Tag Archives: Prospect Road

Roundup: Tyler Hicks, Jim Himes, Emil Gilmutdinov …


First came Willowbrook Cemetery’s “Miracle Mile.” Then came Debra Kandrak’s town-wide planting project. Now, Westport has become the Daffodil Capital of — if not the world — at least the area.

Among the yellow beauties bringing joy to us all: 7,000 lining Prospect Road.

These were planted, thanks to Debra, to remind everyone about the issue of bullying. It’s just not cool — for victim or the bullies themselves.

Cindy Shumate — who had both a literal and figurative hand in the projects — says that anyone who has suffered from bullying, or knows a person who has, is welcome to clip a bouquet for themselves.

(Please take them only from the roadway in front of #11, 13, 21 and 25 Prospect Road, owned by Melissa and John Ceriale).

“It’s a small token to let someone know that they are safe with you, and to open a conversation if that someone is ready,” Cindy says.

Prospect Road connects Hillspoint Road with Greens Farms Road. It’s worth a drive even without clipping a daffodil bouquet!

Hillspoint Road daffodils (Photo/Cindy Shumate)


As the Russian war in Ukraine grinds on, Tyler Hicks’ photos continue to illustrate the gruesome state of life and death there.

The 1991 Staples High School graduate’s latest work in the New York Times is from the village of Husarivka. The Pulitzer Prize winning photographer’s images illustrate a story about the depravity of Russian soldiers, as they harass, terrorize and kill farmers and their family members. Click here for the full story, and photos.

Lubov Dvoretska, 62, a biology teacher whose husband was killed in a bombing. Her neighbors buried his body in the garden behind their house. (Photo/Tyler Hicks for the New York Times)


The Y’s Men attract an A-list of speakers for their Thursday meetings. Last week’s was particularly impressive and insightful.

Congressman Jim Himes offered thoughts on some of the major news stories, then answered questions on a broad array of topics.

Click below to see and hear Himes’ session. All that’s missing are the Y’s Mens’ famous coffee and donuts,


Emil Gilmutdinov was born in Russia. He moved to New York in 2009. He worked in the food and beverage industry for nearly a decade, but lost his job during the pandemic.

That’s when he rediscovered his passion for drawing and painting. A self-taught artist working with both pencil and oil paint, he constantly experiments and hones his skills. His work includes both black-and-white graphic prints, and oils reflecting nature.

His first-ever solo exhibition is set for Steam, the coffee spot across from the Westport train station on Railroad Place. There’s an opening reception tonight (Monday, April 18, 6 to 9 p.m.).

Emil’s work is on display at Steam, for purchase, through June 12.

Pencil work by Emil Gilmutdinov.


In a few days, this tree will be bursting with color.

Right now, it’s today’s “Westport … Naturally” featured photo.

(Photo/Matt Murray)


And finally … Happy Patriots’ Day, to our readers in Massachusetts and Maine.

The official state holiday commemorates the first battles of the Revolutionary War, at Lexington and Concord in 1775.

Coastal: Another Look At Construction And Trees

If there’s one thing I’ve learned writing “06880,” it’s that every voice deserves to be heard.

I heard Joe Feinleib’s this weekend. I wanted to learn more about his company — Coastal Construction — in light of the controversy over the home he’s building for himself on Prospect Road.

Joe and Coastal have been in Westport for 18 years. He’s got a design degree, and says that he starts every project with aesthetics in mind — not economics.

He wanted to change the look of homes being built here: “the same box Colonial, almost totally devoid of character.” He says that out of over 100 homes built in Westport, none are duplicates.

Joe is responsible too for the building at the southeast corner of Morningside North and the Post Road (First County Bank and the Coastal Point apartments). He used a combination of native grasses and, in the rear — after collaborating with neighbors — slow-growing spruces.

Coastal’s Morningside development, with rosebud trees.

He’s also behind the restoration of the mill building on Richmondville Avenue. Rather than knocking it down to put up 5 or 6 new homes, he is restoring the historic structure as a condo complex, with extensive amenities.

Sycamore tree saved at The Mill at Richmondville.

Many of the trees have been retained, including a 150-year-old sycamore. At Oak Ridge off Imperial Avenue, Joe saved a stand of majestic white oaks.

Oak Ridge oaks.

“They posed no hazard to the family that will live there, or on the neighboring property,” he says. With more than one of the Prospect Road trees rotted in the center, and 2 of the larger trees canted more than 20%, he cites safety as the reason for cutting those down.

Joe says he looks forward to working with the Planning & Zoning Commission to review ways to preserve town trees. When that’s not possible, he advocates a sustainable plan that helps property owners move forward in an environmentally sound way.

Oak tree saved on Prospect Road.

Mark Donovan Has Chutzpod!

Last month, Mark Donovan attempted to stop the demolition of a stand of oak trees on the Prospect Road property next to his own.

Though unsuccessful, his fight drew townwide attention.

Mark Donovan — dressed as Santa Claus — attempted to stop the demolition of oak trees on Prospect Road.

Now his effort has gone national.

