COVID-19 pushed the number of single-family home sales to a record 639. That compares to 356 the previous year.
Including condos, there were 688 residential transactions in 2020. The year prior: 389.
It wasn’t just volume that soared. Check out the MLS graph below, showing the dollar volume of closed sales over the past 3 years. Westport is in blue; Weston is green, Fairfield yellow, Wilton red.
Westport’s median sales price in December was $1,399,000. (Hat tips: KMS Partners and Chuck Greenlee)
Remember the November photo of the driver who zoomed past the fence and up the hill at Burying Hill Beach, parked at the top and admired the view of Long Island Sound?
Either she inspired a copycat. Or — just like the US Capitol on Wednesday — it is now okay to breach every normally accepted rule of behavior that has governed us forever.
Rusty Ford spotted this yesterday. And no, it’s not the same car at all.
Looking for a job?
Bridgewater Associates is looking for an executive chef.
The Westport-based world’s largest hedge fund ran a classified ad in the current Westport News.
The chef will provide catering services for executive-level meals and VIP meetings — over 150 business and social events annual, from small breakfasts to parties for more than 100.
But he or she won’t be stuck in the firm’s 2 offices here (Weston Road and Nyala Farm). Some of the cooking will be done on the VIP yacht.
The ad explains: “International sailing catering services include … creating menus for daily fare and social events; and procuring necessary culinary supplies in ports of call around the world for extensive travel time on the water. Travel to various unanticipated locations domestically and internationally, including onboard VIP yacht, is required.”
Interested? Send your resume to firstname.lastname@example.org, or mail to Bridgewater Associates, 1 Glendinning Place, Westport, CT 06880. Don’t forget the job code: BW55.
Bridgewater’s new executive chef will not be stuck at Westport headquarters.
Westport is a Transportation Leader.
That’s the official title. Our Department of Human Resources received the silver award for our CTrides 2021 Transportation Leaders program.
Earning Transportation Leader status requires an annual commitment by town government to work with CTrides to educate, encourage and incentivize employees to use greener modes.
Westport was recognized for providing commuting and CTrides information to all employees, establishing a telework and flexible work schedule program, and access to electric vehicle chargers at Town Hall.
1st Selectman cited interim Transit District director and RTM Transit Committee member Peter Gold for his support in receiving the award.
And finally … happy 80th birthday to singer/songwriter/activist Joan Baez!
As Marty Fox and Patsy Cimarosa step down as directors of the Westport Transit District, Peter Gold steps up to nominate them as Unsung Heroes of the Week. Last week, he addressed his fellow RTM members:
I want to thank Marty and Patsy for their many years of dedicated service to the Westport Transit District.
Marty Fox (Photo/Ellen Graff)
When I first approached Marty about serving as a director almost 5 years ago, he foolishly believed me when I said the job would not be too time consuming. He signed on for an initial 4-year hitch.
Patsy, the former executive director of the Westport Housing Authority, also signed on, with a primary concern for protecting the Transit District’s door-to-door services for the elderly and people with disabilities.
Together they put in untold hours over the past 4 1/2 years, overseeing the normal day-to-day operation of the Transit System, developing annual budgets and shepherding them through the approval process, setting a high bar with their many accomplishments on behalf of the Transit District and the town.
Here is a list of only a few of their many accomplishments:
They changed the process of dispatching vehicles for door-to-door service within Westport, achieving savings of $100,000 per year.
They worked with the Norwalk Transit District, which operates the buses for the Westport Transit District, to develop better financial information and ridership reports for analysis and decision-making.
They completed 2 Transit District townwide surveys, which achieved high participation rates of 1,500 and 1,700 responses and provided valuable information on citizen attitudes, awareness of the Transit District’s services, demographics and train usage information
They worked with Human Services to evaluate alternative delivery models for door-to-door services. As part of this effort, they developed two RFPs and then evaluated the responses. This process showed that continuation of the current arrangements with Norwalk Transit District is best for Westport
Implemented the myStop app which allowed riders to track locations of shuttles, and developed instructions for using the app tailored to Westport residents.
