Woog’s World: Adding up Westport by the numbers
Westport by the numbers:
1. The ranking of the Post Road/Wilton Road/Riverside Avenue in terms of worst intersections in town. Everything that can go wrong here, does. It seems almost impossible to fix — except that Save the Children has fortuitously moved to Fairfield. David Waldman is helping develop the property. He hopes to buy the old needlepoint shop that sits in the shadow of the Wright Street building, and move it across the street, and further north. Voila! That would open up a turning lane at Wilton Road. It won’t solve the crazy traffic situation there. Then again, it couldn’t hoit!
2. The number of “centers” Westport really has. There’s downtown — which just underwent an important sidewalk-and-lamppost upgrade. But Saugatuck is also a commercial hub, and it too is undergoing a renaissance. In fact, Saugatuck was the original town center, thanks to its railway station and river location closer to Long Island Sound. It was only in the latter part of the 1800s that commerce moved to what is now Main Street.
3. Members of the Board of Selectmen. The first selectman is the winner of the election. It’s a full-time job (or, as current first selectman Jim Marpe proves by showing up everywhere, every day, more than full-time). The second selectman is his or her running mate. It’s part-time, but important. The third selectman is the loser — sorry, runner-up — in the previous election. As you can imagine, it is not the most powerful position in the world.
5. The number of movie theaters Westport once had. There were four downtown: Fine Arts I and II, now Restoration Hardware; Fine Arts III, where Matsu Sushi is; Fine Arts IV, around the back of the 180 Post Road East building, which is across Bay Street from Post 154 restaurant. The one everyone forgets is Post Cinema, which was located in the shopping center anchored by Barnes & Noble.
12. The local Cablevision channel. Its motto is “as local as local news gets” (or something like that). Some people watch it religiously. Others tune in only when there is a blizzard, hurricane or other major weather event. That’s too bad: They do a tremendous job covering this very diverse and interesting county. (Another Cablevision number is 78. That’s the channel for Westport-only telecasts of Board of Education, Board of Finance and other town meetings. The hell with Netflix. This is entertainment at its finest.)
17. The number of years New York Times crossword puzzle editor Will Shortz has been running the Westport Library’s annual contest. This year’s event is set for Feb. 6. Sharpen your pencils (and your brain!).
50. The minimum age of a house that triggers a delay in the demolition process. No one can stop a 50-year-old house from being torn down — or, for that matter, a 200-year-old home — but the six-month stay allows alternatives to be found. Theoretically, anyway.
75. The number of AEDs (automated external defibrillators) the Adam Greenlee Foundation wanted to donate to Westport schools and playgrounds. Citizens responded so generously — and quickly — to an appeal, the life-saving devices are already being installed all around town. Talking about a great public/private partnership!
140. The number of years the Fresh Air Fund has been around. No, Westport has not been a host town for all those years — but we have been helping out for decades. It’s a low-key operation, with a big impact on all who participate — host families, as well as the New York City kids who come here.
157. The number of the house on Riverside Avenue that R.E.O. Speedwagon lived in — and which inspired their song of the same name. Don’t go looking for it now, though. It’s been bulldozed into oblivion.
227. The “original” telephone number in Westport, when Ma Bell went to seven digits. Before that — in the previous system — it was “CA7” (Capital 7). Then came 226, 222, 221, after which all hell broke loose.
1958. The year the new Staples High School was completed on North Avenue. Significantly, it was also the year two enduring Staples institutions began: the Players acting troupe, and the varsity boys soccer team.
185,500. The number of dollars the Board of Finance recently approved to construct a cement walkway from the Compo Beach pavilion to the cannons, and renovate the two basketball courts. That number pales in comparison to another one — several million — that was tossed about a year ago, when the town debated much more massive changes to the beach. Several million is also the number of Westporters who packed several open hearings, demanding that no one take away their right to park their cars directly facing the water.