Category Archives: Saugatuck

Change In The Air At Saugatuck Rowing Club

You’d think the Saugatuck Rowing Club‘s biggest COVID concern is its regattas.

Sure, races are held outdoors. But rowers are packed tightly together. They breathe heavily. The cox shouts.

The coronavirus did impact competitors. All 2020 regattas were canceled. Junior rowers are still not allowed to practice until at least January 19.

But fewer than 20% of Saugatuck Rowing Club members actually row. Most adults join for the state-of-the-art fitness center (and social activities).

Saugatuck Rowing Club (Drone photo/Ward French)

So when SRC opened up again in June, one of the most important issues was air quality and circulation in the weight and cardio room.

Which led the club to something most rowers and coaches never think about: ionization.

After diligent research, SRC installed “needlepoint bipolar ionization” —a technology used in hospitals, airline terminals and office headquarters around the country that deactivates airborne bacteria and viruses by up to 99%, while reducing allergens and mold — in their 9 HVAC systems.

They overhauled their infrastructure, making the entire building — including the restaurant — as safe as possible. 

Ionization work at the Saugatuck Rowing Club fitness center.

The $12,000 job was completed in November.

“You can’t put a price on safety,” says director of marketing, membership and events Diana Kuen. “It was important to do more than just open windows and hope for the best.”

That’s not all. Owner Howard Winklevoss took advantage of the downtime to replace the entire back wall with floor-to-ceiling glass doors, creating a sweeping view of the river.

New full-length windows in the Regatta Room.

He’s adding a full-service café, and replacing the carpet with (cleaner) hardwood floors.

A big party is planned — as soon as large crowds can gather again.

Meanwhile, a new app allows the club to monitor usage (only 12 people are allowed on the gym floor at a time), and trace contacts. (As much fitness training as possible is still done outdoors.)

Outdoor workouts, at the Saugatuck Rowing Club.

A special website allows members to take classes from home (Zoom or livestream), or in person. There are over 100 group fitness videos in the library.

Because only 4 junior rowers are allowed on site at a time, the club lent 70 indoor rowing machines to those who did not already have them. They’re continuing winter training via Zoom, 5 times a week for 2 1/2 hours a day

Meanwhile, Kuen continues to coach the breast cancer survivors (“Survive-OARS“) 3 days a week.

The pandemic has not slowed them — or any other member — down.

And when they work out inside, they are grateful to do so surrounded by newly ionized air.

(To learn more about the ionization technology, email SRC general manager Scott Armstrong: sarmstrong@saugatuckrowing.com.)

Roundup: Colonial Green, Home Movie, Tutors, More


Unless you have business with one of the tenants at Colonial Green — an eclectic mix including attorneys, CPAs, and the offices of CLASP and Newman’s Own — there’s no reason most Westporters would ever see the lobby at 246 Post Road East.

What a shame. Its walls are lined with local history. There’s a great collection of large photos and old postcards, with intriguing text. They tell wonderful stories of Westport’s first library, National Hall, a spectacular hotel on Beachside Avenue, and more.

And who knew the Cribari Bridge was once painted red?

Thanks to Eve Potts, for this fascinating find!


Home Movie is a dark comedy about a wounded family’s struggles with death, deception and general mania.

Jarret Liotta — a longtime Westporter, and Staples High School graduate — filmed it entirely in Westport.

The title also refers to the help he got from many local people and groups, like the Westport Woman’s Club, Senior Center, Police Department, Kaia Yoga, Gold’s Deli, even Harding Funeral Home.

On January 7 (7 p.m.), Miggs Burroughs will host a live (virtual) Q-and-A with Liotta. Everyone registering for the event through the Westport Library (click here) will receive a link to view the film any time the week before the event.

Liotta — a noted writer, photographer and video producer — is also a filmmaker. He says his first film, How Clean is My Laundry, “received moderate acclaim but wasn’t very good.” His second, The Acting Bug, “was much better, but no one saw it.”

His current project is a comedy exploring racism and gun violence (!). It will filmed entirely in Westport.

