Tag Archives: Cockenoe Island

Roundup: Straight White Men, Jewish Teenagers, Martha Stewart …

There’s something new at the Westport Country Playhouse: hosts for the evening.

And they don’t look like anything you’d expect:

Ashton Muniz, one of the Westport Country Playhouse hosts. (Photo/dan Woog)

Ashton Muñiz(above) and Akiko Akita are proud non-straight, non-white non-men. So why are they welcoming guests (with big smiles and ear plugs) to the current production of “Straight White Men”?

As they explain before the curtain rises, it’s because the audience needs to get out of its comfort zone.

And why are those ear plugs necessary? Well, the music that plays as the audience finds its seats is not what you’d normally hear at the historic, near-100-year-old theater.

The show itself is quite funny and unsettling — sometimes simultaneously. Playwright Young Jean Lee is the first Asian-American woman to have a show on Broadway.

She’s not the type of person you’d expect to write “Straight White Men.” But  she — and Ashton and Akiko — are happy to welcome you to it.

(For more information and tickets, click here.) 

=======================================================

In an annual ritual, parents gathered this morning at 5:30 a.m., to set up a wider slide at Kings Highway Elementary School.

Their kids did not see them at work. But a few hours later, they’re sure enjoying it.

(Photo/Frank Rosen)

======================================================

Merkaz is a place for Jewish students from area high schools and congregations to learn, socialize, explore and strengthen their religious identity.

This fall (Mondays from 7 to 9 p.m.), Merkaz offers a Westport location.

Courses include:

  • Merkaz Mahjong
  • Choices on the College Campus
  • Jews in the News
  • Denial and The Holocaust
  • Jewish Humor
  • Superheroes
  • Judaism and the Environment
  • Outstanding Jewish Women
  • Jewish Cooking
  • Broadway and the Jews
  • Jewish Songs and Songwriters
  • Yoga, Meditation and Mindfulness
  • College Bound
  • Making Local Change

Click here for more information. MerkazCT.org. Questions? Email Merkaz@JewishPhilanthropyCT.org.

==================================================

Eve Potts writes:

“There is a new Optimum store in the Fresh Market plaza. We noticed the sign this week. We have questions about billing, so we decided to pay a visit.

“An incredible, bright and knowledgeable young man named Alex answered all our questions quickly and completely. it was a very different experience from our visit to the Norwalk office.

“Alex said they’ve been in town since December, but the sign just recently went up and nobody knows they are here. I want to let Westport  know that Optimum is here, and has a really great guy on board.”

=======================================================

Speaking of (relatively) new businesses: More than a year after opening — in the middle of COVID — The Porch @ Christie’s held its official ribbon-cutting yesterday.

It was a quick, informal and friendly ceremony — just like the Cross Highway deli itself. The icing on the cake: free cookies, from the Porch’s partner Sweet P Bakery.

Cutting the Porch ribbon (from left): consultant Mark Moeller..2nd Selectwoman Andrea Moore, owners Bill and Andrea Pecoriello, 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker, marketing director Betsy Weissman, Sweet P Bakery head pastry chef Terri Cahn, manager Iby  Rivera. 

=======================================================

Beach-bound traffic was diverted yesterday afternoon, when a moving truck snagged a low-hangiing wire on Hillspoint Road, after pulling out of Edgewater Commons.

The road was reopened a few hours later.

The cause of the Hillspoint Road closure. (Photo/Andrew Colabella)

=======================================================

“The Great American Tag Sale with Martha Stewart” aired last night.

ABC previewed it: “Martha Stewart, known for turning everyday living into an art form, is ready to part ways with pieces from her vast collection of furniture, art and housewares in this new 1-hour special. Over the years, Martha has amassed an assortment of items that ranges from fine art to knickknacks.

“During the special, she will regale viewers with fond memories of how these beloved items were acquired and offer expert advice on how to execute a successful tag sale. Alongside her team of event planners, Martha will host a series of tag sale events including an exclusive cocktail party for celebrities and neighbors to preview the sale.”

I did not watch the show. In fact, there are 27,298.331 things I would have done before I’d even think of watching it.

But — as someone who remembers when the lifestyle guru/ businesswoman/wrtier/television personality/chef/inmate lived in Westport (and the stories that circulated here) — I wonder how many of of items (both fine art and knicknacks) have a Westport back story. (Hat tip: Betsy Pollak)

How much of Martha Stewart’s tag sale started on Turkey Hill?

=======================================================

Last month, “06880” reported that Great Island — the 60-acre property off the Darien coast with a stable, riding rings, “grand house,” and whiskey and wine cellar with contents dating back to Prohibition, all once owned by the Steinkraus family of Westport — was for sale.

It was called “the largest private island ever to be offered for sale on the East Coast.”

