Category Archives: Saugatuck

Roundup: Outdoor Dining, P&Z Records, Food Drive …

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Love outdoor dining? Think it’s too intrusive?

On Thursday, March 11, the Planning & Zoning Commission holds a public hearing. They’ll consider a text amendment that would continue outdoor dining for over 80 restaurants — which would otherwise expire March 31 — until further notice.

The text amendment would also be expanded to include certain retail businesses.

Click here for the full document. Click here for the retail portion

The March 11 meeting will be livestreamed at 6 p.m. on www.westportct.gov, Optimum channel 79 and Frontier channel 6020.

Comments can be emailed before the meeting to PandZ@westportct.gov, or during the meeting to PandZComments@westportct.gov. You can offer live testimony during the meeting if you request a link from maryyoung@westportct.gov by noon on March 11.

Romanacci’s Xpress was one of several Railroad Place restaurants with outdoor dining.

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Speaking of the P&Z: Did you know that Westport has digitized its back-office land use permit process?

Users can search for and view records — free! — by clicking here. It even comes with a handy how-to tutorial:

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The last Farmers’ Market of the winter is an important one.

On Thursday, March 11 (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.), the Market partners with Sustainable Westport to replenish 2 food pantries: Homes with Hope’s Gillespie Center, and  Christ & Holy Trinity Church. Both are running low.

Non-perishable items (canned goods, rice, beans, pasta, jams, sauces, etc.) can be dropped off at Farmers’ Market (Gilbertie’s Herbs & Garden Center, 7 Sylvan Road).

It’s rare to see canned food at the Westport Farmers’ Market. A week from tomorrow, it will be a very lovely sight.

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The other day, Positive Directions hosted Senator Chris Murphy, State Representative Jonathan Steinberg and 1st Selectman Jim Marpe.

They joined Westport Human Services, Kids in Crisis, Mid-Fairfield Child Guidance, NAMI and Fairfield Public Schools for a discussion on behavioral health needs during COVID and beyond.

Senator Murphy heard ideas he’ll bring to Washington. Other leaders shared best practices. Click here to learn more.

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Seth Van Beever is a proud son of Saugatuck.

Actually, a proud great-great-grandson. His great-great-grandfather, James Barnes Sr., was the first tender for what is now called the William F. Cribari Bridge.

Seth has followed the debate over the 133-year-old bridge’s future closely. So when he saw a photo of an innovative solution — a road in the Netherlands goes under the water, so boats can sail above it — he thought of us.

(Photo courtesy of @alic3lik)

That’s thinking waaaaay outside the bridge — er, the box.

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We dodged a bullet Monday.

High winds throughout Connecticut led to 18,000 power outages statewide. As of last night, there were still 4,600 Eversource customers without power.

Here in Westport, we had outages in only 3 scattered, small locations. As of last night, the only folks still without power here wee on Pheasant Lane, off Meeker Road.

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Nancy Vener took this photo from Saugatuck Shores. Stony Point is on the left; Longshore, on the right.

But what’s that blue light? She said it showed up on several photos, at different heights. If you know, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Nancy Vener)

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Juanita Watson — a 30-year Westport Public Schools employee — died last Thursday. She most recently worked in Pupil Services.

Juanita Watson

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And finally … on this day in 1931, President Hoover signed a congressional act making “The Star Spangled Banner” our official national anthem.

For decades, it was sung the same way. During the 1968 World Series, our Weston neighbor Jose Feliciano broke tradition with this version.

The national anthem has never been the same.

 

Classic Westport Art For Sale

Longtime Westporter Martha Nachman is downsizing. She has a few items that might interest “06880” readers.

One is a nice Naiad Einsel framed poster of the Westport Schools Spring Art Show at Jesup Green.

She also has a number of Al Willmott’s small prints of Westport scenes.

Ned Dimes Marina (Don Willmott)

Church Lane (Don Willmott)

Many are in great shape. Some have stains.

]UPDATE: ALL THE PIECES HAVE BEEN SOLD!]