Jarret Liotta


Top Hat Tutors — the Staples High School juniors and seniors who charge less than adult competitors, but deliver quality with a teenage vibe — is starting the new year right.

Now through March, they’re offering their services free, to low income families and students on tight budgets. The offer is available every other Friday and Saturday, between 2 nd 5 p.m. There is a limit of 5 students per time slot.

Top Hat tutors cover math, science, language arts, social studies and standardized testing prep, for all age students.

Click here for the special free tutoring service.  Click here for the Top Hat Tutors home page.


And finally … on this date in 1845, Texas became the 28th U.S. state. It had been an independent republic since 1836.

 

 

Roundup: Celestial Convergence, Barnes & Noble, Downtown Employees, More


It was a bit too cloudy and foggy yesterday to really see the convergence of Saturn and Jupiter. It’s been nearly 400 years since the planets passed so close to each other, and nearly 800 years since their alignment — seeming to form one “Christmas star” — occurred at night.

But that didn’t stop a number of Westporters from heading to Compo Beach to look.

Jo Shields reports, “I heard someone say there was a lot of applause and cheering on South Beach. But then someone said it might have just been a plane.”

Here’s what she saw, on the jetty:

(Photo/Jo Shields)


It’s official!

Barnes & Noble signed its new lease yesterday, for the former Restoration Hardware site. “06880” reported that the deal was imminent last week. The opening is slated for February. David Adam Realty was the realtor.

Restoration Hardware moved out in June. Soon, Barnes & Noble will move in.(Photo/Chip Stephens)


Last summer, as the pandemic (first) raged, the Westport Downtown Merchants Association partnered with ASF, on a fundraiser to support local businesses. The community helped raise over $2,700.

Last month, the WDMA asked retailers to nominate employees who have gone “above and beyond.”

There were many stories about heroes who put in extra hours, offered creative ideas to keep businesses afloat, provided extraordinary customer service, or remained strong in uncertain times.

Now the WDMA has awarded 26 of those very deserving employees $100 Downtown Dollar eGift Cards. Congratulations and thanks go to:

Karyl Scott (Massage Envy)
Kimberly Lavigne (Sorelle Gallery)
Francisco Moreno (Winfield Street Deli)
Henry Potter (Athleta)
Ellyn Weitzman (Franny’s Farmacy)
Stephanie Soares (Don Memo)
Alba Antun (Don Memo)
Zach Hinman (Don Memo)
Owen Wiseman (Kawa Ni)
Kelly Clement (Kawa Ni)
Marco Almanza (Kawa Ni)
Lux Bond & Green Team
Paulino Garcia (The Whelk)
Lupita Cristostomo (The Whelk)
Matt Balga (The Whelk)
Julie Cook (Savannah Bee)
Will Newman (New England Hemp Farm)
John Vaast (Walrus Alley)
Patricia Andrade (Splash of Pink)
Isabelle Johansen (Cotelac)
Jinkuk Hong (Manna Toast)
Victor Mejia (Manna Toast)
Jessica Zito (Manna Toast)
Karen Martella (Catherine H)


The ink is barely dry on the new federal COVID relief package.

But this afternoon (Tuesday, December 22, 2:30 p.m.), Congressman Jim Himes and officials of the Small Business Administration join a live Zoom discussion to explain it. Click here for the link; the passcode is 509950.

Congressman Jim Himes


Jewish Senior Services is located in Bridgeport, but its Westport roots are strong and deep.

Ken Wirfel and Alan Phillips are the 2 most recent board chairs. Dozens of Westporters are board members and/or supporters, including the Nevas, Kassen and Magidas families.

Scores of Westport relatives are in long-term care there, have gone through short-term rehabilitation, or utilize JSS’ home care or community services.

Yesterday, the first doses of Pfizer’s COVID vaccine were administered there, to nearly 300 people. CEO Andrew Banoff called it “a day we will never forget.”

Although JSS’s mission is grounded in Jewish traditions, well over half of the residents and clients are not Jewish. They are “the largest faith-based not-for- profit senior care community in Connecticut.”


