Weaving Through Westport’s Worst Intersection

In a town filled with traffic lights and stop signs, you’d think one of the busiest and most confusing intersections in town would be tightly regulated.

You’d be wrong.

The Weston Road/Easton Road/Main Street clusterf*** has long defied explanation. Despite traffic funneling from downtown, Cross Highway, the Coleytown area, Weston and the Merritt Parkway — and headed out in all those directions — the confusing, chaotic and dangerous area remains a transportation Wild West.

Quite a welcome to Westport, for those coming off the Merritt. Quite a potential death trap, for all of us.

Over the years, a variety of recommendations have been floated. They range from traffic lights everywhere, to an English/Massachusetts-style roundabout/rotary, to blowing the whole thing up and starting over. (Just kidding on the last one.) (Kind of.)

Recently, Facebook’s Westport Front Porch page has provided a place to discuss the intersection everyone loves to hate.

Jeff Mitchell used Google Earth View to explain his ideas for improvement. Now he’s shared them with “06880.”

First he showed the current situation:

To orient yourself: Weston Road near Cross Highway is at the lower right; Merritt Parkway Exit 42 is just off the top of the photo, in the upper left. Traffic coming from downtown on Main Street is at the lower left.

Next, Jeff offers Solution #1:

It would make the section of Main Street from near the Merritt to the merge by the old Daybreak Florist 1-way, headed toward town.

That would eliminate 2 hazardous merges — in front of Daybreak, and going to the Merritt — but would make life tough for people living on Wassell Lane.

It would also shunt more traffic into the Weston Road/Easton Road intersection. However, Jeff says, replacing the current blinking yellow light with a full stop light — perhaps for rush hour only — could move traffic more quickly to and from the Merritt.

Jeff’s 2nd solution is this:

It would convert all current merges to 3-way stops. This would eliminate all hazardous merges, while keeping Main Street 2-way.

There would be more “formal” stopping and starting — though perhaps no more than currently occurs, with hesitation over who goes when.

Solution #2 would involve construction, including possibly moving a utility pole.

Jeff met last weekend with Avi Kaner. The 2nd selectman had posted several other complex alternatives on Westport Front Porch. They’d been proposed by state engineers in the past. All would take eons to approve and construct — and may include the contentious taking of land by eminent domain.

Of course, these are state roads. It’s their decision what to do, and when.

“06880” readers: What do you think? Click “Comments” to weigh in on Jeff’s plans — or offer your own.

And if you like it just the way it is, we’d love to know why.

Pic Of The Day #177

The good life (Photo/Fred Cantor)

Unsung Hero #19

If you were in Westport at any time from the 1950s through 2003, chances are good there are photos on your mantel, and in your scrapbook, by Bob Satter.

A noted portrait photographer, he shared a studio next to the Green’s Farms post office with George Cardozo. His work included plenty of famous Westporters — but he made everyone he photographed, no matter how ordinary, feel important.

They looked great, too.

Bob Satter

Satter — a generous, gentle man who is now 93 years young — mentored many photographers. The best of them learned his tricks of entertaining clients during shoots. The more relaxed they were, the better the photos.

He melded his vocation and avocation in the name of his 28-foot sailboat: “On Location.”

A proud veteran, Satter was named grand marshal of Westport’s 2014 Memorial Day parade. He volunteered in 1942, and served as a radio operator in World War II. He flew 25 missions as war raged in Europe. Satter was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and 2 battle stars, and the Air Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters follow.

2014 Memorial Day parage grand marshal Bob Satter.

He lost much of his hearing during the war, and became an expert lip reader.

Bob and his wife Jean had 2 sons, Keith and Blair. She died last spring.

Bob and Jean Satter with their children, Blair and Keith, in the 1960s.

Every Westporter of a certain age knew Bob Satter.

Now every “06880” reader does.

(Hat tip: Carmine Picarello. If you’d like to nominate an Unsung Hero, email dwoog@optonline.net)

Staples Music Department Plays For Hurricane Relief

Last month, Hurricane Harvey roared through Texas. In addition to many damaged homes and businesses, countless small reminders of the storm’s devastation remain.

For example, school districts lost music libraries. Some had been meticulously grown, for decades.

Help is on the way.

Luck’s Music Library has pledged to match every dollar donated to a special fund.

The Staples Music Department quickly joined in. The goal is to raise $10,00o here. Thanks to Luck’s, that would mean $20,000 worth of music for Texas.

