Tag Archives: Parker Harding Plaza

Parker Harding Plan Withdrawn From P&Z

In a terse, 2-sentence note this morning, the town officially withdrew its applications to renovate Parker Harding Plaza.

Department of Public Works director Peter Ratkiewich emailed Planning & Zoning Department director Mary Young:

In consultation with the First Selectwoman, and in light of the commentary offered on the above referenced applications, we have decided to withdraw both applications so as to focus on addressing some of the issues.

We will resubmit at a later date.

For over a year, the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee has worked on a multi-pronged plan.

The first part — reconfiguring the lot behind Main Street to add green space by the river, improve traffic circulation and aesthetics, and bring it in compliance with ADA standards — initially removed the cut-through from Main Street to the Post Road. It also eliminated dozens of parking spaces.

Vehement opposition from retailers, restaurant owners and residents led to a second plan. The cut-through was returned, but for a variety of reasons — including widening of parking spots to meet current regulations — it resulted in the loss of 45 spaces.

The most recent Parker Harding Plaza plan.

Last Monday, Pete Ratkiewich and DPIC chair Randy Herbertson presented the newest iteration of the plan. Officially, it was an “8-24” review at the request of 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker.

P&Z commissioners and members of the public praised parts of the plan. But other elements — especially the elimination of nearly 4 dozen parking spots, along with traffic patterns, perpendicular rather than angled parking, sustainability, flooding, and the location of the dumpsters at one end of Parker Harding, near the river — drew intense scrutiny. (Click here for that “06880” story.)

P&Z members also questioned the sequence of steps. The DPIC has reimagined all of downtown, including the Taylor (“lower library”) lot by Jesup Green, and the lot on Imperial Avenue now used by the Westport Farmers’ Market.

Since the Taylor/Jesup Green plan adds parking (and a playground) downtown, commissioners asked, why not do that work prior to Parker Harding?

If town officials do not want to add parking there before eliminating it behind Main Street, they suggested the plan be reconsidered to improve fire safety, add the 4 ADA-compliant handicap spaces the lot currently lacks, spruce up landscaping and the current boardwalk — but also retain more parking.

After 3 hours of discussion, at Ratkiewich’s request the P&Z agreed to continue the proposal to November 6.

Now, it’s back — literally — to the drawing board.

(“06880” reached out to DPIC chair Randy Herbertson. He was not immediately available to comment.)

Artists’ renderings for the Parker Harding plan show 2-way traffic and perpendicular parking, with a pedestrian walkway from the Main Street tunnel (right) to the Saugatuck River. The backs of the stores are stylized; they would not look like that.


P&Z Puts Brakes On Parker Harding

Like drivers throughout town, the Parker Harding project is still waiting for a green light.

Meeting virtually last night, the Planning & Zoning Commission deferred a decision on the first phase of a long-debated plan for the area between the backs of Main Street stores, and the Saugatuck River.

Public Works director Pete Ratkiewich and Downtown Plan Implementation Committee chair Randy Herbertson presented the newest iteration of the first phase of the plan. Officially, this was an “8-24” review at the request of 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker.

After much public feedback, it reinstates the cut-through road from Main Street to the Post Road.

It also calls for 2-way traffic closest to the backs of Main Street stores; the addition of green space near the riverl the relocation of the dumpsters away from their current central location, and — most controversially — a reduction of 45 parking spaces.

The Parker Harding plan. Click on or hover over to enlarge.

Ratkiewich explained that the decision on parking spots resulted from a combination of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements, new standards for parking spots (the current ones are too tight), and the maneuverability of fire equipment.

Commissioners and members of the public offered many comments and questions. While praising parts of the plan, they found the elimination of nearly 4 dozen parking spots problematic.

They asked about traffic patterns, perpendicular rather than angled parking, sustainability and flooding.

Parker Harding Plaza flooded on October 27, 2018. There was no rain — just an unexpected high tide. (Photo/Eliza Barr for Inklings)

They also wondered about the sequence of steps. The DPIC has reimagined all of downtown, including the Taylor (“lower library”) lot by Jesup Green, and the lot on Imperial Avenue now used by the Westport Farmers’ Market.

Since the Taylor/Jesup Green plan adds parking (and a playground) downtown, they asked, why not do that work prior to Parker Harding?

If town officials do not want to add parking there before eliminating it behind Main Street, they suggested the plan be reconsidered to improve fire safety, add the 4 ADA-compliant handicap spaces the lot currently lacks, spruce up landscaping and the current boardwalk — but also retain more parking.

The DPIC is still waiting for a green light. At Ratkiewich’s request — and after 3 hours of talk — the P&Z agreed to continue its discussion on November 6.

A screenshot from the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee shows the current Parker Harding lot. The cut-through lane closest to the river would be moved further east, adding green space. The middle cut-through would be eliminated. Parking spaces would be widened, to meet current regulations.

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Next Stop For Parker Harding: P&Z On Monday

Before any municipal project is approved, state statutes require an “8-24” hearing.

