Waiting on Obama: Action on Beachside, not the beach
The buildup to President Obama's visit to Westport began with an emphasis on security Monday afternoon, as a handful of Westport police squad cars circulated around movie producer Harvey Weinstein's waterfront estate on Beachside Avenue.
Law-enforcement personnel, closely monitored adjacent Burying Hill Beach for interlopers, and kept the beach closed to the public all Monday as a security measure.
The size of law-enforcement and security teams in and around Weinstein's property grew throughout the afternoon. A phalanx of Secret Service agents arrived on foot at Weinstein's home around 2 p.m. after apparently arriving by boat at Burying Hill Beach.
Preparations for Obama's visit piqued the interest of walkers, joggers and drivers who passed by the estate on exclusive Beachside Avenue throughout Monday afternoon and into the evening. Knots of people gathered along the road to wave to the president's motorcade as it rolled by about 7:30 p.m.
"I think he's done well given that he's faced a lot of headwind, especially from recalcitrant Republicans in Congress," Dennis Ray said. "When you see what he's been able to accomplish in foreign policy matters where he hasn't had to rely on Congress as much, that gives you an idea of what he would be able to do with a more amenable House and Senate."
By mid-afternoon, a small group of spectators had congregated at the entrance to Burying Hill Beach.
"It's cool to have the president come to my town," said Robby Herman, a Staples High School 2011 graduate and sophomore at the University of Southern California. "It's exciting to have the spotlight on our town."
But not everyone was pleased about the president's fundraising visit.
"F--- Obama," muttered a middle-aged man as he jogged past Weinstein's home.
The closure of Burying Hill Beach and Sherwood Island State Park for the president's visit -- which drew political fire from state Republicans -- forced some visitors to those beaches to change plans and head instead to Compo Beach.
Gazing at Long Island Sound under the shade of umbrellas at Compo Beach, Connie McCormack and her husband, George, said they were unfazed by having to rework their plans for the day.
"It turned out to be a beautiful day here," Connie McCormack said. "I like him, and I support him. I hope he has a lovely dinner." Describing himself as undecided about how he would cast his ballot in November, George McCormack also said he was pleased the president was visiting town.
"I'm very glad that he came to Westport," he said. "I'm not an Obama `fan,' but I still like him."
Camilo Rosario, of Manhattan, and a group of friends from New York City, also made an unplanned visit Monday to Compo Beach after discovering Sherwood Island was closed.
"I support the president's visit," he said. "But I wish I had known about it beforehand. It could've been better publicized. That would've saved us a trip to Sherwood Island and saved us some money on gas."
But the closure of Sherwood Island State Park hardly marred the group's outing, he added.
"I think we'll be coming back here," he said. "We'll have to add this to list."
Nodding her head, Rosario's friend, Luci Ramirez, signaled her agreement. "Everything turned out fine coming here," she said. "Actually, I think I might actually like it here better."