Category Archives: Places

You Can Be A Star. Well, Your House Can, Anyway.

Sure, jobs are fleeing Connecticut like fans at a Bengals game. It seems the only work left here is in a hedge fund, consulting or (who knows?) perhaps Nordstrom, when the new Norwalk mall opens (whenever).

But there is one growth industry in the Land of Steady Habits: TV and movies.

Specifically, renting out your house (or organization) for a television or film shoot.

The state Office of Film, TV & Digital Media — part of the Department of Economic and Community Activity — acts as a liaison between production companies, towns, local crews and vendors.

Part of its function is to help find appropriate locations for TV networks, movie studios and commercial producers. In other words: If you need a nice suburban home, bustling city, beach, farm, railroad station or other scene for your show, film or ad, they’ll find it for you.

Scene from a movie recently filmed in Connecticut. No, there was never a “New York and New Orleans” railroad.

Presumably, they can also find a crumbling highway, dilapidated apartment or abandoned corporate headquarters too.

Locally, a variety of sites have told the office they’re eager to be used. Saugatuck Congregational Church, the Saugatuck senior housing complex, Westport Museum for History & Culture (nee Westport Historical Society), Westport Little League and Sherwood Island State Park have all chimed in.

So has Main Street (probably the Downtown Merchants Association) and the Saugatuck River (no clue).

A number of homeowners also offered their houses for filming. Styles range from Colonial and contemporary to shingle cottage and (somewhat immodestly, but hey, it’s the movies) “Perfect New England Home.”

The self-described “Perfect New England home.”

According to a recent New York Times story, compensation ranges from $1,500 to $50,000 for use of a home. At least, those are city prices.

Westport is no stranger to filming. “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit,” “The Swimmer,” “The Stepford Wives” — all were shot, in part, right here.

So was “Manny’s Orphans” — Sean Cunningham’s unforgettable film about a hapless soccer team.

Hey, it was unforgettable to me. I was in it.

I have no idea how much Greens Farms Academy was paid for the use of their facilities.

But whatever Sean paid, it was worth it. We had a food fight of epic proportions right there in their beautiful, staid library.

And if that story doesn’t want to make you offer your home or business to the movies, nothing will.

(Click here for a direct link to the state of Connecticut’s “Locations” page. Hat tip: Fred Cantor)

[OPINION] Please, Pick Up Pooch’s Poop!

Tracy Porosoff is an alert “06880” reader/frequent Pic of the Day photographer. She’s also an avid — and perturbed — dog lover. She writes:

Westporters are fortunate to have such a wonderful place as Winslow Park to bring our dogs.

The people are friendly. The dogs are too.

There are acres of beautiful wooded terrain to let your dog run off-leash. And a freshwater stream where dogs can paddle in refreshing, clean water, even take a drink.

Just another day at Winslow Park.

Other resources include a bulletin board of dog-related notices, and a water fountain during warm months for both dogs and people to hydrate after their romp through the woods.

The town even provides trash bags and garbage cans to pick up and dispose of your doggy’s waste.

Idyllic, right?

Unfortunately, some people take these fabulous resources for granted.

Bag after bag of poop litters the park. Despite the presence of garbage cans, people leave their waste on the ground, benches and wherever they choose.

Some are surely inadvertently left. But if everyone takes an extra moment to remember to toss their poop, Winslow’s beauty can be preserved.

So please: The next time you visit Winslow Park, toss your (pup’s) poop!

(Photos/Tracy Porosoff)

Nyala: New World Champion

“Nyala” is back in the news. This time, it’s international.

Westporters of a certain age have heard of Nyala Farm. That’s the office complex tucked into rolling hills and meadows between I-95, the Sherwood Island Connector and Greens Farms Road.

It is not a cute, throwback name. Back in the day it was an actual, working dairy farm. In 1910, E.T. Bedford bought 52 acres in Greens Farms.

(Photo courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)

His son, Frederick T. Bedford, named the property in honor of the beautiful nyala (antelope) he’d seen on an African safari.

