Category Archives: Police

Roundup: NewBrook, Law Enforcement, More


After 4 years in business, many Westporters still have not heard of NewBrook Kitchen + Artisan Market. COVID — which knocked out indoor seating — has not helped.

That’s a shame.

The small, friendly Saugatuck Avenue paleo café/bakery/cooking school/all-purpose event kitchen has something for everyone. NewBrook calls itself

They’re gluten-, dairy-, soy- and refined-sugar free. But, they say, “we’re never free from taste!” The tagline is: “Where the modern cave people dine.” (During the pandemic, of course, all dining is takeout.)

They’ve just added 3 new entrees (all very popular as specials), a new salad and toppers, additional wraps, and a “pressed panini of the week.”

With mother/daughter team of Cindy and Danielle Hartog the only 2 employees, NewBrook might be the most COVID-friendly spot in town.

Besides the full daily menu, they offer a wide retail array of gluten-free snacks, ingredients, and hard-to-find products.

Click here for the full new menu. A special Valentine’s Day meal is available for pickup February 11. Click here for more information on NewBrook. It’s open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.


Dr. Joan and Dennis Poster wrote yesterday:

“A very big shout-out to the entire Westport Police Department on National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day. For all they do every day keeping our community safe, and for all those that serve: Thank you! Be well, and be safe.”

Amen! We are so lucky to have the officers and leaders that we do. “06880” adds a hearty “thank you” to all.

(Photos/Amy Berkin)


And finally … Jim Croce was born today in 1943. The singer/songwriter died — way too young — at 30, in a plane crash.

Roundup: Community Gathering, Authors Way, Car Heist, More


In response to yesterday’s assault on the US Capitol by a mob, Temple Israel Senior Rabbi Michael Friedman writes:

“Where the rule of law reigns, Jews have flourished. Where lawlessness spreads, we have suffered.

“Similarly, the ancient sage Rabbi Joshua ben Levi taught: ‘Great is peace… if the Holy One had not given peace to the world, sword and beast would devour up the whole world.’

“The Jewish community of Fairfield County will gather tonight (Thursday, January 7, 7 to 7:30 p.m.) online to find comfort in the strength of our community, and to offer prayers for our nation and prayers for peace.”

Click here to register for the webinar.


“Authors Way” is the name of a new subdivision of 4 homes, planned at #14 Hillandale Road.

That’s a nod to Westport’s many famous writers — including A.E. Hotchner. The novelist/playwright/biographer — known for his books about friends like Ernest Hemingway and Paul Newman (with whom he founded the Newman’s Own philanthropy) — died last February. He was 102, and had lived more than half his life — 67 years — here.

His property included a large house. Built in 1928, it was originally part of a 40-acre estate, including a long allée.

Plans call for the homes to be built on 1-acre plots, between Wakeman Road and Ellery Lane. Hotchner’s home — with high ceilings and large rooms — may be torn down as early as Monday (January 11). An application for demolition was made before the Historic District Commission on July 15. They upheld a 180-day delay.

14 Hillandale Road


Police report that at 9:04 a.m. yesterday, the driver of a BMW was pumping gas at the Post Road Exxon station by South Maple Avenue.

A male jumped in and drove off, at a high rate of speed.

GPS tracked the vehicle. West Haven officers tried to pull the driver over. After striking several vehicles in heavy traffic, he finally stopped.

As one of the 2 occupants was taken into custody, the other entered a patrol car. He slammed it into reverse, striking several officer.

The cruiser became disabled after being driven through a nearby cemetery. The second suspect — like the first, a juvenile — was apprehended without further incident.

Westport police remind all motorists to secure their vehicles, even when stepping out for a moment.

For a video of the apprehension of the suspects, click here.


Congressman Jim Himes says:

As part of the recent COVID relief package, qualifying individuals will receive an Economic Impact Payment of up to $600, and up to $600 per dependent child under the age of 17. You can check the status of your EIP by clicking here.

