Tag Archives: Police Chief Foti Koskinas

Railroad Parking: What Drives Empty Spots

It may have been the most vivid reminder of COVID’s effect on Westport: our nearly deserted train stations.

Now, more than 16 months into the pandemic, both Saugatuck and Greens Farms parking lots remain almost entirely vacant, every day of the week.

Many Westporters still work from home. Others have forsaken the train for increasingly clogged I-95 and Merritt Parkway.

June 30 marked the deadline for train station parking permit renewals. Yet despite the precipitous drop in ridership, most folks have paid to hold on to their precious passes.

The new normal (Photo/Dinkin Fotografix)

Railroad parking is under the purview of the Westport Police Department. (I don’t know why. But they do it well.)

According to Police Chief Foti Koskinas and director of railroad operations Sam Arciola, there are 2,500 total available spaces, at Saugatuck and Greens Farms.

Even in pre-coronavirus times, not everyone utilized their spots every day. By monitoring usage closely, the Police Department knows how many permits to issue each year.

In July 2020, there were 3,900 permits. About 70% went to Westport residents. Another 900 people were on the wait list.

This year, only 3,100 people requested permits. That cut the wait list nearly in half, to 490.

Why did the WPD not issue permits to everyone on the wait list?

With commuting patterns in flux — and a number of New York offices reopening this fall — Koskinas and Arciola were watching what happens. Now, they’re ready to offer permits to everyone on the wait list. That will happen around August 1.

Meanwhile, they see renewed interest from former parking permit holders who did not renew by June 30, but now wish to.

“We welcome them to reapply,” Koskinas says. Former permit holders — and anyone else with questions — should call 203-341-6052.

(Hat tip: David Loffredo)

In the absence of commuters, utility crews used the Greens Farms railroad station as a staging area after last year’s Hurricane Isaias. (Photo/Robert Cornfield)

Pride Lights: The Sequel

This morning’s possible bias crime destruction of Pride lights on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge drew swift reaction.

Westport Police quickly identified the responsible party. They’re working with the state Attorney’s Office on a possible motive, and potential criminal charges.

The Westport Downtown Association quickly installed colored balloons, replacing those that were taken.

Replacing the colored lights. (Screenshot from News12)

And a group of volunteers — including Police Chief Foti Koskinas, RTM members Harris Falk and Sal Liccione, Emma Rojas of the WDA, Rae Suba of Child’s Play Clinic and activist Sarah Manning — hung the same banner that decorated the Pride rally 6 days earlier.

Where is it?

On the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge.

Not far from the lights that could not be dimmed by last night’s action.

Hanging proudly on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge.

Traffic Cop, Traffic Light: The Sequel

Police Chief Foti Koskinas feels Westport drivers’ pains. He hears their pleas for a traffic cop on Riverside Avenue, at the Cribari Bridge. The Westport Police Department is on the case.

But there is another side to Westport’s traffic woes too.

Driving habits have changed dramatically during COVID, Koskinas and public safety officer Al D’Amura say. Though Westporters have returned to work, all but 1oo or so of the Saugatuck and Greens Farms train station parking spots are empty every day. Those folks drive instead.

The situation is the same at every train station from Greenwich to New Haven. That’s why I-95 and the Merritt Parkway have become parking lots.

Looking for every bit of help, drivers turn to apps like Waze. Offered an alternate route, they take it.

Which is why we see more and more backups on Riverside Avenue. As well as Wilton Road, Cross Highway, Long Lots Road — anywhere Waze says is even slightly better. It’s a problem at I-95 exits 17 and 18, and Merritt exits 41 and 42.

When William Cribari and other officers were posted at what was then called the Bridge Street Bridge, Koskinas says, they facilitated 100 to 200 vehicles to and from trains.

Traffic is no longer timed to trains, Koskinas explains. Moving traffic off the bridge in the morning, and through Riverside Avenue in the evening, sounds like a great idea.

But Waze and traffic apps would immediately sense the smoother flow — making the alternate route off I-95 even more appealing to highway drivers.

