What’s up with the line of cars parked on the Birchwood Country Club side of Riverside Avenue (near Rive Bistro and the medical offices) every day? I can’t believe they’re parking for the train, or any of the nearby office parks. (Bob Mitchell)
I’ve wondered about that for years. As best I know, the cars belong to Westport Auto Craft, the highly regarded body shop. Apparently they get moved there from in front of and behind the building during the day, to make room for those being worked on.
However, few of them ever look wrecked. And I’ve never seen anyone actually moving one of the vehicles back and forth.
Riverside-area readers: If there’s a different or better answer, please let us know.
As of last night, over $73,000 had been donated. That’s nearly 1/3 of the way to repair 150 homes destroyed by Russian forces, give generators to all, and provide a water filtration system to the town.
Thanks to a partnership with Brian and Marshall Mayer — the Westporters who founded the non-profit Ukraine Aid International — the supplies can be delivered to the desperate town within 3 days.
As noted yesterday, the goal of $250,000 — by Christmas — is certainly reachable. It’s only $10 for every resident of Westport.
Of course, not everyone can afford that. If you can, please consider a donation for those who cannot.
To donate to the non-profit, just click here. Click the “I want to support” box; then select “Support for the City of Lyman.” Scroll down on that page for other donation options (mail, wire transfer and Venmo.) You can also donate directly, via Stripe (click here).
“06880” reader Jamie Klein has a great idea. She sent yesterday’s story to neighbors and friends, with this note:
This is one example of what is special about living in this town. What a great gift for someone in your family, or as a thoughtful hostess gift for one of the parties you may be attending.
As we enter the holiday season the message of miracles and hope are a theme across all faiths, and from our small place on this earth, we can make a miracle happen.
Thanks for all who have contributed to help rebuild Lyman, and all who will do so. Let’s double that $73,000 by tonight!
Christmas in Lyman. 150 out of 240 homes have been destroyed — including this one.
Meanwhile, another local drive for Ukrainian aid bore fantastic fruit.
When Mark Yurkiw learned there was space in a container leaving in 10 days, he acted fast.
He put out the word on “06880.” In just over a week, readers delivered 8 whole house generators, 8 gas chain saws, 8 phone power banks, 20 sleeping bags, 20 flashlights, 2 kerosene heaters, plus boxes of rechargeable batteries, winter blankets, pillows, and children’s warm winter clothing, to his door.
All those items are now on their way to that embattled nation. Each one can help change lives.
“Thank you, Westport!” Mark says. “It takes a village.”
Ukrainians Ross Voytovych (now of Ridgefield) and Dima Dovgan (Redding) move equipment to be loaded on to a tractor trailer.
It will be lit tomorrow (Wednesday, December 21) at 5:30 p.m., in front of Anthropologie on the Post Road at Church Lane. The entire community is invited, with jelly doughnuts and chocolate gelt for all.
Bill Mitchell of Mitchells — long involved in interfaith efforts — will have the honor of lighting the candles.
This menorah and lighting is a joint effort of Beit Chaverim, Chabad of Westport, Temple Israel, and The Conservative Synagogue.
The downtown menorah, in 2020. (Photo/Arlene Yolles)
Who knew so many Westporters read the New York Post?
A dozen or so readers sent links yesterday to the tabloid’s story that began:
A former New York University director of finance allegedly siphoned $3.5 million meant for minority and women-owned businesses and blew some of the cash on herself — including on an $80,000 pool for her Connecticut home, prosecutors said Monday.
Cindy Tappe, 57, was charged with diverting funds from New York State Education Department grants into shell companies that she created over a six-year scheme that was discovered in 2018, when she left NYU, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
Some of the embezzled money went to expenses related to the grants or employee reimbursements — but at least $660,000 ended up in Tappe’s own pockets, according to the indictment.
She allegedly spent the dough on personal expenses, including the pool and renovations on her her home in Westport, Connecticut.
The scam started with a $23 million grant awarded to NYU’s Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and Transformation, where Tappe worked, with the cash meant to go to state programs to help special education students and those learning English.
Speaking of Hanukkah etc. … The Jazz at the Post folks say: “It’s that time of year again. Why have our favorite holiday tunes been relegated to lifeless background music, advertising jingles or Muzak?