In 1970 Stauffer Chemical developed their world headquarters there. It was Westport’s first corporate office park. Today, Bridgewater — the world’s largest hedge fund — is a major tenant.

But this morning’s Nyala news is nautical.

Nyala is the name of a racing vessel. Yesterday, it won the 12 Metre World Vintage Division Championship, off Newport, Rhode Island.

The International Twelve Metre Association event drew 21 boats from 6 countries. That’s the largest fleet ever gathered in North America.

Nyala, in action.

The name is no coincidence. The Nyala sailboat was commissioned by F.T. Bedford, president of the Standard Oil Corporation. She was given as a wedding present to his daughter Lucy and her new husband, Briggs Cunningham.

(He is credited with inventing the “Cunningham hole,” still used today to provide luff tension in a mainsail.)

After restoration in 1996, Nyala attended the 2001 Jubilee regatta in Cowes, off the UK. She won the 12-Metre Worlds in Barcelona in 2014.

Nyala had already secured the 2019 championship, before yesterday’s final day of racing.

She didn’t have to sail. But Patrizio Bertelli took her out anyway. Nyala posted her 8th victory in 9 races.

Next up: This weekend’s New York Yacht Club 175th Anniversary Regatta.

Bridgewater may want to send a cheering section.

Friday Flashback #150

If you were a teenage driver in Westport around the time this photo was taken — and judging by the car, it was the 1970s — you remember this scene:

The target was painted on Bayberry Lane — the hill just north of the Merritt Parkway.

It was a real hill then too — not the measly mound it is today. (It was probably flattened because someone painted that target.)

I don’t know the artist. Someone did a great job.

And had the right idea.

You really could get air, particularly with a good rate of speed southbound.

Of course, those were the days when auto repairs were fairly cheap.

Westport Forgets About Clinton

Alert “06880” reader Merri Mueller lives off Clinton Avenue. The area just got finished with major sewer work, so that’s good.

“All of the sides are repaved, and look beautiful,” she says.

But the main artery — Clinton — is a different story entirely.

It’s half paved.

One side of the paving was finished 2 weeks ago. Speed bumps were done last week. The center stripes went in yesterday. (See left side in the photo below.)

The other side is just as it was. It’s been that way for a while, Merri says.

Here’s a different view:

(Photos/Merri Mueller)

The good news — I guess — is that between the unfinished paving job and the speed bumps, there are not many speeders on that stretch of the road.

The bad news is that this is not the only half-assed paving job in town. Myrtle Avenue has been a mess ever since Eversource finished its project last year.

And that’s right in front — I would think, embarrassingly –of Town Hall.

Drivers Beware: Newtown Turnpike Bridge Work Begins Soon

In 2016, the state Department of Transportation warned of an urgent need to fix the Newtown Turnpike Merritt Parkway bridge.

Deterioration could lead to capstone and fascia falling hazards, an engineer said.

Three years later, those urgent repairs begin.

The Merritt Parkway Newtown Turnpike bridge. (Photo/Jonathan McClure)

Beginning “on or about June 24,” Newtown Turnpike will be closed between Wilton Road and Crawford Road.

Drivers coming from the south (Norwalk) will be detoured to Cranbury Road, Chestnut Hill Road and Wilton Road. They’ll connect back to Newtown Turnpike north of the Merritt.

Drivers coming from the north will do the reverse, getting back on Newtown Turnpike south of the parkway.

Work is expected to be completed by August 27.

It’s a pain, sure. But so is getting conked on the roof by falling debris.

And it’s better than Greenwich. A similar project there — work on the Lake Avenue Merritt Parkway bridge — will result in a detour of 8 1/2 miles.

Through October.

[OPINION] Good News — And Not So Good — At Baron’s South

Alert “06880” reader, historian and preservation advocate Morley Boyd writes:

In April, I raised environmental and safety concerns about the appearance of a large pile of fill at Baron’s South. The mysterious mound, estimated at roughly 5,500 yards, was discovered in what had once been a meadow dotted with mature trees.