Saugatuck: Old Riverside Avenue (Don Willmott)

Greens Farms train station (Don Willmott)

 

Saugatuck Railroad Bridge: The Project No One Talks About

Everyone is talking about the William F. Cribari Bridge. It’s over 130 years old. Should it be renovated, or replaced?

No one is talking about the Saugatuck River railroad bridge. It’s 116 years old. It too is nearing the end of its useful life.

Metro-North railroad bridge, looking south toward Long Island Sound.

The Metro-North span is one of 8 movable train bridges in the state. If it is replaced by a fixed structure — a project that could cost $75 million — what will happen to businesses upriver, like marinas, that depend on it being opened?

And if it is unable to open, what does that mean for the equipment — tugboats, barges, piledrivers — needed to dredge the river?

Railroad bridge over the Saugatuck River. (Photo/Patricia McMahon)

Speaking of which: When will the river be dredged?

The last major work was done in the 1950s. Before and after, barges traveling to and from the Gault oil tanks (around the site of what is now Saugatuck Sweets) sometimes scraped the bottom of the river. Those barges, and tugboats accompanying them, helped maintain the river.

The Gault oil tanks on Riverside Avenue, between the Cribari Bridge (left) and the railroad bridge, were not environmentally healthy for the Saugatuck River. But barge and tugboat traffic helped prevent buildup of silt on the bottom.

First Selectwoman Diane Farrell turned down funding for a dredging project, more than 20 years ago. Since then, the addition of businesses like kayak rentals and the Saugatuck Rowing Club has spurred an increased demand for recreational opportunities.

There are signs near the Levitt Pavilion that the river is becoming unnavigable. If a navigable channel is dry at low tide, it will no longer be maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers.

The Saugatuck River is becoming unnavigable at times far south of the Pavilion. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

What will that do to the waterway that once drove commerce all the way from Saugatuck to downtown — and which figures prominently in plans for a revitalization of downtown, with ideas like docks and a floating restaurant?

The other day, the Army Corps took some river samples, tied to possible work on the railroad bridge. They’re likely to find contamination in the area of that span, and I-95. Decades of train travel, and cars and trucks driving on the nearby highway, must have had an impact on the river below.

The railroad and I-95 bridges. (Photo/Brandon Malin)

Westporters should consider — and be talking about — the futures of both the Saugatuck River from Long Island Sound up to the Post Road bridge, and the Saugatuck River railroad bridge near its mouth.

The Cribari Bridge is important. But its just one part of an entire marine and transportation ecosystem that impacts our entire town.

The Saugatuck River, near Rive Bistro (Photo/Lauri Weiser)

Roundup: Cribari Bridge, Charlie Capalbo, WTF, More

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1st Selectman Jim Marpe has issued a correction about the state Department of Transportation’s plans for the William F. Cribari Bridge. He says that deputy commissioner Mark Rolfe has not yet reached a final decision on the 5 alternatives under consideration.  In addition, the draft Environmental Assessment will not be released mid-March. It is at least a few months away.

Rolfe says, “The DOT seeks to continue the dialogue with stakeholders regarding this project. One potential solution is for the DOT to restore the existing bridge to a state of good repair and then transfer ownership of the bridge and a segment of Route 136 to the Town of Westport.”

Marpe noted that any DOT recommendation — when it occurs — will be subject to further review and approval.

William F. Cribari Bridge (Drone photo/John Videler for Videler Photography)

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Maple sugar and tree tapping. Kids’ cooking classes. How to raise a dog. The wonderful world of honeybees.

Those are  just some of the offerings at Wakeman Town Farm, in the weeks ahead. The sustainability center contains to sustain all of us, with programs and classes for every age. Click here for details.

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Charlie Capalbo  — the 22-year-old Fairfield hockey player and grandson of Westport writer Ina Chadwick — has been diagnosed with leukemia.

The local Two Oh Three team is helping him, in his 3rd cancer battle.

The Westport-based firm has designed a line of products to raise both funds and awareness. Charlie has collaborated on the design process — a welcome distraction has he undergoes treatment.