Donovan — a 1985 Staples High School graduate, who now lives in his childhood home with his mother, wife and daughter — was the featured guest on this week’s episode of Chutzpod! This podcast — whose tagline is “Ancient texts for modern times,” and is hosted by activist and actor Josh Malina — covered the futile attempt, and Donovan’s subsequent desire to change local town tree ordinances.

Not for nothing, Chutzpod! is the #1 listened to podcast covering issues around Judaism in North America (according to Apple). On Friday it was #33 in the Religion & Spirituality category.

Donovan’s episode is timely. Tu Bishvat — the Jewish “New Year of the Trees” — begins tonight, and runs through tomorrow.

In “Bring Me a Shrubbery” — which includes a brief appearance by actor and Westport resident Scott Foley — Donovan says, “We live in a community. The community is not one individual or even two individuals. Just because something is legal and you have the right to do something, doesn’t mean that it actually makes it right to do it.” Some things “clearly affect everyone in the community.”

He adds his disappointment that people watching cheered as the trees were chopped down.

“It was not only embarrassing, but just confounding…it was shameful, really…it’s almost like the same victory lap that people take when they kill a dear with a shotgun.”

Donovan’s fight continues. Westport’s Planning & Zoning Commission is drafting legislation to address tree cutting on private property.

(Click here to listen to Mark Donovan’s “Bring Me a Shrubbery” Chutzpod! episode. It is also available on many other platforms.)

Prospect Road Trees: Late Afternoon Report

As a chainsaw roared several yards away, Santa Claus sat in a swing, suspended from a tree branch.

That was the scene this afternoon on Prospect Road. A crew hired by contractor Joe Feinleib cut down the 2nd and 3rd of 5 oak trees in the setback near the property of next door neighbor Mark Donovan (aka Santa). Feinleib will build a new home on the land he’s clearing.

“I’m not going anywhere,” vowed Donovan, whose swing hangs from a branch on a near-100-year-old oak tree that hangs over his property.

“I’m not saying he’s not within his rights,” Donovan added, referring to his soon-to-be-new neighbor. “But I’m within my rights too. We’re 2 Americans, exercising our rights.”

One of the felled oak trees. According to owner Joe Feinleib, the rings show the stand of trees to be 96 years old.

Owner Joe Feinleib sent this photo to “06880.” “Turns out at least one is diseased and rotting in the middle,” he wrote..

Police were on hand earlier today. Feinleib had concerns about a news media drone flying over his property. Donovan had concerns about a bucket with tree workers over his property.

Westport police officers chat with Mark Donovan (dressed as Santa), sitting on a swing. The tree is on Joe Feinleib’s property; the branch hangs over Donovan’s.

Joe Feinleib’s property on the left, with trees being removed. Mark Donovan’s is on the right.


Prospect Road Trees, Day 2: The Cutting Continues

Santa Claus makes many magical things happen.

One thing he can’t do, though, is prevent the cutting of trees on private property.

One view of Santa swinging from the branch of a tree overhanging Mark Donovan’s property …

Yesterday, “06880” reported that a near-1oo-year-old oak tree in the setback near Mark Donovan’s Prospect Road home was felled.

Developer Joe Feinleib of Coastal Construction bought the property that the trees sit on. He is cutting a number of the trees there, before building a new residence for his family.

As of this morning, Donovan says, 3 of the 5 oaks — whose branches overhang his property — have been cut down.

Awaiting the inevitable, he hung a swing on one of the major branches. Santa stopped by to lend support.

… and another.

Meanwhile, Donovan invites interested Westporters to visit him, enjoy coffee and cake, and watch the final trees come down.

He and his family will be at 22 Prospect Road, behind the barn.


MORE BREAKING NEWS: Prospect Road Tree Cutting Underway

Just seconds after I posted a report from Prospect Road — noting that a tree crew was on hand to cut a stand of old oak trees, overhanging Mark Donovan’s Prospect Road property, with the Donovans sitting underneath attempting to stop it — Mark sent me a video.

It’s just 35 seconds long. At the start, a contractor uses a chainsaw on one of the trees.

A worker begins using his chainsaw.

Twenty-five seconds in, it begins to topple.

By the end, the tree has fallen.

It is expected that more oaks will be cut soon.

BREAKING NEWS: Prospect Road Tree Cutting Near

Just 3 hours after this morning’s “06880” story about the possible destruction of a stand of grand oak trees hanging over Mark Donovan’s property on Prospect Road, a work crew arrived with chainsaws.

They were ready to cut the trees, to make way for a developer’s new home.

Donovan — who is concerned about environmental and esthetic impacts, along with effects on the stone walls supported by the trees’ root systems, and possible changes to water runoff — and his family reacted quickly. They sat underneath the canopy, on their own land.

Concerned for safety, the crew has not yet begun cutting.

The Donovans, meanwhile, served coffee and cake to the work crew.

The tree-cutting crew, near the Donovans’ property line at Prospect Road.

