Thursday, June 08, 2023


Special Reports

Oystering on Mill Pond: Reclaiming a Family Legacy

By James Lomuscio

As Jeff H. Northrop’s motorized raft leaves the shore of Westport’s Sherwood Mill Pond, it heads out into an 83-acre expanse of tidal waters that while shallow, runs deep in Northrop family history. Image
Jeff H. Northrop surveys Sherwood Mill Pond from Hummock Island: “More fun than hedge fund trading.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Gordon Joseloff for

It also heads into a seemingly different time and an alternate Westport — one that’s sun-drenched, breezy and redolent with the scents of a simple New England fishing village, one that belies the modern mansions that surround it.

“It’s a totally different world out here,” said Northrup, 32, on a recent visit.

In a short while, he lands at Hummock Island, a rock that props up a restored 1741-built cottage brought there centuries ago by oxen to house a man who guarded the oyster beds.

WN Wins 16 Citations in State Competition

WestportNow won 16 citations, including seven first place prizes, in the 2016 Society of Professional Journalists Connecticut Chapter Excellence in Journalism competition. The awards were announced tonight at the group’s annual banquet in Orange. Image
One of the photos in Dave Matlow’s first-place photo essay of the 2016 Easter Parade in New York. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for

James Lomuscio won four of the first place prizes for: “Church Filled as Homeless Tina is Laid to Rest;“Old Saugatuck’s Last Neighborhood Fights for Future;” “School Bus Monitor Cut Raises Fears,” and “At 95, Ed Vebell Still Drawing on History.”

The other first-place winners were Dave Matlow for his photo essay “WN on the Scene: NYC Easter Parade;” Gordon Joseloff for “Temple Israel Declares Itself ‘Gun Safe Congregation,’” and Lynn U. Miller for her feature photo “Jetty Walk.”

Lomuscio also won three second-place prizes: “15 Years Later, 9/11 Still Evokes Pain;“Thinking ‘Outside the Bubble’ on Race,” and “Heroin Scourge Affects Westport, Too.” His third-place winners included: “To Dramatize Message, Drunk Driving Victim Turns Playwright,” and “With Saugatuck Booming, Finance Board Oks Master Plan Funds.”

Special Report: Housing Shift — More Apartments, Fewer McMansions

By Tom Condon

Simsbury has two multi-family housing developments in the works that will provide 169 new apartments, of which 36 units will be affordable. Last year a complex opened in Brookfield with 72 apartments, all affordable. A 52-unit complex in Essex will have 16 affordable apartments. Image
The 181-unit Garden Homes development in Simsbury, now under construction, will have 18 affordable apartments. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Tom Condon for

These and similar projects represent two major — if not seismic — shifts in the state’s housing market: away from the heavy focus on larger single-family homes, and toward more multi-family and affordable housing.

In the heady decades after World War II, developers blanketed the countryside with detached single-family houses, small and large, capes and ranches to huge McMansions.

Now the market has changed. Families are smaller. Young people aren’t as interested in owning a suburban home, and are happy, at least for a time, to rent an apartment in a walkable and otherwise interesting city or town center. Many Boomers looking to downsize seek similar situations.

Our New Year’s Gift to Readers Image
The year 2016 saw many changes in Westport and WestportNow was there every step of the way.

Now in our 14th year of publication, we are deeply grateful for the support shown by our growing legion of readers and advertisers. We urge you to support our advertisers and thank them for helping make WestportNow possible. Image
The promotion of Foti Koskinas to chief of police was one of the major Westport stories of 2016. His family pinned on his badge.  (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for

It is with your help that we are able to document day-to-day life in Westport in a way unmatched by any other publication.  With readers not only in Westport but around the world, we are extremely proud to be the No. 1 source of news and information about our town.

As is our tradition, our New Year’s gift to readers is a photo review of the past year, which includes many photos submitted by you. Depicting major events and some not so major, they were all part of life in Westport in 2016. To enjoy, CLICK HERE. Happy New Year!

Gordon Joseloff

2016: A Year of Too Many Goodbyes

By James Lomuscio

Perhaps more than other years, 2016 for Westport was marked by farewells, perhaps too many of them. From those who moved on or retired after long careers to those who died leaving behind larger than life legacies, it seemed like an avalanche of goodbyes. Image
Elliott Landon on eve of retirement: his greatest achievement is people. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Phyllis Groner for

But it wasn’t all losses when it came to those who epitomized the town’s sense of community. Westport also made some positive gains, small steps and large ones, most of them having to do with infrastructure needs and planning for the town’s future.

As the clock ticks down, what follows is’s annual look at highlights of the past year.

