Over the past few days, IRIS welcomed 40 Afghan evacuees. Forty-six more will arrive this week. That’s 96 people — 24 or families — in 17 days.
All came with just 48 hours’ notice to iRIS.
They join 42 Afghans who came in August. Another 100 are scheduled to be here next month — and 100 more in December.
An Afghan father and daughter, resettled in Connecticut.
A few arrivals spent a couple of nights in hotels. One stayed with a church. Some are living with Afghan families they knew back home, while IRIS tries to find apartments.
Many went directly into housing that IRIS signed leases for in August.
But 43 people — mostly mothers with children — remain hiding in Afghanistan. IRIS is organizing money drops to keep them fed.
Twenty-seven community groups around Connecticut are welcoming refugees. But 50 to 60 more groups are needed (including the rest of New England). For information on sponsorships, click here.
To learn more, watch the video below:
IRIS notes that paperwork to get Afghan families employed takes a long time. The organization feeds them, and pays rent, until work papers are finalized. IRIS needs funds to help — and to pay their own staff.
Last week, I asked the 3 candidates for first selectman to respond to 10 questions about the job — and Westport.
I tried to make them broad enough for a variety of answers, specific enough so that we’d get a sense of their ideas. I tried to mix heavy with light, medium length with short.
Here, in inverse alphabetical order — hey, I’m a “W” — are their responses.
Jennifer Tooker (Republican)
Top 3 issues facing Westport (in order) – just a list, not details:
Addressing the increased traffic and demands on infrastructure
Handling the ongoing effects of the pandemic on residents’ health and mental well-being
Managing the damaging 8-30g state statute and the increased potential for state overreach into local zoning decision-making
Any solutions? (100 words max):
Create a Traffic Advisory and Neighborhood Safety Commission with representatives from each of the town’s RTM 9 districts and town officials, to provide real-time feedback and solutions for traffic, pedestrian, cycling and safety issues across all our neighborhoods.
Strengthen the programming of the Westport Together alliance in coordination with our schools, PTAs and non-profit organizations to ensure that everyone has access to the resources and support they need to address ongoing mental health and wellness challenges from the pandemic.
Urge our state legislators to effectively advocate for Westport’s local control over zoning and development while proactively advancing affordable housing solutions locally.
First thing you’ll do on your first day in office: Meet with the town’s department heads, discuss their operational priorities, and set a positive, collaborative tone for open communication and dialogue in Town Hall. We will support our town employees so, they in turn, can best serve our residents.
Your go-to restaurant: There are so many to choose from! I’m partial to whatever my family is in the mood for on any given day.
Favorite spot at Compo Beach:
On the stretch of beach across from the Soundview parking lot.
Best Westport “tradition”: Westport is steeped in tradition. I love them all, but two of my very favorites are the Memorial Day Parade and the 4th of July Fireworks at Compo Beach.
Starbucks, Dunkin’ or somewhere else?
I drink coffee all day long, and there probably isn’t a coffee place in town I don’t visit!
You’re giving a tour of town. What’s the first place to show off …Compo Beach
… and the one place you’d avoid?
The intersection at Route 33 and Post Road West.
In 10 words or less, why should we vote for you?
Proven leader, experienced manager, best temperament for the job.
Top 3 issues facing Westport (in order) – just a list, not details: Traffic, downtown,Infrastructure
Any solutions? (100 words max): Check out SteinbergSavinforWestport.com. Use of smart technology and hands-on approach with DOT to address traffic flow, pedestrian/bicyclist safety and problem intersections; transform downtown by embracing the river, linking parks and walkways, moving Jesup Green and reimagining Parker Harding; fix aging schools, Longshore and deal with growing resilience/flooding problem with Resilience Commission, homeowner education and loan/assessment program to fix ancient pipes and culverts.
First thing you’ll do on your first day in office:
Reopen Town Hall to all citizens
Your go-to restaurant:
Favorite spot at Compo Beach:
Under trees toward western end of South beach
Best Westport “tradition”:
Volunteering to help others
Starbucks, Dunkin’ or somewhere else? Dunkin’ but wife is Starbucks, just like I’m Beatles and she’s Stones
You’re giving a tour of town. What’s the first place to show off …? Compo
… and the one place you’d avoid?