Individuals who make an annual income of $75,000 for an individual and $150,000 for a household will receive the full $600. EIPs will be reduced by $5 for every $100 of annual income above $75,000 for individual and $150,000 for household. To receive an EIP, you must have a work-eligible Social Security Number. Click here for additional information, including information on new provisions on eligibility for U.S. citizens who file their taxes jointly with a non-citizen.

Some eligible individuals and families did not receive their initial Economic Impact Payment. The IRS is instructing these Americans to claim their payment when they file their 2020 taxes in 2021. Eligible individuals can claim the so-called “Recovery Rebate Credit” on their 2020 Form 1040 or 1040-SR.

Many people, including recent college graduates, may be eligible to do so. Taxpayers whose incomes fell in 2020 from 2019 can also claim a credit on their 2020 federal income tax return for the difference between the amount they are entitled to under the law and the amount they received as an advanced payment.

For more information, click here.


Beginning Monday (January 11), the yard waste site at 180 Bayberry Lane will begin reduced winter hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Saturdays from 7 a.m. to noon.

Regular hours resume March 8.

Christmas trees will continue to be accepted from Westport residents during winter hours.

Yard waste at 180 Bayberry Lane.

The Parks & Recreation Department has introduced a “Winter Wonderland Walking Challenge.”

Residents are invited to walk, jog or run a distance of their choice, and track their progress.

It runs now through March 31. To register, click here.

Go for it! (Photo/Rowene Weems)


And finally … on this day of outrage, mourning and reflection, we can also be uplifted by Phil Ochs’ stirring anthem.

Here is a land full of power and glory
Beauty that words cannot recall
Oh her power shall rest on the strength of her freedom
Her glory shall rest on us all (on us all).

RTM January Meeting: Code Of Conduct Committee, Police Review Board

This is Peter Gold’s report on the January Representative Town Meeting. He is an RTM member writing for himself, and not in an official capacity.

No votes were taken at January’s RTM meeting, which saw the announcement of a new special RTM committee, the first reading of an ordinance to establish a civilian police review board, and the announcement of a new town clerk to replace the retiring Patty Strauss.

While RTM rules already require RTM members to conduct themselves in a manner above reproach, Velma Heller, RTM moderator, noted that the start of a new year is a timely occasion to take a step back and review RTM practices. She appointed a special committee of 7 RTM members to see if there is room for improvement, and to clarify expectations regarding conduct at public meetings and in written communications.

The committee is charged with developing a Code of Conduct that articulates desired behaviors that embody the RTM’s values and principles as an organization. The Code of Conduct will cover topics such as Freedom of Information Act issues, the general use of email and social media, and commonly accepted standards of decorum for participation in public discourse, whether in person or on line.

A proposed ordinance was introduced to establish an elected civilian police review board. It would receive, investigate and make recommendations on complains regarding the police. The ultimate decision on any complaint will remain with the chief of police.

Click here for the full text of the proposed ordinance (immediately following the list of upcoming RTM meetings).

The proposed ordinance will be reviewed at upcoming public meetings of the RTM Public Protection and Ordinance Committees. It will be debated and voted on at a subsequent RTM meeting, most likely in February or March.

If the proposed ordinance is adopted, the elected civilian police review board would replace the civilian review panel recently appointed by First Selectman Marpe. That panel reviews and provides feedback on documented complaints regarding the police that are investigated by the Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards. Unlike the proposed ordinance’s review board, it can not investigate complaints. Also unlike the proposed ordinance’s review board, Marpe’s panel also reviews complaints regarding the Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services.

Marpe also announced that Jeff Dunkerton, the assistant town clerk in Danbury, will replace Patty Strauss who recently retired as Westport’s town clerk.

Westport Says Farewell To Vinny Penna

Police officers from far and wide joined hundreds of Vinny Penna’s Westport friends this morning, to bid a final farewell to their colleague and friend.