That’s the next step for Parker Harding Plaza.

On Monday (October 23, 7 p.m., Zoom), the Planning & Zoning Commission will discuss a request by 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker to adopt the plan hammered out by the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee.

It would reconfigure the parking lot behind Main Street — built on landfill in the 1950s — to increase riverfront access, add 2-way traffic (while retaining the “cut-through” route), and make other changes.

Changes planned for Parker-Harding Plaza 

A town-wide charrette in August mollified some residents However, others still have concerns.

Annette Norton is both a downtown merchant and a Westport resident. She has owned Savvy + Grace for 6 years. She also meticulously restored a 1700s North Avenue home,

She writes:

“I am deeply concerned about the DPIC project, including:

  • Redesigning Parker Harding parking lot and taking away 44 parking spots.
  • Moving the trash to the river.
  • Taking away loading zones, so traffic will be held up in the parking lot when businesses get their deliveries.

“My proposal/solution is to make a beautiful boardwalk by the river, leading people to the existing green space we already have downtown — Veterans Green — while encouraging additional exploration with a walking path throughout all downtown.

“Maybe we can increase the current footprint all the way to Coffee An’.

“How is losing 44 spots okay? And if we are trying to entice people to hang out by the river, were will they park?

“Downtown businesses rely on locals. When they cannot find parking, they shop elsewhere.

“DPIC brought up safety, which I take seriously. To my knowledge, the Fire Department has never had issues, since the parking lot was created.

“The current plan moves trash right next to the river. That can lead to trash falling along the road and parking lot, and traveling into the river. There are also safety issues for employees crossing the road to take out the trash.

“I love our downtown. I want it to survive and thrive for generations to come. Compo Beach and downtown are the crown jewels of our town. Thank you for your consideration and care.”

(Click here to view a livestream of Monday’s meeting. It will also be shown on Optimum Channel 79 and Frontier Channel 6020. Comments may be sent to PandZ@westportct.gov.)

Roundup: LobsterFest, Long Lots, Parker Harding …

Today’s Westport Rotary Club LobsterFest is on, “rain or shine.”

And it will be rain.

Despite the forecast, Rotarians and others were busy yesterday, preparing Compo Beach for the large crowd (still) expected this afternoon.

Among the volunteers: members of the Staples Service League of Boys (SLOBs), Builders Beyond Borders, M&T Bank and the National Charity League.

A few of the many volunteers setting up LobsterFest yesterday. (Photo/Dave Matlow)


The Long Lots School Building Committee holds a special meeting this Tuesday September 26, 6:30 p.m., Town Hall Room 201/201A ).

The agenda includes 15 minutes of public comment and/or questions regarding the feasibility study project, followed by a work session with the design team for project status updates, review and discussion. The public can  attend the work session, but not participate.

The Long Lots School Building Committee will continue to discuss plans at its Tuesday meeting.


Another meeting of note: The Joint Committee of the Historic District Commission and Architectural Review Board will hold a public Zoom meeting on October 3 (7 p.m.). to review and comment on the proposed redevelopment of Parker Harding Plaza.

The notice says, “Comments offered at the meeting will be considered in anticipation of further zoning review and approvals.”

Click here for the Zoom link. Click here for all relevant materials.

One element of the planned redevelopment of Parker Harding Plaza.


Club 203’s first event of the season Wednesday night kicked off the second year for Westport’s club for adults with disabilities.

Attendees gathered at Toquet Hall. They watched Sharuna Mahesh’s video, recapping highlights of last year — a great way to reconnect after the summer.

Then came rousing karaoke run by PJ Pitcher, and an art project hosted by MoCA Westport. I

Next up: a “Halloween Bingo and BBQ” at the Senior Center. Click here for more information.

Club 203 karaoke at Toquet Hall.


Nile Rodgers did not have to travel far for last night’s gig at Forest Hills Stadium.

Ed Paul reports: “He played an absolute top shelf, kick-ass show.

“He and his group Chic covered not only their songs but a lot of the others from famous artists that Nile has collaborated with.

“He was very engaging with the audience, and commented that he has beaten cancer twice and while he’s currently cancer-free, he’s still old AF!”

Nile Rodgers at Forest Hills Stadium. (Photo/Ed Paul)


Meanwhile, in the other direction, Old Dominion ripped it up at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

The multi-award-winning Nashville-based band is fronted by guitarist/vocalist Brad Tursi. Westporters know him as a 1997 graduate of Staples High School — and a former soccer star for the state finalist Wreckers.

Brad Tursi (left) with Old Dominion at Mohegan Sun. (Photo/Tom Scarice)


Here’s a truly cool event: Small Car Company’s annual Air-Cooled Charity Car Show on October 8 (9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Veterans Green; free, and family-friendly).

It’s a benefit to raise funds and awareness for 2 non-profits: Northeast Community Cycles (which provides bikes free of charge to underprivileged children) and the Bikeport Co-Op (a program where youth earn bikes by attending bike safety and maintenance courses, and performing volunteer hours with local organizations). 