Amy Schneider captured the winter solstice sunset — the first one of the season — last night.

Here’s the “bright” side to winter: For the next 6 months, every day there’s a little more light.

(Photo/Amy Schneider)


The Saugatuck River Dancers keep dancing — and keep raising funds for suicide prevention.

Suzanne Harvey’s latest choreography is Meghan Trainor’s “Holidays.” She created it to share the joy of dance and the holidays with others. Tomorrow (December 23) is the 28th anniversary of her brother Michael‘s death. He was just 15 when he took his life.

Hilary Solder, Jill Alcott, Deb Montner, Michael Chait and Eva Rawiszer joined Suzanne in dance. The video is below. Click here for a link to donate to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.


And finally … on this day in 1984, subway vigilante Bernhard Goetz shot 4 would-be muggers on a Manhattan subway. Five years later, he was part of a Billy Joel song.

 

Roundup: Cribari Bridge, Burroughs Brothers, Chocolate Bombs, More


The Cribari Bridge Christmas lights never get old.

In fact, “06880” readers always provide fresh perspectives.

Here’s January Stuart’s:

(Photo/January Stewart)


The Winter Farmers’ Market: It’s not just for Thursdays anymore.

Next Tuesday (December 15, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Gilbertie’s Herbs & Garden Center, 7 Sylvan Lane) features a special holiday Artist Market.

It’s a way to support local artisans, who have been battered professionally by COVID-19. The Farmers’ Market is a safe outdoor space where they can sell their crafts.

The Artist Market takes place in 3 open-air greenhouses. Food trucks will grab-and-go meals, and hot and cold drinks.


2020 has been a wretched year. It can’t end soon enough.

But on its way out the door, the Westport Library will give it a special push.

On Monday, December 21 (7 p.m.), Miggs and Trace Burroughs’ offer winter solstice entertainment.

“Oh Brother, Not Another Holiday Special” — streamed from the Westport Library’s Forum — features several cool guests.

Martha Stewart returns to town, giving Miggs some holiday tips. Psychic “Miss Liz” will answer questions and make predictions for 2021. (Uh oh.)

Miggs’ bagel-making, Moog-playing son Brayden and Trace’s conceptual artist Pavia will appear.

Scraping the very bottom of the barrel, Miggs has asked me to be on the show too. I’ll try to find the 10 most uplifting stories of 2020. (It’s not easy.)

Miggs and Trace promise to make short work of the longest night of the year. Click here to register.

 

For years, Aarti Khosla — Westport’s favorite chocolatier — has been “Giving a Little Love.” Her promotions have supported healthcare workers, police officers, Bridgeport high school graduates, and teachers right here in Westport.

Now — as winter looms — Le Rouge Chocolates by Aarti embarks on a new campaign: “Give a Little Warmth.”

For each $10 “Hot Chocolate Bomb” pack customers buy, she’ll donate one to men and women who care for us: healthcare professionals, police and EMTs. They’re great stocking stuffers — and easy to ship.

Click here to order; be sure to write “Give a Little Warmth” in the note section.

Need another reason to shop at Le Rouge (190 Main Street, lower level)? Aarti will donate 5% of all December sales to local food banks.


And finally … today marks the 40th anniversary of John Lennon’s murder. He was 40 years old when Mark David Chapman shot him 4 times in the archway of his Manhattan apartment building.

In other words, John Lennon has been dead for as many years as he lived. Imagine.

Cathy Walsh’s Westport

After 30 years in town, Cathy Walsh knows Westport.

But despite all that time — and her long service on the Planning & Zoning Commission — it took a pandemic for her to really appreciate the things she sees every day.

For the past 9 months, Cathy has walked all over town. The day after Thanksgiving she did a 7 1/2-mile loop to Burying Hill Beach. The next day she took her regular 6 1/2-mile neighborhood walk.

Like many other Westporters, COVID helped Cathy see Westport through new eyes.

Unlike many others, Cathy stopped along the way to take photos. Here are some scenes from last week’s walks.

