reads: “Please Be Patient. Student Driver.”

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There are matching grants. And then there are amazing matching grants.

Two anonymous donors have told Westport Country Playhouse they’ll match every dollar raised — up to $150,000 (!) — between now and June 30.

That’s great news, as the historic theater enters its 91st season. They’ve got an ambitious set of plays planned, and will leverage the funds for greatest artistic and educational impact.

Tax deductible contributions can be made online, by mail (Development Department, 25 Powers Court, Westport CT 06880), or by texting DONATE to 475-453-3553. To learn more about the perks of donating at various levels, click here. For more on this matching drive, click here.

A historic theater has a historic opportunity to raise funds. (Photo/Robert Benson)

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There are runners. And then there are amazing runners.

Monday’s New York Times included a story on Oz Pearlman. He’d just run 19 loops of Central Park — 116 miles — in a single day.

Because “06880”‘s tagline is “Where Westport meets the world,” there is (of course) a local connection.

The main photo showed Oz with a group of runners. Just to his right — wearing a blue-and-yellow hat, to match Oz’s Ukrainian-color outfit — was Alex Freedman.

Alex Freedman (blue and yellow cap) next to Oz Pearlman. (Photo/Hilary Swift for the New York Times)

Freedman — the 1996 Staples High School salutatorian — is now back in town, and running with the local Joggers Club. He is also a founding member of the Central Park Running Club. Both are led by another Westporter, Dave Menoni.

Freedman runs with a third group, the Henwood Hounds. That’s where he met Oz. Freedman joined in for “a small part” of Oz’s Central Park (and record-breaking) journey. (It was also a fundraiser for Save the Children’s Ukrainian relief. Oz busted well past his goal of $100,000.)

When he’s not outside, Freedman is the director of Advantage Testing of Westport,

Notice I resisted the impulse to say he “runs” the highly regarded educational counseling and private tutoring organization.

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Savvy + Grace’s new sign has brought color to that stretch of Main Street, and smiles to passersby.

Most probably don’t know that it’s the work of a noted artist.

Jana Ireijo is famous for her “vanishing murals.” Created with charcoal from wildfires, they are meant to disappear — just as the coral reefs, manta rays and other living things she portrays are, unfortunately, dying out.

Ireijo — a member of the Artists Collective of Westport — has created vanishing murals here. She drew a koala bear opposite Design Within Reach, and a sperm whale on a Winslow Park fallen tree trunk.

She’s worked far from Westport too — in Santa Fe and Maui, among other places.

The peonies on Jana’s Savvy + Grace sign is not meant to disappear. It’s just a colorful addition to a bright downtown spot.

PS: Savvy + Grace offers great custom and pre-made Easter baskets. Click here to see.

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Among his many civic efforts — all of them volunteer, pro bono — attorney Ken Bernhard is a state Department of Agriculture animal (victim’s) advocate. He appears in court proceedings involving animal cruelty cases.

At yesterday’s Westport Rotary Club meeting, he talked about his work. He connected animal abuse with spousal abuse and other crimes.

Bernhard noted:

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.

“When humans act with cruelty, we characterize them as ‘animals.’ Yet the only animal that displays cruelty is humanity.

“Animals are the real victims on this earth. They didn’t declare war, they don’t have weapons, and they don’t want to destroy humans or impose religion. Their only crime is they exist.”

Ken Bernhard, at yesterday’s Westport Rotary Club meeting.

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The Fresh Market ospreys get most of Westport’s love.

But they’re not the only ones in town.

Today’s “Westport … Naturally” feature is a two-fer. Here’s one of the Longshore ospreys:

(Photo/Patricia McMahon)

And a pair at Burying Hill:

(Photo/Alan Phillips)

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And finally … all his life, Julian Lennon refused to sing “Imagine.”

The only time he could consider singing his father’s signature song, he said, would be “the end of the world.”

The war in Ukraine is not that (yet). But it spurred John Lennon’s 59-year-old son to reconsider.

It is “an unimaginable tragedy,” he said. “As a human, and as an artist, I felt compelled to respond in the most significant way I could.”

He performed at a #StandUpForUkraine funddraiser in Prague on Saturday. The event raised $10 billion in pledges for Ukrainian refugees.

Imagine!

 

 

 

9 responses to “Roundup: Affordable Housing, Gilbertie’s, I-95 Noise …

  1. Why penalize downtown shoppers, merchants with a parking tax to fix an affordable housing problem? Why not place a $50K fee for any Demo permits or houses over 5K square feet. 20 of those a year and you have the $1 million into an AH fund. Places the tax burden closer to where the problem lies.

    • That would be $50k for a new construction permit, not for existing homes.

      • Good luck with that, Mr. McCarthy.

        In 2008 when the Town was considering the adoption of a Demolition Ordinance, I too, urged that Demolition Permits carry a hefty fee (not $50,000.00) to be directed to the Town’s Open Space fund.

        Under today’s circumstances, a decade and a half later, your comment about using the fees for affordable housing makes even more sense.

  2. Richard Johnson

    If the town wants to have input on what kind of affordable housing is available, what it looks like, and where it’s located, it should absolutely take an active role in that process. Hartford has made clear that otherwise they will hand the reigns over to private developers for unchecked for-profit development in exchange for a handful of affordable units. Crazy, but this massive transfer of wealth to housing developers is being championed by so-called progressives, including Will Haskell. An important issue in the election to replace him.

    As for highway noise, unfortunately barriers prove to do very little for noise except within maybe 50-100feet, can make noise worse in neighborhoods that were previously quiet by bouncing noise around, and are extremely costly. It’s expensive window dressing. I’d take an improved I-95 on a faster timeline over delays in a futile attempt to address noise any day.

  3. As for i95, why is no one thinking about fixing the traffic issues… add a lane or allow the shoulder(s) to be used during peak times! Tons of states do it that way! There is no forward thinking going on, just how to spend money and keep up with things as-is, while padding the pockets of some companies…

  4. Michael Shafrir

    So many ways to improve downtown — many of which should/would/could reduce the number of cars — and we come up with parking meters???

  5. Thank you, Ken Bernhard, for your defense of animals in cruelty cases, for the quotes you shared and for no longer being a member of the America destroying Republican party.

  6. I wonder if Ken Bernhard is a vegetarian?

  7. David J. Loffredo

    There’s such inefficient use of land with all the massive surface lots around the Westport Train Station, there are multiple options to build residential / commercial / parking structures and inject more vibrancy into Westport’s “second downtown”.

    I realize the Town operates the lots under a long term lease from the State, but there’s a solution here willing to be uncovered.

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