Tag Archives: Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge

Russian Flag No Longer Flies Downtown

Today is United Nations Day. It celebrates the signing of the official charter on October 24, 1945.

For decades, Westport has honored UN Day by flying flags of the member nations on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge downtown.

That’s fitting: A longtime resident (and Juilliard-trained pianist), she was a staunch advocate for the United Nations and the national and state levels. Locally she helped originate jUNe Day, which for over 50 years has brought UN officials and their families to Westport, for a summer day of hospitality and fun.

Flags of dozens of nations were placed on the bridge this weekend, for today’s UN Day. (Not all are flown — there is not enough room for all 193 member countries.) Passersby often try to identify as many as they can.

Part of the 2021 UN Day display. (Photo/Tracy Porosoff)

But this year’s display drew the ire of one Westporter. David Halpert writes:

“On Saturday, I was appalled to find the Russian Federation flag flying on our bridge.

“Would we fly a flag of Nazi Germany in Westport? A flag of a nation that is killing thousands of innocent people in Ukraine has no place in Westport.

“My first reaction was to burn it down. My wife stopped me. We live in a civilized country, and should behave as civilized people.

“So I looked up the organizers of the event [Westport’s International Hospitality Committee], and made a phone call. It was surprising to me the ignorance of the organizers who hang a random selection of flags just to fill the spots.

“I expressed my disgust of hanging a Russian Federation flag in the middle of Westport while the country it represents is blackmailing all freedom-loving nations in the UN with their nuclear bombs, and continue the murder of innocent children in Ukraine.

“Perhaps sitting in our warm multi-million dollar homes we forget that people of Ukraine are being left without electricity and heat for the winter.

“I was promised that the mistake would be corrected in the morning, and was glad to see that the Russian flag is now gone.

“Let us never forget what the word ‘freedom’ means, and that we may never be free as long as countries like that exist.”

I contacted Westport International Hospitality Committee chair Bill Haas. He confirmed the story, and provided important background information.

The flag display is a joint effort of his group and the UN Association of Southwestern Connecticut, with which he is also associated. The UNASC, for example, pays for new or replacement flags.

Haas had concerns from the start about displaying the Russian flag. “This war is reprehensible,” he says. “But they’re a member of the UN. We need to maintain dialogue and communication with them. That’s why the US has diplomatic relations with them too.”

There are not enough stanchions on the bridge for all 193 UN flags, Haas says. So the Hospitality Committee — which places the flags each year, with help from town workers — has discretion as to which ones are flown. (They try to make sure all jUNe Day visitors see their own flags each year.)

“There are a lot of bad actors in the UN,” Haas — a former staffer there — notes. “We work with them behind the scenes, to address things like human rights issues, with no publicity.”

Yet when Halpert made his complaint on Saturday, Haas realized it had validity. A few years ago, someone thought the North Korea flag should be removed. It was.

This time, Haas says, “I thought about it, and recognized my mistake. I was very sympathetic. I realized it had to come down.”

Yesterday at 8 a.m., he removed it.

“I want to maintain positive relations with the town and residents,” he says. “And as an American citizen, I was very sympathetic to the complaint.”

However, he took issue with one part of Halpert’s email.

The United Nations did not exist in the 1930s and early ’40s, so Nazi Germany could not have been part of it. Nor was it part of the League of Nations.

“The UN is important, but it’s not perfect,” Haas says. “It’s a work in progress.”

(“06880” is indeed “Where Westport Meets the World.” Please click here to help support this blog.)

Pic Of The Day #1929

Wesley, early morning on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge (Photo/Maxx Crowley)

“Rally Against Regression” Draws Hundreds To Bridge

For the 3rd time in less than 2 months, hundreds of residents thronged the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge, to show support for reproductive rights.

(Photo/Charlie Scott)

This time, they protested what they only feared twice before. On Friday, the Supreme Court declared Roe v. Wade — for 49 years, settled law affirming a right to abortion — unconstitutional.

(Photo/Charlie Scott)

The rally marked the second time that Senator Richard Blumenthal and Congressman Jim Himes delivered forceful remarks about a woman’s right to choose to a Westport crowd.