The show features dozens of vintage Porsches, Volkswagens, Corvairs and other rare and special air-cooled cars and motorcycles from around the tri-state area.

In conjunction with the classic car show, Small Car Company  has partnered with Westport’s Total Training & Endurance for a bike tour, starting and finishing at Veterans Green. The $40 per rider cost includes a post-ride meal. Funds benefit Northeast Community Cycles and Bikeport Co-Op.

Small Car Company does other good work too — for example, hosting students who attend skilled trade auto-technology schools in a “Mentors & Motors” program during the show.

Students meet and learn from experienced mentors from many sectors of the automotive industry, including historic restoration, modern production automotive repair, sales, design, and photography.

Click here for more details.


The Gridiron Club has announced its 2023 inductees for the Staples High School Wall of Fame.

Congratulations to former players DJ Stefkovich (2006), Brian Levine (’06), Josh Kozel (’08), Matt Kelly (’09), Rob Gau (’11), James Frusciante (’13), Joey Zelkowitz (’13), Declan O’Keefe, plus Staples assistant principal James Farnen and Westport PAL football president and former PAL coach Carmen Roda.

Congratulations to all! The ceremony takes place November 3, at halftime of the Wreckers’ game against Trumbull.


Speaking of sports: The 10th annual Westport Police Benevolent Association Golf Tournament is October 23, at Tashua Knolls in Trumbull.

It’s a scramble format. Funds raised go to college scholarships for PBA members, as well as 2 to Staples High seniors who will pursue degrees in law enforcement.

The day includes raffles, and prizes for longest drive, closest to pin, closest to line, and the winning foursome.

Checks ($250 for one participant, $1,000 for a foursome) can be sent to Westport PBA Scholarship Fund, 50 Jesup Road, Westport, CT 06880. Questions? Call 203-803-0215, or email jlauria@westportct.gov.


Eleven Staples High School seniors have qualified as National Merit Scholarship semifinalists.

Congratulations to Emerson Briggs, Leigh Foran, Dania Hemdan, Peter Loranger, Ellen Ou, Surya Rao, Jameson Russell, Ella Tobben, Elizabeth Turner, Darren T Weng and Gabriel Weng.

Fewer than 1 percent of the over 1.5 million students who took the PSAT/NMSQT qualifying exam will compete for 7,140 National Merit scholarships, worth more than $28 million.

National Merit semifinalists (from left): Leigh Foran, Emerson Briggs, Elizabeth Turner, Peter Loranger, Dania Hemdan,  Jameson Russell, Surya Rao, Darren Weng, Gabriel Weng, Ellen Ou. Missing: Ella Tobben.


Controversy continues to dog Dave McCormick.

On Thursday, the former Bridgewater CEO announced his candidacy for the Pennsylvania US Senate seat held by Democrat Bob Casey.

The Republican — born and raised near Pittsburgh — laid out his bona fides as a “7th-generation Pennsylvanian.”

But he also maintains a home on Beachside Avenue. And, critics say, that’s where he spends most of his time.

On Monday, as he sought the endorse of Doug Mastriano — the losing gubernatorial nominee last fall, who had considered a Senate run himself — flight records show that a plane co-owned by McCormick flew from Bridgeport to Harrisburg at 8:28 a.m. It returned to Connecticut that afternoon.

Click here for the Politico story. (Hat tip: Allan Siegert)

David McCormick


Sorelle Gallery’s next exhibition, “A Million Possibilities,” features new works by Connecticut artist Sofie Swann. It opens Friday (September 29), with a reception no Saturday (September 30, 3 to 5 p.m.).

Born in Iran, Swann’s abstract paintings are centered around her emotional response to experiences and memories, particularly her struggle to find a place to call home after being forced to leave Iran and immigrate to the US. For more information, click here.

Artwork by Sofie Swann.


Jay Babina earned “06880” fame as the founder/curator/mastermind of the great, creative and very wide-ranging Westport Tech Museum.

Today he returns as a contributing photographer for our “Westport … Naturally” feature.

Is there anything this teenager can’t do?!

(Photo/Jay Babina)


And finally … in honor of the debate over whether Dave McCormick really lives in Pennsylvania or Westport:

(Wherever you live, you know “06880” is your “home” for local journalism. Please support our work, by clicking here. Thank you!)



[OPINION] Longshore-like Option Needed For Parker Harding

Robert Augustyn, his wife Katie and son Will moved to Westport in 1996. He has coached Little League, and volunteered with the Westport Library, Food Rescue US and Bridgeport First Serve.

Robert Augustyn

He has spent most of his professional career as a dealer of rare maps, books and prints. In 2019 he opened Robert Augustyn Rare Maps & Prints here, which has deepened his interest in Westport’s history. He has spoken widely on the subject of early maps to groups like the Rotary Clubs, and is the author of the award-winning Manhattan in Maps.

Robert writes:

In 1960, Westport did the unthinkable and purchased a failing private country club in a weak economy for just about $2 million — roughly $20 million today.  Sheer insanity!

