Tag Archives: Town Hall

Pic Of The Day #2075

Town Hall (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

[OPINION] Time To Rethink Architecture, Design Choices

Longtime Westporter and alert “06880” reader Elisabeth Keane keeps a sharp eye on this town. She’s not pleased.

Elisabeth writes:

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing at Bridge Square. The formerly charming historic waterfront has turned into absurd “farm-style” buildings. Yellow and green paint, and tin roofs and windows befit the “style du jour” architecture. (Most builders and architects are on the same design page, in the same design book.*) It is ugly and inappropriate.

(Photo/Dan Woog)

How did this type of  renovation (certainly not an improvement) get past avoid the town’s guidelines?  Yikes.

Are there any architectural guidelines for Westport?  The architectural charm of Westport is being devastated.

They ruined Sconset Square too, which used to be charming and New England-y. Now it resembles just another somewhat upscale strip mall, with tin roofs and black-appearing windows. I know it is still under construction but…

Sconset Square (Photo/Dan Woog)

Not to mention the sketch I saw of the the former Westport Inn (aka Delamar Westport).

At this rate, I don’t have high hopes for rejuvenating Main Street either. I think those uninspired strings of lights along both sides of Main Street more closely resemble the rows of lights strung up for a week above street fairs in the city. There’s nothing wrong with that, but for me those undistinguished strings of lights do not convey any artistic, unusual or thoughtful way to light our Main Street, in this still artistic and talented town. Did anybody consult a resident or local lighting professional (perhaps theatre or movie lighting) for advice?

Then there’s the chain link fence at Veterans Green. Seriously? One  might want to have that special place accessible.

Speaking of Myrtle Avenue: Whoever will be doing it better be very careful restoring Town Hall, and not messing up the exterior or interior.

And speaking of interiors: I hope the current interior decorating fad in public buildings will fade soon. Restaurants for some perverse reason seem to follow along lamely, with hard surfaces everywhere. The noise level is through the roof. Sound reverb requires everyone to speak LOUDLY. Seating is hard, not comfortable. The high bar stools are not for everybody — maybe in a corner of a bar, but not in a restaurant.

Restaurant ambiance is more than the food; it involves comfortable seating, and conversing in a normal tone, not yelling as at a sporting event.

*Design book: Look at all the houses built c. 2003-2005-ish, with faux Palladian windows. Is there really only one architectural design book? It’s cheaper that way, and it shows. I can only imagine what our most skilled and creative architects must think as they see these things…

Westport Values On Display Downtown

The sign went up quietly recently, on the bank of the Saugatuck River by the Taylor Place parking lot.

(Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Under the heading “Westport Values” — and above photos including a multiracial family, one with 2 dads, an Asian American woman and a resident in his 90s — the text says that our town is “committed to fostering a civic culture that provides the equitable respect, belonging and treatment of all citizens, students, employees and visitors by its populace, government, schools, business and organizations.”

It mentions “races, ethnicities, religions, genders, abilities and LGBTQIA+,” but notes that the town’s civic culture commitment is not limited to those groups.

It adds: “Building on the richness of the past while acknowledging the challenges of its history, the Town of Westport commits to proactively making the town genuinely welcoming and inclusive.” (Click on or hover over the photo below to read the full statement.)

(Photo/Dan Woog)

A QR code brings up the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion page on the town website.

(Photo/Dan Woog)

Many residents don’t know the sign is there, or haven’t noticed it.

A few have contacted “06880” to applaud it. The town is taking a firm stand, they say, in a very public place.

A few others are not thrilled. They consider it unnecessary, or unnecessarily woke.

The sign is part of a continuing effort to add historical balance to town markers, and address past exclusions. Plaques have already been placed behind Town Hall, and on Elm Street near what was once a thriving African American neighborhood.

The new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion plaque by the Saugatuck River. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Roundup: Green Acre Teardown, Tax Help, Ukraine Aid …

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Westport teardowns happen so often, they’re not news.

This one might be.