They successfully applied for continuation of a state matching grant program for door-to-door services in Westport, resulting in $31,600 in annual grants for 2017, ’18, ’19 and ’20.
Worked with other groups in 2017 to ascertain the density of people around WTD routes, and unserved or underserved areas of town. This analysis confirmed that the Transit District’s fixed route structure was reasonable, given the available resources. The area served by commuter shuttles has recently been expanded to nearly the entire town, with the recent change from the fixed route system to the new Wheels2U Westport micro-transit model.
Worked with Rob Feakins, an award-winning advertising executive, to develop several comprehensive integrated marketing programs promoting the WTD, the myStop app, and most recently the new micro-transit system. The programs consisted of emails to railroad parking permit holders, people on the permit waiting list, and Parks & Rec email lists, cards and posters at train stations, Saugatuck coffee shops, the library, real estate agencies and other locations in town, and ads in the Chamber of Commerce directory and on WesrtportNow.com. .
Most recently and most significantly, they developed and rolled out the new Wheels2U micro-transit program. It changes the old, fixed route system of commuter shuttles to an on-demand, door-to-train platform service covering nearly the entire town and more trains during peak commuting hours than the fixed route system it replaces. Since the Wheels2U vehicles travel only where commuters need to go it will be more environmentally friendly, result in shorter commutes to and from the station for many commuters, and lower operating costs for the WTD.
As the end of their terms approached last January, with no new directors to take their places as COVID descended on us all, Marty and Patsy graciously agreed to stay on to continue to supervise the rollout of Wheels2U. Now that Wheels2U has been successfully launched, they want to finally move on.
I’ve worked closely with Marty and Patsy over the past 4 1/2 years. It has been a true pleasure to watch their professionalism, skill and devotion to their tasks.
Congratulations, Marty and Patty. You are true heroes — to commuters, and everyone else in town!
This is Peter Gold’s report on the December Representative Town Meeting. He is an RTM member writing for himself, not in an official capacity.
December’s RTM meeting featured several housekeeping items, and 3 appropriation requests.
Dan Woog’s invocation gave thanks for America’s democratic traditions. He thanked the RTM for all it does for Westport, describing the RTM as ”its own tradition. It is non-partisan. It represents every segment of town. It is unique. It is quirky. It is ours.”
Members then reelected Velma Heller as moderator and Jeff Wieser as deputy moderator for the 4th time, and thanked retiring Town Clerk Patty Strauss for her 23 years of service to the RTM and the town.
The RTM also thanked Marty Fox and Patsy Cimarosa, who resigned as directors of the Westport Transit District, for their nearly 5 years’ service as directors.
The most expensive appropriation was $4,635,408 for a new public safety radio system. The current system is 15 year old, and has parts that can no longer be repaired.
The new system will piggyback on the state’s existing system. making it significantly less expensive than buying a stand-alone setup. The new system enables the Police Department, Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services to communicate together for the first time, and expands the area covered by the system.
$230,000 was approved to repair the seawall along the river at Jesup Green. The project adds a railing atop the seawall to help minimize accidental falls into the river. While the RTM agreed safety should be a priority, hope was expressed that the railing will obstruct river views as little as possible.
Repairs will be made along the Saugatuck River seawall.
The RTM also approved $80,000 for the design and permitting stage of a project to repair the Old Mill walkway and tide gates.
The final agenda item was to appoint a new volunteer director for the Westport Transit District.
Peter Gold, former chair of the RTM Transit Committee (and the author of this article) was nominated, because of his familiarity with the Transit District’s operations. He would resign once the town came up with a plan for the future of the Transit District.
A motion was made to delay appointing a new transit director until February to give the town additional time to decide on a course of action.