The collection — #CapalboStrong — features products that help the community show Charlie that they’re all in this fight with him. Funds from products sold are assist Capalbo’s medical and travel expenses, while at Boston Children’s Hospital.

The collection was launched Sunday, to his network of friends. Hundreds of orders poured in. The Two Oh Three has now launched the custom designs on their full website.

Charlie says, “Seeing people ordering gear with my Capalbo Strong logo makes me feel connected to the outside world– like I know my army of friends and family are with me, even though I can’t see them now due to COVID-19. I’m so excited for this!”

“Our daily FaceTime calls with Charlie have been rewarding beyond words,” says Two Oh Three co-founder and Staples High School graduate Roscoe Brown.

“Constantly updating him on the number products we’ve sold helps remind him just how many people he has fighting along side him.”

Click here for the Two Oh Three #CapalboStrong Collection.

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Bob Stefanowski lost his race for Connecticut governor in 2018. But he’s a winner now, promoting area restaurants during COVID with a series of “Let’s Save CT Restaurants” videos.

His latest features Winfield Street Coffee, with owner Breno Donatti. It was filmed at their Stamford location — not the Post Road West shop — but it’s worth a watch.

Breno talks about the many ways that — despite the pandemic — Winfield Street gives back to the community, from providing meals for the homeless to sponsoring a holiday toy drive.

Here’s the quick video. When you’re done watching, place an order!

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The Staples boys basketball team opened its home season yesterday with a victory over Westhill.

The only way to watch the win was on the livestream. Spectators are prohibited from gyms this winter, in all high school sports.

But the stands were “filled” — with fatheads. That’s the name for cardboard figures of fans. It’s a way to make the gym a little less lonely. It’s also a great fundraiser for the Staples Boys Basketball Association.

How many folks do you recognize in the photo below? Besides (of course) me — directly underneath the “E.”

(Photo/Dan Woog)

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Christmas is long over. But Anthropologie’s giraffe remains penned in, between the store and Church Lane. Animal lovers, please help!

(Photo/Amy Schneider)

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And finally … here’s wishing Ed Sheeran a “perfect” 30th birthday today.

 

Roundup: Albert Pizzirusso, Sidewalks, Optimum,

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Albert Pizzirusso, a longtime Westport resident and owner of A&S Fine Foods in Westport and Stamford, died Sunday. He was 46

The Yonkers, New York native graduated from The Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park. He became chef at legendary restaurants, including the Rainbow Room, the Ritz-Carlton Hotel and others. 

At the Rainbow Room he impressed Julia Child with his dedication. He was the only person in the kitchen who did not stop working when she entered. She noted that that commitment and focus proved he had what takes to go into business for himself. She was right.

Albert combined his love of Italian culture, great food and old school “let me make you an espresso” traditional service in his businesses, with quality of service and offerings from a bygone era.

He added value to his community through great generosity to local charities and organizations.

He is survived by his wife Patricia, with whom he ran A&S Fine Foods for 2 decades; parents Agnes and Angelo; brothers Mario (his twin), and Michael; sister-in-law Laura; nephews Matthew and Eric, and his beloved Yorkie, Eddie.

Due to current restrictions, services will limited to family and close friends. A lover of celebrating just about anything, a Celebration of Life will be held in his honor in Westport this summer.

Memorial contributions may be made in his name to the Connecticut Humane Society in Westport.

Albert Pizzirusso

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On Sunday, Carole Schweid noted that the Treadwell/Riverside/Saugatuck Avenue intersection in front of Riverside Barber Shop had not been shoveled.

That spurred Robbie Guimond — owner of Bridgebrook Marina, across the street — into action. He was happy to help.

Ta-da! Here’s what the sidewalk looked like yesterday. Thanks, Robbie!

(Photo/Carole Schweid)

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For years, Optimum/Altice has had a monopoly on cablevision services throughout the area.