“In the hands of inspired musicians, the holiday repertoire makes for a fine opportunity for a night of hard swinging jazz.
“Name your holiday: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, even Festivus (for the rest of us) — we got it covered!”
This Thursday (December 22), Jazz at the Post (VFW Joseph J. Clinton Post 399) hosts a “Holiday Swingfest.” The lineup includes pianist Dave Childs, drummer Greg Burrows, bassist Joe Fitzgerald, and saxophonist Greg “The Jazz Rabbi” Wall.
“Special guests and elves are sure to drop by” too, they say.
Shows are 7:30 and 8:45 p.m., with dinner beginning at 7:30. Reservations are highly recommended: JazzatthePost@gmail.com.
And speaking (still) of the holidays:
Cecily Anderson is a talented art teacher.
How talented? Check out this great holiday installation piece. It’s drawing stares — and raves — at its pop-up location, right there at BMS. (Hat tip: Kerry Long)
First Selectwoman Jen Tooker delivers her first Thanksgiving message to Westport:
“I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you and your families a Happy Thanksgiving, as well as a Happy Hanukkah for those celebrating.
“Westport has much to be thankful for. As we emerge from a global pandemic, we are grateful for our first responders, our town employees and staff, our teachers, colleagues and friends, and the numerous volunteers who gave unselfishly of their time, talents and resources. Most importantly, we are grateful for each other, and how we came together as a community to lift up, to help and to inspire during challenging times. Westporters are truly resilient!
“We are also keenly aware that there are those among us who need additional care and concern, especially during holidays. Theodore Roosevelt said, ‘Let us remember that, as much has been given, much will be expected…and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips and shows itself in deeds.’”
“And so, at this Thanksgiving and for the days to come, I ask that we both reflect and act; to give of ourselves in word and deed; to express our appreciation for all that we do have, and to make simple acts of kindness the norm, not the trend.
“On a personal note, my sincerest hope is that you enjoy your Thanksgiving and upcoming Holidays with friends and families, and that you have the opportunity to be thankful for the simple blessings we all share. Thank you.”
Jen Tooker is thankful to celebrate Thanksgiving with her husband Mo and her father, Bob “Pops” Salmon.
From now through December 6, Westport’s Public Works Department is collecting leaves placed in biodegradable paper bags on the curbside.
All leaves must be placed safely near the curb of a town street (not private roads to guarantee pickup. Leaves placed in plastic bags will not be picked up (the composting process cannot handle plastic).
For further information, call Public Works office at 203-341-1120.
From today through Tuesday (November 23), a road improvement project will close Riverside Avenue between Bridge Street and Saugatuck Avenue to all but local businesses and residents. All other traffic must use Saugatuck Avenue and Charles Street.
The Staples High Class of 1971 member dropped out of school to play guitar and tour with Buddy Miles. He later played with Jimi Hendrix, then returned to the area and front numerous bands. He inspired countless young musicians. His death from liver cancer in 2019 was followed by an all-star memorial concert at the Levitt Pavilion.
Yesterday, friends and classmates unveiled a memorial plaque at Staples. It’s part of the music department’s showcase, and highlights his career and influence.
Among the attendees: Mark Soboslai, Rafe Klein, Walter Panek, Bruce Carter, Brian Keane, Bonnie Erickson and Lynn Untermeyer Miller.
Westport Public Schools’ music and visual arts coordinator Steve Zimmerman (left) and Walter Panek, plaque and logo designer. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)
Karp’s death also spawned 2 documentary films. The second — just released to the public — was created by his friends and fans. It tells the story of his life, and the tribute concert. To view this gift to the community, click here.
Tonight marks the 83rd anniversary of Kristallnacht — the night the Nazis’ repressive policies toward Jews turned violent. At least 91 men, women and children were murdered; 1,000 synagogues were attacked and vandalized, with over 300 demolished, and at least 7,500 Jewish-owned businesses were destroyed.
The number of eyewitnesses to those horrors is rapidly fading. But tonight, a special commemoration (Tuesday, Saugatuck Congregational Church, 7 p.m., in person and livestream) includes Ruth Zimbler. As a child, she watched her synagogue in Vienna burn.