I-95 at rush hour(s)
In 10 words or less, why should we vote for you?
I’m passionate and determined to make Westport better than ever.
When Kerry Liles registered her daughter Molly for kindergarten at Greens Farms Elementary, Marguerite Rossi encouraged signing up for Girl Scouts too. Remembering her own great 7 years as a Scout in Long Island, Kerry figured, Why not?
As she did, Marguerite said, “You’re on the wrong side of the table. We need volunteers!”
Thirteen years later, Molly is still a Girl Scout. Kerry is still the leader. And though other activities, moves away from Westport — and life — have whittled the numbers down from 21 to 7, that group is still very active. They’re very tight. And the tale of Troop 50048 is very, very cool.
An early Girl Scout cookies sale. Kerry Liles stands in back.
Those first years with Brownies were “like herding kittens,” Kerry recalls. The girls planted daffodils at GFS, did crafts, and — most importantly — became friends.
As they graduated to full Girl Scouts, their horizons widened. Their activities broadened.
“Anything you can think of, my girls have done,” Kerry says proudly. That includes volunteering at Homes for the Brave, Senior Center and Gillespie Center; helping clean up Long Island Sound; collecting items for women in need; sunrise hikes; weeks at Camp Jewell, and learning first aid and CPR.
Back in the day, at Camp Jewell.
One of the best connections has been with Norwalk’s Open Doors shelter. From 6th through 10th grade the girls hosted Halloween parties, brought holiday gifts, helped out on special occasions, and created bonds with young kids.
When COVID struck and indoor activities became impossible, the troop headed to Smith Richardson Preserve. In cold, windy weather they weeded, cut vines, mended fences — and grew even tighter.
During the pandemic, activities like these provided important outlets for energy, and a way to stay together. One day, they arrived at the preserve to find their tools had been stolen. They sat for an hour, just talking.
“It’s a very diverse group,” Kerry notes. “But they really take care of each other.”
They take special care of Olivia Ross. She’s in a wheelchair and non-verbal. But from a young age, the Scouts learned sign language to communicate. They’ve literally carried her up a mountain. They admire her, and she loves them.
Olivia’s mother Victoria says that Girl Scouts “opened up a world to her, with no judgments. No mountain would go unclimbed for Olivia.”
She calls Kerry “an extraordinary leader and friend.”
The troop’s relationship with the Open Door Shelter is long-lasting and strong. In this photo from last winter’s party Kerry Liles is in the back, 5th from left.
Kerry downplays her role in the troop’s longevity and success. But, parent Stacie Curran says, “she has created a sisterhood with these gals. They may not be best pals at school, but when they get together Kerry has guided them in building great bonds through different life experiences. They’ll carry those bonds through life.
“Kerry has taught them kindness, care, toughness, watching out for each other, doing for others, being there for those in need, and life skills — it’s endless!”
Boy Scouts get plenty of publicity. Girl Scouts — not so much.
They have a reputation that they’re “all about crafts,” Kerry admits. “But I’m rugged. We do a lot more than crafts. And I’m all about volunteering too.”
Working last spring at Smith Richardson.
With all the options available to teenagers today, Girl Scouts may seem like a throwback. Molly’s friends sometimes can’t believe she’s still a Scout.
“I like the people,” she says simply. “And we have a lot of fun.”
In June, Molly and her six Girl Scout troopmates — Olivia Ross, Olivia Pace, Carly Curren, Zoe Kaye, Theresa Vandis and Sofia Palumbo — will graduate. They can remain individual “ambassadors,” but that will be the end of their active Scouting careers.
Until, Kerry notes, they have kindergartners of their own. At which point — just like she did 13 years ago — they may sign up to be Girl Scout leaders too.
But leave time for the Slice of Saugatuck. The 9th annual event runs September 25, from 2 to 5 p.m.
