But the shopping behemoth is taking over Avi Kaner’s parking spots.
Every morning at 8:30, the former Westport 2nd selectman/Board of Finance chair — and, more importantly for this story, an owner of the 16-store Morton Williams grocery store chain in New York — sees trucks part in front of 2 of his Upper East Side markets.
Workers appear. For the next 5 hours, Crains’ New York Business reports, they use hand trucks to deliver groceries to residents who ordered from Amazon online.
“They use it like a warehouse,” Kaner says. “The city is allowing these places to block our business.”
An Amazon spokeswoman described the scene as an “exchange point.”
Kaner notes that Morton Williams’ sales in residential areas are down only 5-15% from pre-COVID levels, but that stores in business districts are still doing just half of their previous numbers. (Click here for the full Crains’ story.)
Avi Kaner in a Morton Williams store. (Photo/Danny Ghitis for the New York Times)
The Westport PAL car show set for June 20 has been postponed to July 17. It’s still 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; still at the railroad station parking lot near Railroad Place and Franklin Street); it still features cool cars, food and raffle prizes.
Tickets are still $15 each. But kids — that is, anyone under 12 — are still free.
Among the items on the June 17 Planning & Zoning Commission agenda: the redesign and reconstruction of the Baldwin Parking Lot.
The town-owned lot on Elm Street — behind Serena & Lily, between Brooks Corner and Christ & Holy Trinity Church — has been developed piecemeal over the years. According to the Department of Public Works, it needs renovation.
The DPW cites “an outdated parking and circulation pattern, storm drainage, an electrical service, retaining walls, asphalt pavement and curbing, sidewalks, lighting, etc.” as at the end of their useful lives.
In addition, there is no storm water management; the area is prone to flooding, and the storm drainage system is partially non-functional.
Back part of the Baldwin parking lot
Renovation plans include redesigned parking and traffic patterns, lighting, drainage, landscaping, storm water management and increased public safety access.
The lot will be raised, to minimize flooding. Electric vehicle charging stations, a “blue light” personal safety system and closed circuit video monitoring will be included.
A possible connection with the Avery Place lot next door may be included too, if the town and adjacent owner wish to provide access and parking through both lots.
The number of parking spaces in the Baldwin lot will be reduced from 203 to 173, due to non-conforming conditions.
The work would be accomplished by a competitively bid contract, designed and overseen by the DPW.
Another view. The mess has since been cleaned up.
The June 17 meeting will also include a referral from the city of Norwalk, for comments on a permit to develop property at 40 Fullin Road for 40 units of elderly housing.
Fullin Road is off Lois Street, which is off Westport Avenue (Route 1) just over the border. It’s adjacent to Westport’s Hills Lane, behind the Terra Nova and 597 Westport Avenue apartments.
The state Department of Transportation plans work on 2.5 miles of I-95, from the Yankee Doodle Bridge in Norwalk to the Saugatuck River bridge. It includes reconstruction of the center median and right shoulders, and resurfacing the ramps at Exits 16 and 17.
The bridge over Saugatuck Avenue will be totally replaced. The new superstructure will be constructed adjacent to the existing bridge, and slid into place.
The bridges over Franklin Street and the Saugatuck River will undergo concrete deck repairs, and replacement of expansion joints.
A virtual public information session is set for Thursday, June 3 (7 p.m.). To access the meeting, and for information about commenting or asking questions, click here.
The estimated cost is $90 million. Construction is planned to begin this fall. DOT did not provide an anticipated end date.
This work is substantially more complex than the Kings Highway replacement project currently underway near Canal Street. Fingers crossed …
Traffic will flow less smoothly on the I-95 bridge over Saugatuck Avenue when construction begins this fall. (Photo/Mark Mathias)
Brette Warshaw’s love of food, food culture and food writing began in Westport.
In 3rd grade, she was reviewing local restaurants for the Long Lots Elementary School paper. (Angelina’s got a rave.)
At Staples High School, the 2009 graduate loved Alison Milwe Grace’s culinary classes. Brette wrote her college essay about working at the Weston Field Club snack shop.
After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, she worked at the Food52 website, moving up to managing editor. Brette the became CFO of Lucky Peach, David Chang’s quarterly food journal.
She works at Apple News now (no food jokes, please!). She writes the daily Newsletter. She also wrote “What’s the Difference” — answering questions we’ve all wondered about. (What’s the difference, for example, between a balcony and terrace? Latino and Hispanic? A dash and a hyphen?)