Yet it happened. And today we enjoy as public amenities what private country club members pay many thousands of dollars to partake in.

The audacity of this acquisition drew national acclaim.  It’s a great story of a few visionaries, and a bipartisan effort leading to sudden and overwhelming enthusiasm in the town.

What magnificent courage! Without it our beloved Longshore would have become Longshore Estates or some such, and Westport would have been set on a path to become another sequestered haven only for the very rich, where most of the town’s most beautiful areas would be irrevocably privatized.

The town’s purchase of Longshore in 1960 prevented it from becoming an 180-home residential development.

We are, I believe, at another such point in our town’s history in facing the question of what to do with the Parker Harding parking lot, our Saugatuck River frontage, and in a larger sense, the character of our downtown.

In debating this, I believe we have left off the table the bold, brave, Longshore-like option.

There has been much well-meaning discussion in recent years regarding the need for greater community connection and public spaces that foster interpersonal interaction. Having a more pedestrian-friendly downtown that invites lingering, that is more pedestrian friendly, more village-like, has been offered as an answer to the above needs.

Parker Harding Plaza (Drone photo/John Videler for Videler Photography)

None of the recent plans for our downtown really address this generally felt desire for a downtown with a more community feel.

Also, there is nothing in these plans that would meaningfully enhance enjoyment of the river, especially as long as there is a clogged parking lot adjacent to it; nothing in them that would encourage anyone to linger longer in downtown for the sheer pleasure of the experience.

Most would agree the Parker Harding lot is unsightly and unpleasant to navigate to say the least, and that it all but obliterates enjoyment of our riverfront, which could and should be the true focus in the re-making our downtown.

The current plan with the added greenery and trees, I believe, would hardly change at all the felt, on-the-ground experience of being in our downtown.

What would? True transformation, I believe, could only be realized by completely eliminating the Parker Harding lot, and building out another layer of retail space from the existing retails spaces. The rest would be a spacious promenade all the way to the river.

A good portion of the new retail space would be occupied by restaurants that would extend seating into the promenade, as found in many European port or riverside cities. COVID taught us that restaurants can offer outdoor seating virtually year-round, as is now commonly seen in New York.

Riverfront in Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana.

I believe this configuration would also draw a much wider range of retailers than we currently have, and that the promenade can host kiosks for well-selected specialty retailers.

Also, there would be ample room for a bandshell or its modern equivalent, carefully curated food trucks, and whatever else might be added to a welcoming and fascinating space.

Overall, the goal of this approach is both modest and profound: to create a beautiful space where time can be spent pleasantly, where people would want to linger and slowing take in their surroundings. I believe much good can come of this simple end — both in terms of community connection and commercial vigor.

What about parking?

This would be the other audacious part. Build a parking garage in the conveniently located, very large Elm Street parking area. The first — of many I’m sure — objections would be that it would be an eyesore.

I answer that by saying I’m sure that Westport, with its devotion to the arts, can find a way to make this an appealing structure, by challenging local artists to help make it so.

Cost actually should not be a great obstacle. Searching online regarding the cost of such a structure, I came up with a back-of-an-envelope calculation of $10 million for 300 to 500 cars.

Another possibility resulting from the presence of of a parking garage would be the option to ban parking on Main Street and convert it to a 2-way road to compensate for the loss the Parker Harding cut-through.

It is often difficult to be aware of when a community is standing at a crossroads regarding its future. But as we contemplate the future of our downtown, let us at least be honest with ourselves.

Proposed project in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

There is a choice to be made here that will influence subsequent generations.  It is this: Do we want our downtown to remain a not particularly pleasant place to quickly shop, dine and leave?

And in the case of the Parker Harding lot and the cut-through road along the riverfront, a decidedly unpleasant experience to be gotten through with hardly a glance at river?

Again, we must be really honest here: the current proposals for the Parker Harding lot would not substantively change this.

Or do we want our riverfront to become a true destination for both our own community and those from outside of it, where one would actually want to leisurely congregate, de-compress, stroll and mingle, take in the lovely, tidal Saugatuck River, and provide for us and future generations a soul-nourishing experience?

To put it another way: Are we content to essentially leave things as they are regarding the Parking Harding lot and our downtown, which would be the case if some version of the current plan is adopted, or do we want to do the hard, brave thing that would truly transform our downtown?

As always, readers are invited to respond. Click “Comments” below.

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[OPINION] Seeking Westport’s Vision

Clarence Hayes has lived in Westport for 6 years. A senior vice president in global technology at Bank of America, he manages its user-facing data networks, and associated $225 million budget.

He has been married for 39 years, and has 2 daughters and 5 grandchildren. Two attend Kings Highway Elementary School. He helps with after-school tutoring and swim team practice.

A gardener and amateur naturalist, he is very familiar with Westport’s natural habitat. He takes advantage of, and values, the town’s many amenities, including the beaches and parks, Longshore golf, pool and skating rink, Levitt Pavilion, Library and Earthplace. 

