Woog’s World: The more things change, the more they stay the same
It seems like yesterday that we turned the page on the 20th century, and welcomed a new millennium.
It wasn’t, of course. It was 20 years ago.
Soon we head into the third decade of the 21st century. Time flies when you’re having fun, or when you’re just living life in the 06880.
I’ve lived nearly all my life here and if I’ve learned two things it’s this: The more things change, the more they stay the same.
And the only thing constant is change.
No one knows what the new year will bring. I don’t have 2020 vision (ho ho ho), but having spent a lifetime observing Westport and my fellow Westporters, I can tell you some things that may happen. Unless they don’t.
Coleytown Middle School will open on time. The mold will be remediated and preventive maintenance done. Youngsters will return to their school. Teachers will regain office space.
Or they won’t. Delays will mean more months of a mega-school. Like this year, middle schoolers will make new friends. They’ll enjoy the many opportunities offered on a large scale. Teachers will make sacrifices and continue to do magnificent jobs.
The Compo Beach and Longshore snack bars will open with a new concessionaire. Different faces will be behind the counters, but hungry beachgoers, swimmers and golfers will enjoy good food without missing a beat.
Or they won’t. Replacing Joey Romeo will be harder than anyone thought. Beachgoers, swimmers and golfers will go hungry. And everyone looking for umbrellas, beach chairs and 06880-themed logowear will be out of luck.
Long-running construction on Main Street will finally end. Stores on the west side will at last be floodproof. Wooden canopies will come down; the back entrances on Parker Harding Plaza will no longer look like war zones. An exciting array of retailers — many of them locally owned — will fill the refurbished spaces, jumpstarting a downtown renaissance.
Or they won’t. Work will drag endlessly on. Meanwhile, high rents and changing shopping patterns will lead to more vacancies. Downtown will be even less attractive and more ghost-like than it already is.
New apartments, townhouses, condos and senior housing that were built in the past few years will be successfully completed. An intriguing mix of newcomers joins downsizers, filling the hundreds of units that became available. Fears of traffic jams and crowded schools will not be realized; instead, we’ll enjoy dynamic new neighborhoods (and neighbors).
Or we won’t. Developers’ optimistic visions will run smack into reality: Westport is overbuilt and underattractive. “For Rent” and “Space Available” signs will multiply and stay.
After a decade of proposals, a dozen denials and numerous lawsuits, the plan for 187 units of housing on Hiawatha Lane will finally disappear. Summit Saugatuck will at long last face reality: The site is too dense, the opposition too great, and the affordable housing already there too important to continue to fight.
Or it won’t. Relentlessly, the developer presses on. Sewer issues, traffic fears, access worries — who cares? Beleaguered residents and exhausted town officials will battle month after month, meeting after meeting, lawsuit after lawsuit.
The William F. Cribari Bridge controversy will finally be settled. Preservationists and modernization advocates will reach agreement on what to do with the 133-year-old swing span. The next phase in the bridge’s long life will begin.
Or it won’t. Every side will dig in. The state Department of Transportation will throw its weight around. Heated meetings will solve nothing. The bridge will continue to deteriorate and get stuck in the open position, while the cost of whatever lies ahead continues to rise.
Near the bridge, our transportation woes will ease. Trains will run more efficiently and quickly; traffic on I-95 and the Merritt Parkway will benefit from work done this year. As a pleasant side effect, road rage will decrease.
Or it won’t. In fact, trains will run more haphazardly and slowly than ever. Our highways will continue to be clogged, with spillover traffic aggravating drivers everywhere in Westport. Road rage will rise.
Will all, some or any of that happen in Westport? Who knows? My crystal ball is like my iPhone: Cracked.
But I do know this: The sun will continue to rise over Compo in the east, set in the west, and offer some of the most beautiful sights in town. Our schools will continue to excel in the “Four A’s”: Academics, arts, athletics and activities. Westporters will continue to make their voices heard and opinions known about issues large and small, in meetings, online and on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge.
And I know one other thing: Many of these same topics will be discussed a year from now, on the eve of 2021.