Category Archives: Westport life

Vani Court Fire Victim Needs Clothes And More

Yesterday’s house fire on Vani Court was devastating.

A renter lost everything — except his grandfather’s Purple Heart. (That’s the good news. When he told firefighters it was in the still smoldering house, they retrieved it.)

But that was all they salvaged. Jason needs to start over from scratch. He was at a job interview — wearing a thin sports coat — while the house burned down. Even his warm winter coat is ashes.

Jason is a size large in clothes, size 10 in shoes.

He also has an 8-year-old girl and 6-year-old boy. 

Concerned Westporters are collecting clothing, toiletries, small household items, kids games, crafts and monetary donations. There is no need for furniture yet; he has nowhere to put it. (He is staying at a hotel; his children are with their mother.)

There’s another big ask: He needs a car too.

Donations can be dropped off at 18 Bulkley Avenue South (behind Stop & Shop). Funds can be Venmoed to @Jason-milanese, donated via Facebook (click here), or checks (made out to Jason Milanese) can be dropped off at the above address, or mailed there (to Monica Ryan).

Every little bit helps!

Jason’s grandfather’s Purple Heart – saved by Westport’s firefighters. (Photo/courtesy of Facebook: Westport/Fairfield Community)

(Hat tips: Kami Evans and Monica Ryan)

Biking Into 2020

Bicycle safety is not a new topic. 

But we’re entering a new year (and decade). Alert — and worried — “06880” reader Angela Ryan sends these thoughts. As we turn the calendar page, let’s pledge new behaviors on our roads too.

Angela writes:

My husband came home from work today shaking. This has happened several times a year for the past 10 years.

He commutes by bike to the train, for his job in New York.

He is a conscientious rider. He stops at lights and stop signs, and uses hand signals. He is very visible, with lights on the front and back of his bike.

Yet he is repeatedly harassed by drivers. Vehicles speed past him at aggressive speed because he rides between parked cars and the lane of traffic.

Drivers shout obscenities at him, and honk because they have to yield to him on a turn. Vehicles race past him approaching the light in front of Dunkin’ Donuts at the end of the Cribari Bridge, just to be stopped when the light turns read.

He is doing nothing wrong. In fact, he is helping the town and environment by riding his bike. He is freeing up space at the railroad parking lot for another commuter to use.

I wish that commuters (and bikers) would remember basic rules of the road:

1. Bicycles have a right to be on the road.
2. Bikers must be visible to drivers, and use hand signals to communicate their intentions.
3. Bikers must stop at stop signs and stop lights, just like drivers.
4. Drivers must allow 3 feet when passing bikers. They cannot pass a biker and make a right turn unless it is safe for the biker.
5. Bikers must drive on the right side of the road (except for certain circumstances).
6. Bikers are allowed to ride two abreast, but not more.
7. A “vulnerable user law” states that people who drive a car and use reasonable care, but still cause the death or injury of a vulnerable user (like a biker) can be fined.
8. There is no room to pass a biker on the Cribar Bridge. So there is no need to yell obscenities at my husband if he rides in the middle of the lane. He has nowhere else to go.

I know people are passionate about whether or not we should make biking easier in Westport. All I can say is that the gains communities see in expanding biking far outweigh what they lose.

Although I would be happy to see biking expanded in Westport for the greater good of us all, this is not why I am writing. I just ask that drivers be reasonable and patient to riders, especially those who adhere to all the rules of the road.

They have as much right to be on the road as you.

Everyone Talks About Traffic: The Sequel

Earlier this month, an alert, frustrated and very gridlocked “06880” reader wrote an opinion piece about traffic.

He noted some of the worst jams in Westport, and recommended the creation of a special town traffic czar an task force to examine the issue. Dozens of readers replied. Their comments ranged from “it’s even worse than you say” to “get over it.”

This week, the reader — who asked to be identified as “GS” — is back.

This time, he has one specific solution.

It’s a spot seldom mentioned when we discuss traffic woes. But it’s bad.

I-95 Exit 18 northbound getx jammed at rush hour. Cars creep up the hill; the backlog often spills all the way down the ramp, causing delays on the highway itself.

GS’ idea: Put a stoplight at the top of the exit, at the Sherwood Island Connector.

Exit 18, at the Sherwood Island Connector.

“Keep it green 85% of the time, for drivers coming off the exit,” he says. After all, virtually no one ever waits at what is now a stop sign, heading east to Sherwood Island State Park. (Even in summer, most traffic to the park comes off 95 northbound.)

Making Exit 18 more attractive would cause more drivers to get off there — easing the current congestion at Exit 17, and into Saugatuck, GS says. Waze and other traffic apps would notice, keeping drivers on 95 to Exit 18, instead of telling them to get off at 17 because of I-95 congestion ahead.

“It’s not a lot,” he admits. “But every little bit helps.”

It’s an interesting idea. So here is today’s “06880” challenge:

Come up with your own.

What little tweaks can you suggest, to ease traffic in Westport?

Where would you put a light, a stop sign, a turning lane? Where would you remove something that actually hinders the flow?

Be creative! Think outside the box! The sky’s the limit!