Over 50 restaurants and stores will participate. Over 2,000 people will stroll the streets, snack on samples, enjoy music and kids activities, and learn more about the joys of Westport’s original town center.
This year’s footprint expands to include Riverside Realty (with a band in the parking lot), and the VFW and Westport Paddle Club across the street.
The Maker Faire area will once again be in Luciano Park.
There’s live music at 7 locations: Outside Chance, Silver Steel, Otis & the Hurricanes, The Howling Barncats, Elana Zarabi, Accidental Breakdown and School of Rock. Plus roving theatrical performances, and taekwando demonstrations.
New this year: boat rides, courtesy of Carefree Boat.
Two beer gardens (with wine — hey, this is Westport) are located on Bridge Square and Railroad Place. Many of restaurants will also offer specialty drinks indoors. Many will also hold special Saugatuck Happy Hours, with more food and drink after 5 p.m.
The price is again $15 per adult (with a two-for-$25 option). Kids under 13 remains $5; age 5 and under are free. Cash only!
The sponsoring Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce has donated over $30,000 to the Gillespie Center’s food pantry, with proceeds from prior events.
For more information and a Slice of Saugatuck map, click here.
From Bridge Square to Railroad Place — and everywhere else — Slice of Saugatuck is packed. (Photo/Terry Cosgrave)
Dr. Scott Gottlieb’s new book will not be released until tomorrow. But — based on pre-orders — Uncontrolled Spread: Why COVID-19 Crushed Us and How We Can Defeat the Next Pandemic — is already a best-seller.
The book by the former FDA commissioner (and our Westport neighbor) describes how the coronavirus raced through our nation. Gottlieb had a front row seat: he was in regular contact with President Trump, key players in Congress, and the drug industry.
Meanwhile, new dangers lurk around every corner. Gottlieb addresses our preparations for the next virus. Are we ready?
Click here for more information, and to order his book.
Save the Children is no longer headquartered in Westport. But it maintains strong ties here.
On September 30 (6:30 p.m., Westport Library), they’re sponsoring an evening with Christina Baker Kline. The best-selling author will join STC’s CEO Janti Soeripto and chief strategy officer Mark Shriver to discuss what the organization is doing for vulnerable children, here and abroad.
The evening includes wine and hors d’oeuvres. To purchase tickets, click here. Questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Question Box — “06880”‘s newest feature — is a hit.
Where does the name Compo come from? Who tags Canada geese? When did Carvel open?
These are all legit questions. I — and our online community of avid Westporters — do our best to answer them.
But those are not the only questions I get.
Not by a long shot.
Readers seem to think I know everything. Or they think I am the reference desk at the Westport Library. Or that it’s easier to ask me than Google. Or Siri.
Sure, the “06880” tagline is “Where Westport meets the world.” Welcome to mine.
Enjoy this sampling of some of the emails I’ve gotten over the past couple of months. They are 100% real. You can’t make this stuff up.
Well, youcan. I can’t.
Which Westport restaurants have invested in HEP filters?
I’m having a hard time finding an NPR station. Any suggestions?
Is Phil & Tim’s Good Humor truck still in business?
I once ran a photo of Phil & Tom’s (not Tim’s) ice cream truck. I did not follow their career after that.
I saw your story about the Staples High School Class of 1977. Please send a list of students from that class.
Can you connect me with any British mystery writers living in the area?
I have an old Staples High megaphone. Do you know who would want it?
I need a tutor in public speaking for my daughter.
Someone takes down all the notices in the common area of my condo. What can I do?
Do you have the recipe for the seafood salad at Peter’s Weston Market?
There is a drone above my house. Is it the police?
Whose drone? How the !@#$%^& would I know?
Levitt Pavilion tickets are sold out. Will they release more?
Could you ask the appropriate state legislators to start fixing the Saugatuck bridge while the traffic is light during COVID?
Please let me know how to get in touch with Christopher Plummer.
I was in a Kings Highway production of “Twelfth Night” in 1970. Do any photos or articles exist regarding this event?
I can’t log on to the library website. Can you contact them, and ask them to get in touch with me?
Does the Farmer’s Market allow dogs?