Now, the Wall Street Journal reports, the town of Darien is in negotiations to buy the island for “more than $100 million.”

Granted, Cockenoe is no Great Island. And 1969 money is not the same as 2022.

But we got our island for just $200,000. (Hat tip: Adam Stolpen)

Great Island …

… and Cockenoe Island.

======================================================

Congratulations to May’s Staples High School Students of the Month: jnior Jordyn Goldshore, sophomores Michael Blishteyn and Kervin Joseph, and freshmen Jonah Bernstein and Davi Da Silva.

Principal Stafford Thomas said they were chosen for helping make their school “a welcoming place for peers and teachers. They are the ‘glue’ of the Staples community: the type of kind, cheerful, hard-working, trustworthy students who keep the high school together, making it the special place it is.”

Staples High School Students of the Month (from left): Michael Blishteyn, Jonah Bernstein, Davi Da Silva, Kervin Joseph. Missing: Jordyn Goldshore.

=======================================================

Relaxing recently for their “Westport … Naturally” closeup at Wakeman Town Farm were these 2 beauties:

(Photo/Lauri Weiser)

======================================================

And finally … in honor of a TV show I would never watch, even though it stars one of Westport’s most famous ex-residents (see story above):

Fishin’, Not Fission: Paddlers Celebrate Cockenoe Purchase

It took years of protests, high-level negotiations, and the help of the state legislature.

But on December 23, 1969, a real estate deal closed. The town of Westport bought Cockenoe Island for $200,000.

The seller — United Illuminating, a utility company predecessor of Eversource — would no longer follow through on plans to build a 14-story nuclear power plant on the island, a mile off Compo Beach.

The next day’s Westport News carried a memorable headline: “Cockenoe Island Safe in Sound.” Life magazine called it one of the 10 most important environmental victories in America that year.

Cockenoe Island was saved, in perpetuity.

Exactly 52 years later, a group of area residents — many of whom had not been born when Westporters saved Cockenoe — commemorated the event.

Twelve canoes, kayaks and paddleboards headed out from the Compo Beach kayak launch to the island, and around it. They braved 33-degree weather and 11-knot winds.

After circumnavigating, everyone went ashore. They made a fire and sipped celebratory cider. Two bald eagles greeted the group.

Cockenoe paddlers celebrate.

Organizer Sefra Alexandra cherishes winter paddling. A leader of BOATanical Expeditions, she leads trips to raise awareness of the biodiversity and resilience of our ecoregion. Most take place on the Connecticut River.

But Alexandra — also a member of the Explorers Club — wants to popularize “backyard expeditions.”

“We all have a role to play in stewarding the re-wilding the lands and waters around us,” she says.

BOATanical Expeditions was joined as host by 2 other groups. The Readiness Collective is a social club offering emergency and daily life training. Riprour is an outdoor adventure community that leads excursions throughout Fairfield County, while raising funds for organizations like Aspetuck Land Trust and The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.

Among the paddlers: Jesse Levin, Danielle Roberts, Sefra Alexandra and Rocky Progano.

Though fishin’ replaced fission long ago, Alexandra knows that keeping effluent out of the Sound is an ongoing battle. So she asked paddlers for donations from the Cockenoe paddlers. Funds go to East Norwalk Blue, a free bilge pump-out program run by Norm Bloom of Copps Island Oysters.

Bloom also provided the safety boat for the Cockenoe paddle.

Last week — half a century after its purchase by the town of Westport — Cockenoe Island was once again “safe in Sound.”

Pic Of The Day #1587

As the sun rose the other morning, Staples High School 1983 swim team co-captain Caroline Sherman checked off a bucket list item: a swim to Cockenoe Island. (Photo/Alex Sherman)

Friday Flashback #257

Last week’s Friday Flashback featured a 1967 poster It advertised a rally at Town Hall, to “Save Cockenoe Island” (from an electric utility, which wanted to build a nuclear power plant there).

This week’s Flashback also features a poster. It too references an August event — almost exactly 30 years ago today. And — go figure — it too has a strong Cockenoe connection.

(Poster and photo courtesy of Andrew Estey)

Well, check out this video:

There’s a lot of bizarre stuff on YouTube. But this ranks right up there.

In tones befitting Marlon Perkins on “Wild Kingdom” — or, this century, an endangered-species documentary on the National Geographic Channel — a narrator breathlessly describes what seems to be a very odd tradition in our coastal community.

“Just another lazy day along the river in Westport, Connecticut,” the 1977 video begins. “Except that this is the day of the Great Race.”

After describing the event — a 1-mile run, a 3-mile row or paddle out to Cockenoe Island, picking up 1 pound of garbage, then rowing or paddling back for a 1st-place prize of $1,000 — the narrator declares that on Great Race Day, Westport is the center of “high international drama.” (Cut to an interview with an Australian guy.)