A traffic officer will immiediately take over the Riverside Avenue post made famous by William William Cribari (Photo courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)

Still — starting immediately – there will be an officer on Riverside by the bridge, in the late afternoon.

“We’ll monitor the situation, to see if it helps or hurts,” Koskinas says.

“We may find that as much as people don’t like waiting through 4 or 5 light cycles, it’s better than having 300 more cars coming through Saugatuck. We don’t know what we’ll find for sure. We’ll study it.”

That’s not the only new traffic post in town. An agent will be posted from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Post Road/Wilton Road/Riverside Avenue intersection.

Actually, it’s not “new.” As a young officer, Koskinas once manned that corner.

Facilitating traffic there impacts other lights on the Post Road. For example, waving through more cars from Wilton Road might cause more of a temporary backup through the already congested downtown area.

“We understand the importance to merchants, and everyone,” Koskinas says. As with Saugatuck, he and D’Amura will monitor the situation closely.

As for another suggestion from an “06880” reader — installation of a light at the top of I-95 eastbound Exit 18 — Koskinas says, “we fully support it. It’s come up before.” His department — in collaboration with the Board of Selectmen — will make that recommendation to the state Department of Transportation.

Sherwood Island Connector is a state road. There will be engineering studies, and budget issues. It could take a while.

So for now, you might want to get off at Exit 17. A traffic cop there will move traffic along.

Or maybe he’ll inadvertently invite other I-95 drivers to join you.

New Civilian Panel Reviews Police

Soon after the 2013 election, new First Selectman Jim Marpe met with Police Chief Dale Call and Deputy Chief Foti Koskinas.

“I’d never been a police officer,” Marpe — a former management consultant — says. “I needed their best input.”

Today, he notes, “I’m a lot smarter about their activity — and the Fire Department, and EMS.” Though the leaders of those department report to him, Marpe describes their relationship as “more collaborative than command-and-control.”

Nearly 5 years ago, Marpe appointed Koskinas as chief of police. He continued what Call had begun: a review of policies and procedures to reflect new national policing standards.

Westport’s manual dated back to 1972. It was one year younger than Koskinas.

The department enjoys an excellent reputation. In 7 years, Marpe says, “I don’t need 2 hands to count the number of genuine, legitimate complaints we’ve gotten — and that includes the Fire Department too.”

Nationally of course, police departments face intense scrutiny.

So — in addition to weekly meetings, and many more frequent phone conversations — Marpe has created a Citizen Review Panel. To “foster and maintain the public’s trust” in its public safety departments, the panel will:

  • Participate in the interview process of new hires and lateral transfer applicants of the Police, Fire and EMS Departments
  • Review and provide feedback on complaints
  • Advise the departments on policies and procedures that improve transparency and accountability.

CRP members will be trained to understand policies, internal affairs and legal issues. They’ll hold regular public meetings.

The CRP will include the 2nd and 3rd selectmen (currently Jen Tooker and Melissa Kane); one member of TEAM Westport, and 2 members of the Westport electorate. Marpe has appointed TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey to the panel, and will name the 2 other members soon.

Westport Police Chief Fotios Koskinas (Photo/Dan Woog)

Koskinas says that the police union is on board with the CRP. “They want accountability and transparency too,” he says.

Westport’s police already meet or exceed the state’s Police Office Standards and Training (POST) guidelines in areas like body cameras, chokehold procedures and more. Minority recruitment — including the most recent hire — is “the most diverse ever,” says Koskinas.

“But we want an outside party to see the complaints that come in. We want to highlight how well we handle our internal policing.” Sometimes, he says, an investigation turns up an issue that the initial complaint did not even include.

In 2016 there were 6 civilian complaints against the Police Department. The next year there were 5, then 6 and 8. In 2020, there have been a total of 3. Complaints against the Fire Department and EMS are even lower.

Most police complaints, Koskinas says, involve citizens dissatisfied with an interaction with an officer.

“It may be the way someone stopped the car or spoke to that person,” Koskinas explains.

