Category Archives: Library

Roundup: Real Estate, Good Deeds, More


We all sense it. Now we have proof.

Jason Mudd of Cindy Raney & Co. realtors sends a Bloomberg statistic: This fall, Fairfield County had the fastest-rising real estate prices in the country.

Sales rose 80% in September county-wide from a year before. The median home price increased by 33%.

Westport saw a 72% rise in all sales, from January 1 through October 27, 2020, compared to the same time frame a year earlier. It was highest (135%) in the $2 million-plus price range.

Jason hears the same thing as realtors all over town: As quarantine cases increase, buyers (many from New York City) want more space — in their yards, and in their ability to work from home.

They want good schools for their children — and room for their kids to spread out, if they need to learn remotely.

Interestingly, open floor plans are not always the most popular. With families increasingly confined to their homes, “nooks and crannies” enable people to separate from family members for privacy.

Westport is attractive for many reasons, Jason says, beyond space and schools. There’s a vibrant restaurant scene. Plenty of shopping.

Another selling point: proximity to New York. Though the railroad station parking lot seems abandoned, the ease of hopping a train to the city is a big selling point for our town.

Plus it’s just a really pretty place, with tons of great people. But we already knew that.


Among the many people moving from New York to Westport (see above) is Maxx Crowley.

It’s a return home. His father Steve is the longtime owner of SCA Crowley Real Estate Services, and Maxx has joined the family business.

He’s also a new Westport Downtown Merchants Association board member. It did not take him long to help beautify Main Street and environs. He and his dad helped repurpose the summer barrels.

They’re also providing the holiday community tree. It goes up tomorrow, just outside Savvy + Grace.


Just in time for the holiday season: Good Deeds.

Westporter Bill Pecoriello launched the cashback app on Tuesday.

Good Deeds lets shoppers earn cash back while accessing their favorite brands and retailers, then automatically give some or all of those earnings as donations to the causes and nonprofits they care about.

Bill created the app after facing challenges raising funds for his nonprofit Sweet P Bakery, and The Porch to sell those baked goods. For more information, click here.


For 3 decades, ABC News correspondent and anchor Jay Schadler reported around the globe for “20/20,” “Good Morning America,” “Nightline” and “World News Tonight.”

He hitchhiked 20,000 miles across America.

On Tuesday, December 8 (7 p.m.) he lands in Westport.

Virtually, anyway. The Westport Library and “Live at Lincoln Center” producer Andrew Wilk team up for this online presentation.

“I come not as a teacher or a guide, but as a fellow traveler who’s still somewhere between being lost and finding his way home,” Schadler says.

Wilk adds, “I worked with Jay when he anchored the National Geographic Channel. I developed great admiration for his talent as a storyteller. Storytelling is at the heart of what we do in television. There aren’t many in Jay’s league.”

Click here to register for the free event.

Andrew Wilk (left) and Jay Schadler.


 

And finally … On this day in November 19, Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address. In just 271 words — at a time when the nation’s very existence was in doubt — the president reminded listeners of our highest ideals.

He concluded by urging “that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

 

Artists In Residences: Step Into My Studio …

Any ol’ place can have an artist in residence.

Leave it to the Westport Library to have “Artists in Residences.”

That’s the clever name for an equally clever project. COVID-19 has closed the library’s 3 rotating galleries — popular spaces that were booked nearly 2 years ahead.

So exhibit curator Carole Erger-Fass and artist/library supporter/creative guru Miggs Burroughs — whose “Artist to Artist” discussion series was also shelved — devised a new way to connect artists and art-loving patrons.

The Zoom series provides peeks into otherwise-hidden spaces: artists’ studios.

The first episode was with Nancy Moore. Her “Unconventional Women” exhibit was scheduled to be installed the day the library shut down in March.

Instead, Nancy invited a crew into her airy workplace. She shared her works in progress, showed off the tools of her trade and discussed the inspiration for her vibrantly patterned paintings that no one could now enjoy in person.