How will Westport do it? Let’s count the ways.

On Wednesday, October 18 (7:30 p.m., Saugatuck Elementary School) the Staples Strings Concert kicks off the drive, with a pass-the-hat collection.

Lauren Schmidt, Jessica Xu and Scott Adler rehearse for the upcoming Strings Concert.

At halftime of the Friday, October 27 home football game, the Jazz Ensemble will appear on the big scoreboard. That’s followed by video of a Houston high school. Tri-M music honor society members will then collect funds in the stands.

A “Chamber-a-thon” is set for Friday, November 3. From 3:30 p.m. on, musical groups play for 20 minutes each. They’ll ask Westporters to sponsor their segments, and a case will be open for other donations. The music department is searching for a high visibility location like Barnes & Noble for this event.

After Thanksgiving, there’s a Radio-a-thon with recorded Staples music and pledges.

Funds will also be collected every concert in town from now through Candlelight. A board sign near the tennis courts will show progress.

Meanwhile, all donations are welcome. Checks can made out to “SHS Music” and sent to: Staples High School Music Department, 70 North Avenue, Westport, CT 06880. Please write “Hurricane Harvey relief” on the memo line.

Logo by Tomaso Scotti, a Staples student in Carla Eichler’s graphic design class.

Max Lance’s Life Journey: “Not As Stupid As I Thought”

“Life is a journey — not a destination.”

Every adult knows that cliche to be true. Every young person who hears it rolls their eyes.

The other day, Staples High School Class of 2002 graduate Max Lance looked back at his journey on Facebook. That’s normally not the place for long-form writing — but it’s fascinating, and worth passing along.

So this is for every parent who worries about a child’s life choices — and every teenager who wonders what the future may hold. Max writes:

Ten years ago, I was a caustic and combative 23-year-old kid who considered myself a complete failure and blamed everyone else for my mistakes. I dropped out of NYU 3 years earlier to pursue stand-up comedy for a living, because I was certain that was a sound life plan.

My career had gone nowhere, I had over $70,000 of student loans for a degree I never finished, I couldn’t hold down a relationship or a job. I watched a lot of my comedy friends get very successful, and it felt like everyone I went to high school with was working on Wall Street and had their own 2-bedroom apartments on 2nd Avenue in the 60s.

Realizing something had to change and maybe a college degree wouldn’t be a total waste, I applied to the USC School of Cinematic Arts for screenwriting. I figured that if I got in, I’d move to L.A. and finish my degree. I was admitted, but in my first week of orientation I learned I couldn’t just complete my last 2 years of college and get a bachelor’s. I had to attend 4 years of undergrad from the beginning.

Max Lance in 2012, at Fenway Park. He was working on a soccer project with the Liverpool team. They were in Boston to play Roma in an exhibition match.

I rebooted. I took on another $50,000 of debt and worked harder than I ever did in my life. I interned, I worked part-time jobs around my class schedule. And I wrote like crazy. Every single day, churning out features, pilots, and specs, all of them pretty terrible. I was especially proud of a script called “Eskimo a Go Go,” about a team of ragtag Alaskan strippers. The rights are still available.

I realized I lacked the natural talent for writing that a lot of my classmates had. If I wanted to make anything of my life and career, I would have to substitute extremely hard work, perseverance, and stubbornness. I would also have to get over my go-it-alone mentality and learn that maybe everyone else wasn’t a total idiot.

Max found a writer’s group on CraigsList. He continues:

I also volunteered with a non-profit called Young Storytellers, mentoring 5th graders to write a 5-page script that is then performed by professional actors in front of their whole school. Honestly, I only volunteered because I heard it was a good way to get a writer’s assistant job. I never really cared for kids that much.

While I never got the job, I did meet another volunteer. She was the happiest, most optimistic, funniest, most beautiful, and creative person I ever encountered. Three weeks later Jen Bailey and I had our first date, a picnic in the park because I was too poor (and cheap) to afford a real activity.

The small writers’ group met every Tuesday night for the past 8 years. Fellow members earned accolades and awards. Max did not.

After continuing to bang my head against the wall with comedies that went nowhere, I had an idea for a heartfelt dramedy with a female lead. I really wanted to write a great part for my actress fiancée, who had finally convinced me that marriage wasn’t the worst thing. As much as Jen supported my writing, and as much as she agreed that I was an expert on women, she thought she might be able to offer a bit of help when it came to writing the script’s female roles. We co-wrote our first movie together, “Best Funeral Ever,” and submitted it to Nicholl — the most prominent amateur screenwriting contest in the world — a few weeks before we got married in 2015.