“We look at the body camera. Maybe the officer spoke in a monotone. We try to explain what goes into controlling a scene.” Often, he says, a complaint is then withdrawn.

“But we do speak to the officers. We do adjust policies. We take every complaint seriously.”

Nearly all police interactions with the public are positive.

The Representative Town Meeting is currently examining a Civilian Review Board ordinance. Its members would be elected by the public.

Already though, the Civilian Review Panel is up and running. They are reviewing their first incident.

“Mr. Marpe and I believe in this,” Koskinas says. “We want to set it up for long success.”

Roundup: RBG, EV, IVF, More

A crowd of 75 people — of all ages — gathered last night at Westport’s Unitarian Church to honor Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The vigil was held while the late US Supreme Court justice was being honored in Washington, DC.

(Photo/David Vita)


Pink Aid is going semi-virtual.

The renowned breast cancer organization celebrates their 10th anniversary on Saturday, October 10 at Mitchells of Westport.

There’s a fashion show featuring Brunello Cucinelli; video appearances by the CMA-winning band Old Dominion, Hoda Kotb, Giuliana Rancic and Susie Essman from “Curb Your Enthusiasm”; a photo booth, and mixologist.

But you can also enjoy Pink Aid’s gala at home.

You can pick up a “Pink Aid Party in a Box” at Mitchells’ Westport or Greenwich stores. Charcuterie boards and dinners from Marcia Selden Catering will be delivered in Fairfield and Westchester counties.

For tickets and more information, click here.


Who doesn’t love a parade? Particularly one that — these days — includes everyone driving their own cars.

As part of National Drive Electric Week — who knew?! — 1st Selectman Jim Marpe will wave the checkered flag on Sunday (September 27, 10 p.m.). The site is Donut Crazy, in the Westport train station eastbound parking.

Organized by the Electric Vehicle Club of Connecticut and Sustainable Fairfield Task Force, a parade of 30 EVs will be led through downtown and into Fairfield by

Organized by the Electric Vehicle Club of Connecticut & Sustainable Fairfield Task Force as part of National Drive Electric Week. Marpe will speak and wave the checkered flag to kick it off, and the parade of ~30 decorated & flagged electric vehicles will be led through downtown Westport and into Fairfield by Police Chief Foti Koskinas. He’ll drive (of course) the department’s Tesla Model 3.

Electric vehicles in the parade include a 1903 Baker Torpedo, Vespa Elettrica scooter, Porsche Taycan, Volkswagen E-Golf, Jaguar i-Pace, Nissan Leaf, Kia Soul, Chevy Bolt, and Tesla Models Y, S, and 3.

Socially distant spectators welcome all along the parade route. Click here to see.


Timothy Cole’s The Sea Glass Mysteries goes on sale October 6. He says:

“I want to take the reader on a fun romp through the seamy underside of a wealthy seaside suburbia.

“In this case, the scene of the crime is a highbrow enclave within Westport, Connecticut…yes, home to solid strivers, but with a light sprinkling of moguls and misanthropes.

“Our unlikely protagonist? Ex-CIA intelligence officer Dasha Petrov. Think Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple with a Russian accent.

“She’s now retired from her secret life in America’s clandestine services. But her skills remain pin sharp as she teams with a Westport police detective and a local television reporter. Sergeant Anthony DeFranco becomes Westport’s finest as he confronts treachery in his own ranks….

To learn more — and order — click here.


What is called Connecticut’s “first non-conventional IVF center” opens in Westport on November 2.

Rejuvenating Fertility Center is founded by Dr. Zaher Merhi. He has served Manhattan residents for more than a decade. One of the managers is Jessica Haroun, a 2014 Staples High School grad.

RFC services include ovarian rejuvenation, natural (non-medication, no blood draw) IVF, and ozone sauna therapy. The location is 225 Main Street.


And finally … Roy Hammond — better known as Roy “C” — died last week at 81. A soul singer, he also wrote and produced the Honey Drippers’ “Impeach the President.” The New York Times called it “a political funk barnstormer released in 1973 as the Watergate scandal unfolded around President Richard M. Nixon. It was resuscitated just over a decade later by the Queens hip-hop producer Marley Marl, who sampled its crisp drum intro for MC Shan’s ‘The Bridge.’ Released in 1986, that track caused a tectonic shift in the sound of New York rap.”