The retired deputy police chief died last week, at 51.

The Saugatuck native’s Assumption Church funeral Mass was livestreamed. A graveside service follows, at the Assumption cemetery on Greens Farms Road.

(Photos/Amy Schneider)

Roundup: Vinny Penna Services, Floating Christmas Tree, More


The family of Vincent Penna Jr. — the former deputy police chief who died last week at 51 — has announced that due to COVID restrictions, the mass of Christian burial at Assumption Church tomorrow (Tuesday, December 22) will be private.

However, the mass will be livestreamed on the Assumption Church website (click here). The mass is at 10 a.m.; the livestream begins at 9:50 a.m.

Friends and family may attend a socially distanced graveside service tomorrow (Tuesday, December 22, 11:30 a.m.) at Assumption Cemetery on Greens Farms Road. Click here to leave online condolences.

Vincent Penna Jr.


Susan Ford has seen a lot of interesting, cool and offbeat stuff off Compo Beach.

But until last night, she’d never seen a floating Christmas tree.

“If you find out who the incredible captain is who spread such cheer tonight, please thank them for me,” she says. “The smiles on my boys’ faces were lovely to see!”

(Photo/Susan Ford)


And, not to be outdone, Tanya LaClair spotted this (slightly) more permanent sight, on Saugatuck Island:

(Photo/Tanya LaClair)


Vaccines are here. But it’s way too early to toss your mask.

Tutem is a small, women-owned face mask manufacturer with roots in Westport. They make 3-ply disposable masks — but not the blah blue kind.

Tutem’s masks feature stylish designs. They’re individually wrapped for safe handling, are made in the US, and available in adult and child sizes.

Tutem has already donated to Westport organizations. Now, they’re offering Westport residents 25% off any masks.

If you have a Westport shipping or billing address, click here. At checkout, use this Discount Code: 06880.

And if your shipping address is 06880, you get free shipping too. Select “Local Delivery” as your shipping method at checkout.

 

One of Tutem’s mask designs.


And finally … winter is (officially) here! It arrived at 5:02 this morning.

This haunting Fleet Foxes song actually has nothing to do with winter, beyond the title. But it’s a lot more beautiful than “Winter Wonderland.”

Remembering Vinny Penna

Westporters have been stunned by the death yesterday of Vincent Penna, apparently of a heart attack. He was 51 years old.

A police officer for 26 years, he retired as deputy chief in 2017. He began as a patrol officer, became a detective in 2001 and sergeant in 2006, then returned to the detective bureau in a leadership role before being named deputy chief.

Along the way he served on the Westport Police tactical team, and was a field training officer, certified firearms instructor and professional standards commander. As captain he oversaw all operations of the detective bureau, including DARE, the Regional Task Force and Domestic Violence Victims Unit.

As deputy chief he was responsible for the Westport Emergency Medical Services, Internal Affairs Division, Public Information Office, Animal Control Division, Training Division and Information Management Team.

Vincent Penna Jr.

Penna received many awards and commendations for bravery, and was tenacious in his investigations. A high profile murder case was solved with his dedication, management skills and ability to work with, federal and international agencies.

He also served as president of the Westport Police Union Local 2080, and the Westport Police Benevolent Association.

When he retired, Penna said his legacy at the department would be his work to get Westport included in Norwalk’s juvenile review board, and his role in helping the department become one of 40 around the state to achieve Tier 1 accreditation.

“Vinny” was the son of Vincent Penna Sr., longtime owner of Penna Construction. The family has deep roots in Saugatuck.

Police Chief Foti Koskinas calls Penna’s death “a devastating loss. In the most stressful situations, he kept people together with his presence and his humor.”

Koskinas recalls many instances when Penna saw someone suffering. “He wrote a check, or got them food or clothes. He always did the right thing, even — especially — when no one was looking.”

