A curious sight on I-95 in Westport, the other day:
Years ago, the Bridge Street Bridge was renamed to honor William F. Cribari.
“Crobar” spent many years as the ever-smiling, often-dancing, always-vigilant traffic cop at the intersection of Bridge Street and Riverside Avenue.
But that was not his only post.
He was equally effective — though with less choreography — at the heavily trafficked Post Road/Main Street crossing.
This was a typical scene around 1985. Ships restaurant (now Tiffany) drew a steady crowd. So did the rest of downtown.
But Crobar was clearly in charge.
This is the second in “06880”‘s series highlighting Westport’s roads.
John W. and Katherine Keene were longtime Westporters. In 1953 he bought a tract of land off North Morningside Drive, just south of Long Lots Road.
A house on the property had been built in the 1920s. It faced Morningside.
Keene built 9 more homes. He kept one for himself, and sold the rest.
The first house he built — typical of the new development, called Keene’s Estates — had 7 rooms and 2 bathrooms, plus a 1-car attached garage. It sold for $20,000.
Keene was active in the VFW. After retiring, he joined the Westport Fire Department. Katherine died in 1968, He died the following year.
Dale Lamberty bought the Keenes’ house. She worked with her friend Martha Stewart in the fledgling “Market Basket” business selling baked goods. She also baked with Sarah Gross, and founded Great Cakes.
Lamberty died 4 years ago. Her house now has only its 3rd owner in 6 decades.
That’s typical of Keene Road (the name was changed from Keene Estates). It’s a quiet, friendly, private and tight-knit community.
Five of the original homes remain. Four replaced teardown. Residents include a mix of old-timers, and families with young kids. Everyone knows their neighbors, a homeowner says.
A stream runs underneath the road, near Morningside. Children gather there to catch frogs. Deer and foxes are frequent visitors.
Yet Keene Road is prized for its proximity to plenty: Staples High School, Bedford Middle School, the Burr Farms athletic fields, and the Post Road.
It’s a true blend of old Westport and new. John Keene would be pleased that his “estates” have stood the test of time.
(If you’d like your street featured on “06880,” email firstname.lastname@example.org)
I don’t care much for writing awards*. So I’ve never submitted “06880” for any.
But Fred Cantor and Neil Brickley — longtime readers, and much-longertime friends and former Staples High School classmates — did.
Without my knowledge, they sent 3 stories to the Society of Professional Journalists’ Connecticut chapter Excellence in Journalism contest. All told, there were 842 entries, in 39 categories.
Last night — at the annual meeting in Berlin — one of those stories earned a 1st-place award. It was for “Reporting Series.”
The story — “This is ABC” — was a photo essay done with my sister, Susan Woog Wagner. It explored Westport’s great A Better Chance program, through the eyes of scholars, host families, resident directors, drivers, founders, tutors and others. (Click here for the first story in the series.)
I’m proud and honored that Fred and Neil did that on my behalf. And excited to have won, for sure.
The one award is nothing compared to WestportNow. The local news site enters the contest every year, and picks up passels of honors. Last night founder/editor Gordon Joseloff, writer James Lomuscio and photographers Dave Matlow, Helen Klisser During and Anna-Liisa Nixon shared 6 first-place, 4 second-place and 4 third-place awards.
Other local winners included Justin Papp (1st place) and Sophie Vaughn (3rd place), both of the Westport News.
Local journalism is alive and well. The awards are nice — but serving Westporters is even better.
*Though the Pulitzer Prize is very impressive.
(For a full list of winners, and more information, click here.)
Six years ago, 11 6th and 7th grade baseball players mesmerized Westport.
The youngsters battled their way through through local, state and regional competition. They won in blowouts, and in nail-biting fashion.
They kept winning — all the way to the Little League World Series finals, in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
The dream ended in the championship game — on national TV — but they returned home to a heroes’ welcome.
It was a fantastic run. Unfortunately, too many times in youth sports, success at an early age is a recipe for disaster later on.
All that attention turns their heads. Other kids catch up — and surpass them. They discover other interests. Or they burn out.
Thankfully, that is definitely not the case here.
Six years later, the Westport Little League All-Stars have become stars of the Staples High School baseball team.
Two years ago, they won the state LL (extra large schools) championship. This year, they’re battling for it again.
It’s a bittersweet time for them — and their parents. Four of the 11 players are seniors (the other 7 graduated last year). They’ve been together since they were 9 years old.
Soon — hopefully later rather than sooner, but in a single-elimination tournament, you never know — they will play their last game together.
It’s an especially emotional time for Tim Rogers. He was their head coach, from those 9-year-old days through Williamsport, then beyond in travel baseball.
He’s watched with pride — and helped immensely — as his son Drew, and fellow seniors Harry Azadian, Chad Knight, Charlie Roof, have grown as baseball players.
And grown up, from boys into young men.
Rogers is proud of many things. One is that they handled that Little League World Series experience so well. Despite the demands of the sport — and the media — they were still kids. They met other players from around the world. They hung out, and made friends.
Then they took that experience, and brought it into the rest of their lives far beyond Williamsport.
Rogers is also proud that they have continued to play — and love — baseball. No one burned out. No one quit. No one peaked as a 12-year-old.
He is proud that 2 years ago — when other All-Stars, including Matt Stone, Tatin Llamas, Max Popken, Chris Drbal and Alex Reiner were still playing together — Staples beat 4-time defending state champion Amity High 5-1, in the LL title game.
All along, Rogers says, “they’ve found a way to win. They’re deep as a team, but that winning mentality is something intangible.”
He’s proud that they have become leaders. His son, Azadian and Knight are captains of this year’s Wreckers. They’re passing their competitiveness and values on to the younger players.