Max Lance

That fall, after a failed career in stand-up and a decade in screenwriting that went nowhere, Jen and I reached the finals of the Nicholl with the first movie we wrote together. We got to the top 12 of the contest, but were not in the winning 5. There were a lot of silver linings — we got repped and the script went into development — but we didn’t win. And we weren’t making any money off writing.

Last winter, I came to terms that screenwriting would always be a fun and creative hobby on the side. I could write for an hour first thing every morning, but I had more of a gift for finance and accounting than storytelling. I got a part-time job doing finances for a book publisher, which I’ve really loved. But Jen decided we were having a baby and I needed to find a way to pay for the kid in her growing belly. I realized I would need to find a good salary, health insurance, and a 401(k). I put out a call for full-time accounting jobs.

Around that time we had an idea for a new script. We were huge fans of The People v OJ Simpson. We watched the show every Tuesday and drank a carton of orange juice. We thought it’d be fun to spec the O.J. show by writing the story of the “If I Did It,” book deal and TV interview between O.J. and publisher Judith Regan.

We wrote a badass, complicated and powerful female lead who carried the script. We took our writer’s group’s advice every step of the way. They suggested we tack an extra 40 pages to the TV script and submit the feature for the Nicholl.

In September Jen’s belly grew to the point where we both weighed the same. The job hunt had advanced to where I received multiple full-time accounting job offers. Meanwhile our script, “The Queen of Sleaze,” advanced in the contest, all the way to the top 10 finalists. It was only the 3rd time ever that anyone reached the finals twice with 2 different scripts.

On September 27, 2017, I got the best news of my life. Jen gave birth to our daughter, Bayley Makena Lance, at 3:07 p.m. She weighed 8 pounds, 13 ounces, looks exactly like her mother, sleeps for most of the night, and made me cry with joy more in the first 33 hours of her life than the first 33 years of mine. She is currently sleeping on my belly while I balance my computer on my lap and punch this out. It is the happiest and most content I have ever felt in my life.

Max, Jen and Bayley Lance.

Five days after giving birth, Jen and I were notified that we won the Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting. It was the 10th time I entered the contest, with 8 different scripts. I turned down the full-time accounting jobs.

I wish I could feel like I’m amazing and really talented and lucky, but none of that mattered in the slightest. I stopped pretending that I knew everything. I put my faith and trust in other people, and surrounded myself with highly talented, smart and creative friends. I listened to what they had to say.

Rather than seeing someone new as competition or a contact, I started looking at other creative people as allies. I decided that quitting wasn’t an option, so I forced myself to wake up early every day, and write no matter what.

Best of all, when I met the most amazing woman in the world, I didn’t run away from the terrifying prospect of marriage and family. Granted, I wouldn’t say I sprinted towards it either. Jen dragged me toward family and stability like a lop-sided tug-of-war match. But when I fell into the mud, I dove head first.

I wouldn’t tell any of this to the pissed off 23-year-old version of myself who felt like his life was going nowhere. I wouldn’t ask for a do-over on any of the mistakes he made, or make any changes along the way. But with my baby girl on my stomach, some money in the bank, and the future looking brighter than ever, I am so unbelievably happy that he wasn’t as stupid as I thought.

(Hat tip: Jordan Schur)

Pic Of The Day #176

Peace at Town Hall (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Selectmen Candidates’ Debate On Thursday

If you were underwhelmed by the presidential debates of 2016, your long national nightmare is over.

On Thursday (October 12, 11:30 a.m. to 1:3o p.m., Westport Library), the 4 candidates for 1st selectmen face off. It should be informative — and substantive.

Republican Jim Marpe, Democrat Melissa Kane and independents John Suggs and Timothy J. Elgin will discuss business-related issues. There’s a good reason: The debate is sponsored by the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce.

Moderator Jay Sandak will lead the discussion in areas like the town’s business environment, jobs and taxes.

The event begins with a chance to meet the candidates. At that time, attendees can submit written questions for the debate.

New Teardown In Old Neighborhood

Over the past few years, the Compo Beach Historic District has lost several homes to demolition.

Next up to go down: 15 Roosevelt Road.

The other day, neighbor Larry Hoy wrote to the Historic District Commission:

Please halt the demolition of this 92-year-old home in our historic Compo Beach neighborhood.