Upon closer inspection I noticed that material in the mound included asphalt, jagged shards of metal, tires, pieces of what appeared to be asbestos cement pipe, plastic containers and the shattered remains of a toilet.

Earlier this spring, Morley Boyd photographed debris in the fill behind the Senior Center.

While erosion prevention netting had been placed across one side of the mound, gullies had formed anyway, and the entire top was exposed. Runoff was visibly headed to drains connected to nearby Deadman’s Brook, a tributary of the Saugatuck River.

Runoff from the fill heads toward Deadman’s Brook.

After learning that the fill had been excavated from a nearby construction site associated with the now completed Senior Center expansion project, I wondered what else might be in the fill. Had it been tested? And why was it there in the first place?

First, I reached out to those whose homes abut the park to see what they knew. After learning the homeowners had been told by the Senior Center project manager that the giant mound was permanent, I made private inquiries about the fill with town officials.

The site of the fill (just south of the Senior Center) is shown by a red arrow (bottom) in this Google aerial image.

When that inquiry went unanswered, the story appeared on “06880.” Shortly thereafter, in reaction to public outcry, the town retained the services of Steve Edwards, recently retired director of public works. He was charged with having the fill professionally tested for the presence of toxic substances.

My concerns proved valid. The recently released toxicology report indicates that the material contains DDT, traces of petroleum byproducts, and a level of arsenic that exceeds state standards for human exposure.

Because of the toxicology report and public pressure, the town has now agreed to remove all of contaminated fill (ideally within the next few months, according to the current director of public works), and restore the meadow to its previous condition.

Morley Boyd says that 6 feet of fill was dumped into the meadow near the Senior Center. (Photo/Morley Boyd)

At Tuesday’s Board of Selectmen meeting, town officials said the tree warden has prepared a replanting plan for the site, including new trees.

In the meantime, residents hope that the toxic pile, which remains fully exposed in the midst of a public park, will be cordoned off to safeguard the health and safety of visitors.

On the whole, this is good news. The town deserves credit for taking responsibility. Still, a number of unanswered questions remain — notably, why did this happen?

The approved site plan for the construction project did not permit the area in question to be disturbed, and the project’s contract included a specific line item for hauling away any excess fill.

Further, many question the wisdom of the town’s proposed plan for reusing the contaminated fill: a parking lot project at the Greens Farms railroad station.

Although the toxicology report — consistent with state guidelines — recommends that the contaminated fill be buried beneath several feet of clean fill if it is to be moved and reused, there is an apparent regulatory conflict.

While state standards for the use of fill are more relaxed, Westport’s are quite stringent. They specifically do not allow the use of fill containing “petroleum based products or materials.”

Since the Baron’s South fill has been shown to contain — in addition to other toxins — chunks of asphalt, it remains unclear how the town can use the fill at the Greens Farms train station and also comply with its own regulations.

If there is any doubt as to whether or not this contaminated fill can be safely remediated for reuse in a public space, wouldn’t the wisest solution be to just dispose of it at a proper facility?

Whatever ultimately happens to the toxic fill, the good news is that a quiet corner of Westport’s “Central Park” will soon return to its natural state. And that’s in large part due to the vigilance and concern of the “06880” community.

Minuteman, Spare That Tree!

It’s one of Westport’s most iconic views: The Minute Man monument.

Yet just as impressive as the 1910 statue is the magnificent red oak tree behind, at the corner of  South Compo and Compo Beach Read. It frames every photo. It adds permanence to that historic spot. It’s as beautiful as New England gets.

The tree stands on town-owned property — long a buffer against development. But that doesn’t mean it’s safe from private property harm. Part of the tree makes contact with private property, so ownership is considered “shared.”

The Minute Man Monument, with the magnificent red oak behind

Spec builders — Simple Plan One LLC — hope to develop a home at 280 Compo Road South. The project is moving through various town departments.

The plan does not include removal of the tree. But it could very likely cause the tree to die within a couple of years due to nearby root cutting and root compaction, along with changes to the topography after regrading.