Early in his career, as a brand new officer, there was a double drowning in a local pool. “The steps Vinny took, the condolences he offered — I saw a side of humanity that sticks with me today,” the chief says. “He was devastated, but he did whatever he could to help out.”

Koskinas notes Penna’s special ties to Westport.

“Public service is always special. But to serve the community you were brought up in is even more special. When the time came for him to leave his ‘family’ at the Police Department, and take over his family business with his father, it was just another way of giving back to the village he and his family had been raised in.”

Koskinas notes that Penna was also “an incredible father. As much as he gave to his community, his first priority was his wife Denise and his sons, Vincent and Nicholas. He did not miss a game or an event, or even a doctor’s appointment. They were his life.”

Deputy Police Chief Sam Arciola grew up with Penna. “We lived together, worked together and fished together,” he says. “He was a great family man — father, husband son. That was most important to him.”

Penna purchased a boat this summer, Arciola says, and spent many hours on the water with his wife and boys.

“But he was a great police officer too. And he was just such a good person. He would do anything for you.”

RTM member Andrew Colabella adds, “Vinny and his family were 2 pillars of this town. Through law enforcement and construction, they served the public and the community with the highest respect and integrity.

“No job was too big or hard to complete. No crime went unanswered or unsolved.

“He was the ultimate Westport role model. He was born and raised here. He worked for the town, and in town. He loved the town, with the goal to continue raising his family here just like the Pennas have done for generations. This is such a loss to everyone.”

Roundup: Food Drive, All-American, More


Two important organizations (Homes with Hope and the Norwalk NAACP) will benefit from a drive sponsored by 2 important department (Westport Police and Human Services), and an important business (Mental Grit Fitness).

This Friday (December 18, 12 noon to 4:30 p.m., Imperial Avenue parking lot), you can drop off non-perishable foods, toiletries and cleaning supplies.

You can help another way too: by volunteering at the drive. Click here to sign up.


Congratulations, Autumn Smith! The Staples High School senior soccer player has been named to United Soccer Coaches’ All-America team.

She scored 38 goals, and added 49 assists, in her stellar career (shortened this year by COVID). Due to the coronavirus too, there will not be an actual awards ceremony as in previous years.

That hardly diminishes Autumn’s accomplishment though. Well done!

Autumn Smith


Dan Hoffman writes about a pet peeve:

“When I make a local phone call with a 203 area code, I try to guess whether I need to use a prefix of ‘1’ or not.

“When I’m wrong, a program tells me either I need to use a 1 or I don’t need to use a 1.

“If the phone system knows the answer, why does it make me redial instead of just putting the call through? Always drives me nuts.”


They don’t call it JoyRide for nothing.

A new app — JoyRideGO — brings the popular Westport-based fitness community’s joy and energy to cyberspace.

It features on-demand and live fitness class to enJoy (ho ho) anywhere, any time. They include the signature JoyRide cycle classes; popular JoyX Strength, Pilates, barre and yoga classes, and hybrids like Cycle + Strength, Cycle + Pilates, Abs + Arms, and Abs + Glutes. All are taught by JoyRide instructors.

Classes range from 15 to 50 minutes. A 14-day free trial is available on the App Store and Google Play. Questions? Email joyridego@joyridestudio.com.


No one likes waiting in traffic.

Unless you’re by Playhouse Square, in front of Winslow Park Animal Hospital.

They always manage to amuse drives. Here’s their latest holiday tableau.

PS: Enjoy it now. Tomorrow it may be covered by snow.

(Photo/Molly Alger)

Speaking of traffic: How’s this for a great photo of Westport’s worst intersection?

Taken this way by Rowene Weems, it looks almost magical.

(Photo/Rowene Weems)


As COVID cases rise, the Pequot in Southport — Westporters’ 2nd favorite library — has temporarily suspended browsing hours. Curbside pickup is still available.

The Pequot Library.