The series blossomed into a living document of the state of the arts — and artists — in Westport. Twenty-four episodes have already been recorded. More are in the works.

They feature sculptors, painters, photographers, and digital and collage artists. Some have experimented with new mediums. Others have had the luxury of time to delve deeper into their genres.

Some have been inspired anew by the pandemic. Others have been stymied.

All speak eloquently about their craft. Particularly moving are Westport legends like Ann Chernow, Leonard Everett Fisher, Roe Halper, Nina Bentley, Judith Katz and Niki Ketchman. Their age makes them vulnerable to the coronavirus — but they steam ahead creatively.

The most recent episode features Charles Joyner. His intricate, layered collages meld colors, patterns and symbols inspired by his growing up in rural North Carolina, and his extensive travels to Ghana.

So how is the longtime Carolinian a “Westport artist”?

In 1964, he came to Westport through an American Friends Service program that brought 35 Southern students to the North to promote integration. He lived with the Ader family.

After graduating from Staples High School he headed to Iowa State University on a football scholarship, transferred to North Carolina A&T, then earned a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro.

Joyner spent many years as a tenured professor in the North Carolina State University College of Art and Design. He is also an outstanding jazz drummer.

His interview with the “Artists in Residences” program is fascinating. Click below to see. Then click here for all interviews.

(Carole Erger-Fass talks about “Artists in Residences” on WPKN-FM 89.5 “Open Book” show, at noon on November 30.)

Pics Of The Day #1311

The Riverwalk in autumn sunshine … (Photo/Amy Schneider)

… and at dusk (Photo/Heli Stagg)

COVID Alert: Westport Is Now Red

The State of Connecticut has implemented a color-coded map indicating the average daily rate of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population by town.

Based on a 14-day rolling average, Westport’s rate is 22.4. That places us well within the “red” category, of 15+ cases per 100,000.

Connecticut’s COVID map.

Given this status, the state Department of Health recommends that:

  • High risk individuals stay home and stay safe.
  • Others should limit trips outside of the home and avoid gatherings with non-family members.
  • Organized indoor activities, as well as outdoor activities where social distancing and mask wearing cannot be maintained, should be postponed.
  • Gatherings at private residences are limited to 10 people.

1st Selectman Jim Marpe notes:

“The new COVID cases are primarily a result of large gatherings, parties and organized sports activities. As such, the Westport Public Schools, Westport businesses and restaurants and other public facilities will continue to operate under the State’s Phase 2.1 guidelines.

“The Parks and Recreation Department acknowledges that it is important for individuals and families to get outside and exercise. As a result,

  • Fields, beaches and parks will remain open with reinstituted rules regarding court usage.  Facility users are expected wear a face covering if a 6-foot distance cannot be maintained with those who do not live in the same household. Higher risk sports, such as boys lacrosse and 11-on-11 football, should not take place.
  • The Compo Beach skate park and basketball courts will remain open, but may be closed if proper guidelines are not followed.
  • The Longshore golf course remains open. Beginning Saturday, November 14, golf cart rentals will go back to single rider only (unless in same household).
  • The Parks & Recreation Department has revoked field permits, and will not issue new permits until further notice.

Permits for use at the Wakeman athletic fields have been revoked..

The Westport Library will remain open with its expanded hours and services.  All Library events will continue to be virtual. Click here for details.

Roundup: COVID Spread, Book Sales, Westport Blanket, More


Yesterday, 2 officials advised Westporters about the rapid increase of coronavirus in town.

Superintendent of Schools Tom Scarice said that while COVID cases have been discovered in the school population, administrators’ swift response to new cases has resulted in “little to no widespread COVID contamination.”

However, new cases require immediate attention, like quarantining and contact tracing. While the lack of spread demonstrates that the processes in place are working, the schools are continually challenged by new cases resulting from outside activities.

These include recent large gatherings, parties and sports activities involving students or parents. Photos and social media posts caused 1st Selectman Jim Marpe to ask Parks and Recreation director Jen Fava to consider reinstating earlier COVID-related policies at local parks, fields and recreation facilities.