There was an electronics repair service on Riverside Avenue in the early 1970s. I spent a lot of time there, and became an electrical engineer. His kindness altered my life, but I can’t remember his name, or the shop’s. Do you?
What cemetery is [name redacted — an artist] buried in? His granddaughter is visiting, and we want to find his gravesite.
All of a sudden I’m a cemetery expert? (Photo/Justin Cheng)
I wonder if you might have a picture from the start of the 1970 Thistle championship at Cedar Point Yacht Club.
Where can I drop off extra Halloween candy?
Traffic is much worse on the Post Road. Can you do something about it?
As I sit here making meals during COVID-19, I wonder how many more of us were taught to sew by Mrs. Narramor at Bedford Junior High. Are you able to find out?
I know you are always super busy, but I would consider it a great favor if you could find out what class my mother [name redacted] was in at Staples?
Do you know why the Minuteman statue does not have his Christmas hat on? Many of us look forward to it every year.
The Minute Man, in “hattier” days.
Why is the new South Beach bathroom closed during winter?
[From a realtor]: We are having a large event here at a new listing. It will be a very special broker open, and I would love to get a little buzz going about it. Can you give me a call and we can discuss details?
I want a high quality photo of the original Westport Pizzeria on Main Street. Where can I get one?
It’s very strange that my weather app shows Westport with an unhealthy air quality: 172. New York’s air quality index is 90. What’s that about?
How many electric vehicles were sold in Connecticut in 2016, 2017 and 2018?
In the 1970s I can’t remember which year exactly, but I took a belly dancing class with others. We performed at Longshore. I know there was an article about it in the Westport News. I was just wondering if there was a way you could find it. It’s just a fun memory for me.
How often has Westport had a Category 2 storm with winds over 90 mph?
I spotted this parrot in the tree behind my place [photo attached]. Lost pet? Indigenous? Any ideas?
I’ll be 75 this June, and been reminiscing about Westport. I lived there for only 3 years, but I enjoyed Staples, Class of 1963. Do you have any information about a lovely family for whom I babysat, mostly in the summers, until I left for college? Their surname was [redcacted], and their delightful kids names were [redacted]. I have a blank as to the address. In my old age I feel like touching base, as the parents and kids and I got along so well. If you can give me a lead as to their wheerabouts, I’d really appreciate it. There might be a good story in this too.
My father passed away [name redacted], and I need to write an obituary. We are fuzzy about his Staples football career. He played in [year redacted]. Any info you can find that would help such as his position, record for the years he played and what records he holds would be appreciated. The obit is due this Friday. Thank you.
This is not your father, the Staples football player.
It has been 20 years since the worst tragedy in American history took place. I write this as the sky is as blue and the temperature as crisp and warm as that same day.
But it feels like yesterday I was sitting in Mr. Summ’s English class. We were called to the auditorium. I thought it was another motivational speaker or student body exercise. But something felt off. It was way too soon in the year to do this.
Mrs. Wormser, our principal, spoke with Ms. Reneri, standing with Mr. Delgado quietly as we settled into our seats. Two planes hit the World Trade Center. Aanother hit the Pentagon.
It was more than just planes crashing — it was an attack. I watched my friends gasp and cry. Some ran out of the auditorium. At that moment, all of our lives changed forever. Our futures, our goals, our thoughts, our security — forever altered.
Westporters — and the world — watched tranfixed, as both World Trade Center buildings collapsed.
Terrorism wasn’t new to me. My cousin John DiGiovanni was killed in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
I had to see this for myself. I was always fascinated by emergencies: the flashing lights, the sound of a siren. I still am. I have always wanted to help people. But I I could only watch. Parents came to pick up their kids. Some cried hysterically as they left the guidance office. As much as administrators and teachers tried to keep us calm, we could not stop talking about what we heard.
I got picked up by my mom later. We stood at Burying Hill Beach, watching smoke and ash take over the horizon, spreading towards Long Island and beyond.
Nearly 3,000 people died, including 343 firefighters, 71 police officers, and EMTs and military personnel. Countless more became sick and died long after the attacks.