Two days later, she and her 6-year-old brother escaped on the Kindertransport to the Netherlands. Her story — filled with love, hope and optimism — is a chance to hear from a survivor who was old enough to remember, and at 93 still young enough to tell her story.
The event will be moderated by Dr. Gavriel Rosenfeld, professor of Germanic Studies at Fairfield University. Click here for the YouTube livestream link; click here for the Facebook link.
Co-sponsors include The Conservative Synagogue, Temple Israel, Federation for Jewish Philanthropy, and Merkaz Community High School for Judaic Studies.
Gilbertie’s Herbs & Garden Center once again hosts the long-running institution. The winter market opens Thursday, November 18. It runs every Thursday (except Thanksgiving) through March 10, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
It’s open-air, throughout 3 greenhouses. Favorite summer vendors return, with high-quality locally grown or raised fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, milk, baked and prepared foods, plus handmade items.
WFM kicks off the season with a celebration. Bubble and Brew, and Parlor Pizza, will set up trucks outside the greenhouses. Staples graduate Luke Molina will play music. while Mae Farrell entertains youngsters in the Get Growing program with a nature-inspired craft.
A Riverside Avenue improvement project — involving demolition of the concrete roadwaym and reconstruction of the pavement — begins today.
Traffic on Riverside Avenue between Bridge Street and Saugatuck Avenue (the area of Viva Zapata and the Saugatuck Rowing Club) will be restricted to northbound (headed toward the Post Road) vehicles only. All southbound traffic will detour down Saugatuck Avenue to Charles Street.
During paving — planned for this Thursday and Friday — the road section will be closed to all but local traffic. All other traffic will be detoured around Charles Street and Saugatuck Avenue.
“Doubt: A Parable” — the thought-provoking play running now at the Westport Country Playhouse — has earned great praise.
But no one has mentioned that Kerstin Anderson — the woman playing the young nun — has a Westport connection. She’s the daughter of 1976 Staples High School graduate Ted Anderson, and the niece of longtime “06880” reader Britt Anderson.
Neither Ted nor Britt live in Westport now. But both were on hand opening night. They were proud of Kerstin — no “doubt”!
Kerstin Anderson and her aunt Britt Anderson, at the Westport Country Playhouse.
During COVID, Westport’s eerily empty streets were a joy to drive.
A sad joy, to be sure. The other side of our unimpeded ride was knowing that so many friends and neighbors were stuck home, inside, with nowhere at all to go.
Now — thanks to vaccinations, warm weather and pandemic fatigue — traffic is back.
And it’s worse than ever.
For hours a day, backups stretch everywhere: from Route 1 and 33 almost to Fresh Market. Canal and Main Streets. All of Saugatuck.
No one can say for sure why it’s this bad. But driving in Westport really, really sucks.
Waiting in line at the Imperial Avenue light. (Photo/Dick Lowenstein)
With time on my hands the other day — I wasn’t going anywhere — I tried to think of solutions.
I wouldn’t wish another townwide quarantine on anyone. Banning Waze is not an option. (I’m as hypocritical as the rest of Westport: I happily use the app to avoid highway traffic by driving through other towns.)
So I did the next best thing. I came up with a few ideas.
Alternate red and green lights at both Wilton Road and Riverside Avenue. The awkward dance between cars heading northbound and southbound doesn’t work. One car trying to turn left from Wilton Road onto the Post Road — or left from Riverside onto Post Road West — can hold up a dozen cars behind it. So why not have green for only northbound traffic; then only green for southbound traffic; followed by what we’ve got now (first a “left turn only” for eastbound and westbound drivers, then a full green for both).
What’s the holdup? Some dude at the front of this line, trying to turn left onto the Post Road. (Photo/David Waldman)
Add a “left turn only” for drivers on South Compo, going westbound on Bridge Street. Traffic now routinely backs up under the railroad bridge.
At the same time, change the timing of the light. It’s too long for Greens Farms Road and Bridge Street drivers, not long enough for those on Compo South. (I know; a long light helps ease traffic on Greens Farms and Bridge Street when it’s backed up with I-95 overflow. Maybe shorter lights would effect Waze’s algorithm of suggesting that as an alternate route.)