Marpe says: “The ability for our schools to remain open for in-person learning is dependent on the actions of our entire community. I urge all residents to follow the appropriate public health protocols so that our community can remain open, but safe.

“Please refrain from contact sports, wear a mask, social distance, avoid gatherings and practice good hygiene. Residents are strongly urged to avoid gatherings where adherence to social distancing and mask wearing cannot be accomplished.”

Anyone awaiting test results, whether taken because of symptoms or COVID exposure, should not go out into the community until receiving those results.

Staples Players have done most rehearsals for their radio shows remotely. When they do get together, they are diligent about wearing masks. (Photo/Kerry Long)


The Westport Library’s Holiday & Winter Book Sale is always eagerly anticipated by gift givers.

The bad news: COVID-19 has knocked out in-person shopping. This year it’s all online.

The good news: It’s already there.

Fiction, mystery, arts, biographies, photography, cookooks, sci-fi, puzzles, kids’ books, plus CDs, puzzles an games — they’re all available from the comfort of home.

Click here to browse. All books are available for pickup by appointment at the library’s upper parking lot, 7 days after purchase.

New items are added weekly. So bookmark the page, and check back often.


Speaking of holiday gifts: This is my favorite so far.

Savvy + Grace — the wonderful, whimsical Main Street gift shop across from Rye Ridge Deli — sells some very cool Westport-themed items. What stands out is a fleece blanket, featuring an 1890s topographic map of the town.

Click here to check it — and much more — out. In-store shopping, curbside pickup and shipping are all available.

Savvy + Grace’s Westport blanket.


And finally … today is Friday the 13th. Just what we need in 2020!

Jeff Pegues Talks Politics And Sports

If you’ve never been to one of Jeff Pegues’ “Newsmakers” events at (or, virtually, via) the Westport Library, you’ve missed something special.

Last January the CBS News justice and homeland security correspondent, author — and 1988 Staples High School graduate — kicked off the series by interviewing (live) Mo Rocca, fellow CBS News correspondent, podcaster and TV personality.

In June (via cyberspace) Pegues chatted with billionaire businessman, hedge fund manager, major Democratic Party donor, Milwaukee Bucks co-owner (and Westport resident) Marc Lasry.

Up next: a pair of conversations about 2 American obsessions: politics and sports.

Both are virtually free. By that I mean: they are online (virtual), and there is absolutely no charge.

Tomorrow (Wednesday, November 11, 7:30 p.m.), Pegues hosts a intriguing conversation with Major Garrett and Nancy Cordes. (Click here to register.)

Major Garrett and Nancy Cordes

They’re 2 of America’s most insightful political reporters. And they just got through covering one of the most compelling, challenging and consequential elections in history.

What was it like in the newsroom this past week? Pegues will help them tell you.

Cordes is CBS News’ chief congressional correspondent. Based in Washington, she contributes to all of the network’s broadcasts and platforms.

Garrett is White House correspondent for CBS News, and  a contributor to National Journal. He previously served as chief White House correspondent for Fox News.

Next month (Tuesday, December 1, 7 p.m.). Pegues will be joined by Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, Los Angeles Sparks Forward Candace Parker, and former NBA star Charles Smith. (Click here to register.)

This is not just jock talk. Topics include how George Floyd’s death sparked a social justice movement in sports, and the ways in which athletes are using their power and influence to mobilize fans.

Jeff Pegues

Since joining CBS News, Pegues has led coverage of some of the biggest stories of the last decade. He reported on the conflict between the Black community and police, and wrote a book: “Black and Blue: Inside the Divide Between Police and the Black Community.”

Pegues has received 3 Emmy Awards, the Sigma Delta Chi Award from the Society of Professional Journalists, and in 2017 was part of the CBS News team that earned an Edward R. Murrow Award.

And he know sports as well as politics. At Staples, he was an All-State sprinter, and an All-FCIAC football running back.