And if you think this is, um, pie in the sky: Think again.

These ideas will go right to our new task force and traffic czar.

Once they’re appointed, of course.

What Would Mr. Rogers Think?

It’s the holiday season. Many Westporters hang wreaths on their doors. They string lights on trees or fences. Some place candles in every window.

Well, it’s also impeachment season. One Westporter has let his views be known. He lives at #1 High Point Road — the very first house, on the longest cul-de-sac in town. A neighbor writes:

Typically, this house displays a “God Bless President Trump” banner. Recently a new one was added: “Merry Christmas from President Trump.”

The  banners are an eyesore but harmless. The most recent one is offensive.

It says “Democrats, impeach this” — with an arrow pointing to a hand displaying the middle finger.

I drive past it no less than 6 times a day with my children. A neighbor has already talked to Town Hall. Their response was, “this is a civil matter. There is nothing that we can do.”

I know. It’s freedom of speech. But this has crossed over into being inappropriate and offensive.

“06880” wants to know: What do Westporters think? We all recognize and appreciate the First Amendment. Where does it intersect with neighborhood life? Is this actually inappropriate — or just aggravating, because the homeowner’s politics differ from his neighbor’s? Is the middle finger truly offensive, in this day and age? Westporters already display yard signs during election season — is this a valid extension of that, or somehow beyond the bounds of neighborly norms?

Feel free to weigh in on those questions. Please be civil, and do NOT veer into a discussion of the pros and cons of the impeachment issue itself — that’s not what this post is about. Comments not addressing the “neighborhood” issue above will be removed. And remember: All “06880” commenters must use full, real names. Thank you!

Town Prepares For 2020. Phone Book Distributors Race Backward To 1979.

It’s the holiday season. But alert — and peeved — “06880” Gil Ghitelman just found an unwelcome “gift” underneath his mailbox.

One shot from Imperial Avenue …

The Yellow Pages — or, in this case, Blue Pages — are baaaaaack.

“Any business that wastes its money foolishly advertising in this, whose time has long passed, doesn’t deserve my business,” Gil writes.

“And the town ought to fine the distributors.”

In fact, the town already addressed this issue. Two years ago — thanks to excellent work by resident Morgan Mermagen, RTM representatives Liz Milwe, Jeff Wieser and Matthew Mandell, and assistant town attorney Gail Kelly, all phone book distributors in Westport agreed to these conditions:

  • All plastic bags used during delivery will be made with 20% post-consumer recycled content. This will be noted on the bag.
  • A new opt-out notice — showing the website www.YellowPagesOptOut.com — will cover 30% of one side of the bag.
  • A letter to the town, announcing a pending distribution by any company, will be done 90 days prior to any event, and 30 days prior to a cut-off for being able to opt out of that (and future) distributions.
  • All books will continue to have a notice on the front cover about the opt-out, with the same URL.
  • Within 14 days after delivery, the distribution company will return through the route, picking up any unclaimed bags within view.
  • A report will be sent to the town each year, noting how many people have opted out.

I’m not sure whether the distributor of the current Yellow Blue Pages adhered to these regulations. Gil had already tossed the “gift” by the time I emailed them back to him.

(Click here for the full 2017 “06880” story on phone book distribution.)

… and the house next door. (Photos/Gil Ghitelman)

Another Guy Behaving Really Badly

The other day, I posted a story about a man who — upset at the traffic on Greens Farms Road — repeatedly parked his car perpendicular across both lanes, blocking everyone.

Now comes another transportation-related report — this one involving trains. An alert — and very irate — “06880” reader writes:

I ride the train every day. I notice from time to time when I get off at Greens Farms that someone leaves a huge pile of papers scattered on the floor for someone else to pick up. I always think to myself how terrible it is. I wonder how could someone be okay with doing this?

A few weeks ago I sat on the outside seat. I had to get up to let someone off at the Saugatuck station. As I did, a man also exited from the row right in front of me. Sure enough, there was the pile of papers.

This guy reads both the Wall Street Journal and New York Times.

I nicely asked if those were his papers. He looked at me and said “yes.”

I asked if he was going to leave them all over the floor for someone else to pick up.

He looked at me again. He again said “yes.” Then he walked off the train.

I passed the story along to my business partner, who got off at Greens Farms with me.

Last night my business partner sat across from the same guy, who did the same thing.

Apparently every day, he leaves his mess for someone else to clean up.

In this day and age, while many of us are talking about privilege, and how to teach our kids to do the right thing, this is a sad reminder that some people just don’t care.

[NOTE: The reader sent me a photo. The man appears to be in his 50s; he’s average height, average build, and wears glasses. His hair is graying at the temples. I have decided to take the high road — not the below-the-tracks road he travels — and not post it here. — Dan Woog]

On Greens Farms Road, A Vigilante Traffic Stop

It’s no secret — unfortunately — that when I-95 backs up, Greens Farms Road can be an alternate route.

Neighborhood residents don’t like it. But — in this age of Waze and other traffic apps — there’s nothing they can do about it.

That did not stop one man from trying.

