Category Archives: Westport life

Puerto Rico Relief Effort: “Breathtaking”

Marcy Sansolo organized 2 previous relief efforts via her What Up Westport Facebook page. Both were very successful.

But Sunday’s outpouring of love and care — for Puerto Rico’s victims of Hurricane Maria — was, she says, “nothing short of breathtaking.”

The drive at the Westport Library parking lot was arranged in just 3 days. Drop-off times for goods and supplies lasted only 2 hours. But the response of Westporters was heartwarming.

A woman who works at Pottery Barn dropped off items she had purchased. An hour later she returned, with a large box of donations from the store.

Two young children made cards. Older kids helped parents empty their cars.

A note to the children of Puerto Rico.

“I don’t think there’s any bug spray or diapers left at CVS,” Sansolo says. “I’m sure we cleaned them out.”

“The sense of community was inspiring,” Sansolo says. “Members of What Up Westport came from as far as New York. Everyone asked, ‘How can I help?'”

When it was clear that more drivers would be needed to deliver donations to shipping centers, Sansolo ordered a U-Haul. Many people offered to split the cost. That’s in addition to 6 SUVs and minivans, all filled to the brim.

A small portion of the many donations.

The news from Las Vegas yesterday stunned Sansolo. She loves live music, and cannot conceive of what happened at that concert.

But, she says, “then I think about all of the beauty and love I saw on Sunday. My hope in mankind is renewed.”

Sansolo plans more community events on What Up Westport. She welcomes everyone who wants to join.

3 Feet: It’s The Law!

New road signs appeared recently on Greens Farms Road:

The little yellow rectangle reminds everyone — if they can read it — that there must be 3 feet of space between drivers and bicyclists.

Alert reader Lawrence Zlatkin — who took the photo, and sent it in — asks, “Will Westport drivers heed its warning?”

That’s a good question.

An equally good one: Will bikers?

Drumlin Does It The Old-Fashioned Way

Fred Cantor graduated from Staples High School in 1971. After Yale University he got a law degree, married, and worked and lived in New York.

But his heart was always in Westport. He and his wife, Debbie Silberstein, bought a place here for weekends and summers. Then they moved in fulltime.

It’s a decision Fred never regretted — in part because of his close-knit neighborhood.

That friendly spirit remains. Fred reports:

Fred Cantor (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

My family moved to Westport in 1963, when I was in 4th grade, and I have many fond memories of my childhood here. Our home was on Easton Road. I spent many afternoons and weekends playing and/or hanging out with friends on nearby Silverbrook. It was a true neighborhood — at least for kids.

I know a number of “06880” readers lament some of the changes in town in the decades since that time. But I can attest that the small-town, neighborhood feeling is alive and well on the street my wife and I have lived on for the past 20+ years: Drumlin Road.

One prime example: This past weekend we had our annual road barbecue. Close to 50 residents turned out.

The ages ranged from 91 to just under 2 years old. Homeowners who lived on Drumlin since the mid-1950s chatted with a family with young daughters, who moved here just a few months ago.

Every household brought a dish (many were homemade).

Generations mixed (and ate) together at the Drumlin Road party. (Photo/James Delorey)

The friendly interactions during the party reflect the year-round atmosphere.  It’s not unusual to see residents helping out each other out. One man put his new snowblower to use in a winter storm, clearing the sidewalks of his elderly neighbors.

One of my favorite sights is seeing kids come off the school bus and — believe it or not — not stare down at their iPhones but instead talk and mess around with their friends or siblings as they head up the street to their homes. Later in the afternoon, they kick a soccer ball in the front yard, or shoot a basketball in the driveway.

Kids had a great time too at the neighborhood event. (Photo/James Delorey)

Perhaps the size of the lots — 1/4 acre — and the horseshoe shape of the road contribute to the neighborly character of the street. Whatever the reason, my wife and I feel fortunate to have lived more than 2 decades in a place that — to borrow from the slogan of the old Westport Bank & Trust — is truly a small-town neighborhood in a town of homes.

All ages posed for this Drumlin Road party photo, by James Delorey.

Sign Here!

Fall is (nearly) here.

You know what that means: Colorful leaves! Apple cider! Tons of candidate signs, cluttering every traffic island, right-of-way and piece of property in town!

But the cops are on it. Here is a (very welcome) press release, concerning election signs AND all others, promoting galas, benefits, you name it:

With election season upon us, the Westport Police Department would like to remind its citizens of the regulations pertaining to temporary signs in town.

Unfortunately we have experienced vandalism and theft regarding temporary signs in the past. This type of behavior will not be tolerated. These crimes may lead to criminal charges such as trespassing, criminal mischief and/or larceny.

The following policy has been established by town officials, in order to provide coordination for the placement of temporary signs by Westport non-profit organizations wishing to advertise one-time-only charitable events.  Signs placed on public property advertising a private business or company will be removed. (Bold italics are mine!)