Congressman Jim Himes speaks. Senator Richard Blumenthal and rally organizer Darcy Hicks look on. (Photo/Charlie Scott)

Other speakers included Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewiez, Governor Ned Lamont’s wife Annie, State Representative Stephanie Thomas, and DefenDemocracy rally co-organizer Darcy Hicks.

They spoke against a backdrop of flags of 193 nations — part of Westport’s annual jUNe Day celebration yesterday.

(Photo/Charlie Scott)

1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker — who issued a statement yesterday affirming her commitment to protecting women’s rights to choose — was among the large crowd.

1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker, at today’s rally. (Photo/Charlie Scott)

Protestors included men as well as women, and families with young children.

(Photo/Charlie Scott)

(Photo/David Vita)

They were all ages, too.

(Photo/David Vita)

(Photo/Charlie Scott)

Crowds gather early, on both sides of the bridge. (Drone photo/Charlie Scott)

(Photo/Jerry Kuyper)

(Photo/Charlie Scott)

(Drone photo/Charlie Scott)

(Photo/Charlie Scott)

Many drivers honked in support. This one had their own sign. (Photo/David Vita)

(Photo/Charlie Scott)

Reproductive Rights Advocates Set Rally For Sunday

In the wake of today’s Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, local reproductive rights activists organized.

DefenDemocracy of CT announced a “Rally Against Regression” for this Sunday (June 26). It’s set for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge over the Post Road in downtown Westport.

Westporters March For Lives

Across America today, hundreds of thousands of Americans joined hundreds of “March For Our Lives” rallies. They protested gun violence, and pleaded, shouted and demanded stricter laws.

Westport was one of those communities. The rallying point was the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge downtown.

People lined one side of the span 3 deep; the other side was filled too. For an hour or so, men, women and children joined the crowd. Drivers passing by honked frequently in support. A few had their own signs.

(All photos/Bobbi Essagof)

Michael Pontoriero’s Peace Pole

A couple of years ago, Michael Pontoriero wanted to join a rally. But it took place during school hours.

Yet the thought of people gathering for a common purpose — and to use their voices to advocate for ideas that matter to them — at Staples High School intrigued him.

Michael remembered seeing “peace poles” at Town Hall, and on college tours.  They say “May Peace Prevail on Earth,” in a variety of languages. The first was in Japan, in 1955.

He did some research, and learned there are 200,000 around the world — including Hiroshima, the Pyramids, and the Pentagon.

“Who doesn’t want peace?” he wondered. He vowed to bring one to Staples.

The project took a year to complete. He worked with Dennis Wong of Westport’s Sunrise Rotary Club, and Bill Haas of the United Nations Association of Southwestern Connecticut.

One view of the Staples High School peace pole …

With principal Stafford Thomas’ okay, the pole was planted in Staples’ main courtyard.

“The goal is to promote peace,” Michael — about to complete his junior year — says. “It’s where all students, faculty and staff can rally together.”

The peace pole will be officially dedicated tomorrow (Wednesday, June 1, 9 a.m.).

… and another. (Photos/Dan Woog)

Michael is already thinking ahead. Wouldn’t it be great, he asks, to have peace poles at every Westport school?

And at Westport’s favorite rallying spot: the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge.

That would complete an interesting circle. It’s where Michael could not go to raise his voice a couple of years ago.

Because he had school.

Pic Of The Day #1868

Memorial Day weekend: Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge (Photo/Jean Stevens)

Pro-Choice Rally: The Signs

There were as many ways today to express opposition to the Supreme Court’s possible overturning of Roe v. Wade as there were people on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge.

Here are some of them:

(Photo/David Vita)

(Photo/David Vita)

(Photo/David Vita)

(Photo/David Vita)

(Photo/Bobbi Essagof)

(Photo/David Vita)

(Photo/Bobbi Essagof)

(Photo/Bobbi Essagof)

Hundreds Rally For Abortion Rights

Galvanized by news that the Supreme Court seems poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, 500 people gathered in downtown Westport today.

The crowd on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge included women and men; girls and boys; parents, grandparents and grandchildren, and Governor Lamont, Senator Blumenthal and Congressman Himes.

A portion of the crowd, near the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge. Congressman Jim Himes (center, behind the blonde woman) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (right, blue jacket) mingled with attendees.

They held signs. They chanted. They cheered when passing drivers honked in support.

They listened intently to speakers — not just politicians, but two obstetricians, and women with close experience with illegal abortions.