A 5,400-square foot, 5-bedroom, 4 1/2-bathroom 1930 Tudor at 36 Green Acre Lane — well known by visitors to nearby Haskins Preserve — will be demolished soon. A 180-day waiting period set by the Historic District Commission has expired.

Westport Journal reports that property was sold in 2020 for $2,570,000. 

36 Green Acre Lane will be demolished soon.

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Who you gonna believe?

The sign on Jersey Mike’s says “Permanently Closed.” A couple of screen shots on social media show the Westport location as “Temporarily Closed for Renovation.” The app and website list it along with all the others as open.

Meanwhile, the phone rings there, but no one answers.

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It’s late March. April 15 — Tax Day — is closer than you think.

Help is closer than you think too — at least, for preparing your forms.

No-cost, full-service tax preparation assistance is available, with special attention to seniors and low- to moderate-income households.

The program — offered by Westport’s Department of Human Services, through VITA/IRS volunteers — includes both personal counseling by appointment at Town Hall and the Senior Center, and virtually through a secure website.

Counseling at Town Hall is available Mondays (1 to 6 p.m.) and the Senior Center (Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursdays from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m.). Appointments are required; call 860-590-8910.

Click here for the virtual option.

The free Tax Assistance Program is available to all individual filers regardless of income or age. Last year, more than 5,000 returns were prepared and filed – almost all electronically – by the counselor group that services Westport. Federal refunds totaling $4,500,000 were received by clients..

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Staples High School Class of 1972 graduates Tom McCann and his wife Mary-Jo Birtwell McCann live on Nantucket now.

But they’re helping Ukraine relief efforts. And they invite Westporters to participate.

For the past 10 days, Mary-Jo shopped and shipped for items to send to 2 refugee centers in Poland. Next week, Tom and 4 others from the island will head to those centers, to assist personally.

Financial support is needed for the mission. Venmo this link, or send a check to: Tom McCann, 35 Hummock Pond Road, Nantucket, MA 02554.

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Speaking of Ukraine: Steve Taranko reports that a recent shipment of tourniquets — donated by generous Westporters and others — has arrived overseas.

Unfortunately, they’re desperately needed.

Tourniquets in Ukraine. (Photo courtesy of Steve Taranko)

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Bob Knoebel — longtime Westport YMCA aquatics director and Water Rats coach — now lives in Idaho. The other day, he traveled east and visited with his own Staples High School swim coach from 51 years ago, Bruce Gardiner.

Bruce is retired, after a long career as director of admissions at Lehigh University. Bob posted a photo on Facebook, adding: “Thanking you properly for being a fantastic coach, and apologizing for the awkward, tongue-tied thank you I delivered at the banquet as team captain in 1971.”

Bob Knoebel (left) and Bruce Gardiner, at Lehigh University.

Bob also sends along an update on his godson Enrique, profiled 4 years ago on “06880”:

He’s graduating from Bates College in May with a double major in economics and Latin American studies, and landed a job at First Republic Bank in San Francisco.

In the Small World Department: He worked remotely from campus this year for native Westporters and Water Rats David and Danny Platow who are at a New York branch of First Republic.

Bob had nothing to do with it, though. Enrique was linked to them by his boss, after interning for her last summer in San Francisco.

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Staples just wrapped up a very successful World Language Week.

Each day began with music related to the Language of the Day — Spanish, French, German, Italian, Latin and Mandarin. Morning announcements (including the Pledge of Allegiance) were made by students, in the language of the day.

Language clubs raised awareness — and funds for less fortunate youngsters in other countries.

The Italian Club, for example, collected $400 for at-risk youths in Napoli. The club  also offered Italian pins, bracelets, lanyards and Italian goodie bags. Grazie! (Hat tip: Bruno Guiduli)

Italian Club members outside the Staples cafeteria, with goodies (from left): Luca Caniato, Bruno Guiduli, David Sedrak, Amanda Rowan, Maisy Weber, Caroline Motyl.

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In September, the Westport Unitarian Church high school youth group embarked on an intensive environmental initiative. The goal was to become more mindful of how everyday decisions profoundly affect the Earth.