But, Clarence wonders: 

What is the Westport vision?

As a relative newcomer to town and recent follower of town events on this blog, I’d like to offer a general challenge to my new hometown: Set a long term plan, and be more ambitious.

What could Westport be like, not only for me in a few years’ time, but for my grandkids, and beyond that for my grandkids’ grandkids? We should have a 50- year plan. It should be visionary. The town can have something to measure its progress against every year.

I followed one of my daughters – with a couple of my grandkids in tow — when they moved to Westport 6 years ago. They show no intention of ever moving again, nor will I. This town has amazing assets. With continued improvement, I can imagine Westport as #1 on a “Best Places to Live in the USA” list.

What I observe in the debates over the Parker Harding Plaza evolution, and the Long Lots School direction, and numerous one-off Planning & Zoning Commission decisions, are piecemeal challenges confronting what appear to be irreconcilable differences of opinion. Parking vs. green space; a convenient sport facility vs. a community garden; new development vs. river views; pro-car vs. anti-car; etc.

Parking? Green space? What’s our vision — for downtown, and our entire town? (Photo/Susan Leone)

Of course, not all differences can be reconciled. Choices are required. But I think more of those differences could be reconciled, and a higher quality overall result achieved, if we were more ambitious, and made bigger decisions based on a long- term vision.

Bigger decisions could mean, for instance, instead of minor tweaking of access and marginal rearrangements of which piece of existing Westport property is paved or green, we could look at working with developers to exchange town property for jointly developed major changes.

For example: multi-story/underground parking; taking control of becoming compliant with state affordable housing mandates by the town co-investing and controlling those housing units to achieve some bigger contribution to Westport quality of life; complete conversion of downtown to pedestrian only (basically an outdoor mall more attractive than SoNo or Trumbull); reclaiming all of the waterside for public benefit with walking paths and green space designed across all of downtown which will be used more widely, as opposed to patchworks that sit idle due to lack of connection.

I could go on.

I’d love to see what my fellow citizens imagine as a visionary future; compare it to mine – and debate how to merge these futuristic visions into something that could unite a broad majority of voters around a feasible plan.

A few years ago, architects were asked to imagine the Westport of 2050. Mike Greenberg thought about a way the town could become more neighborhood-oriented. This is a detailed view of the Roseville/ Long Lots/North Avenue/Cross Highway quadrant.

Without such a comprehensive long-term plan, I think the town risks frittering away its comparative advantage, foreclosing opportunities with short-term decisions, and not getting maximum bang for the buck with town tax revenue.

I think it better to consciously define our “brand” and decide what we want the town to be — with ambitious goals — than to leave it to the ongoing happenstance of decisions constrained by short-term implications, and the sense that there isn’t money or a way to achieve something better.

Call to action: The selectwomen’s office, together with the Representative Town Meeting, formally institute a “Westport Vision”  process that engages the public and is primarily driven by public input, and has the objective to:

  • Document guiding principles for future development of the whole range of town assets – the “who we are” statement;
  • Lay out a range of futuristic visions to challenge our ambitions – something to get excited about, and stimulate debate;
  • Then, based on that vision, work backward to define and then prioritize ambitious steps that can be taken by relevant town boards and committees for action, to start that long-term journey.

Let’s make Westport the best place to live in the country, for us and our descendants.

Pic Of The Day #2341

Downtown at sunset (Photo/Susan Leone)

Roundup: School Security Unit, DPIC Comments, Lyman Update …

Westport’s new School Security Unit begins work Monday (September 11).

The unit is a partnership of  the Police Department and Board of Education. Funding was approved unanimously this week by the Representative Town Meeting.

Officer Sean Kelley will be promoted to sergeant soon, and will supervise the unit. He was hired by the WPD in 2000, and has served as a detective in the Youth Division. He will be assigned to Bedford Middle School.

Officer Dennis Broderick will be assigned to Coleytown Middle and Elementary Schools. He was hired a year ago, after retiring as a sergeant with the Milford Police Department, where he spent over half his 20-year career in the Detective Bureau.

Corporal Rachel Hall will be assigned to Saugatuck and Kings Highway Elementary Schools. She was hired in 2016, after beginning her career with the Ridgefield Police Department. She is a member of the Marine, Motorcycle and Drone Units, and served as a desk officer.

Officer Edward “Ned” Batlin will be assigned to Long Lots and Greens Farms Elementary Schools.  He was hired in 2001, and was the DARE officer for many years. He is very active with local sports, at the high school and PAL levels.

Though the SSOs will primarily remain outside of the schools, they will work directly with administrators as needed.

In addition to providing enhanced security, they will  focus on traffic enforcement and safety concerns during student drop-off and pick-up.

Officer Ed Wooldridge will continue as Staples’ highly regarded and very popular School Resource Officer.


John McCarthy has been adamant recently about the need for more openness and transparency in local town government.

So he took notice yesterday when the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee posted scores of comments, following their Parker Harding Plaza August 22 charrette at the Westport Library.

“Kudos to the DPIC,” John says.