Educator Joy Colon addresses the crowd. Signs held up behind describe resources to help women in states with restrictive abortion laws.

Lamont — who will sign a first-in-the-nation bill protecting medical providers and patients seeking abortion care here, and expanding the type of practitioners eligible to perform abortion-related care in the state — noted that the downtown bridge is the site of many rallies. He called it “the conscience of Connecticut.”

“Keep your hands off our women, our doctors, our justice,” he warned those seeking to curtail abortion rights.

Lamont introduced State Representative Matt Blumenthal, who was a driving force behind the new Connecticut law, also spoke.

Blumenthal introduced his father. The US senator said he was “proud to be in this fight for decades.”

The crowd included many young people — including boys.

Himes said that people who “claim to be conservative want to overturn 50 years of settled law.” He praised 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker — standing at the front of the crowd — as a Republican ally. 

(From left): Governor Lamont and Senator Blumenthal listen to Congressman Jim Himes.

Rally organizer Darcy Hicks then noted that it was time for women to speak.

Rally organizer Darcy Hicks

Dr. Janet Lefkowitz — a Westport native, Staples High School graduate, and prominent OB/GYN and assistant professor at Brown University who provides abortion care in Southern states — recounted her difficult experiences in Mississippi and Alabama. She did not become a doctor to get involved in politics, she said — but it has become part of her patient care.

Fellow OB/GYN Dr. Shieva Ghofrany of Stamford said that people who are pro-choice “truly honor the living.” Noting that comprehensive sex education reduces unwanted pregnancies, she urged those who are pro-life to embrace education, maternal leave, and contraception.

Teacher and Trumbull Town Council member Joy Colon spoke of the impact of overturning Roe v. Wade on people of color. “People who look like me should not die because they don’t want to be pregnant,” she said.

(All photos/Dan Woog)

Roundup: Pro-Choice Protest, Mitzvah Day, Bathroom Humor …

News of a draft of the Supreme Court’s decision in an important abortion case has sparked nationwide protests.

There’s one planned for 4 p.m. this Sunday — Mother’s Day — on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge downtown. Organizers (DefenDemocracy of CT) expect a large turnout.

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“Mitzvah,” loosely translated from Hebrew, means “good deed.”

Last Sunday, over 150 congregants of all ages showed up at Temple Israel to perform mitzvahs.

Among the donations:

  • 10,000 meals to Ukrainian refugees
  • 200 comfort bags to hospitalized children
  • Dozens of lap blankets, walker bags, potted plants, and centerpieces to Jewish Senior Services and Weston Senior Center
  • 100 blessing/toiletry bags to Bridgeport Rescue Mission
  • 12 lasagnas were baked and delivered to Homes with Hope
  • 100 bagged lunches to Gillespie Center
  • 30 Mother’s Day cards to women fighting breast cancer
  • 50 cards and letters to US service members and IDF lone soldiers,

It was truly a local — and global — Mitzvah Day.

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Want to give Mom something different for Mothers Day weekend? (Psssst…it’s Sunday!)

Take her to join Anthony Zemba at Earthplace on Saturday (May 7, 8 to 10 a.m.). The avid birder/environmental analyst/soil scientist/certified ecologist will lead a group along the trails of the nature and wildlife sanctuary.

Anthony recently joined LandTech, the civil engineering and environmental science firm that’s underwriting the bird walk.

Among the probable wildlife: scarlet tanagers; wood thrush; pileated, red- bellied, hairy and downy woodpeckers; indigo buntings, goldfinch and orioles.

Spots are limited. Click here to register, and for more information.

Calling all bird watchers: See the pileated woodpecker!

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Staples was ranked #5 nationally (large schools division), in this year’s 100 Best Wise (Working In Support of Education) High Schools Teaching Personal Finance. It was the top finish for any Connecticut school.

The list and ceremony honor excellence in personal finance education. Congratulations to teachers Lenny Klein and Sarah White — and of course their very “wise” students.

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Whether it’s a Broadway show or a Westport restaurant, women know the drill: There’s a longer wait for the women’s restroom than the men’s.

So Tammy Barry was relieved (ho ho) when she spotted this sign yesterday at Rye Ridge Deli:

(Photo/Tammy Barry)

Every problem has a solution. This one is simple. It doesn’t cost a cent.