A new group — the Tristate Coalition for Fair Internet Service — is working on legal challenges through the New York State Attorney General’s office, and promoting alternate providers. They’re also collecting data on customer experiences with the longtime cable service.

Click here for details.

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Connect-Us Academy is a great Bridgeport-based after-school program that helps young people ages 16 to 21 cultivate professional business skills.

This Thursday (February 18, 4:30 p.m.), they welcome a new class. Students will share their experiences, and their excitement at what’s aheda.

Westporter Rich Eldh — co-founder emeritus of SiriusDecisions will deliver a keynote address. Click here to watch via Zoom.

Richard Eldh

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Valentine’s Day is gone. But love remains in the air.

And in cyberspace.

Play With Your Food’s performance of “Love Notes” — an evening of thought-provoking play readings and stories — is available online for a limited time.

Click here for the selections: “I Was Fine Until You Came Into the Room,” “My Life in France,” “Bar Mitzvah Boy,” “Love Poems for Married People” and “The Diaries of Adam and Eve,” followed by a talkback with the director and cast.

For more Play With Your Food information click here; follow on Facebook (@PWYFood) or Instagram (@playwithyourfoodct), or call 203-293-8729.

The Play With Your Food cast.

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As we slog through mid-February, Lou Weinberg provides a burst of color — and a reminder that spring is only 32 days away:

Female cardinal (Photo/Lou Weinberg)

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And finally … on this day in 1923, Howard Carter unsealed the burial chamber of Pharaoh Tutankhamun.

The Cribari Bridge — Of Flowers?

Mark Kramer spent 3 decades as a writer-in residence at Smith College, Boston University and Harvard’s Nieman Foundation. He also enjoyed a storied career as a book and magazine writer, editor, speaker and consultant.

Mark has not lived in Westport since graduating from Staples High School in 1961. But — as an alert “06880” reader — he notes from afar that “the Saugatuck (Cribari) Bridge is threatened by traffic and time.”

William F. Cribari Bridge. (Drone photo/John Videler for Videler Photography)

It meant a lot to his childhood — and the town. In 2018, he had an idea for the Cribari Bridge. Following the state Department of Transportation’s recent decision to build a new bridge — or hand it over to the town, which would be responsible for its repair, maintenance and upkeep — Mark revisits that idea. He writes:

The bridge over the Saugatuck is dear to me.

I rode across it every evening — in my pajamas, for quite a stretch — fetching my father (Sidney Kramer, of Save Westport Now and The Remarkable Bookshop) from the 6:12 back from Manhattan.

I fished from it, and kept a dinghy in the swamp grass almost beneath it when I was older.

I watched a crack crew of guys who worked in Saugatuck crank it open with manpower to let boats pass. It’s a human-sized bridge, an amenity to a town where people can still encounter one another on the streets and nod and chat.

Hand-cranking open the William Cribari Bridge.

I lived for a long time in north-central Massachusetts near Shelburne Falls.  There was a trolley bridge over the Deerfield River, and trollies went obsolete. The cement-arched bridge languished for a while.

Then in the ’70s, a visionary group of merchants and neighbors planted it with flowers. It was a hobby at first, but soon enough turned into a business-attracting phenomenon, lavishly planted with a sequence of blooming plants so that from May through October, it now (until a year ago, and starting up again, one hopes, this summer, as the COVID crisis gives way to vaccines and good habits) attracts crowds.

The “Bridge of Flowers.”

They support some good restaurants, craft shops and clothing stores. Westport is less rural, and more vigorously entrepreneurial, and it’s not hard to imagine a development of the Cribari bridge in its own right–perhaps flowers, perhaps eateries, a bandstand, food stalls, and flowers too.

If this intrigued the right group of Westporters, a trip up there would certainly set imaginations going. A committee of neighbors keeps it going, and they’d be glad to share their experience.

Click here for the Bridge of Flowers website. For more information and personal insights, email Mark directly: kramernarrative@gmail.com.

An aerial view of the Bridge of Flowers.

State To Town: You Want The Cribari Bridge? Pay For It.