Burying Hill Beach jetty.

Burying Hill tidal creek.

Nyala Farm.

Greens Farms Church cemetery.

Saugatuck River, behind Belden Place.

Parker Harding Plaza footbridge.

Canoeing on the Saugatuck River, downtown.

Saugatuck River west bank, behind Arezzo.

Riverside Avenue walkway.

Rive Bistro restaurant.

Saugatuck River, looking north.

William F. Cribari Bridge, and Bridge Square.

Seahorse in Saugatuck. (Photos/Cathy Walsh)

Even during a crisis, Westport is beautiful. Thanks, Cathy, for helping us notice so much we don’t always see.

Cribari Bridge Is Lit. Let The Holidays Begin!

The crowd was far smaller than usual.

But even the coronavirus can’t dampen the joy of one of Westport’s favorite traditions: lighting the William F. Cribari Bridge.

The bulbs are new. The colors are beautiful. And now more than ever, we need this annual Al’s Angels gift.

(Drone photos/Patrick Sikes)

Roundup: Bathrooms, Cribari Bridge, Suzuki, More


The other day, Mary-Lou Weisman emailed the Parks & Recreation Department.

She and her husband had been upset to find the Compo Beach bathrooms locked. They were replaced by porta potties “filled nearly to the brim” (and lacking toilet paper).

Mary-Lou noted that medical experts have warned against using such small, secured enclosures during COVID.

A Parks & Rec employee replied. She noted that bathrooms are seasonal facilities only, and the water has been shut off for the winter. (Year-round bathrooms are available at the Ned Dimes Marina.) The department is following up with the service company that maintains the porta-johns.

Mary-Lou responded: “Are the 2 proper restrooms at Compo closed because of financial concerns. or because the water pipes would burst in cold weather? If the concerns are financial, I would hope the town would provide the necessary funds to keep them open. I would further suggest that if frozen pipes are a concern, that problem might be mitigated by being wrapped, and probably by other means.

“If Westport can afford to build pickleball courts and skateboard ramps, the town should be able to keep the bathrooms open all year.”

Bathroom facilities at Compo Beach are closed. (Photo/Matt Murray)


On Friday, the William F. Cribari Bridge will glow again. It’s a holiday tradition that makes Saugatuck special.

Yesterday, “06880” reported that a crew of Al’s Angels and friends worked for hours, restringing lights and replacing broken bulbs.

They don’t want a lot of publicity. But here’s the gang to thank. They bring a bit of joy, at a time we all desperately need it.

(Photo/Al DiGuido)


COVID has canceled some of Suzuki Music Schools’ traditional  performances.

So the Westport students are going online. Among the highlights: a mid-month “Ode to Joy.” The virtual orchestra project features students and faculty from the Westport and Orange campuses and KEYS Bridgeport, celebrating Beethoven’s 250th birthday.

Suzuki adds: “As a non-profit music school, we keep the community culturally connected by providing free concerts, scholarships, and international events to the public directly due to the generosity of others, so it is inherent that we help those around us grow as well. In that spirit, we encourage the public to not only donate to Suzuki Schools at www.suzukischools.org this Giving Tuesday, but also to the organizations they appreciate and that affect them most.


And finally … whenever I think of Suzuki musicians, I think of “M*A*S*H.” In the unforgettable final episode, Major Charles Emerson Winchester III is aggravated that a group of Chinese North Korean POWs are musicians. He tries to teach them his beloved Mozart Clarinet Quintet in A, with moderate success.

With the war’s end imminent, the prisoners ship out from the 4077th. Gamely, they play the piece in the back of the truck.

Casualties continue to arrive — including one of the just-released POWs. The entire group had been killed, minutes after leaving camp.

“He wasn’t even a soldier,” the distraught doctor says. “He was a musician.”

Winchester returns to his tent. He puts on a record of the Clarinet Quintet, then smashes it in rage.

 

Cribari Bridge Lights: You Can Help!

Whatever goes around, comes around.