Just a couple of Great Racers being interviewed.

Just a couple of Great Racers being interviewed.

There are classic quotes — “We run to the liquor store to get our bodies in shape” — interspersed with vintage shots of downtown, and the not-sure-if-it’s-tongue-in-cheek-or-not description of a team that trained “in a handmade aluminum craft for an entire year, just for this race.”

In fact, I’m not sure if the entire video is serious, a satire, or just a goof. When you see 2 teams fighting over a piece of garbage on Cockenoe, you’ll wonder too.

Running down Taylor Place, to the start at the Post Road bridge.

Running down Taylor Place, to the boat launch at the Post Road bridge.

But — as the narrator notes — “constant seamanship and vigilance” were keys to winning the Great Race.

And, at the end, “the townspeople have come together with their picnic lunches to cheer and debate their favorites. The memories will keep for a whole year.”

Paddling ...

Paddling …

...and partying at a house on the river, as the racers go by.

…and partying at a house on the river, as the racers go by.

It was a tradition that lasted from the ’70s into the ’90s. If you participated in the Great Race — as a boater, a spectator or the guy who delivered the kegs — we’d love to hear what you remember. (If, of course, you remember anything.)

Click “Comments” below. Ahoy!

(Hat tips: Jack Whittle, Ted Friedman, Rich Stein)

Bonus photo: Schlitz sponsored the Great Race. The guys dressed up as Schlitz cans were high school students (the drinking age in Connecticut was 18 back then). They did not win the race — but they did win the Best Costume award.

Friday Flashback #256

Many Westporters are familiar with the iconic “Save Cockenoe Now” poster:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Created by Walter and Naiad Einsel, it helped spur citizens — who then pressured town officials — to purchase the island from United Illuminating.

In a move that sounds unfathomable today, the utility wanted to build a nuclear power plant right there, a mile off Compo Beach.

There was plenty of opposition. But UI had a good deal of support, too.

The Einsels were not the only ones rallying Westporters with artwork. Almost 54 years ago to the day, this was the scene:

(Courtesy of Marian Sawyer)

The campaign worked.

The town paid approximately $200,000 for Cockenoe Island — UI’s purchase price. State and federal funds covered 75% of the cost. Westport now owns Cockenoe — in perpetuity.

Want to know more? Click here, for full details.

 

C

Remembering John Kemish

Former First Selectman John J. Kemish died April 25 in Boca Raton, Florida. He was 93.

Kemish served three 2-year terms as Westport’s chief executive, from 1967 to 1973. Prior to his election, beginning in 1958 he was the town’s first professional controller (now “finance director”). He improved Westport’s credit rating from A to AAA by establishing the town’s first Capital and Non-Recurring Expenditure fund. As controller he also played a pivotal role in the purchase of Longshore Country Club, under First Selectman Herb Baldwin.

John Kemish

Kemish earned a bachelor’s degree from Hillyer College (now called the University of Hartford), and a master’s degree in public administration and municipal finance from the University of Connecticut.

Woody Klein, in his book Westport Connecticut, The Story of a New England Town’s Rise to Prominence, called Kemish “a personable and highly competent public servant.”

At the time of his election, Westport “was about to face one of the most defining moments in the Town’s history.” United Illuminating Company, a statewide utility, had just announced its intent to build a 14-story nuclear power plant on Cockenoe Island, less than one mile offshore from Westport’s Compo Beach…. Kemish would soon become one of the key figures in the Cockenoe campaign.”

UI’s announcement galvanized the town, and sparked a “Save Cockenoe Now” campaign spearheaded by Jo Fox Brosious, editor of the Westport News.

The First Selectman’s Committee began a year-and-a-half environmental battle, with national coverage. The solution involved the purchase of the Island by the Town. MrKemish engineered the financing that made the purchase possible, and recouped 75% of the money from the federal government. Westport now owns Cockenoe Island in perpetuity.

Cockenoe Island. Thanks in part to John Kemish, it remains pristine.

MrKemish also spearheaded construction of the first solid waste transfer station (the current site of the Levitt Pavilion), effectively ending sanitary land filling of garbage in Westport. This was a landmark for Connecticut, and culminated in the formation of the State Resource Recovery Authority.

Among other important contributions to the quality of life in Westport, Kemish created Westport’s Beautification Committee. Chair Claire Ford and her organization gained the support of the Planning & Zoning Commission.  Significant changes included plantings and the restriction of signage along the Post Road.

Kemish was also responsible for the acquisition of the 38-acre Wakeman Farm, acquisition of the Nike Site on Bayberry lane, and a similar one on North Avenue (providing additional land adjacent to the Staples High School property, now the location of Bedford Middle School).