A major threat to the tree is the proposed moving of a WPA-era drainpipe (which has a permanent easement), to make room for the new house. The developer has asked permission to redirect the pipe, expanding the building envelope — thus allowing a significantly larger home to rise on the site.

Moving the pipe appears to run a very real risk of damaging the red oak’s root system.

The tree would not die immediately, if damaged. Its demise could take a year or two.

But it would sure not last the 800 years or so that similar trees, in robust, healthy condition, could live for.

This one is more than 100 years old. It’s still a child.

The Minute Man Monument, around the time of the 1910 dedication. The very young tree can be seen in the background.

Another worry involves construction of a new driveway across the town-owned property onto Compo Beach Road. That would provide a 2nd driveway, in addition to the one the property has long had on South Compo.

(The driveway is now at the easternmost edge of the property — down the road, away from the Minute Man. The new driveway on South Compo would be closer to the monument.)

Neighbors worry that the 2nd driveway, with parking and a garage — passing over town-owned property — also runs a very real risk of encroaching on, and damaging, the tree’s roots.

The reason for the garage there? It’s to insulate the living areas of the home from traffic noise on Compo Beach Road.

One more view.

According to tree warden Bruce Lindsay, the “stately red oak … is in excellent health.” He hopes that it “is not harmed, (and that) proper tree protection systems are put into place to maintain the tree’s health and structure outside the Critical Root Zone, (and) beyond the scope of the work.”

The Flood and Erosion Control Board approved the project on May 1. Since then, it appears that a number of changes have been made to the plans. The tree was not part of that board’s discussion, as it was not a known issue at the time.

The Conservation Commission met on May 15. They held the matter open until a special meeting — set for June 10 — to allow neighbors’ consultants time to review the proposal. Click here for a video of the commission’s May meeting.

The developer hopes to get on the Planning & Zoning Commission agenda this month or next.

Will officials permit the taking of town property for an additional entrance? Will they green-light proposed work that runs a substantial risk of harming a historic, stately town-owned tree?

All of this does not even touch the question of what new, large construction would mean to the streetscape view of the Minute Man Monument, at that iconic corner.

Stay tuned.

The Minute Man himself may not be able to fight.

But concerned Westporters can.

Friday Flashback #141

Generations of Westporters have swum in, skated on or otherwise enjoyed Nash’s Pond.

The “modern” pond was formed in 1879, when the Nash family erected a dam and 3 icehouses. Workers harvested ice each winter. It was stored through summer, sawed into blocks, then sent to New York for sale.

In 1937 — after the ice business, but before most homes were built along “Nash’s Woods and Pond” — it looked like this:

(Postcard courtesy of Seth Schachter)

What are your memories of Nash’s Pond? Click “Comments” below.

Filling In An Earth Day Puzzle

Happy Earth Day (again)!

My post today earlier today about living shorelines” may have made you feel all warm and earth-fuzzy. You might even be motivated to take a walk at some open space in town.

Great! Just avoid part of Baron’s South.

Alert “06880” reader/local activist Morley Boyd recently noticed that 1,000 or so yards of construction material — from the recent Senior Center modernization project — have been dumped in the southwest meadow.

Morley Boyd took this photo — and outlined the approximate footprint of the excavated fill at Baron’s South.

It includes, he says, both fill and demolition debris: rusty pipes, sharp metal objects, chunks of concrete and asphalt, plastic garbage bags, shattered plastic containers, rubber tires, bricks and more.

Morley says that trapped, standing water at the rear of the dump area abuts residential property. He sees “considerable evidence” of soil erosion across the top section of raw, unprotected construction rubble and fill.

Debris in the Baron’s South landfill. The Senior Center is on the right. (Photos/Morley Boyd)

He also believes that a number of mature trees were removed from the site, to accommodate what he says is a grade raised by 5 or 6 feet.

 

Morley wonders why the material was placed there, whether it has been tested, when it will be removed, and where it will go. He has written to town officials, and awaits a response.