In Brette’s special area of expertise, what’s the difference between broth and stock? Jam and jelly (and preserves)? Barbecuing and grilling? Chef and cook? Sweet potato and yam? Maître d’ and host?
She’s turned those important questions (spoiler alert: I have no idea about any of the answers) into a new book. What’s the Difference? Recreational Culinary Reference for the Curious and Confused will be published June 8. (Click here for more information, and to order.)
It’s irreverent, informative — and when I get a copy, I’ll let you know the answers.
Longtime Westporter George Manchester turns 90 in June.
His son Jeff — now raising his own family, in his home town — has planned a special gift. He hopes at least 90 “06880” readers will send his father “Happy Birthday” cards.
George spends summers in Maine. This year, he’ll arrive June 5. Going to the post office is an important part of his day. Let’s inundate him (and the PO) with cards!
Send to: George Manchester, PO Box 202, South Bristol, ME 04568. And feel free to pass this on to others!
George Manchester in 2017, just before the old Saugatuck Island bridge was torn down after damage from Superstorm Sandy. Decades earlier he was involved in the construction of that bridge, as president of what was then called the Saugatuck Shores Island Association (now the Saugatuck Island Special Taxing District).
For today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo, Tina Green writes:
“Some time in the last several days, the American oystercatcher eggs hatched at Compo Beach. This year there are 2 very healthy chicks. The adult female is limping, but will hopefully recover soon.
“The federally protected piping plovers are nesting on the most northern edge of the roped off area. I had the good fortune to witness the first egg being laid while observing the female early yesterday morning.
“Westporters are lucky to have a variety of bird species nest within our borders. About 88 species breed in the wide variety of habitats around town, including back yards, town parks, beaches and open spaces like Cockenoe Island and Aspetuck Land Trust properties.
“If the pandemic got you into birdwatching while at home, this is one of the best towns in the state to see and observe our feathered friends.”
American oystercatcher at Compo Beach (Photo/Tina Green)
Longtime Westporter Ronald Joseph Melino died on May 22. He was 91.
The South Bronx native transplanted himself and his family from the city he loved to Westport in 1967.
Melino studied biology at City College, and was a proud employee of American Airlines. He worked his way up from the La Guardia Airport terminal to the company’s executive offices at the Chrysler Building.
Original to his core, naturally charismatic and never shy, he lived life on his own terms. He loved beach walks, tennis with pals at the Westport Tennis Club and Longshore, workouts and saunas at the Westport YMCA, reading, train travel to San Francisco, and above all else his grandchildren.
He was predeceased by his wife of 55 years, Maureen. He is survived by his children Stephen Melino (Margie), Frances Zahler (Gary), Barbara Deecken (George), and James Melino (Ilana); grandchildren Alexsis Adams, Christina Deecken, Cody Zahler, Christian Zahler, Avery Chung-Melino, Rachel Melino, Emily Zahler, and Katey Melino, great grandson Isaiah, beloved nieces and nephews and their families, and his brother Eugene.
A private Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at Assumption Cemetery, at a time to be determined.
Westport’s newest police officer is Stephen Silva has joined its ranks. He was sworn in yesterday at a small ceremony, in front of his family and friends. Two brothers serve with the Trumbull Police Department.
Silva started his career in law enforcement in 2016 with the Bridgeport Police Department. He worked in the patrol division, served as an acting detective, and was a member of the department’s honor guard.
In addition to working full time as a police officer, Silva is pursuing a degree in emergency management at Post University.
Officer Stephen Silva (right) is congratulated by Police Chief Foti Koskinas.
While Charles MacCormack traveled the world as CEO of Westport-based Save the Children, his wife Susan Ross devoted her life to public service of a more local scope. For 40 years she worked with Fairfield County’s Community Foundation; for 12 years, she was its CEO.
Susan died 4 years ago this month, after a 7-year battle with breast and pancreatic cancer. In her memory, her husband of 45 years has helped established the Susan M. Ross Fund for Great Leadership at Fairfield County’s Community Foundation. It targets the organization’s Center for Nonprofit Excellence, which provides leadership develop opportunities.
And finally … happy 76th birthday to John Fogerty. I’ve played tribute to his band — Creedence Clearwater Revival — and I will again. So today I’ll honor his solo work. (PS: Thanks again for that great Levitt Pavilion concert in 2017. I’m still smiling.)
That’s the name of a Westport Library/Town of Westport-sponsored panel on June 3 (7 p.m., at the Library or via Zoom).
2nd Selectwoman Jen Tooker will lead a discussion with 3 great — and very different — local businesses.