Bedford Middle School, on the site of a former Nike Missile Site.

During his years as first selectman, Kemish succeeded New York Mayor John Lindsay as president of the Metropolitan Regional Council, which was instrumental in improving services of the Metro-North railroad.

In addition, Kemish worked with Union Carbide and American Can Company on expansion of their municipal resource recovery and solid waste processing systems. In retirement he traveled extensively with his wife Gloria, and enjoyed family time in his homes in Connecticut and Florida.

He is survived by his wife Gloria Kemish, her family, and sons James and Steven.

Marpe Notes Death Of Former 1st Selectman John Kemish

First Selectman Jim Marpe says:

It was with deep sadness that I learned of the passing of former Westport 1st Selectman John Kemish on April 25, at the age of 93. John served three 2-year terms as Westport’s 1st Selectman from 1967 to 1973.

Prior to his election, John served as the town’s first professional controller (now the finance director), where he improved the town’s credit rating from A to Aaa. As controller, he played a pivotal role in the purchase of Longshore Country Club for the town under then-1st Selectman Herb Baldwin.

As 1st Selectman, John played a major role in the town’s campaign to save Cockenoe Island from United Illuminating Company’s plans to erect a nuclear power plant at that offshore site. Under John’s leadership, the agreement to sell Cockenoe Island to the town and eliminate the plans for the power plant proved successful. The town owes John a debt of gratitude, along with many others involved in that environmental fight to save the natural beauty and landscape of that island over 50 years ago,

First Selectman John Kemish (tie) is flanked by veterans at the Memorial Day parade.

According to Woody Klein in his book, Westport Connecticut: The Story of a New England Town’s Rise to Prominence, John is credited with the “acquisition of the Wakeman Farm as open space; he led the town’s effort to acquire the Nike Site on Bayberry Lane for the Westport-Weston Health District and Rolnick Observatory; he was responsible for the acquisition of the North Avenue Nike Site, providing additional land adjacent to the Staples High School property, (which became Bedford Middle School); he established the first major town beautification program by creating the Beautification Committee; and he played a role in the creation of the Transit District and the subsequent introduction of the Minnybus.” He also played an important role in the development of the original Levitt Pavilion.

Those accomplishments notwithstanding, I understand that John was a dedicated public servant who placed the issues and concerns expressed by many Westporters first. I know that generations of Westporters have and will continue to benefit from his due diligence, calm demeanor and leadership capabilities.

On behalf of the Town of Westport, I want to express my sincere condolences to his wife Gloria,  his sons James and Steven, and his entire family.

1st Selectman John Kemish (far right) with Westport YMCA director Matt Johnson (standing) and (seated from left) YMCA president George Dammon, and CBS News anchor (and Weston resident) Douglas Edwards.

Beach Bench: Mid-Morning Update

Many Westporters were moved by Friday’s “06880” story — and this morning’s follow-up — on the memorial bench that’s gone missing from Compo Beach.

But a bird-lover may have helped find it.

Yesterday morning — while scanning Long Island Sound and Cockenoe Island for birds, with her spotting scope — Tina Green noticed a bench on the Cockenoe sand spit. It’s where the common terns and American oystercatchers nest

This morning she headed to Saugatuck Shores. Here’s what she saw, with her long-range scope:

(Photo/Tina Green)

Tina — who in real life owns Renaissance Studio, the great stained custom stained glass company, with her husband Peter — suspects it might be one of the 3 now reported gone.

“Someone may have gone to a lot of trouble to remove the bench, and then get it out to Cockenoe,” she says.

The approximate location of the bench Tina Green spotted from afar.

She hopes the Marine Police can retrieve it, once their boat is in the water. Or, Tina says, “perhaps a Westporter with a large enough boat and a few strapping lads can return it to Compo where it belongs. It’s heavy!”

Pic Of The Day #1309

Peck Ledge Lighthouse, with Cockenoe Island in the background (Photo/Seth Schachter)

Roundup: Election Day, Cockenoe Poster, More


How did you spend election night?

I toggled back and forth between TV stations, Twitter and texts.

Some people headed to watch parties, at Wakeman Town Farm (Democrats) and Hudson Malone (Republicans).

A few folks gathered on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Memorial Bridge, to show support for their candidate:

(Photo/Marcy Sansolo)

Donald Trump lost Westport by a 3-to-1 margin: 12,775 to 4,184.

Nationally, of course, we will know the result — perhaps — by Inauguration Day.


Looking for a vintage 1967 “Save Cockenoe Now” poster? You can bid online for it here.

No idea what “Save Cockenoe Now” was all about? The quick answer: Back in the day, a nuclear power plant camethisclose to being built a mile off Compo Beach.

Want to know more? Click here(Hat tip: William Strittmatter)


And finally …