While some thought the absence of a director would prod the town to take action more quickly, others noted that a director must be in place now to deal with day-to day operations, including the new Wheels 2U Westport on-demand door-to train station commuter service, and to prepare the Transit District’s budget for the next fiscal year.
The appointment of a director would not prevent the town from formulating its own solution. Based on this, and Gold’s knowledge and experience with the Transit District, he was appointed as a director by a vote of 34 in favor, and 1 abstention.
This morning, the Board of Selectmen approved the Remarkable Theater’s request to continue showing drive-in movies this summer, at the Imperial Avenue parking lot. So far, all 4 shows have been sold out
The very cool addition to Westport’s entertainment scene continues tomorrow (Thursday, July 9) with “Mamma Mia!” and Saturday (July 11), with “The Graduate.” The Dustin Hoffman classic is sponsored by Manna Toast. They offer a $20 movie box meal, which can be picked up at their kitchen behind Cycle Dynamics (near Carvel) that day before the film.
Three more films are set: “Life, Animated” (July 15), “Do the Right Thing” (July 16, in conjunction with TEAM Westport), and “Dazed and Confused” (July 18).
Tickets are now on sale for the 5 movies; click here (and do it quickly!). The parking lot opens at 8 p.m.; showtime is around 9.
Stay tuned for more drive-in movie news. The Remarkable Theater rocks Westport!
A food scraps recycling drop-off area is now open at the transfer station. Residents can bring all scraps, including meat products and bones.
All you need is a lidded container to collect and transport food scraps. Starter kits are also available at Earthplace for $25. They include a 2-gallon lidded countertop pail, 6-gallon transportation bin with lockable lid, and a roll of compostable bags.
It’s all part of Westport’s Zero Food Waste Challenge. For more information, including upcoming events, click here or email ZeroWaste@SustainableWestport.org.
Speaking of food: If you thought about planting an edible garden, but never quite started — it’s not too late!
On Monday (July 13, 7 to 8 p.m., Zoom), Wakeman Town Farm explores 8 veggies and herbs to plant now, to harvest and enjoy from late summer into fall.
The speaker is Kathy Oberman Tracy: WTF board member; Westport Garden Club member and plant sale chair; member of the Herb Society of America, and chef for Martha Stewart, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.
On July 21 (7 to 9 p.m.), Westport Transit will hear public comment on the replacement of its 7 commuter shuttle routes with an on-demand group door-to-service to the Saugatuck and Greens Farms stations.
Passengers would use Norwalk Transit’s app, between 5:45 and 9:45 a.m., and 4 and 8 p.m.
This is different from the on-demand service that replaced the shuttle routes, due to COVID-19.
The hearing will be held remotely. To join, call 646-876-9923, then enter Meeting ID 883 3169 9715. To submit written testimony click here, email email@example.com, or write Westport Transit commuter shuttle changes, 275 Wilson Avenue, Norwalk, CT 06854
For a map of the service area and additional information, click here or call 203-299-5164.
The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp has a strong connection to Westport. Our neighbor Paul Newman founded the summer program for seriously ill children in 1988. Plenty of Westporters volunteer at the Ashford, Connecticut facility. For many, it’s the highlight of their year.
This year, due to COVID-19, youngsters won’t enjoy that amazing experience. But organizers have created innovative ways to the camp’s magic to campers. Facebook Live interactive events like sing-alongs and story times, care packages (with games, arts and crafts projects, and more), and Zoom home and hospital bedside visits are a few of the ways to help kids battling cancer and other life-threatening diseases.
One of the camp’s staunchest friends is Westporter Adam Vengrow. He’s organized a push-up fundraiser. For just $25, anyone can join his team. You can donate too without doing any push-ups.
Click here for details. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
And finally … Beck turns 50 years old today. He is anything but a loser.
Yesterday’s Roundup began with news of the rent reduction promised by local landlords Edward and Joan Hyde, to tenants like Westport Yarns.