Sam Gault of Gault Energy, Dr. EJ Zebro (TAP Strength Lab) and Gina Porcello (GG & Joe) will share “Stories from the Pandemic.” They’ll describe what they learned, how they survived — and how they’re thriving.
Speaking of Staples: 4 juniors have earned Superior Achievement in Writing awards. The honor comes from the prestigious National Council of Teachers of English.
Caroline Coffey, Matthew Genser, Maya Markus-Malone and Talia Perkins
were honored as among the best student writers in the nation. In addition to submitting a piece of “best writing,” contest entrants were asked to craft a piece in any genre that took readers inside a community that is important to them, and convey the beauty they see within it.
Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo shows black swallowtails at Sherwood Island State Park:
And finally … legendary Muscle Shoals drummer Jerry Roger Hawkins died last week. He was 75, and had suffered from numerous illnesses.
Producer Jerry Wexler called him “the greatest drummer of all time.”
Hawkins — a member of both the Swampers and Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section session groups — played on hits like “Respect,” ” “When a Man Loves a Woman” and “Mustang Sally.” As great as those songs are, listen again. Without Hawkins’ drumming, they’d have a lot less respect. Click here for a full obituary.
Alert “06880” reader, RTM District 4 representative and frustrated driver Andrew Colabella writes:
The condition of Hillspoint Road left by Aquarion was subpar. Dipping and diving while driving along the roadway, I thought that after digging up the entire road, they would come back and either repave what they had previously dug up to be smoother, or mill the entire road or lane.
The last 2 weeks, only certain areas were dug up and repaved.
Hillspoint Road has looked like this for a while …
Hal Kravitz, Chris Tait, Robin Tauck, Jenny McGuinness, myself and many other members of the public were deeply upset. Even 1st Selectman Jim Marpe and Director of Public Works Peter Ratkiewich were displeased by the work.
However, good news came in a letter from Peter Ratkiewich. He wrote:
Due to the condition of the asphalt, Mr. Marpe has authorized me to place a sacrificial cover of pavement, about 1” thick, over the entire road to make it acceptable for the summer. This will buy us some time and make the walking surfaces safe for the summer months.
We will do this from Compo Road South to Lamplight Lane, which is the worst of the worst. This takes away the Optimum problem too, as they can install their trench any time (it’s only for a couple of services, not the whole length like the water line).
We will use FGB Construction to do the work. They will try to get started next Tuesday, Wednesday at the latest. The work should only take 2 days or so, then everyone should be out of there.
We will eventually end up milling this up and putting down a full 2 inch mat, but the temporary pavement could possibly give me a one year window so that I might be able to fix the sidewalk too.
… and this. (Photos/Andrew Colabella)
This is a road many of us drive every day. I want to thank everyone who spoke out and politely objected to the current condition of the road.
The importance of speaking up when there is an issue or question should always be addressed with haste, and no hesitation.
Residents who live in town and have issues with primary or secondary roads can call Town Hall: 203-341-1000.
If there’s a pothole, damaged curb from a snowplow, dead animal or issues with town infrastructure, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 203-341-1120.
Also, never hesitate to reach out to your RTM representative about any town issues. We are all here to help you.
Here’s to a smoother future, as we come out of hibernation from the pandemic.
Police Chief Foti Koskinas feels Westport drivers’ pains. He hears their pleas for a traffic cop on Riverside Avenue, at the Cribari Bridge. The Westport Police Department is on the case.
But there is another side to Westport’s traffic woes too.
Driving habits have changed dramatically during COVID, Koskinas and public safety officer Al D’Amura say. Though Westporters have returned to work, all but 1oo or so of the Saugatuck and Greens Farms train station parking spots are empty every day. Those folks drive instead.
The situation is the same at every train station from Greenwich to New Haven. That’s why I-95 and the Merritt Parkway have become parking lots.
Looking for every bit of help, drivers turn to apps like Waze. Offered an alternate route, they take it.
Which is why we see more and more backups on Riverside Avenue. As well as Wilton Road, Cross Highway, Long Lots Road — anywhere Waze says is even slightly better. It’s a problem at I-95 exits 17 and 18, and Merritt exits 41 and 42.
When William Cribari and other officers were posted at what was then called the Bridge Street Bridge, Koskinas says, they facilitated 100 to 200 vehicles to and from trains.
Traffic is no longer timed to trains, Koskinas explains. Moving traffic off the bridge in the morning, and through Riverside Avenue in the evening, sounds like a great idea.