General Guidelines for ALL Temporary Signs

  • Town property includes traffic islands and road rights of way.
  • The town may not approve, nor is it responsible for, any signs erected on State of Connecticut property. It is not advisable to place signs on State of Connecticut property (including rights of way and islands along Routes 1, 136, 57, 33, and the Sherwood Island Connector, nor on the exit or entrance ramps of I-95 or the Merritt Parkway), as the state may remove them.
  • No sign may be placed on any school property without the prior permission of the superintendent’s office.
  • No sign may be placed within the interior of Compo Beach or Longshore.
  • No sign may be placed on Town Hall property.
  • No sign may be placed on trees or utility poles.
  • No sign may interfere with traffic visibility.
  • Signs on private property require property owner approval. Signs on private property shall not extend beyond the property line or into the town right-of-way and is suggested they be removed within 2 days after the publicized event or election.

Temporary Signs for Political Purposes

Political signs are considered an expression of free speech and are allowed on public property. The General Guidelines noted above apply to temporary signs for political purposes.

(Photo/Miggs Burroughs)

Temporary Signs for Advertising Charitable Events

The placement and locations of temporary signs on Town property for the purpose of advertising a charitable event requires review and approval by the Westport police chief, director of Planning and Zoning, and director of Parks & Recreation, or their designated representatives. Qualifying organizations (i.e. local non-profits) may send the attached request, including proposed locations, for the placement of temporary signs to: Selectman’s Office, Westport Town Hall, 110 Myrtle Avenue, Westport, CT 06880 or selectman@westportct.gov.

The following conditions will apply to charitable events:

  • A maximum of 15 signs are allowed for each such event. This includes directional signs.
  • The signs may be erected not more than 2 weeks before the event and must be removed within 2 days after the publicized event.
  • The size of the sign cannot exceed 2 feet by 3 feet.
  • Non-compliance may result in the removal of signs.

Please note that this press release pertains to Town of Westport roads, and not state roads, like Route 1, Route 33, Route 57 and Route 136.

Dumping On Drivers

The Sherwood Island transfer station — aka “the dump” — is many things.

It’s a place to dispose of unwanted stuff — furniture, electronics, yard waste — in an environmentally sound way.

It’s a place to meet other Westporters. It’s a place for politicians to troll for votes.

It’s also become a place where the informal rules of social conduct are being, well, trashed.

Alert “06880” reader Steve Axthelm writes of this recent trend:

Instead of taking the next available space and keeping the line moving quickly on Saturdays, some drivers now ignore multiple available spots. They block the lane, waiting for the “perfect” spot.

Maybe we should have a reservation system, so you can be sure to cozy up to the metal dumping area, or save those 10 steps when recycling your cardboard.

But think how much time you save, on your way to your entitled parking spot at Starbucks!

Drivers wait for the “perfect” spot, instead of pulling in to the first available one. (Photo/Steve Axthelm)

One ‘4’ The Record Books: The Sequel

Yesterday morning, I posted a photo of an exceptionally entitled driver. He (or she) took up not 2 or 3, but 4 (!) spaces in the Trader Joe’s lot.

A couple of hours later, alert “06880” reader Mark Ames spotted this guy (or gal) doing the same:

I’m not sure if he (or she) was inspired by the other guy (or gal). Perhaps there’s just a new epidemic of snag-as-many-spots-as-you-can parking maneuvers.

I should mention: This was not in the Trader Joe’s lot.

It was across the street — behind CVS.

Close enough.

One ‘4’ The Record Books

I’ve posted plenty of photos of entitled drivers taking up 2 parking spaces. A few times, they’ve stretched across 3.

But this may be the first time any driver has managed to occupy 4 spots at once.

(Photo/Rob Gutman)

It was taken — of course! — in the  Trader Joe’s lot, near Wells Fargo.

“06880” challenges anyone to try for 5.

Wait — I’m kidding…!

[OPINION] Don Bergmann: Ban Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers!

Don Bergmann is a longtime Westporter. A close observer of the town, his regular comments on “06880” are always clear and concise.

Today — with fall (unfortunately) right around the corner — he’s thinking about leaf blowers. Here’s a copy of an email sent to all RTM members, 1st selectman Jim Marpe, and challengers Melissa Kane and John Suggs. Bergmann writes:

Noise in Westport bothers many, with many items of concern. My only interest is leaf blowers. I do not seek to complicate noise issues with a broad-based approach or decibel measurements, though a manufacturer’s decibel standard could apply to leaf blowers.

I would like to see Westport adopt an ordinance that would ban the use of gasoline-powered leaf blowers by commercial users from May 1 through October 15. The ban would not apply to individual homeowners or renters for their own properties.

Gas-powered leaf blowers have become very noisy, and in my judgment are overused. They address minimal meaningful needs, other than for the clearing of leaves in the fall and general cleanup in early spring.