That effort culminates next month in a trip to Alaska, to see the effects of climate change close up. Members hope to return both nourished by nature, and awakened to the realization that we live on an amazing planet that we often take for granted.

To help fund their trip, the youth group presents an “Afternoon of Music and Laughter.” It’s this Sunday (March 27, 2 p.m., both in-person at the Unitarian Church and via Zoom). The program includes vocal music, classical piano and guitar, comedy routines and more.

Tickets are $25 each. They’re available at the door, and online (click here).

Unitarian Church high school youth group.

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Thomas Howard, a well-respected economist, lifelong adventurer and Westport resident, died last week while mountaineering in the Adirondacks.  He was 63.

His family says, “Many will remember him for his deep morality, thoughtfulness, loving nature, intellectual capacity, generosity, and playful sense of humor.”

He was born in 1958 in Richmond, Virginia. At both the Highgate School in London and Hopkins School in New Haven he was an avid track and cross country runner, at one point setting the 10K record in Britain for his age group.

At Dartmouth College he studied math under John Kemeny. and became his teaching assistant. He completed an honors thesis exploring the equations and logic required to teach computers to talk. He earned a doctorate in economics from Yale University, where he expanded on an interest in econometrics and completed a dissertation on employment uncertainty under advisor Robert Shiller.

During his 40-plus year career Tom worked as a computer programmer for the Pentagon, a macroeconomist for Fuji Bank, and a consultant for Arthur D. Little and PIRA Energy. He was skilled in forecasting, econometrics, data analysis, and formulating options trading strategies. Other employers included Louis Dreyfus, Statoil and, most recently, the Department of Defense.

Tom was an accomplished mountaineer and hiker. He spent over 40 years climbing some of the most challenging mountains on the globe: ascending Mt. McKinley, Mt. Huascaran in Peru and Xixabangma Peak in the Himalayas, to name a few. He hiked the 273-mile Long Trail in Vermont and the entirety of the 2,000-mile Appalachian Trail, from Maine to Georgia. In October 2021 he crossed the entire White Mountain Presidential Range in one day. Tom aspired to climb the second-highest mountain on all 7 continents. Hw finished the first part of this journey when he scaled Mt. Kenya in the fall of 2021.

Tom is survived by his wife, Zhu Zhang Howard (Julie), and daughters Gwendolyn and Madison Howard. He met Julie while working in New York; they married in 1993, and moved to Westport in 1997. He is also survived by his siblings Margaret Paar of Niantic; James Elbert of Wallingford; Amy Howard Chase of New Rochelle, New York; Mary Howard of Branford; Martha Howard of Guilford, and Emily Howard of Washington, DC, plus many nieces and nephews.

Visitation hours at the Courtyard Marriott, 474 Main Street, Norwalk will be tomorrow (Friday, March 25, 5-8 p.m.). A Funeral Mass will be held Saturday, (March 26, 11 a.m., St. Luke Church), and can be viewed via livestream. A reception will follow to celebrate his life. Masks are recommended.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in the name of Tom Howard to Search and Rescue of the Northern Adirondacks, benefitting search and rescue efforts in the Northern Adirondacks, or St, Luke Church.

Thomas Howard

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Today is pretty gray. Two days ago, dogs romped on Compo — as our “Westport … Naturally” feature shows. Their time is limited though. On April 1, they’re banned from the beach for 6 months.

(Photo/Cathy Malkin)

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And finally … in honor of Staples High’s World Language Week (story above), and the fundraising work of the school’s Italian Club, here’s a song everyone loves:

Pic Of The Day #1724

Everyone is welcome at Town Hall. (Photo/Doug Tirola)

CORRECTION: Dueling Tree Lightings Are December 3

This morning’s Roundup noted that 2 tree lighting ceremonies are December 2. In fact, both the Wakeman Town Farm and Town Hall events are Friday, December 3.

The Town Hall lighting begins at 5 p.m. The Staples High School Orphenians will sing.

The WTF lighting starts at 4:30, and features music, cocoa, cookies and a bonfire.

See you at one — or both!

Wakeman Town Farm tree lighting, in 2019. Last year’s event was canceled, due to COVID.