But Waze and traffic apps would immediately sense the smoother flow — making the alternate route off I-95 even more appealing to highway drivers.
A traffic officer will immiediately take over the Riverside Avenue post made famous by William William Cribari (Photo courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)
Still — starting immediately – there will be an officer on Riverside by the bridge, in the late afternoon.
“We’ll monitor the situation, to see if it helps or hurts,” Koskinas says.
“We may find that as much as people don’t like waiting through 4 or 5 light cycles, it’s better than having 300 more cars coming through Saugatuck. We don’t know what we’ll find for sure. We’ll study it.”
That’s not the only new traffic post in town. An agent will be posted from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Post Road/Wilton Road/Riverside Avenue intersection.
Actually, it’s not “new.” As a young officer, Koskinas once manned that corner.
Facilitating traffic there impacts other lights on the Post Road. For example, waving through more cars from Wilton Road might cause more of a temporary backup through the already congested downtown area.
“We understand the importance to merchants, and everyone,” Koskinas says. As with Saugatuck, he and D’Amura will monitor the situation closely.
As for another suggestion from an “06880” reader — installation of a light at the top of I-95 eastbound Exit 18 — Koskinas says, “we fully support it. It’s come up before.” His department — in collaboration with the Board of Selectmen — will make that recommendation to the state Department of Transportation.
Sherwood Island Connector is a state road. There will be engineering studies, and budget issues. It could take a while.
So for now, you might want to get off at Exit 17. A traffic cop there will move traffic along.
Or maybe he’ll inadvertently invite other I-95 drivers to join you.
For the past 8 years, Rick Rosencrans has commuted to work from I-95 Exit 17 in Westport, to Exit 7 in Stamford. Recently — as the pandemic has eased, and the drive has gotten longer — he’s had time to think. Rick writes:
For 8 years I have watched traffic patterns on I-95 ebb and flow, often based on the day of the week, time of day, construction projects and accidents.
During the early months of COVID, and into this past winter, traffic was light. My pre-COVID 40-minute commute turned into a 15 to 20-minute ride, door to door. Yet while the shorter commute was nice, I’m not selfish enough to think the trade-off was worth it.
Fast forward to late winter and this spring. While many offices and businesses between Westport and New York still work with limited staff, traffic seems to have returned to pre-pandemic levels.
I assume that since the train station parking lots are hardly used, many of the people who have returned to work now commute by car instead of train.
On my daily Stamford to Westport return trip — particularly on Friday afternoons — traffic seems worse than ever. Due to Waze, Google Maps and natural instincts, many drivers get off at Exit 17, head up Charles Street, turn left on Riverside Avenue at Tutti’s, make a right on Bridge Street, and continue on to Greens Farms Road towards Exit 18 and points north.
This backs cars all the way up on to the exit ramp, and often on to the right lane of northbound 95. It can take 25 minutes to get from the ramp to the Cribari Bridge in Saugatuck, a distance of about 1 mile.
Saugatuck, on a rare day with little traffic. It often backs up on Riverside Avenue, from Exit 17 to the Cribari Bridge.
The streets of Saugatuck were not meant for this volume of traffic. But one impediment makes the situation even worse.
With no “No Right on Red” sign by Dunkin Donuts, bridge-bound cars idle in front of the firehouse and Saugatuck Sweets, while traffic flows from the bridge into Saugatuck.
I have no problem with the sign, during normal hours. But what I have observed over the years is that a traffic officer at the Riverside Avenue/Bridge Street intersection, safely waving drivers to make a right on red, has a significant effect on the overall traffic flow.
I would guess that an additional 15 to 20 cars could be waved around the corner of Bridge Square during each cycle of lights. That would also allow for adjustment in the timing of the lights so that cars coming from the other direction on Riverside Avenue have more time allotted to make a left on to the bridge.
The William F. Cribari Bridge. A police officer could wave more cars onto it, during rush hour.
We need a traffic officer at the intersection on weekday afternoons, and perhaps at certain weekend times when I-95 is backed up.
Once upon a time, there WAS a traffic officer — every day — at that intersection. He was visible, efficient, and very, very theatrical.
His name was William F. Cribari. And yes, he’s the guy they named the Bridge Street bridge after.
Bill Cribari, at work (and play). (Photo courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)
Yesterday, Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice addressed the easing of COVID restrictions in Connecticut. He said:
Both the CDC and state Department of Public Health have maintained their recommendation for masks inside the school building for both vaccinated and unvaccinated students and staff for the remainder of the current school year. However, with our low community transmission rates in both the town and our schools, as well as an increasing number of vaccinated staff and students, masks will no longer be required for students when outdoors for both recess and PE.