Breno Donatti — owner of Winfield Street Coffee on Post Road West — quickly emailed, noting that his landlord, Alon Panovka, also agreed to waive April’s rent. He’ll discuss May when the time comes.
“Alon has been great to us in our 4 years here,” Breno says.
Winfield Deli closed March 17. He may even get credit for part of this month. Thanks, Alon! (Meanwhile, feel free to order gift cards to use when Winfield reopens!)
Some rules don’t change. This April 1 — as always — dogs are no longer allowed on Compo, Old Mill or Burying Hill beaches, or the Longshore golf course. Dogs are of course welcome at Winslow Park.
The Parks & Recreation Department also announces that because it’s uncertain when the beaches will fully open, beach emblem sales are postponed until further notice.
Parks & Rec reminds Westporters not to congregate at parks and athletic fields. “We encourage all to get outside and get some exercise, but please do not gather in groups,” says director Jen Fava.
Sorry, Fido. As of Wednesday, life will no longer include a day at the beach.
Originally, the Westport Public Schools planned a 2-week closure. As it becomes clear that the shutdown will last (probably much) longer, the district is adapting to online education.
For Staples High School students, that means more interaction with teachers, in more manageable blocks of time. It’s a new way of learning, and administrators, staff and students are figuring it out together.
Whether you’ve got kids in high school or not — or none at all — a video from principal Stafford Thomas is, well, instructive. It shows how Staples is adapting; it outlines the promises and challenges, and it’s a vivid illustration of the cascading effects the coronavirus is having on us all. Click below to view.
Real estate agencies often compete for listings and sales. But many came together this week, to help fill a huge need at Yale New Haven Hospital.
A doctor told Sally Bohling they needed Lysol wipes, gloves and shoe covers. The William Raveis realtor called her friends contacted Karen Scott and Mary Ellen Gallagher, of KMS Partners @ Compass.
They put out the word to the Westport realtor community. Quickly, literally thousands of contributions poured in.
The booties idea was particularly inspired. “We aren’t hosting open houses, and the winter weather is behind us. So offering the ones we’re not using was a no-brainer,” Karen says.
Connecticut small businesses and nonprofits impacted by the pandemic can apply for 1-year, no-interest loans of up to $75,000,
The Connecticut Recovery Bridge Loan Program will make $25 million available to state businesses and nonprofits with up to 100 employees. Loans are up to the lesser of either three months operating expenses and/or $75,000. Click here for details.
With sharply decreased train ridership, starting Monday (March 30) Westport Transit will replace commuter shuttles with an on-demand, door-to-platform minibus service. It will operate to and from any Westport location and the Saugatuck and Greens Farms stations.
Calls should be made the previous day before 5 p.m. (Saturday for Monday pickup) for morning commutes, and at least 45 minutes prior to pickup for the evening commute. The phone number is 203-299-5180.
Door-to-door services for seniors and residents with disabilities are unchanged.
It’s a small idea from Hallie and Maya Wofsy, but a great one: Put a red or pink heart on your door. The goal is to show support for all our amazing front-line healthcare workers.
Take a look on your walks through the neighborhood. The hearts are already there. And if you don’t have colored paper or markers, Maya will (very safely) drop one ready-made at your door. Email email@example.com for details.
And finally, when these 2 kids were quarantined in Italy, they decided to play a little Coldplay. On their violins. Their choice of a song — “Viva La Vida” — couldn’t be more perfect.
As Westport students returned to school this week — and parents returned to chauffeuring chores for all those after-school activities — moms and dads who were themselves kids here in the 1970s and ’80s may think back to their Minnybus days.
Back in the day, they were Westport’s cutting-edge (yet diesel-belching) transportation technology. Driving fixed routes (with Jesup Green as the hub), they ferried people — mostly pre-teens and teenagers — around town. At least one parent was known to park kids on a Minnybus for a round-trip or two, using it as a vehicular babysitter.