Rogers is proud that the Little League World Series finalists remained poised and humble. Ever since Williamsport, whenever they’re interviewed, they’ve put baseball in perspective.
Rogers may be proudest though that the longtime teammates still love being together. Through all their success — and occasional disappointments — they’ve remained close friends.
Staples’ Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference is a brutal league. The Wreckers have had to fight for what they’ve gotten, every year.
This spring, they finished with the best record. On Wednesday night they avenged a regular season defeat to Fairfield Ludlowe by winning the FCIAC championship in storybook fashion.
Jake D’Amico — one of those younger players — drove in the winning run. On a 3-2 pitch. With 2 outs. In the bottom of the last inning.
Knight pitched a complete game, giving up only 2 hits and striking out 5.
The final quest — the state championship — starts Tuesday.
Graduations are always wonderful, and hard. For Rogers — who just turned 50, and saw his oldest son graduate from college — watching Drew and his baseball teammates march down the aisle, and out of high school, will be “one more step in my process,” he laughs.
So right now, he — and all the other parents, who have been together through so much and so long — are hoping the season lasts as long as it can.
So do the boys of so many summers.
It looks pastoral.
But beware of poison ivy, at places like Gray’s Creek …
… and Winslow Park, by the Westport Country Playhouse.
ProPublica — the non-profit investigative news outlet — has published an in-depth look at the interrelated issues of affordable housing and zoning laws in Connecticut.
Much of the piece — produced in collaboration with the Connecticut Mirror, and headlined “How Some of America’s Richest Towns Fight Affordable Housing” — focuses on Westport.
It does not paint a pretty picture.
The story begins with the example of the new houses being built on the former Daybreak property, near Merritt Parkway Exit 42:
A dirt field overgrown with weeds is the incongruous entrance to one of America’s wealthiest towns, a short walk to a Rodeo Drive-like stretch replete with upscale stores such as Tiffany & Co.
But this sad patch of land is also the physical manifestation of a broader turf war over what type of housing — and ultimately what type of people — to allow within Westport’s borders.
After a lengthy description of the zoning battles that followed — without mentioning traffic and related issues — the piece notes:
Welcome to Connecticut, a state with more separate — and unequal — housing than nearly everywhere else in the country.
This separation is by design.
In fact, the Daybreak project was never about affordable housing. It was planned as 55-and-over housing.
It talks about Westport’s “affordable housing” stock (as defined by state regulation 8-30g), without mentioning that the statute does not include dwellings built before 1990.
In Westport — where gated residences overlook the Long Island Sound and voters solidly backed Democrats in the most recent state and presidential elections — private developers have been allowed to open just 65 affordable housing units over the last three decades. Public housing rentals operated by the local housing authority have also grown at a snail’s pace, with 71 new units opening in this charming small town of 10,400 homes.
The story implies several times that racism is a factor in local housing decisions.
“I think the vestiges of our racial past are far from over,” said former Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who left office in early 2019 after eight years and regularly butted heads with General Assembly members who wanted local officials to have even more authority over housing decisions. For minority residents striving for safe and affordable housing, the state has “denied the opportunity that we allowed white middle-class aspirants to access,” Malloy said.
It includes quotes from Planning & Zoning commissioners and 1st Selectman Jim Marpe — though not always with context.
There are descriptions of zoning battles over developments like 1177 Post Road East (which is already built and occupied) and the Hiawatha Lane project (which has been battled over for years).
Particularly striking: A photo of the Community Gardens, next to Long Lots Elementary School. The caption implies that the town bought the land and turned it into gardens simply to prevent construction of “multifamily housing for low-income residents in (that) heavily residential single-family section of Westport.”
There’s much more. It’s a long piece — and it will get people talking.
Click here to read the entire story.
The Remarkable Bookcycle sure gets around.
The mobile free library — a fun, funky collaboration between writer Jane Green, her husband Ian Warburg, artist/longtime Remarkable Book Shop enthusiast Miggs Burroughs and former Staples High School student Ryan Peterson — made its way from the Green/Warburgs’ Owenoke home to Bedford Square last fall.
EJ Zebro — owner of TAP StrengthLab — pedaled it over to Main Street recently, where it greeted visitors to the 1st Outdoor Market behind Savvy + Grace.
But Jane — a client and friend of EJ’s — told him the Bookcycle had to be back at the beach for the summer.
He and his TAP staff jumped at the chance to help. When the weather was right, Lauren Leppla hopped on, and made her move.
Local director Amelia Arnold chronicled the trip. If you didn’t see her (and it) riding by, here you go:
Westporters know Larry Silver for his iconic images of “The Jogger” and “Beach Showers” — photographs taken at Longshore and Compo Beach, respectively.
But to the rest of the world, his most iconic image is “Headstand.”
Silver — a longtime resident whose works have been shown around the globe — took that shot in 1954 as part of a series in Muscle Beach, California.
Years later, the International Center for Photography featured those photos. The rest is history.
“Headstand” hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the RISD Museum, and the Getty Museum, among many others. It’s been shown around the globe.
History will be made again on Wednesday, June 12.
Friends of WestPAC — the Westport Public Art Collections — holds its annual fundraiser at Rive Bistro (7 p.m.). “Headstand” is one of the world-class pieces in the auction. It’s the first time Silver has donated the photo anywhere.
He’s been urged for years to show the piece here. He was reluctant, claiming it’s not an image of Westport. Finally — thanks to WestPAC — he feels comfortable doing so.
You can bid on many wonderful works at the WestPAC event (and enjoy great food and more, too).
But only “Headstand” will have you doing backflips.
(For tickets and more information about the June 12 WestPAC fundraiser, click here.)