Roundup: Fitness, Virtual Slice, Trash, More


When is downtown Westport not an outdoor shopping mall?

When it turns into a Fitness & Wellness Expo.

That was the scene yesterday. Pure Barre, JoyRide, Row House and Athleta sponsored outdoor classes on Main Street. Vendors like Restore Cryo, Fleet Feet and New England Hemp Farm helped educate consumers. Church Lane merchants added wellness specials.

Everyone wore masks. And if they didn’t have one, the Westport Downtown Merchants Association — sponsors of the intriguing event — gave them one.

Work it!

Among the participants: 2nd Selectwoman Jen Tooker and Police Chief Foti Koskinas, in the photo below:


Yesterday would have been the 9th annual Slice of Saugatuck. It got squashed by the coronavirus — but the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce did the next best thing.

They produced a video, showing the shops, restaurants and people who make up that vibrant community. Whether you’re a newcomer, old-timer or long-gone Westporter, check below for a 6-minute stroll through Saugatuck.

One more Chamber note: They’ve added a 2nd “Supper & Soul” socially distanced tailgate show featuring Terrapin: A Grateful Dead Experience (Friday, October 2; 7 p.m.). Tickets go on sale Monday at 10 a.m.; click here.


Westporter Helen Lowman is president and CEO of Keep America Beautiful. Next Sunday — September 20 — her organization hosts its 2nd annual TrashDash. The goal is for people to create cleaner streets, parks, and waterfronts by “plogging” (picking up litter while jogging).

It will be held officially at Mill River Park in Stamford (the city where Keep America Beautiful is headquartered) — but anyone can join in their own community, wherever it is. Just grab a bag and gloves and pick up litte. You don’t even have to jog!

Click here for more information.


The Westport River Dancers performed at the Rowing Club yesterday. It was a cancer fundraiser for Norwalk Hospital’s Row for Recovery.

Check out these dancing queens (and one king): Debra Montner, Hilary Solder, Eva Grant-Rawiszer, Suzanne Harvey, Jill Alcott Ferreday and Michael Chait. All are Westporters — and they met their $10,000 goal!


And finally … Toots Hibbert, who introduced reggae to the world — died Friday in Jamaica. He was believed to be 77, and was reported to have suffered from COVID-like symptoms. He and his group — Toots and the Maytals — had international hits like this:

Take A Tour With The Tesla Cops

Tesla is touting Westport’s new police car. The Teslerati blog says:

A Tesla Model 3 has been patrolling the streets of Westport, Connecticut, since January 2020. However, an inside look at how effective the Model 3’s performance is for the law enforcement agency has never been given. That is until Westport Police Department Chief Foti Koskinas gave 2 members of the Now You Know YouTube channel a peek of how patrolling the streets of the small Connecticut town in an electric police car is advantageous for those who look to protect the community….

“Chief Koskinas seems pleased with the Tesla’s performance during the first 8 months of ownership, and efficiency and performance seem to be the main factors in his happiness thus far.

Click here for the story. Click below for the video.

PS: Check out the YouTube comments too. My favorite: “Just Awesome, what a PD, Chief, Officers and Town. Sometimes it can feel lonely caring about this planet, but this kind of steps and thinking gives hope.” (Hat tip: Avi Kaner)

Roundup: Beach, Pool, Golf And Tennis News; #ILoveWestport; Lucky Grad; Fireworks; More


Here’s the latest update from Westport Parks & Rec:

Starting Wednesday, July 1, lifeguards will staff Compo and Burying Hill beaches from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. All regular beach rules will be enforced, in addition to all COVID-19 rules. Boogie boards and skim boards are permitted.

The Longshore pools will remain closed, due to state restrictions and limited staffing resources.

Parks and Rec director Jennifer Fava says her department “will continue to monitor the guidance from the state, Should restrictions ease, and we can staff appropriately, we will reevaluate the possibility of opening the pool complex.”

Starting tomorrow (Saturday, June 27), 2 players may share a golf cart. Both must wear face coverings in the cart, and the same person must drive the cart the entire time. Exception: members of the same household are not required to wear face covering in a cart, and valid drivers may alternate.

Also starting tomorrow, all tennis courts at Longshore, Staples High School, Town Farm and Doubleday (behind Saugatuck School) are open for both singles and doubles play. All platform tennis and pickleball courts are open for singles and doubles too.


During the lockdown, town officials emphasized: “We’re all in this together.”

That’s the message during reopening too. To drive it home, they asked a variety of people to make personal promises for keeping everyone healthy.

Anthony John Rinaldi taped those promises. He’s making them into a series of videos, all tagged #ILoveWestport.

In the first one, restaurant owner Bill Taibe promises to keep cooking. Farmers’ Market director Lori McDougall promises to support local vendors. Police Chief Foti Koskinas promises to keep Westporters safe.

There are more too, in this quick video — including a special “06880” appearance. Click below to see.


Like many Westporters, Serkan Elden kept his “Proud Family of 2020 Staples High School Graduate” sign up, even after the ceremony 2 weeks ago. He is justifiably proud of his daughter Deniz, a great member of the senior class that went through so much this year.

Someone else is proud too.

The other day Deniz found an envelope in the Eldens’ mailbox. It was addressed simply: “The Graduate.”

Inside she found a note: “Congratulations 2020! Hope this is a Winner! Good Luck. From, Anonymous Lyons Plain Rd. Neighbor.”

Attached was a Double Match lottery scratch card.

She did not win. 🙁 But odds are good that this is a gift Deniz will remember long after the coronavirus is history.


If you missed last weekend’s “Stand Up (At Home) for Homes with Hope” comedy show — no problem.

An encore presentation is set for Wednesday (July 1, 8 p.m.). Four very funny comedians joined Staples grad/noted songwriter Justin Paul for a wonderful hour of entertainment.

Click here to register. And if you saw the show the first time around, you’ll receive an automatic link to watch again.


 

There are no 4th of July fireworks at Compo Beach this year.

And, the Westport Fire Department warns, there should be none anywhere in town.

The note that all fireworks are illegal in Connecticut, expect sparklers and fountains.

Also illegal: items like party poppers, snakes, smoke devices, sky lanterns and anything that emits a flame. Possessing or exploding illegal devices could result in a fine or jail.

Note too: Extremely dry conditions make it easy for fireworks, sparklers and fountains to cause brush fires.


And finally … as other states find themselves in the same situation Connecticut was in 2 months ago, we here are thinking of our friends around the nation.

Persona Interview: Police Chief Foti Koskinas

What 4 Minneapolis police officers did to George Floyd was “horrifying and embarrasing.”

97% of what the Westport police do is “serve.” Only about 3% is “protect.”

And even though he is white, when Foti Koskinas came to the US as a 7th grader from Greece — speaking not a word of English — he felt like a minority.

He made those remarks yesterday, in an interview with Rob Simmelkjaer. They’re significant because Koskinas is now Westport’s chief of police.

The wide-ranging interview includes topics like why, at a Jesup Green rally, Koskinas apologized to Floyd’s family (he felt the Minnesota police had dishonored the uniform and badge Koskinas is so proud of), and current calls to de-fund police departments (he talks about the effects of government cuts to mental health services, which force the police to now do more than ever).

The interview was done in partnership with Westport Lifestylemagazine, which will post excerpts from this and other interviews with Westporters about recent protests.

The interview is available on the Persona app — and on YouTube. Click below for the full discussion.

Pics Of The Day #1145

It was quite a day in Westport. It ended like this …

(Photo/Patricia McMahon)

… following an afternoon like this:

(Photo/JC Martin)

(Photo/JC Martin)

(Photo/JC Martin)

(Photo/JC Martin)

(Photo/JC Martin)

Police Chief Foti Koskinas …

… and a very different view (Photo/Lauri Weiser)