“It took a lot of work to get the comments typed up. I would have been happy with just copies of people’s handwritten notes,  but nice to see they went the  extra yard.”

Click here to read them all. It’s a great way to get a feel for the pulse of the community.

Members of the public were invited to comment after last month’s Downtown Plan Implementation Committee meeting about Parker Harding Plaza. (Photo/Dan Woog)


On Wednesday, the Flood & Erosion Board approved Vita Design Group’s plan to build a house next door to Eloise A. Ray Park, on Riverside Avenue.

A “Friends of the Park” group is concerned that the park will be unusable while construction is ongoing; that it will be used in part as a staging area, and damaged by equipment; that the park will be “forever altered by having a multi-level house, driveway, patio and walls” encroaching on it; that trees will be cut, and wildlife, and that traffic on Riverside will be affected.

They invite interested residents to email saveeloise@gmail.com.

The next hearing is before the full Conservation Board, on September 13.

Eloise A. Ray Park


The bad news is: In Lyman, dozens of apartment buildings need repair before winter sets in.

The good news: It’s been several weeks since Russians attacked our Ukrainian sister city. And Westporters’ donations have already helped shore up 15 apartment buildings.

Ukraine Aid International’s Brian Mayer — the Westporter who co-founded the boots-on-the-ground non-profit, and helped engineer our town’s sister city relationship — provided an update yesterday.

He told First Selectwoman Jen Tooker, Police Chief Foti Koskinas and “06880” that a construction firm is doing the dangerous work of repairing roofs and windows, to enable the damaged apartments to withstand the coming snow and freezing temperatures.

Mayer recently visited Lyman Mayor Alexander Zhuravlov. Behind his desk is a shelf filled with items sent from Westport.

Tooker and Koskinas are in near daily contact with the mayor and Lyman police chief. Each time, the Ukrainian officials tell their Westport counterparts how much our town’s support means to them.

(Donations through Ukrainian Aid International will help rebuild the many heavily damaged apartments. Click here to help. Under “Designation,” click the dropdown menu and select “Westport — Lyman Sister City.”)

In July — just hours after a Russian attack killed 8 Lyman residents — Mayor Alexander Zhuravlov sent a video thanking Westporters for their support.


Connecticut’s annual 9/11 remembrance ceremony drew a reverent crowd yesterday to Sherwood Island State Park, the site of the state’s official memorial.

From that spot in 2001, smoke from the Twin Towers was visible.

Connecticut holds its ceremony before the September 11 anniversary, so relatives and friends of those killed in the terrorist attack can also attend the New York memorial on that day.

Yesterday’s 9/11 memorial, at Sherwood Island State Park. (Photo/Harris Falk)


Westoberfest — the Westport Downtown Association’s Oktoberfest-style event — has something for everyone.

There’s beer tasting from dozens of craft breweries, sure.

But also live music; food by Walrus Alley, Kneads Bakery, Lobstercraft and Little Pub;  a children’s area run by the Artists’ Collective of Westport and MoCA; a street magician, bubbles and face painting; a pumpkin and apple giveaway; food trucks, shopping and vendors like Savvy + Grace.

Take-home tasting glasses with koozies are courtesy of Lux Bond & Green.

It all takes place October 14 (2 to 5 p.m.), off Elm Street. Click here for tickets, and more information.

Westoberfest is for beer drinkers — and families. (Photo/JC Martin)


Jennifer Johnson spotted this ship in Long Island Sound, earlier this morning.

(Photo/Jennifer Johnson)

“What is it dumping?” she asks.

I have no idea. But I’m sure someone in our “06880” universe does. Click “Comments” below, if you know.


A service for Rev. Ted Hoskins — the former and much-loved Saugatuck Congregational Church pastor who died last month — will be held this Sunday (September 10, 2 p.m.) in Blue Hill, Maine. Doug Miller — Rev. Hoskins’ former associate minister in Westport — will officiate.

The service will be livestreamed. Click here for the link.

Rev. Ted Hoskins (Photo courtesy of Penobscot Bay Press)


Forget car washes and candy sales. The Staples High School girls swim and dive team has a fundraiser that will really make you smile: a comedy show.

Their first-ever “Dive Into Comedy” (get it?!) event includes 4 comedians who have slayed it in laces like Caroline’s, Stand Up New York, Broadway Comedy Club and The Stress Factory.

It’s September 28, at the Fairfield Theatre Company. Click here for tickets (adults 21+ only).

“Don’t tread water. Get your tickets today!” the girls say. Hah!

“Make people laugh,” the photographer told the Staples swim and dive team. They did.


But speaking of sports team car washes: The Staples boys soccer team holds theirs tomorrow. It’s 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Christ & Holy Trinity Church parking lot on Elm Street.

Like the girls swim team, they’re raising money for costs not covered by the Board of Education budget.

Workin’ at the (boys soccer) car wash…


Gary Lucas — a rock guitarist lauded by Bruce Springsteen and Lou Reed, who collaborated with Captain Beefheart and Jeff Buckley — is the latest StoryFest addition.