At least 10,000 youngsters used it as a place to escape home, smoke cigarettes, and/or make out.
Rick Davis was too young to do any of that stuff.
Kids still ride all over town. Today, Uber delivers them from Point A to B much quicker (and more expensively).
But — no matter how entertaining your Uber driver — it’s nowhere near as much fun.
Sam’s mother Blossom took the article to her congressman, James H. Scheuer. His advice: move.
Three months later, the Goodmans bought a house in Westport.
The Bronx was certainly changing. When Sam became a bar mitzvah in 1965, his temple had 3,000 families. Three years later it was sold to Bronx-Lebanon Hospital, for less money than it cost to build — in 1924.
His father Arthur called himself a “Bronx refugee.” Not only were people urged to leave, Sam says. “Police were telling people how not to be victims of crime. Garbage was picked up less often. The city abandoned the parks.”
Bronx borough seal
It was, in New York Housing Commissioner Roger Starr’s famous phrase, “planned shrinkage”: the deliberate withdrawal of city services to blighted neighborhoods, as a means of coping with dwindling tax revenues.
Between 1970 and ’80, Sam says, 303,000 people “disappeared from” the Bronx.
Most people know about the fires, he continues. But most do not realize that landlords paid money to have them set. The insurance they collected was far more than the buildings were worth.
Sam found Westport to be “absolutely amazing — great. People were friendly and outgoing. They enjoyed life. There was a lot of space.”
Coming from an apartment, he thought he lived in a huge house. In retrospect, he realizes, it was small for Westport.
Sam made friends fast. He thrived at Long Lots Junior High School, then Staples.
High school was where he learned to think, and develop a philosophy of life. Principal Jim Calkins encouraged students to stand up for what they believed in.
His parents, and Temple Israel’s Rabbi Byron Rubenstein, were enormous influences too.
The Temple Israel confirmation class of 1969. Sam is 4th from left in the top row, next to Rabbi Byron T. Rubenstein.
Sam’s involvement in Project Concern (bringing Bridgeport youngsters to Westport schools) and the Staples Governing Board (a unique, powerful collaboration between administrators, teachers and students) taught Sam about the importance of being a citizen. Done right, he says, “government works.”
At Kenyon College, Sam majored in political science. After graduation he returned to Westport to take care of his mother, who was sick. He drove school buses, Minnybuses and MaxiTaxis.
Sam earned a master’s in urban management and municipal planning from the University of Bridgeport, then spent 10 years as executive director of the Westport Transit District.
As Westport Transit District executive director, Sam Goodman was in charge of the Minnybus system. The hub and transfer point was Jesup Green.
But Sam could never forget the Bronx — or the political policies that had obliterated it.
In 1995 he got a job as an urban planner for the Bronx borough president. He’s been in that position ever since.
But it’s his side gig — Bronx tour guide — where Sam really shines.
He leads tours for the Municipal Art Society, Art Deco Society of New York, New York Adventure Club and Einstein Medical Center (for new pre-med students).
The tours cover history, architecture, urban planning, the politics and finances of rent control, and more.
Beautiful architecture remains in the Bronx.
As Sam talks, fields questions and shepherds groups in and out of buildings, they’re amazed. “People know pieces of the story,” he says. “But they’ve never heard it all connected. It gives them a new perspective. They can really appreciate what happened.”
Of course — the Bronx being less than an hour from here — Sam has Westporters on his tours.
One woman grew up there, but had not been back in many years. “She wanted to learn,” Sam says. “People told her she was crazy to go the Bronx.”
That’s a common stereotype. But, he notes, folks on his tours “see how pretty it is, and how friendly people are.” One man regularly invites Sam’s groups into his apartment — and gives them chocolates.
The Bronx today.
The “stigma hangover” lingers, though. “People still imagine it as it was in the 1970s and ’80s,” Sam says.