And finally … in honor of today:

New Civilian Panel Reviews Police

Soon after the 2013 election, new First Selectman Jim Marpe met with Police Chief Dale Call and Deputy Chief Foti Koskinas.

“I’d never been a police officer,” Marpe — a former management consultant — says. “I needed their best input.”

Today, he notes, “I’m a lot smarter about their activity — and the Fire Department, and EMS.” Though the leaders of those department report to him, Marpe describes their relationship as “more collaborative than command-and-control.”

Nearly 5 years ago, Marpe appointed Koskinas as chief of police. He continued what Call had begun: a review of policies and procedures to reflect new national policing standards.

Westport’s manual dated back to 1972. It was one year younger than Koskinas.

The department enjoys an excellent reputation. In 7 years, Marpe says, “I don’t need 2 hands to count the number of genuine, legitimate complaints we’ve gotten — and that includes the Fire Department too.”

Nationally of course, police departments face intense scrutiny.

So — in addition to weekly meetings, and many more frequent phone conversations — Marpe has created a Citizen Review Panel. To “foster and maintain the public’s trust” in its public safety departments, the panel will:

  • Participate in the interview process of new hires and lateral transfer applicants of the Police, Fire and EMS Departments
  • Review and provide feedback on complaints
  • Advise the departments on policies and procedures that improve transparency and accountability.

CRP members will be trained to understand policies, internal affairs and legal issues. They’ll hold regular public meetings.

The CRP will include the 2nd and 3rd selectmen (currently Jen Tooker and Melissa Kane); one member of TEAM Westport, and 2 members of the Westport electorate. Marpe has appointed TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey to the panel, and will name the 2 other members soon.

Westport Police Chief Fotios Koskinas (Photo/Dan Woog)

Koskinas says that the police union is on board with the CRP. “They want accountability and transparency too,” he says.

Westport’s police already meet or exceed the state’s Police Office Standards and Training (POST) guidelines in areas like body cameras, chokehold procedures and more. Minority recruitment — including the most recent hire — is “the most diverse ever,” says Koskinas.

“But we want an outside party to see the complaints that come in. We want to highlight how well we handle our internal policing.” Sometimes, he says, an investigation turns up an issue that the initial complaint did not even include.

In 2016 there were 6 civilian complaints against the Police Department. The next year there were 5, then 6 and 8. In 2020, there have been a total of 3. Complaints against the Fire Department and EMS are even lower.

Most police complaints, Koskinas says, involve citizens dissatisfied with an interaction with an officer.

“It may be the way someone stopped the car or spoke to that person,” Koskinas explains.

“We look at the body camera. Maybe the officer spoke in a monotone. We try to explain what goes into controlling a scene.” Often, he says, a complaint is then withdrawn.

“But we do speak to the officers. We do adjust policies. We take every complaint seriously.”

Nearly all police interactions with the public are positive.

The Representative Town Meeting is currently examining a Civilian Review Board ordinance. Its members would be elected by the public.

Already though, the Civilian Review Panel is up and running. They are reviewing their first incident.

“Mr. Marpe and I believe in this,” Koskinas says. “We want to set it up for long success.”

Roundup: Home Sales, Crossword Contest, Oyster Boat, More


Wesetport’s real estate market continues to sizzle.

44 houses closed in November, up 63% from November 2019. The average closing price was 101.1% of the list price.

The average home spent 148 days on the market, down 38% from November 2019.

There were 72 houses pending (properties with signed contracts) on November 30, with an average list price of $1.96 million. (Hat tip: Chuck Greenlee)


Getting a spot for the Westport Library’s crossword puzzle contest can be tougher than solving a Saturday in the New York Times.

This year, it’s easier than a Monday.

The 22nd annual event is set for Saturday, February 6. This year it’s virtual — so there’s no limit to the number of attendees.

But some things never change. Times puzzle editor Will Shortz will again host. In addition to the puzzles, he’ll offer original word games and answer everything-you-always-wanted-to-know questions.