The State Department of Education announced that there will be no remote learning requirement for the upcoming school year (2021-2022). The Westport Public Schools will not offe remote learning as a permanent instructional option for next school year, unless otherwise mandated by the CSDE. The remote learning option, like a number of other approaches and investments, has been critical to our remarkable success this year. Although students have experienced success in this pandemic year, if anything else, this year clearly proved that there is no replacement for in-person learning. We look forward to welcoming all students in-person for the start of the 2021-2022 school year.
As the end of year events begin to pick up, I ask that we all do our part to continue to thank our faculty, and all of our support staff across the system, for their extraordinary work this year. There was no playbook. We approached the year in 4-6 week increments. Yet as we look back, we carefully navigated a generational pandemic to serve our students and while earnestly attending to their social, emotional, and academic needs. A great deal will be written about this era. I, for one, will remember the people and the acts of kindness, commitment, and professionalism that carried us towards an increasingly brighter light at the end of this tunnel.
The town of Westport has leased 2 new Chevy Bolts for staff field work. They’ll be used for municipal inspections by the Public Works Engineering Division and the Assessor’s Office.
A cost benefit analysis has proven that these vehicles are both environmentally friendly, and cost effective.
The choice of Chevy Bolts was based on their overall low price, good reputation, and compact size. The cars also have a low maintenance cost and a longer expected service life than competitors. Both vehicles are at the standard option level.
1st Selectman Jim Marpe says, “We are very proud of Westport’s advancement in electric vehicle usage and municipal charging stations. Investments such as the Police Department’s purchase of a Model 3 Tesla are proving to be beneficial, and we expect the same for the municipal fleet. These Bolts help move Westport closer toward meeting sustainability goals.”
From left: Assessor Paul Friia, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, Dawn Henry of Sustainable Westport, Finance director Gary Conrad, Public Works director Peter Ratkiewich with the new Chevy Bolts.
Several readers have not seen the Fresh Market ospreys for awhile. I asked “06880”‘s resident expert, Carolyn Doan, for an update She says:
“The osprey are incubating right now. so they are very difficult to see in a nest that is high up.
“Usually the female does most of the sitting while the male brings back food. He does take over for her from time to time to give her a much needed stretch or break. She is the one with a more speckled chest. His chest is more white (in case you wanted to try and discern between the two if you notice one in a tree).
“If not fishing, the one taking a break is usually in a nearby tree. In this case there is a big pine tree to the right of the Fresh Market nest. You can usually see one of the pair there. Or look across the street behind Dunkin Donuts. At the top of a bare tree behind the building you will see a large bird. (Usually the male. He loves this spot for some reason.”)
“My grandmother was a friend of the engine builder/designer Charlie Lawrence (2nd autograph from left in photo below).
The day before the flight, Mr. Lawrence asked my grandmother, ‘Do you want to see this fellow take off at 5 a.m. to fly solo across the Atlantic?’
“She replied, ‘Charlie, you’re drunk.’ She did not go. But because she was fluent in French, he asked her to write Lindergh’s letter of introduction for when he landed. As a thank you, she received this picture of Lindbergh and Lawrence and their signatures, taken just before he took off.”
All week long, a 185-foot yacht moored off Compo Beach has drawn attention.
The craft is named Rosehearty. The previous owner was Rupert Murdoch. Now it’s owned by a private businessman and his wife. They’ve sailed it — with friends, and crew — through the Northwest Passage, and to Antarctica.
It’s here because the owner — a Staples High School graduate — is building a house near Saugatuck Shores. He’s lived all over the world, but wants one of his homes now to be in his old home town.
It’s not finished yet. So on his way up from the South, he and his wife are spending a few days here. They’re looking over the construction, shopping and enjoying the town. Rosehearty heads next to Gibraltar and Italy.
I was fortunate enough to be invited aboard for drinks and dinner last night. There were jokes about the “houseboat,” and a few smaller vessels circled nearby, asking what we were up to.
(Photo/ Dan Woog)
But — with a few other guests, including Staples grads and Irish ex-pats — it was just like any other dinner with friends.
(Photo/ Dan Woog)
Any other dinner with friends, that is, on one of the first real “non-COVID” nights in 14 months.
The galley is larger than some New York City kitchens. (Photo/Dan Woog)
And on a super-yacht a mile off the Westport shore previously owned by Rupert Murdoch, served by a crew of 6, and now the talk of the town.
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