Alert “06880” reader Josh Stein reports:

Driving southbound yesterday on Greens Farms Road, I came upon a car parked perpendicular across both travel lanes.

I thought there was an accident. I ran up to the car, and was greeted by a man who said he represents the Greens Farms Association.

I’m sure he doesn’t. But, Josh continues:

He said was protesting through traffic. Dozens of cars were stopped.

A less congested view of the area on Greens Farms Road where a vigilante stopped traffic yesterday.

When Josh returned home, the same thing happened. He called the Westport Police Department. They arrived quickly.

Apparently, Josh says:

This guy has been doing this all week. The police are aware of him.

He actually accelerated and aimed his car at me this second time. He has a large dog in his back seat. The first time he blocked both lanes of traffic, he was in front of 286 Greens Farms Road. This second time he was in front of 350 Greens Farms Road or thereabouts. He told the officer he lives on Greens Farms Road, in the 300s.

No, we don’t like what Waze is doing to our town.

But there must be better “ways” to address the problem than this.

[OPINION] A Conversation About The Cribari Bridge

Frank Accardi moved to Westport in 1993. He’s seen a lot — and spent a lot of time by (and on) the William F. Cribari Bridge. He writes:

At this time of year, out-of-town holiday guests pile into cars. We take them to the beach, Longshore, and all those other lovely places in this town we call home.

Lunching downtown, they get a view of the river. A bit of Main Street shopping is on the agenda too.

Local friends are introduced all around: kind, friendly and warm-hearted.

We drive by parks and the library, modern schools and old churches, bike paths and boat slips. Inevitably, guests fall in love with the town just as we have.

Sometimes they get a chance to literally ride through history.

We tell them: The oldest hand-cranked open span bridge in the state is after the next light.

It’s on the National Registry of Historic places.

Reflections on the Cribari Bridge (Photo/Tom Wambach)

The turn is made. The chatter quiets.

The bridge is just ahead. Just as quickly, the short span is crossed .

But it is inevitable that they see what we see every day.

The dents, the rusty disrepair and desuetude, all made sadder by the brightness of Al DiGuido’s lights and the generosity of his spirit.

Thankful that no one experienced an oncoming landscaping truck at the same time, conversation eventually picks up.

But never about the bridge.

You want to explain that there is history, engineering, boats and truck traffic patterns to consider. But you don’t.

Safely at home, someone takes you aside and says, “Maybe from now on you should go the long way around, son.”

You say, “Don’t worry. I’m sure they will figure it all out soon.”

Won’t they ?

Entitled Parking: The Main (Street) Event

In nearly 11 years of posting photos of spectacularly selfish, jaw-droppingly self-centered, stupefyingly entitled drivers, I thought I’d seen everything.

Silly me.

On Monday, this person — I would not call him or her a “driver,” because that implies some sentience — landed his or her Jeep here:

This takes your breath away.

The person crossed the yellow line. The person stopped, going the wrong way against traffic — in a “No Parking” zone.

The person took the keys, opened the door, and left.

Without even the decency to park close to the curb!

Don’t believe me? Here’s another view.

(Photos/Dr. Edward Paul)

I would like to say that no one can top this. The bar has been set astronomically high.

But this is “06880.”

Someone will.

The Mink Of Ford Road

Alert “06880” reader — and avid fisherman — David Ader writes:

I’m a recently retired, now former financial strategist, who has decided to fish until I get bored.

I’m not bored yet.

I like to fish along Ford Road because it’s convenient, beautiful, and there’s not too much garbage for me to clean up to keep the place neat.

David Ader’s favorite spot on Ford Road. Unlike many fishermen, he’s not afraid to give the location away.

For the last while, especially in the morning, I’ve fished beside a mink who keeps me company. The mink bounds along the shore, stops to stare at me in sort of an acknowledgement, and in contrast to the osprey, kingfisher and once in a while bald eagle, doesn’t compete for the trout I dutifully throw back when I catch, which is rare enough.

Today I was saddened to find this fine furry fellow squashed in the middle of Ford Road. That’s a bit gross, I admit, but there was something really lovely going on.

As I watched him from a rock near the bridge that leads to Bridgewater, I saw all the cars and trucks passing by slow down to give the mink wide berth. Some slowed to a real crawl to look at it. Others just went by, still with a sense of respect or at least curiosity.

A cyclist on a very expensive bike, wearing racing clothes, stopped and just stared by himself for a moment.

The mink, in the middle of the road. (Photos/David Ader)

I heard a story that may be apocryphal: Some years back, enviro-activists freed minks from a mink “ranch” somewhere in this county; the minks we encounter are descendants of those coats that never were.

It’s possible, though I imagine cage-raised minks couldn’t survive in the wild and that this one’s line runs back to the beginning, to Indian times surely.

A few months ago I was picking myself up from the bank, having slipped in the river under the eye of that mink, or a relative perhaps. I picked up a stone that was clearly made for some purpose by the original inhabitants.

I liked the mink for its own antics, but too like to think that he’s a holdover from Westport’s more ancient heritage.

I hope another one, or two, show up when the weather warms up.

Oh, I did catch a large rainbow trout as well.