For over 20 years from Thanksgiving through January, traffic going around — or over — the William F. Cribari Bridge has slowed. Everyone is awed by the span’s lights, from Riverside Avenue to Bridge Street.

The colorful display is beautiful, wherever you stand. Driving through it is especially fun.

The William F. Cribari Bridge, in all its holiday glory. (Photo/JD Dworkow)

The lights are a gift from Al’s Angels. The non-profit — started in part by Al DiGuido, and aided by countless volunteers — provides holiday meals, gifts  and toys to thousands of children and families battling cancer, rare blood disease and severe financial hardship.

Al’s Angels gives so much to Fairfield County. And so many give to Al’s Angels.

Last year, Saugatuck Rowing Club gave back to both. The boathouse/fitness center/restaurant just a few yards from the bridge sponsored a bridge lighting festival. Hundreds of people came, and contributed funds that help Al’s Angels continue its amazing work.

Merry Christmas, thanks to Al’s Angels.

The Rowing Club wanted to do the same thing this year. COVID makes the need more urgent than ever — both in terms of the number of people who need help, and covering the shortfall from people having a tough time donating this year.

But the recent spike in cases makes a big gathering untenable.

Meanwhile, for 5 hours this weekend — working through 3 a.m. — volunteers replaced all the old lights with new ones. They were (of course) a donation from Al’s Angels, with help from A.J. Penna & Sons Construction.

A low-key lighting celebration is set for this Friday (November 27, 6 p.m.). There won’t be a big crowd, unfortunately.

So Diana Kuen and the Rowing Club are asking their friends — and all “06880” readers – to help. They hope everyone who can will donate $20 (or more!).

Of course, you don’t have to wait until Friday. Click here to give funds. Click here to provide a gift to a child, through Al’s Angels’ Touchless Toy Drive.

This year more than ever, we need those Cribari Bridge lights.

And this year more than ever, Al’s Angels needs us.

Whatever goes around, comes around.

The Cribari Bridge at Christmastime. (Photo/Joel Treisman)

 

 

 

 

Saugatuck May Face New Traffic Woes

Saugatuck residents worried about over-development have spent years battling a proposed 187-unit complex on Hiawatha Lane.

Now they’ve got a new fear. And it’s out of Westport’s hands.

There’s a plan to built a warehouse and distribution center at 10 Norden Place.

That’s in East Norwalk. It’s accessible off Route 136 (Saugatuck Avenue/Winfield Street). And it is very close to Hiawatha Lane.

The proposed Norden Place warehouse and distribution center is shown in yellow. Tractor-trailer routes are marked in green and purple. Click on or hover over to enlarge.

What does “warehouse and distribution center” mean?

According to Save Old Saugatuck, the Norden property — which once housed an electronics company, then became an office park and has now added apartments — would be the site of a 330,000-square foot facility. It would draw 198 tractor-trailers — 62 to 67 feet long — and 376 cars each day.

SOS foresees “possible 24 hour operations.”

The distribution facility would include 19 loading docks, for 3 to 5 tenants occupying 60,000 to 100,000 square feet each.

The tenant mix would be unknown until the applicant receives zoning approval, purchases the building and begins leasing space.

Artists’ rendering of a distribution center.

Save Old Saugatuck warns, “This Norden Place warehouse will affect Westport’s Exit 17 and surrounding traffic.”

Tractor-trailers can’t fit under the railroad bridge (though god knows plenty of drivers try). So some would take the I-95 exit, head north on Riverside Avenue, then take a sharp turn onto Post Road West and continue on to Strawberry Hill Avenue.

“Our Norwalk neighbors came out to support us when we had to fight (the Hiawatha proposal) before the Norwalk Zoning Commission,” SOS says.

“It is critical for those of us who live in the SOS neighborhood to now give our support to our Norwalk neighbors. Support is in the form of petitions, emails, or open-to-public virtual meeting attendance.”

Emails can be sent to skleppin@norwalkct.org.

Pic Of The Day #1279

Sunrise over Pasacreta Park (Photo/Tom Cook)