The state Department of Transportation’s environmental assessment report on the William F. Cribari Bridge will be released next month.

But Deputy Commissioner Mark Rolfe has told 1st Selectman Jim Marpe that its conclusion — and the DOT’s recommendation — is to replace the bridge with a new structure that meets Federal Highway Administration standards.

Many Westporters — fearing traffic on a bigger, new span — have pushed instead for renovation of the 133-year-old structure.

However, Rolfe offered Marpe an alternative: The state could transfer ownership of the bridge to the town of Westport, and re-route Route 136 (Bridge Street and Compo Road South).

The catch: The town would be responsible for operation, maintenance and repair of the Cribari Bridge.

Is that a bridge too far for Westport?

Stay tuned.

William F. Cribari Bridge: The debate continues. (Photo/Sam Levenson)

Norden Place Distribution Center Application Withdrawn

East Norwalk residents — and their neighbors around the corner in Saugatuck — are breathing easier today.

Almost literally.

Developers of a 330,000-square foot distribution center proposed for Norden Place have withdrawn their application.

Norwalk’s Zoning Commission was scheduled to discuss the plan tonight. The meeting has been canceled.

Artists’ rendering of a distribution center.

The warehouse and distribution facility included 19 loading docks. It would generate up to 190 truck trips a day, and more than 350 trips by car.

According to “Nancy on Norwalk,” owners promised to keep traffic to the hours of 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. — “to the extent commercially practicable.”

Much of that traffic would spill onto Route 136. In Westport — around the corner from Norden Place — that’s Saugatuck Avenue. A few yards away in Norwalk, it’s called Winfield Street.

Westporters were also concerned about truck drivers mistakenly getting off I-95 Exit 17 — rather than 16 — and becoming stuck under the railroad bridge.

The proposed Norden Place warehouse and distribution center is shown in yellow. Truck routes are also marked.

The proposal generated tremendous opposition, including a petition signed by more than 1,700 people.

Westport 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, Planning & Zoning director Mary Young, the full Planning & Zoning Commission and Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce president Matt Mandell were among the most vocal opponents.

In December, P & Z members Cathy Walsh and Chip Stephens presented a letter to Norwalk’s planning board. They said:

East Norwalk and Saugatuck operate as one ecosystem. We share the same air, water, roads and traffic. We have extensive shared service agreements in place for EMS, fire and police.

Both towns have made substantial progress toward increasing our sustainability, walkability and safety by investing in sidewalks, crosswalks and roadways. This project runs contrary to our  collective long term goals and will negatively impact the health, safety and welfare of the residents of our community.

(To read more, click here for the “Nancy on Norwalk” story)

Friday Flashback #230

I’ve always been fascinated by what Westport looked like before I-95 (known then as the Connecticut Turnpike or “the thruway”) came through in the mid-1950s.

Now I’ve seen some tantalizing glimpses.

Cliff Cuseo posted a 7 1/2-minute video on Facebook. It’s a digitized (in color!) version of home movies, taken at various points during construction.

The opening shots look vaguely familiar, but I can’t place them. Perhaps they’re part of Saugatuck — near Exit 17? — that has since been demolished, to make way for the road.

Where was this taken?

But — in addition to showing work on the Saugatuck River bridge and the road itself — there are glimpses of Riverside Avenue (including the long-gone Gault oil tanks), and the Hales Road/Greens Farms area.

Riverside Avenue, and the Gault tanks. The Bridge Street (now Cribari) Bridge is at top left.

Construction near Greens Farms Road, and the new Hales Road bridge.

There’s also the aftermath of a scary truck accident, on what seems like a lunar landscape.

Truck accident.

The movie captures scenes we take for granted today, in a unique way. But I’d still love to see film of Saugatuck — that thriving, compact and close-knit village — before the earth-movers arrived.

Click here for the full video.

The Saugatuck River bridge, before completion.

(Hat tip: Don Willmott)

 

 

Pic Of The Day #1385

Saugatuck River railroad bridge (Drone photo/John Videler for Videler Photography)