Roundup: Dodge-a-Cop, Tree Lighting, Uber Discount …

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Police officers and Staples High School students battled last night. For 2 hours in the fieldhouse, they hurled objects at each other.

It’s all good.

The event was Dodge-a-Cop. The annual dodgeball tournament is a fundraiser for Toys for Tots — and a great way to get police and teenagers working together. Each student team included at least one officer.

Dodge-a-Cop was organized by the Westport Youth Commission and Staples’ Teen Awareness Group.

There were no arrests.

Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas (2nd from right) and RTM member Andrew Colabella (far right) joined in the fun. (Photo courtesy of Westport Police Department)

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Dueling tree lighting ceremonies!

Both the town of Westport, and Wakeman Town Farm, will do the honors on Friday, December 3.

The Town Hall event begins at 5 p.m. The Staples High School Orphenians will sing.

The WTF lighting starts at 4:30, and features music, cocoa, cookies and a bonfire.

If there are any other tree lightings that day, please let us know.

The Town Hall tree, in 2018. (Photo/Dan Woog)

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Speaking of the holiday season: What a time for parties, celebrations and fun!

Not time for drinking and driving afterward, though.

Smart imbibers know that one way to avoid arrest — or worse — is to call Uber. Now — thanks to the Connecticut Department of Transportation Office of Highway Safety — you can get a $10 discount off that potentially life-saving ride.

And it’s available every day from now through January 14, between 5 p.m. and 4 a.m. The discount code is: SaveTheNightCT.

Put that code in your phone now. It may be harder to find when you need it the most.

This program comes thanks to a grant from the Governors Highway Safety Association, in partnership with Uber. Connecticut is one of only 5 states to receive the funds.

For more information, click here.

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Anaiza Morales moved to Westport only 2 months ago, from New Jersey. But it didn’t take her long to get involved in her Westfair neighborhood.

Impressed by how much fun everyone had on Halloween, last Sunday she organized a chili crawl/cook-off.

Anaiza met new neighbors, and their college-age kids and mothers in for the holiday weekend. They shared food and stories, while walking around the neighborhood (in perfect weather).

It was a blast. And people who did not have a chili recipe brought dessert.

The competition was close. Only .6 of a point separated the top cooks (as calculated by a young engineer). The winner: Wendy, with Brazilian feijoada.

Enjoying the chili (and warm weather) in the Westfair neighborhood.

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MoCA Westport’s current exhibition – “When Caged Birds Sing” — features 8 life-size sculptures by the late Westport artist Ann Weiner. They represent women’s rights activists who survived abuse because of their gender, yet still advocate for the rights of others at risk.

In conjunction with this important exhibit, MoCA hosts 3 human rights experts for a panel discussion at 6 p.m. on December 2:

  • Claudia King, from Connecticut’s Human Anti-trafficking Response Team
  • Cadence Pentheny, coordinator, community and corporate learning, LGBTQ+ Training Institute, Triangle Community Center
  • Jamie Rubin, Southwest regional manager, Connecticut Commission on Human Rights & Opportunities.

The event is free, but pre-registration is required (click here). Attendees who arrive early can grab a beverage at Bar MoCA. Guests can stay after the event to watch a documentary associated with the exhibition.

Part of MoCA’s “Caged Bird” exhibition.

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A memorial service for Julie Belaga — the former state representative, regional EPA administrator and Export-Import Bank director who died Friday — is set for December 19 (10 a.m., Westport Library). All of Julie’s friends and admirers are welcome.

Julie Belaga

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Two days ago, our Roundup featured 2 intriguing photos. Both showed a fancy women’s shoe, abandoned at Compo Beach. In one shot, it lay on the ground; in the other, it was perched on a railing.

That shoe sure gets around. Here’s a third image:

(Photo/Indrani Basu)

It sure gets around. If you see it on the cannons — or anywhere else — let us know.

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“Westport … Naturally” celebrates Turkey Day with, of course …

Dogwood Lane buck. (Photo/Eric Roth)

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And finally … 5o years ago today, hijacker DB Cooper parachuted from a Northwest Orient Airlines plane over the Pacific Northwest, with $200,000 in ransom money. He has never been found.