Prospect Trees: The Developer Responds

In preparing this morning’s story on Prospect Road trees, I asked developer Joe Feinleib of Coastal Construction for his response. He asked when I needed it by. I said Saturday night. I planned to run the story Monday morning, and wanted time to include it appropriately.

There was no response as of 9 p.m. last night. I scheduled today’s story to go live at 5 a.m., and included the line that the developer declined to comment.

This morning, as I checked email, I found his reply — sent at 11:24 p.m. Sunday night. Joe wrote:

Thank you for reaching out to me on this matter.

I always try to keep as many trees as appropriate for the homes I build and would love to be able to keep the oaks on the property. However, after reviewing the trees with several professional arborists it was determined the roots of the trees would be severely compromised and would ultimately put both homes near them at risk. I certainly will not put my neighbor or my children in danger should a large branch or one of these trees fall. I am more than willing to plant new trees somewhere appropriate in Westport with the guidance of the town.

As you know from the work I have done in other location in town over the past 18 years you can see how much I enjoy landscaping and preserving trees when safe and appropriate.  Some sites I am currently working on are 2 Oak Ridge Park where I am building a home and have saved all the oak trees on the site that are of a similar size as Prospect.

I have also saved a grand sycamore tree at the mill that is one of the most beautiful trees in Westport and there is not a week that goes by where I don’t get a compliment on the landscaping that we did on the old Geiger’s site on the post road.

Below is the Sycamore at the Mill in Westport.

Neighbor Fears Prospect Of Tree Demolition

Mark Donovan is proof that you can go home again.

Last January the 1985 Staples High School graduate — now a new business entrepreneur — moved with his wife and youngest daughter into the Prospect Road house where he grew up. His mother — who moved there with her family 50 years ago — welcomed the companionship.

Now Donovan worries that the house he went home to may lose some of its greatest assets.

A developer bought the house next door. He’s ready to demolish the home — and the old oak trees that give the area so much beauty.

Some of them sit near the Donovans’ property line, within the next door property setback.

The grand oaks on the property line this fall ….

Donovan fears what the loss of those trees will do to the streetscape. He worries too about the effect on his and his neighbor’s centuries-old stone walls; the trees’ root systems run directly underneath.

Of course he’s concerned too about water runoff, from the increasingly severe storms we now see.

Donovan has one more worry: that Westport’s Tree Board — and every other town body — is powerless to stop the developer’s plans.

No regulations currently address the cutting of trees on private property.

“From time to time trees obviously need to come down,” Donovan says. “But why doesn’t the town protect those that don’t have to?”

… and more recently.

John and Melissa Ceriale — his across-the-street neighbors, who have spent 25 years building beautiful gardens and a meadow on their 8 acres of land — are concerned too. They’re helping Donovan try to convince developer Joe Feinleib of Coastal Construction to scale back his clear-cutting plans.

The Westport Garden Club is also making calls.

Donovan admits this is a personal issue. But, he says, his eyes have been opened to broader, town-wide concerns. Other places, like Greenwich and Nyack, have very strict rules about trees. Why, he wonders, don’t we?

The developer has already cut many trees on his property.

“There’s nothing to stop any developer,” Donovan notes. “If no one says they can’t, I don’t blame them for trying. Why does the town allow that to happen?

“They don’t have to care about me personally. But they should care about the history, the beauty and the environment of the entire town.”

Right now, the trees remain. But Donovan knows that any day, he could arrive home and see the land next door irrevocably altered.

“They say they’ll plant new trees,” he says of the developer. “I don’t understand that reasoning. If these old oak trees come down, we can’t get them back in my kids’ and grandchildren’s lifetimes.”

(Developer Joe Feinleib of Coastal Construction did not reply to a request for comment.)

The Rage Of Aquarion

Prospect Road is a Westport gem.

With its stately homes, old growth trees, and the gardens and greenery of John and Melissa Ceriale, no one would confuse the Greens Farms neighborhood with the Third World.

But when the Ceriales turned on the tap a few days ago, after a summer away, the water was brown.

Half an hour later, it had not cleared.

They were not alone. Turns out their neighbors had brown water since July 4th.

Their toilets and laundry were stained. They could not shower. They spent a lot of money on bottled water.

Discolored water on Prospect Road.

Neighbors alled Aquarion — repeatedly. The water company’s responses included:

  • “Check your water tank.”
  • “Just run your faucets. This happens to my vacation home in Rhode Island as well.”
  • “Is there construction in your area?”
  • “The fire department may be testing.”
  • “Do you live near a golf course?”

Workers flushed the hydrants and lines three times. Each time they said they tested the water; it was all good.

Wesptort Deputy Fire Chief Michael Kronick was very helpful, trying to reach Aquarion engineers.

Finally, one of the Ceriales’ neighbors found personal contact information for Aquarion’s CEO and vice president of operations. She called and emailed.

That seemed to get some response. The other day, workers reappeared.

“That’s just not right,” the neighbor said — referring both to Aquarion’s lack of urgency and solutions all summer, and the need to involve the C-Suite.

Fortunately, Melissa notes, the flowers and plants in her gorgeous garden don’t mind brown water.

But the rest of Prospect Road does.