15 Roosevelt Road

The destruction of our neighborhood must stop. Too many of the original homes have been destroyed to make way for McMansions. Two homes on Roosevelt Road were torn down in recent years and replaced with homes  that are out of scale in our neighborhood.

Both new homes required variances for which the owners claimed they had large families. As it turns out, both homes are now occupied by single people. These illicit variances have paved the way for the destruction of this once beautiful street.

A large house replaced a smaller center-chimney colonial on Roosevelt Road.

11 Roosevelt Road has recently been saved and tastefully restored. This is the approach that should be taken with 15 Roosevelt Rd. Preservation — not destruction — is the only acceptable solution for this house in our neighborhood.  Please help us halt this destruction!

11 Roosevelt Road was recently restored with additions, but only minor changes to the facade. (Photos/Larry Hoy)

Speaking of history: Two streets in the Compo Beach Historic District — Roosevelt and Quentin Roads — were named after Theodore Roosevelt’s youngest son. Quentin Roosevelt was killed in his airplane over Normandy on Bastille Day, during World War I.

(The Historic District Commission will consider the application for demolition tonight at 7 p.m., in Town Hall Room 201.)

“06880 + 50”: Mike Greenberg’s Vision

The Westport Historical Society‘s new “06880 + 50” exhibit — visions of Westport in 2067 — is fun. It’s thought-provoking. It’s clever.

Over a dozen local architects contributed ideas. From a reimagined river to out-of-the-way parking for driverless cars, it’s more focused on what’s really possible than an idealistic Jetsons world.

Many of the concepts deal with downtown. One firm took a different approach.

Michael Greenberg & Associates built on their founder’s lifelong association with Westport. The Staples High School graduate grew up in a town filled with artists and other creative people. He believes Westport remains a community that embraces “progressive change,” committed to taking care of the planet both environmentally and socially.

A map of Westport — circa 2067 — shows only arterial roads (white) remaining. The rest of the town is broken up into relatively self-sufficient “quadrants.” Click on or hover over to enlarge.

He’s seen builders embrace the “bigger is better” model, but believes it will end. Single family homes on 1- and 2-acre lots, with driveways, pools and manicured lawns, are environmentally wasteful, Greenberg says.

That lifestyle has created isolation, and a disconnect not only to nature but to each other, he adds.

So Greenberg — who reveres barn and antique materials — envisions a Westport that goes back to its roots. He imagines smaller homes, surrounded by open space, community farms, and places to care for the elderly and young.

These “new villages” will develop, he thinks, as millennials (and the generations that follow) realize the importance of downsizing and living responsibly.

A rough sketch of one quadrant. It is bounded by Roseville Road, Long Lots Road, North Avenue and Cross Highway. Click on or hover over to enlarge.

In the WHS exhibit, Greenberg explains, “the smart and concerned folks of Westport” will establish a new “Farm Zone.” New homes — on the edges of main roads — will surround working farms.

Everyone will pitch in to help traditional farmers. Produce would be available at indoor/outdoor markets. Greenhouses would further support independent sustainability.

Some historic homes will be repurposed to house farm workers and town employees. Others will be retrofitted for day care, crafts and lecture halls.

Main roads will be kept, but “infill” roads — all our lanes and cul-de-sacs — will be eliminated. Pedestrian and bike trails will take their place.

Housing will be clustered in new “quadrants.” Higher density of units and elimination of secondary roads will dramatically increase open space, used for recreation, biking and hiking trails and sculpture gardens. Kids could play — and get dirty.

New homes — modular, for ease of construction and minimization of waste — will emphasize efficiency and quality, not size.

Mike Greenberg’s houses, as shown in the Westport Historical Society’s “06880 + 50” exhibit.

Power comes from solar, wind, geothermal “and sources not yet invented.”

Greenberg created a sample “quadrant,” now mounted on the WHS exhibit wall. It’s bounded by the post Road, Long Lots, North Avenue, Roseville Road and Cross Highway.

“As a citizen of the planet, I am excited that the way we live now will not be the way we live in the future,” says Greenberg.

“The people of Westport will be leaders in making this concept into a reality.

“Now is the time to meld the past with our future. We have to move away from this wasteful, unhealthy present. We have to move as if our lives depend on it — because they do.”

A more detailed view of the Roseville/Long Lots/North Avenue/Cross Highway quadrant (above). Click on or hover over to enlarge.

Pic Of The Day #175

Ziggy Hallgarten — on fall break from Cornell University — enjoys a windy day at Compo.