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Tag Archives: Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge
Scores of Westporters — young, old and in between — gathered on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge today. They were part of an international Climate Strike effort, raising awareness of the need for urgent action.
Over the years, the Post Road bridge has been the scene of numerous political protests. Today’s message was simple: Act now, so that when the youngest protesters are the age of the oldest, they’ll still have a planet to live on.
Food trucks and a band filled the site of the former Save the Children building, on Wilton Road. Next to the real estate firm’s new headquarters, it’s the future site of an architecturally intriguing 12-unit condo complex.
As I sat next to the Saugatuck River — the sun setting, and downtown beckoning just across the way — I thought, “It’s so close. Wouldn’t it be nice to walk there?”
I could have used the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge, of course. But the Post Road span is not pedestrian friendly. And it deposits you at the dicey, traffic-filled intersection with Parker Harding Plaza.
Once upon a time, there was discussion of fora pedestrian-only bridge. It was part of David Waldman’s plan to develop that Save the Children site.
Working with Roger Ferris + Partners architects, he wanted to move the house — at that point, a former yarn shop — at Wilton Road/Post Road West — to the Save the Children property. That would provide room for a turning lane at one of the state’s worst intersections.
As part of the plan, Waldman offered $100,000 toward the engineering and design of a pedestrian-only pontoon bridge.
The town rejected the idea. The developer reworked certain aspects of his design. The office portion has now been built. The condos are next.
But the landing area on the Wilton Road side is still available. A bridge could still be built, providing relaxing access from another point between the river’s west bank, and downtown. It could connect to Gorham Island, or perhaps the walkway near Rye Ridge Deli.
It’s not a novel concept. The Westport Arts Center once proposed a bridge from its then-headquarters on Riverside Avenue, to the library and Levitt Pavilion on the other side.
There are great spots to eat and shop on both sides of the river. But Westporters and visitors tend to think of them as 2 separate places.
A pedestrian bridge between Wilton Road and Parker Harding would probably cost $500,000 to $1 million.
Is the idea worth pursuing? If not, what’s another way to tie the energy and attractions of the quickly growing west bank to the close-but-sometimes-seems-so-far “downtown”?
What do you think? Click “Comments” below. We want your thoughts!
Jim Naughton is not sleeping well.
The Tony Award-winning actor is haunted by images of children kept in horrifying conditions in detention centers on our nation’s southwest border.
He is surprised and distressed that Americans are not rising up in protest over the separation from family members, lack of access to basic sanitary conditions — and deaths.
So he’s taking action.
Naughton — a longtime Weston resident — enlisted the help of fellow humanitarian Ken Bernhard. The former Republican state representative, 3d selectman and volunteer board member helped found the Syria Fund, which aids refugees; the Tree of Life Orphanage in Haiti, and the Soles4Souls shoe drive.
This morning, they arranged for a protest march this Saturday (June 29, 10 a.m.) on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge in downtown Westport.
“If our neighbors in Westport and Weston have been waking at night, as I have, horrified by the news of the way our country is mistreating children, and would like to do something, please meet, demonstrate and march with us on Saturday,” Naughton says.
“We hope to bring attention to what’s going on. We need to let our representatives know that we want this situation addressed now. It can’t drag on.
“This is a humanitarian problem. People of every political stripe who find this abhorrent are welcome.”
Back in the day, the Saugatuck River lapped up against the backs of stores on the west side of Main Street. Pipes discharged raw sewage directly into the river.
And no one really thought twice about it.
Parker Harding Plaza was built in the mid-1950s. Now the river is much narrower — hemmed in by concrete on the eastern side.
Yet water is still dumped into the river — as shown in Amy Schneider’s image, aka last week’s Photo Challenge. Of course, it’s a lot cleaner today.
Brett Adams, Diane Silfen, Seth Schachter, Seth Braunstein, Jonathan McClure, Patrick Church, Joelle Malec, Fred Rubin, Brian Senatore, Amelie Babkie and Bobbi Essagof all knew that Amy’s shot was taken near the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge, close to Starbucks. It’s a fairly common sight — if you know where and when to look. (Click here for the photo.)
Today’s image is not hard to identify. It’s a glorious aerial autumn view of Staples High School, by Larry Untermeyer:
But that’s not the challenge. The question is: Where in Westport would you see this photo?
If you know, click “Comments” below.
More than 50 women — and men — gathered yesterday on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Memorial Bridge.
Bearing signs ranging from simple (“My body, my choice”) and sharp (“Regulate your dick, not my pussy”) to caustic (“If you ban abortion before you ban military assault rifles that massacre children in schools, you have lost the right to call yourself ‘pro-life'”), they protested the passage in Alabama 2 days earlier of a far-reaching anti-abortion law.
The group included all 3 selectmen: Jim Marpe, Jen Tooker and Melissa Kane.
Also on the bridge: Firouz Saghri, 22 of Westport, and Hunter Rempe, 21 from Fairfield.