He’ll rock the Westport Library October 22 (2 p.m.), accompanying George Melford’s 1931 Spanish-language “Dracula” film with a live guitar score.

Lucas will add even more to the largest literary festival in Connecticut. This year’s 6th annual event (October 20-22) includes a keynote conversation  with legendary writer Neil Gaiman; panel discussions and author conversations; a special reading of Eric LaRocca’s new play, “Gentle Hacksaw”; a children’s event with Pinkalicious author Victoria Kann, and PitchFest (a 5-hour paid workshop where aspiring authors can speak to literary agents about their book. Click here for more information.

Gary Lucas (Photo/Michael Arkk)


It’s not yet fall — but this guy is getting ready for winter, at Tracy Porosoff’s kousa dogwood tree. Nothing could be more “Naturally … Westport.”

(Photo/Tracy Porosoff)


And finally … Steve Harwell, former lead singer of Smash Mouth, died Monday. in Idaho. He was 56, and suffered from liver failure.

(There is a lot going on in town. And “06880” covers it all. Please click here to help support our work. Thank you!)

Roundup: School Security, Daryl Hall, DPIC …

On Wednesday, the Board of Finance authorized the addition of 3 officers, to patrol 6 Westport schools.

They will be responsible for security at 2 campuses: one each at Coleytown Middle and Elementary Schools;  Kings Highway and Saugatuck Elementary, and Long Lots/Greens Farms Elementary.

They will remain outside, unless called to an emergency inside.

The cost for a full year is $576,084. The request must now be approved by the Representative Town Meeting.

A second security item — a fob on all Staples High School staff members’ identification lanyard, which can summon help in a 500,000 square foot building and sprawling outdoor athletic facilities that does not have full cellphone service, or access to emergency phones everywhere — was withdrawn before the meeting.

One Westport police officer will be assigned to Coleytown Elementary School (foreground) Coleytown Middle (rear).


Before the start of last night’s Levitt Pavilion benefit concert with Daryl Hall and Todd Rundrgren, disgruntled patrons emailed “06880.”

“There is a tent blocking the view for a good portion of the patrons’ section,” one person wrote.

One view of the obstructed view …

“The sound board obstructs the view for most patrons,” someone else said.

… and another.

Carleigh Welsh — the Levitt’s director of development and marketing — responded to an “06880” email, as soon as the complaints were forwarded to her.

She wrote: “We have been moving people into non-obstructed seats. It would help greatly if they could email the box office right now if they are still in a legitimately blocked seat and we can relocate them. Some people we have approached have opted to stay put.

“Happy to share more about the rain tent covering the console in an email after show, but right now helping ushers fix any issues.”

Meanwhile — despite rain — the show went on. Todd Rundgren and Daryl Hall are pros.

And the audience raised funds to help the Levitt provide another 60 or so free concerts next year.

Daryl Hall

Todd Rundgren (Photos/Les Dinkin)


The Downtown Plan Implementation Committee says “thank you” to all who attended Tuesday’s charrette at the Westport Library.

The slideshow, and a presentation by Public Works director Pete Ratkiewich, are now available at the DPIC website (scroll down; right side).

Just below that is a chance to provide comments and feedback. The deadline is September 5.

The latest plan for Parker Harding Plaza, presented Tuesday by the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee.


True to its word, the Westport Country Playhouse is introducing new, one-day-only programming aimed at a broad audience.

Emmy- and Tony-winning actor/singer/storyteller Mandy Patinkin brings his “Being Alive” concert to Westport September 28 (8 p.m.).

It’s an evening of his favorite Broadway and classic American tunes, from Irving Berlin and Cole Porter to Stephen Sondheim and Harry Chapin.

Tickets are $175 and $150. Click here to purchase, and for more information. The event sponsors are Bud and Roz Siegel.

Mandy Patinkin


Westport’s Volunteer Emergency Medical Service responds to 2,500 9-1-1 calls each year.

As partial thanks, the Levitt Pavilion offers an annual “first responders tribute.”

This year’s event is September 8 (7:30 p.m.). As always, DNR — the great, fun and rockin’ (almost) all-physician band will play.

EMTs and volunteers will be on hand. An ambulance will be there too, for tours (and, if needed, any emergency).

Like most Levitt shows, it’s free. But tickets are required: click here.



A new school year starts Tuesday.

Which means everyone who graduated in June from Staples is now off to college, working, in the military, taking a gap year, or otherwise amusing themselves.

Which also means: Isn’t it time you took down your “Home of a 2023 Staples High School graduate” sign?

We get it. You were proud. Congratulations!

Now let’s move on …

Graduation is over! (Photo/Dan Woog)


MDSolarSciences — the Westport-based sunscreen company — spent a day last week on a “sun safety tour.”

They handed out products to grateful — and now-protected — police, firefighters, EMTs, and Longshore employees.

MDSolarSciences representatives, and Westport firefighters.