Winfield is one of 7 players in MLB history with over 3,000 hits and 450 home runs. The 12-time All-Star was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001 — his first year of eligibility.

Smith is a retired NBA power forward in the NBA. The Philadelphia 76ers selected him as the 3rd overall pick in the 1988 NBA draft. He was named to the All-Rookie first team, and played nearly 10 years in the league.

Parker is one of the most decorated female basketball players ever. The first overall pick in the 2008 WNBA Draft, she is a league champion, 2-time MVP, and Rookie of the Year. She is now a broadcaster, and role model for young athletes.

Architecture Awards For 2 Downtown Projects

“Commercial, Institutional, Educational and Multi-Family Residential Design” sounds like a pretty dull category.

But the American Institute of Architects found 12 projects worthy of honors this year.

Two — a full 16% — are in Westport. In fact, they’re within a few yards of each other.

Bedford Square’s Centerbrook Architects and Planners earned a citation for its “thoughtful and highly sympathetic renovation and re-adaption” of the former Westport Weston Family YMCA.

The judges noted, “it’s a multi piece development, and when you walk along the sidewalk, it’s just a remarkable improvement and investment. Westport was lucky to have selected this architect.”

Bedford Square (Photo/Nathaniel Riley)

Across Jesup Green, HMA2 Architects earned a citation too. They transformed the Westport Library from a less-than-workable building on a beautiful property into a functional and handsome space, now worthy of its setting.

Library director Bill Harmer praises HMA2’s “fine sense of design (and) keen understanding of how we were altering the space for 21st century use.”

The firm’s founder, Henry Myerberg, adds, “The design of the transformed library speaks to the extraordinary energy and participation of the Westport Library staff and community. The pandemic has not slowed them down to find new ways to make the library a special part of everyone’s life.”

The Westport Library, before coronavirus. (Photo/Aida Sulova)

Now, if only an architect could do something about the Post Road that separates these 2 award winning projects …

(Click here for the full story of AIA Connecticut Design Award winners.)

Roundup: Loud Bangs, Rock Paper Scissors, Westport Inn, More


A reader writes:

“Dan, have you heard reports about random loud bangs going on all over town at night? It was on Facebook “Westport Front Porch” again last night, and also on my private street group text (Old Hill area). We all experienced it a few nights ago, and each thought it was outside our own house.

“As far as we know the police get called, but nothing comes of it.”

What’s going on? If you know, click “Comments” below.


This hasn’t gotten much publicity. But the Westport Inn — Westport’s only hotel — has been sold.

It’s closed for renovations. The website says “We look forward to welcoming you back in January 2021.”


The Water Rats swim team is crawling out of the pool long enough to do some land-based good.

Tomorrow (Saturday, November 7, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.), they’re holding a food drive to benefit the Bridgeport Rescue Mission.

Water Rats are collecting Thanksgiving-themed food items and other non-perishables. Drop-off is the gravel parking lot at the Westport Weston Family YMCA. You don’t even have to get out of your car!

Click here for a list of requested items.

 


“Rock, Paper, Scissors” is the latest attraction on Jesup Green by the Westport Library.

No, not the game. This is the a very cool sculpture of the same name.

The gift of Ann Sheffer and Bill Scheffler is already attracting attention. Moments after installation was complete, a young couple with a toddler strolled by.

“Wonderful work! Great spot!” they said. “Kids will love it.”

By which they of course meant “kids of all ages!”

Westport arts curator Kathie Motes Bennewitz (far left) with the “Rock, Paper, Scissors” installation team. Not pictured, but part of the crew were Westporters Rob Haroun and Scott Rochlin. 


And finally … in honor of Westport’s newest outdoor art (above):

Roundup: Election Day, Fall Cleanup, First Graders, More


They’re running for the same Connecticut House of Representatives District 136 seat.