Sherwood Island State Park, my backyard, holds the memory of 161 names — all Connecticut residents who died on 9/11. On a clear day, you can see the Manhattan skyline from the site.
The 9/11 Living Memorial at Sherwood Island State Park. (Photos/Ellen Bowen)
Today I will head to Ground Zero to take part in the reading of names It is an honor to read names of men and women, alongside survivors and families who lost loved ones.
It’s still a grieving process for all — a way to learn about others, how their lives crossed our loved ones’ paths, a real-life learning experience to remind us how atrocious and horrible what happened to us. Here are the names I’ll read:
ANDREW KEITH FRIEDMAN
GREGG J. FROEHNER
PETER CHRISTIAN FRY
STEVEN ELLIOT FURMAN
KARLETON DOUGLAS BEYE FYFE
RICHARD PETER GABRIEL
JAMES ANDREW GADIEL
ERVIN VINCENT GAILLIARD
GRACE CATHERINE GALANTE
DANIEL JAMES GALLAGHER
LOURDES J. GALLETTI
GIOVANNA GALLETTA GAMBALE
GIANN F. GAMBOA
PETER JAMES GANCI, JR.
CHARLES WILLIAM GARBARINI
CESAR R. GARCIA
JORGE LUIS MORRON GARCIA
MARLYN DEL CARMEN GARCIA
DOUGLAS BENJAMIN GARDNER
And my cousin, John Di Giovanni, in 1993.
“No Day Shall Erase You From The Memory Of Time” is affixed to the Ground Zero wall. Each square is a different color, representing each different, unique person who died that day.
Behind this wall are the remains of 7,000 human fragments. Roughly 1,161 people to this day have still not been found. Families bring in belongings of loved ones, to hope find a match, put their loved one to rest and bring closure. It is still considered an active crime scene. The Chief Medical Examiner’s Office operates out of this facility closed off to the public. Families are able to view the mahogany drawers through a glass window in a private room.
I ask everyone to take part in a ceremony or event, wherever you are reading. I ask all town events occurring this weekend to have a moment silence. to remember those who cannot be with us today, who cease to exist and live but live on in memory.
Educating future generations is imperative. I implore everyone to share their stories in the Comments below, and beyond as we learn from each other. The history of how we got to where we are today, and what we endured as a nation, is vital.
We can never forget those who died for no reason. We can never let our guard down. Sadly, we have forgotten about our past mistakes as what is occurring in the Middle East takes place. I honestly fear that as terrorists regain strength, control, and our equipment, there will be more attempts to disrupt peace through violence.
I hope to never see another 9/11. But I will continue to read names every 2/26 and 9/11 until I cease to exist. And from there, maybe my kids will read for me.
There’s not much time left for them. Soon though, our online gallery will be filled with different seasonal themes. Will you be part of it?
Whatever your age and level of experience — professional or amateur, young or old — this feature is open to everyone.
All genres and styles are encouraged too. Watercolors, oils, charcoal, pen-and-ink, acrylics, lithographs, macramé, jewelry, sculpture, decoupage (and now needlepoint) — whatever you’ve got, email it to email@example.com. Share your work with the world!
“I’ve Been to Sea Before” — Artist Jude Gray Smith says, “My family travels to Cape Cod every year. While we while away the hours, we do art – exclusively collage, with visitors’ guides and magazines collected from around the area. We have a home gallery This years theme is Chatham Pier Fish Market.”
“Landscapes” — taken near Bartaco (Rowene Weems Photography)
“It’s All About Us” (Ellin Spadone)
“Just Because” (Ellen Wentworth)
“Shoreline” (Amy Schneider)
“Support Your Local Independent Bookstore (If You Still Have One)” (Lawrence Weisman)
Some new restaurants open with a splash. La Plage, Hudson Malone and Basso all appeared during the pandemic, with plenty of well-deserved press.
Others open their doors more quietly.
You may not have heard of Studio Café. It’s hidden in plain sight — inside The Tailored Home, the interiors and furniture design store at Sconset Square. Partners Scott Falciglia and Jhon Ortiz combine design and hospitality. The café showroom and garden all complement each other.
Studio Cafe,in Sconset Square.
That’s by “design.” Scott and Jhon have been inspired by dining experiences around the world. They realized that Westport has a robust restaurant scene, some of them — on the water or downtown — quite picturesque.
There are many cuisines here already. Studio Café adds Spanish flavors. The menu ranges from bacalao-stuffed roasted Navarro peppers with cream sauce and butternut cream soup with grapefruit pieces to escalivada (roasted vegetable board) and arugula salad. There’s a fresh juice bar, coffee, tea and baked goods too.
Studio Café is a quiet, comforting corner. The kitchen is small and open to the front counter, making guests feel like they’re “home.” Entertainment is on tap soon.
According to Brown Harris Stevens, while the total number of closed homes declined from 96 to 69 from last year’s frothy July numbers — still the 2nd-highest number of closings for the month since 2001 — the average closing price rose 19%, from $1,627,253 to $1,929, 908. That’s the highest for July since 2008.
Houses sold, on average, for 101% of the list price. That’s the 5th straight month the figure has surpassed 100%.
As of July 31, there were also 103 pending sales. Another 178 were listed as “active inventory.”
As for condos: 31 closed in July 2021, up from 22 the previous July. The average closing price for condos in the first 7 months of 2021 was $628,002, a rise of 34$ since the comparable period a year ago.
The total volume of house house and condo closings since January 1 is $644,692,685. That’s up a whopping 45% since the first 7 months of 2020. (Hat tip: Chuck Greenlee)
This 4-acre property on Beachside Avenue — once part of the JC Penney estate — is listed for $6,495,000. One drawback: It is not actually on the water.
But the Westporter’s stewardship of the earth extends to the water. He writes:
“A recent walk along Burying Hill Beach yielded an astronomical amount of garbage. The bag on the right was what my wife and I picked up. The garbage on the left was left by a generous donor or donors.
“As I’m sure you can guess, there were plenty of single-use plastic bottles, bottle caps, aluminum cans, balloons, fishing line, food wrappers, etc. On this walk, we even saw a used diaper and the leftovers from somebody’s lunches.
“What one can do: The Burying Hill lifeguards gave us the bag. Perhaps others who are taking a stroll along the beach and beyond could bring their own bags, or get one from the guards. Any effort to bag the garbage may result in one less piece of plastic ingested by wildlife, and a cleaner environment. Nature deserves better.”
Several years ago, the Saugatuck Harbor Yacht Club ordered a historical plaque, commemorating its Westport Historic District Commission Preservation Award of 2018 for the heritage of its building.
Delivery problems delayed the ceremony until this week. Westport Museum of History & Culture house historian Bob Weingarten — who made the presentation to former commodore Paul Rosenblatt — provides the backstory:
The SHYC clubhouse was originally a stable. It was built circa 1887 by Henry C. Eno, as part of his Queen Ann seaside summer estate.
The SHYC was established 1959 by J. Anthony Probst. He remodeled the stable into a clubhouse, with the help of landscape architect Evan Harding. During the 2018 presentation, the HDC noted that underwater marsh land was dredged to create a harbor. It was the first of its kind on the eastern seaboard to feature an underwater bubble system, allowing boats to remain moored year-round.
Former commodore Paul Rosenblatt, the Saugatuck Harbor Yacht Club plaque, and the historic clubhouse.
In 2017, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey broke a story about Westporter Harvey Weinstein in The New York Times. The smoldering #MeToo movement suddenly caught fire.
The 2 journalists will speak at the Westport Library’s inaugural fundraising event, “The Exchange: Conversations About The Issues of Our Time.” The October 5 (10 a.m.) event will be moderated by Westport corporate executive Joan Gillman,
Click here to help support “06880” via credit card or PayPal. Any amount is welcome — and appreciated! Reader contributions keep this blog going. (Alternate methods: Please send a check to: Dan Woog, 301 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880. Or use Venmo: @DanWoog06880. Or Zelle: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!)