Landon Retires

After 17 years at the helm, Schools Superintendent Elliott Landon marched in his final Staples High School commencement late June, saying goodbye as he headed into retirement. Most of the graduates were toddlers when he had arrived in the district.

Behind Connecticut’s ‘Opportunity Gap’

Dollars, Sense and Luck of the ZIP Code: Why education funding in Connecticut is only a small part of its oversized achievement gap

(Editor’s note: The author is a 2015 Staples High School graduate and member of Yale University’s class of 2019. This article first apperared in the Yale Daily News and is reprinted with permission.)

By Rachel Treisman

Yale Daily News


In Hartford, Connecticut, a third-grade class read enough books to earn a pizza party. The excited students piled onto a bus, crossing the Connecticut River to a pizza parlor in East Hartford. One student pointed out the window: “What’s that?” She had never seen a river, recalls current Westport Public Schools Superintendent Colleen Palmer. Shortly after, Palmer visited a third-grade classroom in the affluent town of Weston. A girl told Palmer it was almost her birthday, and Palmer asked what she was doing to celebrate. The answer: her father was taking her to Paris.

In 2015, the Economic Analysis and Research Network, a national economic policy coalition, reported that Connecticut has the largest income gap between the top 1 percent of taxpayers and bottom 99 percent. Perhaps because of this, Connecticut also has the nation’s largest achievement gap among pre-K-12 students.

Consider two districts. This year, suburban Westport, Connecticut, is spending $21,716 per student and, as of 2016, its public schools are ranked first in the state based on factors including academic proficiency, student and parent satisfaction and teacher excellence. The city of New Haven, home to Yale University, spent $19,746 per student this academic year, and its public schools rank 101st out of 118 state districts.

Connecticut data-sharing nonprofit Data Haven found in 2013 that in Greater New Haven, 17 percent of low-income students were reading at grade level as compared to 58 percent of their high-income peers. The Tauck Family Foundation, a private foundation that invests in the development of children from low-income families in Bridgeport, reports that students in low-performing schools are five times more likely to drop out of high school than those in high-performing schools.

Church Filled as Homeless Tina is Laid to Rest

By James Lomuscio

Many in Westport knew of her only as Tina, the homeless woman with long, gray-blonde hair and a limp who regularly asked for money, usually a dollar, in downtown parking lots. Image
Christine Wessel: one of the photos in the program at her service today. James Lomuscio/WN photo

But today as more than 150 filled Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church for her funeral, Christine “Tina” Wessel, 63, became more than just a tragic, homeless statistic.

The Rev. Peter R. Powell, the retired CEO of Homes With Hope, eulogized her as a larger-than-life figure, “Christ in our midst,” challenging the community to do even more to address the needs of homelessness in town.

“We need to transform this community, so that no one else lives and dies the way Tina did,” Powell said.

Gallery: Update on Bedford Square

A look at progress on the Bedford Square project in Westport’s center. The development around the former Westport Weston Family YMCA is mixed use retail, residential, and offices. Anthropologie is the anchor tenant, occupying 40,000 square feet on two floors in the main building. Its space will include a restaurant, Amis Trattoria, a Philadelphia-based restaurant group owned by Urban Outfitters, parent company of Anthropologie. The residential space includes apartments with views overlooking Elm Street and Church Lane. Completion is scheduled for April 2017. photos

WN on the Scene: Art Basel Miami 2016

Art Basel Miami, North America’s foremost international modern and contemporary art fair, takes place at the Miami Beach Convention Center beginning Thursday and runs through Sunday. It is the sister fair to the original Art Basel, founded in Basel, Switzerland in 1970.  Helen Klisser During, artistic director emeritus of the Westport Arts Center and WestportNow contributing photographer, was among VIP guests today getting a preview. Helen Klisser During for

Westport Birders Are Devoted Flock

By Emily Weyrauch

Unlike the majority of visitors to Sherwood Island State Park this summer, Michele Sorensen isn’t there for the sun and the sea. Instead, her sights are set higher—in the sky and up in the trees, on the myriad bird species drawn to the park to breed or feed. Image
Michele Sorensen keeps watch for birds on the beaches at Sherwood Island State Park. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Emily Weyrauch for

Sorensen, the Sherwood Island Nature Center’s liaison, knows it’s more than just gulls when it comes to life on the beach, and is passionate about the park’s ecosystems and avian diversity.

“The longer you hang out,” she said, “the more you see.”

On a recent walk on the park’s East Beach, Sorensen pointed out the wrack line—a green and brown kelp fringe found when the tide recedes. It is where shorebirds pick for washed up crabs and clams. They have to move fast though, as park staff routinely remove the seaweed, grooming the beach for visitors.