“The median income is low. There are many challenges,” he admits. “But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad place. It’s cleaner. There’s less crime than ever. People here are striving for something beautiful.”
His own co-op — of which Sam is treasurer — just spent $1 million to restore the lobby. Many other apartment buildings are being renovated.
His 1-bedroom is 900 square feet. He has parking, a doorman, and can get to midtown in 20 minutes. You could buy it for $300,000.
Sam Goodman in his Bronx apartment. A poster from Westport’s bicentennial celebration hangs on the wall behind Sam.
Prices like that attract young professionals from Manhattan and Brooklyn. Their mortgage and maintenance is half of what they pay for a small studio there.
Yet if you can’t take the Bronx out of Sam, you can’t remove Westport either.
He still owns the home he inherited from his parents. (He rents it out. A few years ago, he says proudly, his tenants’ twin sons were Staples’ valedictorian and salutatorian.)
Occasionally he takes the train here, rents a car and drives around. Westport, Sam says, “gets more beautiful each year.”
The Bronx tour guide — and one of its biggest boosters — concludes, “Westport still lives inside of me. It gave me the chance to grow into the person I am today.”
That person is a proud Bronx booster. There’s a lot more to the borough than just the Yankees.
Last month, the Board of Finance cut the Westport Transit District’s funding request. The WTD is preparing a restoration request for the Representative Town Meeting. Today, directors Marty Fox and Patsy Cimarosa lay out their case.
The Westport Transit District provides bus service with minibuses operated under subcontract with the Norwalk Transit District. It operates 7 commuter shuttle routes to and from the Saugatuck and Greens Farms rail stations, and provides daytime Door-to-Door transportation for seniors and residents with disabilities. (Information on these services, including routes, schedules and fares, can be found here: WestportTransit.org.)
Westport Transit budgeted about $575,000 in state funding for the commuter shuttles for the 2020 fiscal year starting in July. We requested an additional $238,000 from Westport to cover the remaining cost of the commuter shuttles not covered by fares.
A Westport Transit District shuttle rider.
On March 12, Westport’s Board of Finance cut the Town’s financial support for the commuter shuttles by $115,000, approximately half the Westport support necessary to operate the current shuttle routes for the coming fiscal year. (No changes were made to the Door-to-Door component of the WTD’s FY20 budget.) The Board of Finance affirmed its decision to cut the commuter shuttle funding at its April 3 meeting.
Consistent with the provisions of the Town Charter, the Westport Transit District will ask the Representative Town Meeting to restore the $115,000 in town funding at the RTM’s May 6meeting. Should the cut not be restored, it’s likely that most or all of the town’s commuter shuttle service would be eliminated by the end of the calendar year – and Westport would lose over $500,000 of state support for the commuter shuttles. (Door-to-Door services will not be affected.)
These are also the basis for the WTD’s request to the RTM to restore the full town funding of this community service. Among the reasons is the strong support for fully funding the commuter shuttles expressed by Westport residents in the 2018 townwide survey on Westport’s bus services, completed by 1,700 residents.
Unlike many Metro-North trains, it arrived on time.
Recently — with the help of Police Chief Foti Koskinas and his team — the WTD installed new billboards at the Saugatuck and Greens Farms railroad station.
They’re eye-catching. And clever.
A much-needed route map helps too:
The WTD is also placing 5 x 7 route and information cards all around town: the stations, coffee shops, library, Town Hall and at real estate agencies, to name a few.
Meanwhile, they’ve sent emails to railroad parking permit holders, those on the wait list, and the Westport Parks and Recreation list. Those have generated interest in the WestportTransit.org website, which includes schedules and instructions on how to download the MyStop app. (Yes, it takes you to the Norwalk Transit District site. You’re in the right place.)
The Westport Transit District is making all the right moves to boost ridership.
Plus, those billboards give you something to look at while you wait for that overdue train.
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