A “left-turn only” arrow from South Compo to Bridge Street will make traffic flow as easily as it appears in this image from Google Maps.
Reconfigure the turning lane from Kings Highway North (where the Willows/ “Fort Apache” medical complex is on the right), onto Wilton Road. Right now the right lane is for right turns and cars going straight on Kings Highway. When one car in that lane heads straight, no one behind can turn right on red. Make the left lane for left turns and straight ahead; the right lane should be “right on red” only.
Another reason Kings Highway North should be “right turn on red” only: The left lane lines up more directly with its continuation past Wilton Road.
All of these ideas are beyond the scope of Westport officials. They’re state roads. So yeah, I know, I have a better chance of walking to the planet Zork than I do of seeing meaningful traffic light changes.
But a boy can dream.
(Do you have an idea for easing Westport’s traffic woes? Click “Comments” below. It won’t do any good — but at least “06880” readers can appreciate your brilliance.)
There’s at least one good thing about the traffic clogging Saugatuck: It gives drivers the chance to admire the fence in front of the home next to the VFW, on Riverside Avenue near the intersection with Saugatuck Avenue and Treadwell.
That intricate, whimsical fence — designed by Andrew Hamilton Reise — was the subject of last week’s Photo Challenge. (Click here to see.)
Tons of readers quickly identified it. They also noted the owners: Pietro and Janine Scotti. He’s the owner/chef of the former and still beloved Da Pietro’s restaurant, just down Riverside (and across the street) closer to town.
Janine reports that he’s “cooking up a storm” now at Vieste in Newport. It’s not that far! Just hop on I-95, a few yards away from the Scottis’ funky fence 🙂
Congratulations to Gerald F. Romano, Darcy Sledge, Nancy Wilson, Leslie Flinn, Lynn Untermeyer Miller, David Waldman, Karen Como, Arthur Hayes, Pat Saviano, Wendy Cusick, Seth Braunstein, Michael Calise, Soodie Farley, Jamie Walsh, Maria Funicello, Jonathan McClure, Pete Powell and Melisa Didio. You all know that great fences make wonderful neighbors.
What about big wooden doors? If you know where in Westport you’d see this week’s Photo Challenge, click “Comments” below.
One of Westport’s thorniest housing controversies has been solved.
A proposed 6-story, 81-unit apartment complex between Lincoln and Cross Streets, off Post Road West will be scaled back to 68 units. It’s been redesigned almost completely, eliminating a section that would tower over homes on Riverside Avenue. Fire safety and parking concerns have been addressed to the satisfaction of Westport’s fire marshal.
And the developer includes 30% affordable housing.
Tonight, after weeks of negotiations between the Planning & Zoning Commission, the developer Cross Street LLC and neighbors,the P&Z voted 5-0 in favor of the settlement. Newly appointed commissioner Patrizia Zucaro abstained.
The settlement substantially lessens the impact on Lincoln Street, just south of Cross Street.
In October 2018, the P&Z unanimously rejected the 81-unit plan. Their concerns included fire access, traffic and historic preservation.
Cross Street LLC appealed. Last July, a Superior Court judge sustained the appeal.
However, discussions between the P&Z, the developer and neighbors — many of whom live in historic properties that are some of the most naturally occurring affordable homes in town, with on-street parking that would have been lost — bore fruit.
The Fire Department is now confident they could access and fight any fires there. The new version eliminates the looming design that would have altered the look of the neighborhood. On-street parking has been saved.
And the 30% affordable units will help Westport toward the state’s 8-30g mandate for increasing that housing stock.
“With this settlement, Westport has not just turned the page but closed the book on all outstanding 8-30g related litigation,” says P&Z chair Danielle Dobin.
“I want to compliment the Lincoln Street and Riverside Avenue neighbors for working collaboratively with the Commission under the most challenging of circumstances; the developer for choosing to redesign this project to be both fire safe and less physically imposing, and my fellow P&Z commissioners who worked together as a team to negotiate an amicable resolution to this litigation.
“The redesigned project will provide mixed income rental apartments within walking distance of schools and downtown, further diversifying housing in a central Westport location.”
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.
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