There are prizes for the winners. And this year — as you solve at home — you won’t have to look at everyone around who has already finished and think, “Wow, I might be the stupidest person here.”

Click here to register.

A small portion of the 130-plus puzzlers last year.


Recent “06880” stories and photos about the Catherine Wedmore oyster boat have intrigued many readers.

But she’s not the only oyster vessel in Long Island Sound.

The S.W. Sheppard regularly plies our waters, near Cockenoe Island. Here she is, hard at work:

(Photo/Jamie Walsh)


The Westport Police Department, Westport Human Services Department and Mental Grit Fitness are partnering for a holiday food drive scheduled. The dates are Thursday and Friday, December 17 and 18 (12 to 4:30 p.m.). The site is the Imperial Avenue parking lot. Contactless drop-off is available, from the trunks of cars.

All donations benefit needy families through Homes with Hope, and those affiliated with the Norwalk chapter of the NAACP.

Non-perishable items needed include:

  • Canned, jarred and boxed goods including chicken, salmon, Spam, tuna, fruit, applesauce, vegetables, soups/stews, peanut butter, jelly, pasta sauces, pasta, macaroni and cheese
  • Breakfast items like granola, breakfast bars,  cereal
  • Toiletries and cleaning products like paper towels, tissues, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, disposable gloves, sponges, sanitizing wipes, laundry detergent.

For more information, contact Andrew Berman: 203-733-1194; andy@mentalgritfitness.com.


And finally … on this date in 1851, the first YMCA in North America opened its doors — in Montreal.

RTM Upgrades Radio System, Seawall; Appoints Transit Director

This is Peter Gold’s report on the December Representative Town Meeting. He is an RTM member writing for himself, not in an official capacity.

December’s RTM meeting featured several housekeeping items, and 3 appropriation requests.

Dan Woog’s invocation gave thanks for America’s democratic traditions. He thanked the RTM for all it does for Westport, describing the RTM as ”its own tradition. It is non-partisan. It represents every segment of town. It is unique. It is quirky. It is ours.”

Members then reelected Velma Heller as moderator and Jeff Wieser as deputy moderator for the 4th time, and thanked retiring Town Clerk Patty Strauss for her 23 years of service to the RTM and the town.

The RTM also thanked Marty Fox and Patsy Cimarosa, who resigned as directors of the Westport Transit District, for their nearly 5 years’ service as directors.

The most expensive appropriation was $4,635,408 for a new public safety radio system. The current system is 15 year old, and has parts that can no longer be repaired.

The new system will piggyback on the state’s existing system. making it significantly less expensive than buying a stand-alone setup. The new system enables the Police Department, Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services to communicate together for the first time, and expands the area covered by the system.

$230,000 was approved to repair the seawall along the river at Jesup Green. The project adds a railing atop the seawall to help minimize accidental falls into the river. While the RTM agreed safety should be a priority, hope was expressed that the railing will obstruct river views as little as possible.

Repairs will be made along the Saugatuck River seawall.

The RTM also approved $80,000 for the design and permitting stage of a project to repair the Old Mill walkway and tide gates.

The final agenda item was to appoint a new volunteer director for the Westport Transit District.

Peter Gold, former chair of the RTM Transit Committee (and the author of this article) was nominated, because of his familiarity with the Transit District’s operations. He would resign once the town came up with a plan for the future of the Transit District.

A motion was made to delay appointing a new transit director until February to give the town additional time to decide on a course of action.

Peter Gold

While some thought the absence of a director would prod the town to take action more quickly, others noted that a director must be in place now to deal with day-to day operations, including the new Wheels 2U Westport on-demand door-to train station commuter service, and to prepare the Transit District’s budget for the next fiscal year.

The appointment of a director would not prevent the town from formulating its own solution. Based on this, and Gold’s knowledge and experience with the Transit District, he was appointed as a director by a vote of 34 in favor, and 1 abstention.