They were headed to happy hour when they saw the protest. They asked for paper and markers, made a sign — and stayed the entire time.
When co-organizer Darcy Hicks thanked them, Firouz said, “This is so much more important than happy hour. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend the time.”
Hunter added, “Hey, we have moms and sisters and female friends. This is important!”
An alert — and peeved — “06880 reader writes:
Flanking the east bank of the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge on the Post Road, next to the Saugatuck River, are 2 small, triangular, landscaped signs. One says the gardens were “Designed and Donated by The Laurelrock Company.”
These gardens also include granite pillars of varying heights. They do not have an explanatory plaque.
These pillars seem to echo similar installations memorializing sad events.
Does anyone know their significance?
Whatever their meaning, it’s a pet peeve of mine that these gardens — and many other public Westport plots — are being overrun by lawn signs for various organizations and events,
Many are commendable. Some are even non-profit.
But must we now have lawn signs all over town year-round, rather than only during election season?
Estelle Margolis — an artist, political activist and longtime figure on the Post Road bridge, who was also energized by bringing her diverse Myrtle Avenue neighborhood together — died last week. She was 92.
In 2010, her then-17-year-old grandson Jonah Newman had an assignment for his American Protest Literature class in California: find people who had been politically active. He wrote about his grandmother Estelle, and her equally passionate husband Manny. He died in 2011, age 86. Here is part of what Jonah wrote:
As far back as I can remember, Emanuel and Estelle Margolis — my maternal grandparents — have been a part of my life. Every year my parents, my brothers and I join the rest of the Margolis clan at my grandparents’ home in Westport, Connecticut to celebrate Passover.
Emanuel Margolis and Estelle Thompson (“Papa” and “Buba” respectively) were both born in New York City in 1926. The house occupies a special place in my heart — like its own timeless world it remains the same every year, as comfortingly consistent as the presence of the two people who have lived there for five decades.
Perhaps it is because I have known my grandparents for my whole life that until recently, I had rarely thought about their rich backgrounds as political activists. I discovered that my grandparents, who participated in many of the key social and political movements of the 20th and 21st centuries, are the very definition of living history.
Buba was raised in an Orthodox Jewish home. Her family was hit hard by the Great Depression; her father often had trouble finding jobs and making ends meet. She was artistic, participating in arts, theater, and music programs at school.
She never went to college but was admitted to the graduate School of Architecture at Yale and graduated in 1955. Her drawing talent was strong, and as a young woman she made a living out of art and architecture. Her political activism began when she was an adolescent and continued throughout her life.
Her career as an activist began much earlier than Papa’s. At 12 she picketed outside Alexander’s Department Store in the Bronx in an attempt to get people to boycott Japanese silk after the Japanese invaded Manchuria. Throughout her life, Buba has employed several diverse methods — including picketing, art and hands-on involvement — and has drawn from her innate empathy to protest war, discrimination and economic inequality.
Over many years since then, the anti-war message has been consistently important. She says: “It overwhelms me with the thought of the devastating damage that has been done…What sense are we making out of the policy that keeps throwing young kids to their deaths?”
Buba’s sympathy may stem from her maternal instincts (she has 5 children and 10 grandchildren), and shows the simple human compassion that motivates her continued struggle against war. She was active in her criticism of the Vietnam War during the 1960’s and 70’s, and has protested the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Since 2005, Buba has helped lead a weekly vigil on a Westport bridge to protest the war in Iraq. Her signs at these present-day rallies say what they have said for decades: “Support The Troops, Bring Them Home.”
One of Buba’s natural skills has proved to be a lifelong tool for her activism. “I’ve been very lucky all my life because I know how to draw,” she says. Lucky is an understatement; in the late 1940’s Buba worked as an assistant to legendary artist Ben Shahn. In 1946, Buba and Shahn worked on an enormous collection of political leaflets and posters to support Democratic candidates across the country. “We created a leaflet for every single candidate,” she recalls.
But there are risks to political activism. In 1947, when she taught union organizing to black and white students at the desegregated Highlander Folk School in Tennessee, angry vigilantes drove by, shouting and shooting at the building.
Even the government was an occasional threat. Buba says the FBI planted spies in the meetings of activist organizations at the school.
In 1970, Buba and a group of women protesting the Vietnam War by picketing in the middle of a busy street were almost run over by an angry truck driver. The women were arrested for obstructing traffic, but Papa used his legal skills to keep them out of prison.
Driven by her human empathy and making full use of her artistic talents, Buba continues to be a potent voice of protest. Although both she and Papa believe the world needs changing, they also believe that the world is inherently beautiful.
Papa and Buba fervently believe America and the world are fundamentally good. We just need to fight to keep them that way.
(Click here to read Jonah’s full story — including much more about his grandfather, Manny. And click here to read an “06880” story from 2014, about how Estelle brought her Myrtle Avenue neighborhood together. A graveside service is set for today, Monday, March 4, 1 p.m. at Willowbrook Cemetery. Hat tip: Larry Weisman)