Click here for full details. Click below for DB Cooper’s song.

Friday Flashback #271

Every resident knows the handsome building on Myrtle Avenue as Town Hall.

Residents with long memories remember it as Bedford Elementary  School.

But no one — at least, I don’t think anyone — recalls when the entrance looked like this:

That’s the view Gloria Gouveia found at an online auction.

She was outbid at the last moment for the painting.

Let’s hope the winner has as fond memories of the school as its many graduates do.

Pic Of The Day #1621

Last night’s moon over Town Hall (Photo/Tomoko Meth)

Roundup: 3rd Moderna, Modern Thermometer, Polestar EVs …

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The Westport Weston Health District will host a “3rd dose” Moderna vaccine clinic — for moderately and severely immunocompromised people — on September 10 (1 to 4 p.m., Senior Center).

Appointments can be scheduled here. Bring your vaccination card to the appointment.

The CDC’s additional dose recommendation includes people who have:

Been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood

Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system

Received a stem cell transplant within the past 2 years, or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system

Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency

Advanced or untreated HIV infection

Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that suppress an immune response.

To learn more, speak with your healthcare provider. Click here for the CDC website.

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Polestar2 — an all-electronic vehicle — is giving test free test drives to the public. From now through Sunday (11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.), they’re doing it at Bedford Square.

If you’ve never driven a fully electric vehicle, this is a great. chance. Everyone is welcome — so long as you have a driver’s license!

Polestars, at Bedford Square.

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On Wednesday, Bob Weingarten went to Town Hall, for house research.

Usually he signs in at the front desk, and heads to the Town Clerk’s office. This time, he was asked for a temperature check — and to do it himself.

There’s a device, just inside the main door. Stand in front, and get a readout.

I haven’t been in Town Hall in months. I don’t know if this is new and noteworthy, or not news. It could be cool — or a story like George H.W. Bush’s surprise at how a supermarket scanner works.

You be the judge. I’m just passing along Bob’s photo.

(Photo/Bob Weingarten)

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2003 Staples High School graduate Jesse Levin owns the Readiness Collective — an emergency training club and outfitter in Norwalk. Earlier, he opened a pop-up shop in Bedford Square.

After the chilling news from Afghanistan, Jesse turned the Collective into am ad hoc volunteer emergency operations center, to facilitate emergency evacuation efforts.

We have turned our training club, The Readiness Collective into an ad hoc volunteer emergency coordination operations center to facilitate efforts under way for emergency evacuations in Afghanistan.

Professional logistics and disaster response experts on site help guide volunteers on how to contribute. They’re tied in with working groups on the ground, and assisting from abroad.

Recent efforts include the expatriation of 20 targeted Afghan nationals and their families to Uganda, critical medical advice provided to parents of a young girl injured by a tear gas canister and unable to reach medical help, and the development of overland evacuation plans for wide distribution.

Jesse’s Collective needs help and support. “Just bring a computer and a willingness to dig in,” he says.

Offices are in the SoNo Collection (just off I-95 Exit 15 in Norwalk, Level II0. Questions? Email ready@readinesscollective.com, or call 203-275-7297.

Jesse Levin, providing aid in Puerto Rico.

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Sure, Westport Book Shop is the go-to for “pre-owned” (okay, used) books and more — including music.

But they also run an online store. It’s got a selection of new, sealed CDs, in categories from pop and oldies to classical and jazz.

Click here to browse the online selections.

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Three attorneys at Westport-based FLB Law have been named to the Best Lawyers in America list.

The FLB honorees are managing partner Stephen P. Fogerty, and attorneys Alan S. Rubenstein and Leslie E. Grodd.

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Seen the giant sunflower at Viva Zapata?

The restaurant’s Sam O’Mahony explains today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo, growing out of the 2nd-floor window boxes:

“We didn’t plant sunflowers this year! We’re assuming a bird dropped it up there last summer from our garden in the side yard.”

(Photo/Sam O’Mahony)

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And finally … in honor of Town Hall’s new temperature scanner: