Category Archives: Police

Don’t Text And Drive — Even At A Red Light!

An alert — and now $175 poorer — “06880” reader writes:

The other day I got a $175 ticket while sitting at a red light for entering an address on Waze on my phone.

I had no idea it was against the law to check your phone at a red light. The officer was very nice, and I mentioned to him that I felt like specific cell phone usage laws aren’t well publicized.

I know you can’t text and drive, and it makes sense you shouldn’t check your phone at a light either. I just didn’t know.

I have no idea whose job it is to publicize driving cell phone rules, but no one I mentioned this to had any idea you couldn’t check your phone or enter an address in Waze at a red light.

I’m curious if this is well known. Or maybe I’m just an idiot.

Texting while driving is illegal — even at a red light.

Hiawatha Lane: 150 Years Of History

This Thursday (April 11, 7 p.m., Town Hall), the Planning & Zoning Commission holds another hearing on the long-running, often-amended, quite-controversial proposal to build a 5-building, 187-unit housing complex on Hiawatha Lane. The application is made as an 8-30g, meaning some of the units will be “affordable,” as defined by state regulations.

But the road — wedged between I-95 Exit 17 and the railroad tracks — has long been where owners and renters find some of Westport’s least expensive prices.

Homes on Hiawatha Lane.

Hiawatha Lane has a very intriguing history. Here’s a look at how the neighborhood developed — and a little-known fact about its deeds.

In the late 1800s, train tracks for the New York, New Haven & Hartford Rail Road tracks sliced through what today would be considered prime property.

Laying those tracks was a back-breaking effort. The physical power was provided by thousands of men, who immigrated to America from all parts of Italy.

When their work was done, some of those laborers settled close to the tracks in Saugatuck. They built a tight-knit community — as well as churches, stores, a vital small business economy, and their own homes. Some still remain.

Families with names like Vento, Stroffolino, Cribari, Nistico, Anastasia, Luciano, Sarno, Caruso, Fabbraio, Pascarella, Penna, Giunta, Valiante — and many more — settled in Saugatuck, and helped it grow.

They built all of Westport, as barbers, stone masons, restaurateurs, store owners, carpenters, police officers, firefighters, town employees, lawyers, teachers, and in many other professions.

In the 1920s — when Italian immigrants made Saugatuck a thriving community — Esposito’s gas station stood on Charles Street. Today it’s Tarry Lodge.

Three and four generations later, many of their namesakes still live in Saugatuck, or elsewhere in town.

In the mid-1950s, another transportation revolution plowed through town: I-95 (known then as the Connecticut Turnpike).

Many of the same families who had forged the railway built the new highway system. It was a source of national pride — but also a massive disruption to the lives of those living in its path.

Churches, stores, meeting places, roads and many homes were demolished.  Westport’s Italian community was bisected. Roads like Indian Hill and Hiawatha Lane were cut in half by the highway. Longtime neighbors were suddenly displaced.

I-95 under construction. The photo — looking east — shows the toll booth near Exit 17, with Hiawatha Lane on the right. The Saugatuck River bridge is in the distance.

But some Westport philanthropists saw what was happening. The area between the rail tracks and I-95 — today known as Hiawatha Lane and Extension, Davenport Avenue and Indian Hill Road — was subdivided into parcels. They were then deeded to many of the displaced Saugatuck families, for as little as $1.

Julia Bradley deeded most of those properties, which still stand today. The Bradley family put a specific restriction on each deed. It stated that each house should remain in perpetuity, as one single-family house on each plot.

Ever since, the neighborhood has remained a unique place, providing affordable, low-cost home ownership.

Of the 187 units proposed by Summit Saugatuck LLC, only 30 percent are deemed “affordable” by state Department of Housing standards. They will be small 1- and 2-bedroom rentals — replacing the homes that are there today.

Sixty years after the turnpike came through, many longtime families and close neighbors who have lived next to it may again be displaced.

Osprey Nest: The Latest Update

This afternoon’s “0688o” story on the removal of the osprey nest between Fresh Market and Terrain struck a nerve. We’ve already received over 50 comments. They range from distressed and sad to furious and vindictive.

While there are no clear answers yet as to who removed the nest, it is clear that:

  • The Audubon Society yesterday received a call asking about removing the nest. They emphatically said no, for many reasons.
  • This morning, someone claiming to be from the Audubon Society told Terrain they were removing the nest because of upcoming construction — and then did so. Terrain apparently was duped.
  • Fresh Market had nothing to do with the removal either. Store personnel are very upset about what happened.
  • The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) is involved. So are the Westport police.

The comments on the previous story are compelling reading. Click here to see them all. Listed below are some highlights, including emails sent directly to me:

Tina Green: I just heard from Patrick Comins, executive director of the Connecticut Audubon Society, And they had nothing to do with the removal of the nest. The landlords should not have removed the nest and platform!

Christine Cummings: I am an assistant manager at The Fresh Market and I want to assure you, we had nothing to do with the removal of the Osprey nest. We are as distressed. We have called the landlord and are trying to get an answer.

One osprey flying over the removed nest this morning. (Photo from video by Sam Levenson)

Debbie Zager: This was done illegally – I went to walk around to see if Nest had been moved and found Betsy, a Wildlife Rehab person who had called in the DEP. The DEP is investigating – we looked everywhere and cannot find the platform. The Ospre’s are stressed and she is very concerned that this will be completely deleterious to the pair. Nobody had permission to move the nest and she said it was the worst time of year to even consider doing so. Calls to landlord went unanswered. Is there any video footage of the people who moved it on someone’s security camera? This is illegal – birds are protected by Federal Government. Contact Christine Peyreigne : christinescrittersinc@gmail.com a Wildlife Rehabilitator with info or to Report if you see an Osprey so distressed and tired that they are in the ground.

Carolyn Doan: I was so upset reading about the Osprey that I called the Audubon Society and this is their exact response:

“Thank you for reaching out to ct Audubon. We did not remove the nest. And would not have recommended to do so. Please call Brian Hess at DEEP (860) 424-3208 Brian.hess@ct.gov to report the removal. Thx.”

Pete Reid: Hi, Dan. Managers at Terrain claim that the nest was removed by the Audubon Society with the approval of CT DEP. This surprised us, and I have reached out to Audubon and DEP to try to confirm this. It would be a violation of Federal law to destroy a working osprey nest, and this sounds like a working nest. I would say this is a story worth looking into. WASA has been very helpful in getting the word out on this. Regards, Pete Reid, Wildlife in Crisis, Weston.

The nest, 4 days ago. (Photo/Tracy Porosoff)

Betsy Peyreigne: After numerous phone calls from people concerned for the osprey, I went down to check out what was going on. I spoke to Audubon in Fairfield who made calls and confirmed that it was NOT Audubon who removed the nest this morning. They received a phone call yesterday asking their opinion on removing it and they firmly stated that it should NOT be touched or removed. The DEEP is investigating.

I met with the officer at the site and relayed all information that I could to him. Searching the entire area for the platform and the nest was not successful. This is in the right hands with the DEEP and I hope that we can get a good resolution soon for this situation. We rehab birds of prey, so if anyone sees either of the osprey grounded for any reason please do not hesitate to contact us. Thank you all for your concern about these magnificent birds

Leslie Riback: I just called Terrain again and spoke to manager Maureen. She told me that the police dept and DEP are now involved. She admits that they were misinforming the public by telling them it was removed by the Audobon Society. She says the men who came and took it down told them they were “biologists”. Our phone call was cut short as she said the DEP was calling on the other line.
I guess this is now in the hands of the DEP. Can this get rectified quickly enough? I wish there was more I could do….

Alissa Harrison: I can confirm the CT Audubon Society’s Director of conservation was contacted just yesterday by the construction company involved and the official recommendation was to leave the platform as the osprey pair that nests there are habituated to all of the human activity and would not be negatively effected by the construction. The Audubon immediately contacted the DEEP biologist in charge of monitoring osprey. An Audubon employee was not in any way involved in the removal this morning, it was done solely by the construction company going against the official recommendation of the CT Audubon. I’m happy to hear DEEP is investigating the matter further and hopefully the platform can be put back in place ASAP. It is my understanding that a nest can be removed as long as there are no eggs but that certainly doesn’t mean it should be especially in this situation. Thank you Betsy for your continued work to get to the bottom of this!

Former Eversource employee: Pole is Eversource property…they only allow their own crews or contractors they hire, to install or remove anything on their poles…this is clearly a violation of their rules which all municipalities support and take action against any violators – suggest getting Town of Westport involved. This violates NatIonal Electric Safety Code – thus coming under municipal jurisdiction for enforcement!

Debra Zager: Does Terrain know the name of the landlord because the cherry picker construction device in the back parking lot of Fresh Market (and where Terrain is busting through building) has the keys still in it and it is the machine used to remove the nest. Someone told a worker at Fresh Market that they were relocating the nest for safety due to the upcoming construction … Ridiculous! Does Terrain have Security Cameras or Fresh Market ? If so- perhaps they can identify who did this early this morning?

Fiona Boughton: I am one of two Terrain employees who ran to the scene to demand an explanation from the team of 3 men involved. Two of the men work for Regency Centers https://www.regencycenters.com/office/WPT/New-YorkConnecticut-Office & the other stated that he was employed by All Points Technology http://allpointstech.com and was there to investigate whether the nest was active or not. He told me that because there were no eggs in the nest, he deemed it as inactive BUT we, at Terrain, have been seeing nesting activity over the past week where osprey are in the process of adding sticks to the nest & also sleeping in the nest. I was told by the Regency Centers that I was in the way & to leave the scene. I immediately reported this to the management team of Terrain who acted on reporting it immediately to the EPA https://www.epa.gov

An officer from DEEP came to Terrain & I shared my entire story with him. He assured us that he would get to the root of this. Terrain management kept this as a priority throughout the day & into this evening. & is active in doing everything possible to see that the Osprey are protected & that the nest is replaced as soon as possible. It has been a most heartbreaking day for all of us at Terrain.

Lauren Aber: I’m the store manager at Terrain. We are as upset as everyone about the removal of the Osprey nest. Although the nest does not sit on our property, the birds are very important to us and we look forward to their return every year. We have contacted the EPA, who sent on officer out to the store. They are conducting an investigation and I will update this post with their findings.

Pets, Wildlife Star In Animal Control Awareness Night

If you live in Westport, at some point you’ve probably wondered:

  • What’s up with all these coyotes?
  • What do I do about an injured bird/raccoon/deer?
  • Is there anything I can do about my neighbor’s damn dog?

The answers come next Tuesday (March 5, 7 p.m.) from a somewhat unlikely source: the cops.

On second thought, it’s not so unusual. Westport’s Police Department has a robust Animal Control division. They’ll host that Animal Control Awareness Night, in the 2nd floor classroom at police headquarters on Jesup Road.

Do you know what to do when you see a coyote?

The goal is to educate the public about the Animal Control Division. Among the topics: animal control laws and town ordinances, disaster preparedness for pets, living with coyotes, protection from rabies, and what to do if you find injured wildlife.

Presenters include Dr. Sheldon Yessenow, state Animal Response Team regional director and a veterinary responder to Hurricane Katrina, and Peter Reid, associate director of Wildlife in Crisis.

The event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served. Sorry — no dog treats.

Unsung Hero #85

Yvonne O’Kane’s dog barked frantically at 1 a.m. last month. She woke up, looked in the back of her Old Hill area home for deer, then took him outside to do his duty.

A few hours later, her husband went outside. Yvonne’s Mercedes convertible was gone.

The police arrived within 3 minutes. A great officer, Rachel Baron  — “lovely, compassionate and professional” — took the information. She described the work of crime gangs in Waterbury and Newark.

Because Yvonne’s checkbook and credit cards had been in the car, the officer told her to call her bank and card companies to freeze her accounts.

That morning, Yvonne headed to the police station to provide more information. Detective Phil Restieri was “awesome,” she says.

Detective Phil Restieri

He already had information: Her car had crossed the George Washington Bridge at 4 a.m. Someone had tried to use her credit card at Starbucks and McDonald’s in Newark. He gave her more advice on how to handle her lost items, and deal with her insurance company.

Phil told her that her car might be headed for a container ship. He was working with law enforcement contacts on the docks. “Everyone was already alerted,” Yvonne says.

Phil was calm, and reassuring. “His diligence and confidence gave me confidence,” Yvonne says.

Whenever she checked in, he had time for her. He — and the department — “really stayed on the case,” she adds. “No one ever made me feel like an idiot.”

After 3 weeks, Phil called. Yvonne’s car had been found, on the side of a Newark street.

He explained that stolen cars are often left on roadsides — or moved from garage to garage — until an order comes in from operatives for that particular make or model.

But Phil’s work was not done. He told Yvonne that he’d already arranged to have her vehicle towed to a safe place.

Yvonne got Westport Center Services to bring the car back from New Jersey. They delivered it to a service center in Bridgeport.

Yvonne was hesitant to go there at night. She worried there might be a weapon in the car. So — long after his shift was over — Phil met her in Bridgeport.

“It was awesome to have a police officer there,” Yvonne says. “He couldn’t have been nicer. And he said if I needed anything else, to just call.”

Phil Restieri — and all his colleagues at the Westport Police Department — are Yvonne O’Kane’s Unsung Heroes.

But here’s the thing: This is the kind of thing they do all day, every day.  We don’t hear about stories like this, unless they impact us. Or unless someone like Yvonne tells us.

So: If you’ve got a Westport Police Unsung Heroes story to share, click “Comments” below.

(Want to nominate your own Unsung Hero? Email dwoog@optonline.net) 

If You See Something…

The Y’s Men of Westport/Weston often use email to circulate useful information. John Brandt recently sent this to 400+ members. The message is worth sharing with the larger “06880” community too. 

Call it “a word to the Y’s.”

You may have read that there were several break-ins on Washington Avenue and Evergreen Avenue last week. On Sunday morning at 2:50, I saw several people walking up Washington Avenue with no apparent reason for being there. I watched them duck into my neighbor’s driveway and then move on. I didn’t call the police.

After the fact, I asked our police chief for guidance on when to call. He said that we should call the police “when anything appears remotely suspicious.” In other words: If you see something, say something.

I now realize that’s a lot more than a slogan. As Chief Foti Koskinas noted, “We have been making a lot of arrests. But there are a lot more people out there.”

Safety and community security is everyone’s responsibility. I regret not calling. Had I called, maybe these people who seek to do us harm would have been apprehended. I won’t make that mistake again.

Don’t hesitate. Call — and help the police protect and serve us.

NOTE: Diligent police work solved a recent crime spree — 6 residential burglaries, 14 motor vehicle break-ins, 2 stolen cars and numerous larcenies —  on Sandhopper Trail, Crystal Circle, Gault Avenue, Oak Ridge Park, Keyser Road, Evergreen Avenue, Gorham Avenue and Brooklawn Drive. Investigators recovered plenty of stolen property, including 2 Audis, 1 Mercedes and 1 Chevrolet, computers, a bicycle and a purse.

In every case, homes and vehicles were left unlocked. Police urge residents to lock homes, garages and vehicles every night; remove valuables from vehicles, and turn on exterior lights and security systems. 

Unsung Heroes #80

On Monday night, the frenzy of holiday preparations was over.

Gifts were bought and wrapped. Trees were trimmed. Even the stockings had been hung by the chimney (with care).

Christmas Eve was a time to relax.

Unless you were working.

Home for the holidays? Not everyone.

Police officers, firefighters, EMTs — all were on call, on duty, away from their families. For many who serve in Westport, those families live quite a ways away.

Doctors, nurses, technicians and orderlies were working too. And all those people employed in nursing homes.

Plus cooks, wait staff and dishwashers, at restaurants that offered a Christmas Eve meal.

Of course, clergy and church staff were on the clock as well.

Some of those same folks worked yesterday — Christmas — itself.

And it’s all repeated next Monday, on New Year’s Eve. (Except for the religious services.)

Of course, there will be more restaurants and bars open.

Those trains don’t run themselves.

Not to mention everyone working on Metro-North, for the revelers going to Times Square.

Trust me, the return trip is not one you sign up for.

So to all everyone who was on the job Christmas Eve, or Christmas day. And all those who will work New Year’s Eve:

Thanks for being there for us. We don’t always thank you — or even know who you are.

You’re all this week’s Unsung Heroes, for sure.

Westporters Enable Car Thieves

The Westport Police Department wants to make life hard for car thieves.

Unfortunately, too many residents make it too easy. 

The WPD says:

Early this morning, 2 vehicles were stolen from the Hillspoint Road area. Two others were broken into. Credit cards stolen from one vehicle were later used in Stratford.

All vehicles were believed to have been unlocked, with keys left inside the vehicles.

Another vehicle was stolen over the weekend. It was also unsecured, with the keys left inside. All incidents are being investigated by the detective bureau.

Please steal my car!

Despite multiple warnings over the last few years, residents continue to leave valuables and keys in their unlocked vehicles. As long as residents do not heed these warnings, thieves will continue to target our area.

We ask everyone to remove valuables from their vehicles, take their keys with them, and lock their car doors every time — whether holiday shopping downtown, parked at the gym, at the dog park or in their own driveways.

Residents are urged to participate in the “9 PM Routine.” This national public service campaign is a simple, effective way to prevent theft. It includes removing valuables from vehicles, locking car doors and bringing keys inside.

Take a few extra moments during your nightly routine to make sure the doors to your home are locked, your garage doors are secure, and exterior lights are turned on.

Help us prevent burglaries and theft in our community, and protect your home and property. For more information on the 9 PM Routine, follow us on Instagram and Facebook.

Kids Dodge Cops

Over 100 Staples High School students spent 3 hours last night dodging the police.

It was hard to tell who had more fun: the kids or the cops.

This group of dodgeball players was going for the win — and the Best Costume award. (Photo/Lily Williams)

The event was the annual “Dodge a Cop” dodgeball tournament. Organized by Staples’ Teen Awareness Group and the Westport Youth Commission, in collaboration with Westport’s Police Department — and held in the dodgeball-friendly fieldhouse — it raises scholarship funds for Chris Lemone’s children. The founder of TAG died 3 years ago, age 49.

Police chief Foti Koskinas (2nd from right) joined in the fun. (Photo/Lily Williams)

Twenty-four teams competed. Each included at least one police officer. Staples staff and community members served as referees.

Staples’ popular resource officer Ed Wooldridge (far left) also joined a team. (Photo/Lily Williams)

Despite an evening of hurling balls at each other, no arrests were reported.

Lefty Pendarakis (center) gathers his team (including a police officer, right) for pre-game strategy. (Photo/Lily Williams)

Hey, girls play dodgeball too! (Photo/Lily Williams)

It wasn’t easy dodging these cops. But it sure was fun. (Photo/Westport Police Department)

Winslow Park Warning

Alert — and upset — “06880” reader Fran Bresnan writes:

My car was broken into yesterday in the Winslow Park parking lot on Compo Road.

I arrived at 1 p.m. Twenty minutes later, when I returned to my car, the passengers window had been smashed. My purse and briefcase were taken from the car.

Apparently, others there at this time said, this happens frequently.

I’d like to warn everyone going there to leave valuables at home. This was not a crime of opportunity. Apparently the same thing happened last week, and others have said “frequently.” Someone knows the drill and is watching the parking lot.

Perhaps some video surveillance or an increased police presence might be a deterrent?

After the car break-in.