Now let’s see it everywhere else in Westport too.

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Westporters know that the Memorial Day parade is one of the best community events of the year. Those who stay afterward, for the ceremony on Veterans Green across from Town Hall, know that it is a moving and important way to honor those who gave their lives for our country.

That is the idea of the holiday, after all.

There’s another chance to pay tribute too. That morning (May 30, 7:45 a.m.), the Fire Department honors all who died in service to our nation, and the Westport firefighters who died in the line of duty.

All are welcome at fire headquarters on the Post Road.

Westport Fire Department headquarters,

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Former Westporter Diane (Prezkop) Reed died in November, after a brief illness. She was 71.

Diane graduated from Staples High School in 1968. She participated in intermural sports, and wrote for the school newspaper Inklings and yearbook.  She graduated from the University of Connecticut with a BA in English and a master’s in Counseling and Higher Education.

In 1972, Diane married Steven Reed. She began a career at UConn as a research associate, then became assistant director of research and data acquisition for the Institute of Social Inquiry at Storrs.

The couple’s careers took them to Ohio, where Diane worked as an analyst, project director, manager of research operations and operations manager. A final move took them to Michigan, where she worked as marketing group director and director of teleservices. She loved being a mentor and coach to her staff, and enjoyed social and golf activities at Indianwood Golf Club.

After her divorce= Diane created a consulting practice, developing and editing training curricula and coaching management teams. In 2005 Diane returned to Westport to enjoy her family, and pursue her writing.

Friends and family describe Diane as “sweet, witty, compassionate, generous and kind.” She loved literature, science, spectator sports, music and humanity as a whole.  She was an avid collector and supporter of local artisans and craftsmen. She was passionate about her family, lifelong learning, and creative writing.

Diane’s siblings were Edward of Seattle, Raymond of Westport, Carole Prescott of Madison, and the late Thomas Prezkop of Newburyport, Massachusetts.  She is survived by many nieces, nephews, cousins, great-nieces and great-nephews.

A memorial service to celebrate the lives of Diane and her brother Thomas Prezkop will be held June 29 at Waters Edge in Westbrook. Donations in her name may be made to the Westport Library.

Diane Prezkop Reed

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Former Westporter Thomas Prezkop, of Newburyport, Massachusetts, died earlier this year, after a battle with pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer. He was 73.

Tom was raised, and taught himself to sail, here. That started a lifelong love for all things aquatic. He graduated from Staples High School in 1966.

In early 1971 he headed to St. Maarten. There he co-owned and restored a 108-foot ketch, which he chartered. He also managed restaurants, started an omelet café, and captained other boats.

In 1978, Tom settled in Massachusetts. He married his first wife, Linn Anderson, and had a son, Andrew

Tom’s second career was in mechanical design engineering. He worked for medical device companies before founding Andover Medical Development Group, to do component manufacturing. He operated AMDG for 35 years, fulfilling contracts with NASA, Boston Scientific and others.

Tom was a passionate sailor.  He was an expert angler, certified scuba diver, licensed pilot and professional cook. He also enjoyed snow skiing, surfing, water skiing barefoot, and golf. He could build and fix anything

Tom passed his patience, creativity and playfulness on to Andrew, in whom he fostered lifelong passions as a musician, athlete, craftsman, outdoorsman, adventurer and father.  He was overjoyed to be a grandfather to Avery and Luke.

In 1995, Tom and a friend rescued a fellow boater who had fallen overboard in Gloucester and been seriously injured by the propeller. Tom received a congressional commendation.

In addition to his wife, son, daughter-in-law Geneva Brion and grandchildren, he is survived by his sister Carole Prescott of Madison, and brothers Edward of Seattle and Raymond of Westport, as well as nieces, nephews and cousins. He was pre-deceased by his sister Diane Reed of Westport.

There will be a celebration of life at Water’s Edge in Westbrook on June 29.

In lieu of flowers, please consider donations to The Ocean Foundation and the Kaplan Family Hospice House.

Thomas Prezkop

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo shows a recent visitor to Berkeley Road.

Hey, a guy’s gotta eat!

(Photo/Jill Grayson)

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And finally … in honor of Rye Ridge Deli’s new restroom policy (see above story): These are the 2 best bathroom songs I could find.