The gas units are especially environmentally undesirable. The noise is extremely annoying, particularly in areas of Westport zoned other than 2 acres. (Those living in 2-acre zones who believe the problem exists there as well should advise all.)

The noise is a a quality of life issue. The banning of gas-powered leaf blowers has received a fair amount of attention over the years, with communities looking into the issue and many, I believe, taking action.

I have accumulated some useful background information. I am aware that Save Westport Now has, independently of me, raised the same issue and is compiling relevant research. I believe SWN would make available that research if requested.

Bergmann asked each RTM member and candidate to respond. Meanwhile, “06880” readers: What do you think? Click “Comments” below. 

Tents Or Not? You Be The Judge.

I’m not the only one who noticed an invasion of pop-up tents this summer.

A recent “06880” post about summer crowds at Compo drew a number of comments about the pup tents, lean-tos and other space-filling mini-homes that have, in the words of one Westporter, turned our beach into a “tent city.”

(Another commenter, more charitably, compared it to the Caribbean.)

Of course this is not Compo. We don’t have a volleyball court in the middle of the beach.

Turns out it’s not just Westport.

According to the New York Post, a Jersey Shore town — Belmar — is considering banning all tents more than 3 feet high and wide.

Officials there have several concerns:

  • The tents block visibility
  • They take up too much space
  • They’re invasive
  • They cast long shadows
  • They obstruct the view of lifeguards.

One disgruntled beachgoer described his neighbors: “They bring tables, coolers. It looks like they’re moving in for a week.”

Another noted that tailgating is fine at MetLife Stadium. But, he said, the beach is not a Giants game.

What do you think? Take the poll below:

(To read the full New York Post story, click here. Hat tip: David Loffredo)

$35 For Out-Of-Towners

I love so many things about Compo Beach.

The sunrises and sunsets.

The wide variety of things to do: Swim. Walk. Jog. Bike. Sail. Kayak. Fish. Eat at Joey’s. Enjoy a picnic. Play basketball, soccer, pickleball or at the playground. Explore the jetty. Worship. Get married. Read. Nap.

I also love the wide variety of people. Foreign languages abound. So do out-of-state license plates, and plenty of folks who look nothing like “typical” Westporters.

There are 2 main reasons, I think, for the large rise in out-of-towners at Compo over the past few years. Sherwood Island banned alcohol, and we now appear online — I’m not sure where — as a welcoming alternative for families searching for a fun, relatively inexpensive day at the beach.

I am well aware that some residents don’t share my joy at sharing Compo with non-residents.

A recent Facebook posting — on a Westport/Fairfield group — was strong and direct. It read:

What is your view on the compo beach situation with out of town cars/people?

The fee they pay is very minimal, $35 week day and $50 on weekends per car. On several occasions the beach has been closed because they were at max capacity. My question is this…

Can we raise the fee that they pay? Maybe $75 per car? More on weekends?

The line of cars waiting to get into Compo Beach can be long.

Also what does the town do with the money they receive? Does it go towards our beaches?

Can we have a system set up like Greenwich where they go to Town Hall and purchase their pass during the week for the weekends? This would eliminate the crazy line of traffic that we see every weekend.

I’d like to see a police officer paid to patrol our beach. Years ago there was always an officer stationed at the beach especially on the weekends. I know due to budget constraints it was eliminated but I’d like to bring that back, especially with the crowds that are developing at Compo.

Welcome to Compo!

And finally I’d like to get a petition going to see how many are on board? I’ve spoken to and overheard many people at compo about their frustrations with parking and so on because of all the NY plates. They are all on board.

Just wanted to get your thoughts?

There were 100 comments. Many — though not all — agreed with the poster.

There were references to too many cars, and too many people being dropped off by Uber; litter, and overcrowding.

“We have a state park in town,” one person wrote. “Out of towners should go there.”

When the comments got out of hand, the post was removed.

Lisa Sabino — the alert “06880” reader who sent me the link — called many of the comments “heartbreaking.” She added:

I don’t believe they are truly representative of the people in this town.

By raising prices, we have to really think about who exactly we are keeping off our beach. I think the simple answer is ‘outsiders.’ People who are from other communities, lower income brackets, and who we see as less than us.

This town could do with some  more economic, social and racial diversity. That is not going to happen by raising the cost of spending the day at our exclusive beach.

There is plenty of antisocial, illegal and rowdy behavior caused by Westporters. As much as I dislike it, dealing with it is a natural part of going out in public places.

Westporters — not out-of-towners — aggressively reserve spots for the fireworks.

This is certainly a fraught subject. It involves issues of crowding, noise, access to picnic tables and grills — and race, class and money.

Frankly, I’m surprised no one has emailed me about this before. It’s been one of the hot topics every summer for the past few years.

What do you think? Do you agree with the Facebook post, or the woman who contacted me about it? Are you — like some Westporters — conflicted?

Click “Comments” below. Let this important conversation begin!

Whose beach is it, anyway? (Photo/Tom Cook)