Braiden Sunshine — who recently open for Leann Rimes, and mesmerized the audience — stars at the next First Folk Sunday (September 3, VFW Joseph J. Clinton Post 399, 12:30 p.m.; $10).

In 2015 — just 15 years old — he reached the semifinals of “The Voice.”

Click here for tickets. For more information, email info@firstfolksunday.com, or call 203-222-1441.


Ellie Hamby and Dr. Sandy Hazelip — 81-year-old friends — got plenty of attention last year, when they circled the globe in 80 days. They traveled to 18 countries, and visited all 7 continents.

At the Yale Club on Wednesday, Howard Matson — a Westporter, and past international president of the Circumnavigators Club — honored the women with honorary memberships in the 121-year-old organization.

Howard Matson, with octogenarian circumnavigators.


It’s a “Westport … Naturally” scene many Westporters don’t see.

But Mary Sikorski was up early, and captured it:

(Photo/Mary Sikorski)


And finally … in honor of last night’s Levitt Pavilion benefit concert (story above):

(Another day, another Roundup of all things Westport. If you enjoy this daily feature, please consider supporting our work. Just click here — and thank you!)


Parker Harding Charrette: Cut-Through Road Returns; Parking Spaces Added

The cut-through is back.

So are more parking spots than originally planned.

Plus: It’s ADA-compliant. And fire trucks now have the space they need, in case of emergency.

Those are the main takeaways from last night’s “charrette” — a meeting of residents, business owners, the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee and other stakeholders.

Nearly 150 people — including officials from many town boards — filled the Westport Library to look at architects’ drawings and artists’ renderings, listen to Public Works director Pete Ratkiewich, and ask questions about the Parker Harding Plaza renovation plan.

Public Works director Pete Ratkiewich presented the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee’s proposal, at last night’s charrette. 

In his presentation, Ratkiewich acknowledged public criticism, following the release in June of DPIC’s then-most recent plan.

The elimination of the cut-through road, along the Saugatuck River from Main Street to the Post Road, elicited the most controversy. Concern was also voiced then about the loss of parking spaces, in a new configuration.

Ratkiewich began with a brief history of the parking lot. Until the mid-1950s, he noted, the river lapped up against the banks of Main Street stores.

For many years, the Saugatuck River backed up right to the rear of Main Street businesses. (Photo/Peter Barlow)

A Kowalsky Brothers landfill project created the plaza, to serve the growing downtown in the postwar boom.

Construction of Parker Harding Plaza.

Designed by landscape architect Evan Harding, the original plan had a row of cars facing the river directly. (See “1970” and “1985” in the aerial photos below.)

A 1985 project removed vehicles from that prime spot. It also reconfigured the area near Gorham Island.

Parker Harding Plaza, through the years.

That created — theoretically — 214 parking spaces. But because many are far tighter than standard spots, cars sometimes take up more than one space.

And because there are not enough handicap spots as legally required, only 37 total spots conform to current regulations.

In addition, large swaths of the narrow lane closest to the back entrances of stores are not wide enough for firefighters to operate.

For those reasons — and to create a safer environment for pedestrians headed through the lot, their cars or the river, as well as for flood mitigation, and as part of a larger redesign that includes the Taylor lot by the Westport Library — DPIC was charged with developing a new plan.

Simply restriping the lot would not work, Ratkiewich said. Complying with current ADA and fire laws would result in only 142 to 157 spaces — and the main lane would still not be wide enough to accommodate fire trucks.

But although a new plan would create two-way traffic in a widened road closest to the rear of stores, the elimination of the cut-through road drew a firestorm of criticism.

The newest plan retains the cut-through, slightly east of the current road. It improves the congested areas near both Gorham Island and Starbucks, and adds lighting, plantings, public art and clearly designated walkways.

The new plan provides 173 parking spaces — with 7 handicap spots, 3 truck loading areas (until 10 a.m. only), and enough room for fire trucks to operate.

The new Parker Harding plan shows the cut-through road, two-way roadway, loading zones (black) and more. 

This artist’s rendering shows the cut-through road, heading south from the entrance near Gorham Island. Trash compactors will be hidden on the right. NOTE: The backs of the buildings will NOT be redesigned to look like Staples High School.

The main Parker Harding road will be widened, enabling 2-way traffic. The backs of the Main Street stores (right) will NOT be redesigned, despite this artist’s rendering.

With the cut-through road relocated slightly east of its current location (blue), there will be increased green spacy near the river. The DPIC plan includes public artwork, and more trees.

“This is not going to make everyone happy,” Ratkiewich acknowledged. “But we think it’s a good compromise of competing interests.”

Charrette attendees had the opportunity to fill out feedback cards. Comments can also be made through the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee website, through September 5.

Cards and pens were available for feedback.

Downtown Plan Implementation Committee chair Randy Herbertson (left) and Westport Downtown Association president Maxx Crowley, at last night’s charrette. (All charrette photos/Dan Woog)

(“06880” covers all of downtown — business, politics, events, bad parking — along with every other part of Westport. Please click here to support our work. Thank you!)