But incumbent Jonathan Steinberg and challenger Chip Stephens — both Staples High School graduates, a year apart (1974 and ’73, respectively) — gladly posed for a COVID-compliant fist bump this morning, at the Coleytown Elementary School polling place.

That’s the type of politics everyone can agree on!

Jonathan Steinberg (left) and Chip Stephens. (Photo/Jack Whittle)


Meanwhile, as the nation votes, 10 Westporters are spending their 2nd day in Pennsylvania.

Part of the Biden Voter Protection Team, they found an “energized” electorate yesterday. First-time voters were excited; others said they planned their whole day around voting today.

The group fanned out in Northeast Philadelphia and Bucks County.

Bottom row (from left): Catherine Lewis, Zoe Tarrant, Nicole Gerber. Top: Lauren Cohen, Ana Johnson, Candace Banks, Kevin McLaughlin, Danielle Dobin, Jenny Perlman, Ariana Napier.


With fall yard cleanups at hand, Aspetuck Land Trust advises:

Tell your landscaping companies to make changes. You’re paying them; you don’t have to do 100% of what they recommend. Do what’s right for your yard and our environment.

For example:

Tuck in your beds. Rake leaves into your garden beds or under trees. Up to 3 inches of leaves can be stored here — and you’ll save on mulch in spring.

Mow, don’t blow. To promote biodiversity, don’t use leaf blowers. Mulched leaves are decomposed by earthworms and microorganisms,and turned into plant-usable organic matter. You can either remove the mower bag and simply go over a thin layer of leaves with your mower, or invest in a mulching lawn mower. Mulched leaves will put nutrients back into the soil.

Procrastinate: Sure, procrastinating gets a bad rap. But there are residents in your dead stalks. Little sweat bees survive the winter in hollow flower stalks, and birds shelter between dead branches. Put cutting off until the spring, to let them rest in peace.

For more information on fall clean up, click here for an article by Liz Craig from the Pollinator Pathway. And Healthy Yards of Westchester has great information about the many benefits of mulch.


Normally at this time of year, the Westport Library would be hosting 1st graders on tours, reading them stories, helping them select books and giving them their first library cards.

To cope with COVID, the Library created a “Virtual Field Trip.” First take a brief tour, see a Maker demonstration, and have a story read to them. The tour includes a link for parents to request a Westport Library card for their child.

This month, librarians will deliver the cards to each elementary school, plus a special gift: kids’ own copies of It’s Snowing by Gail Gibbons. The Library has asked administration to help them contact elementary school age virtual learners.

Questions? Email kids@westportlibrary.org.

The view from the Children’s Library. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)


And finally … with not much going on today, I just picked a totally random song, completely out of thin air. Go figure.

Election Day: Long Lines, Excitement And Hand Sanitizer

8,000 Westport voters mailed in or dropped off ballots before Election Day.

But thousands of others did not.

Before dawn today, they lined up at polling places around town.

At Greens Farms Elementary School, the line snaked all the way around the perimeter of the parking lot.

Greens Farms Elementary School this morning … (Photo/Matt Murray)

A man in his 50s who grew up here says, “I have never had to wait a minute to vote at Coleytown El. I got here at 6:11. This line is amazing.” As at Greens Farms, it stretched far into the lot.

,,, and Coleytown Elementary School … (Photo/Dan Donovan)

When the Saugatuck Elementary School doors opened, approximately 200 people were already waiting.

The process was very efficient. A voter who joined the line near the football field was done voting 15 minutes later.

… and Saugatuck Elementary School … (Photo/Chip Stephens)

By 6:15, more than 50 men and women stood outside the Westport Library. By 6:45, they stretched through the police station parking lot, to Jesup Road.

… and the Westport Library.

Inside the library, poll watchers — including several high school students — offered voters hand sanitizer (optional) and gloves (mandatory).

Others checked names, and directed them to (socially distanced) voting stations.

The mood was cheery, and civic-minded.

In many ways, it was an election unlike any Westporters have ever seen.

In others, it was just a bunch of Americans doing what we always do.