This may sound odd to you, but even though I don't live in Westport CT, I feel like I grew up there and want to protect my sister's quaint town of Westport, CT. Home to Paul Newman and so many other artists and actors of years gone by. Did you know Lucy and RIcky lived there ( In TV LAND that is). It is small town USA...that is until the developers RUIN it. Lisa used to be on the board of Zoning there many moons ago..and believe me, is SO sorry she isn't right now. Lisa, a local radio show host, is also an active attorney and will not take this lying down. These cowards..yes cowards..waited until people like Don Imus were on vacation..to make the move. Wait till IMUS HEARS ABOUT THIS! He lives there too! ( I say that because he has a big voice and influence in the world and would hopefully try to squash them like the bugs they are!) The long and short of the story? They want to build 60 foot building in the middle of a town of 1-2 story building and ruin the character of the town. HAS THIS HAPPENED WHERE YOU LIVE? PLEASE email us asap if it has. The NYT and other newspapers MIGHT consider the story if she can show a pattern. Here, the pattern is, the decision makers brought it up for a vote WHEN EVERYONE WAS ON VACATION so no one would know and they would sneak it by. That is how some towns in our country get ruined. By greedy real estate developers who have their hands in everyone's pockets so to speak. Anyway..read for yourself the evidence Lisa has provided. She is doing this FREE with no personal interest except SAVING HER TOWN. Please help? Tell anyone you know from Westport CT to SHOW UP. That's what we all need to do when an injustice is being done to you right? That's what our parents tought us, right? FIGHT FOR WHAT'S RIGHT. Fight for those who can't. Please read on...
It is an open secret that the chairman of the Westport Planning and Zoning Commission has been meeting this summer with a small group of Westport landlords to create proposals to radically transform Wesport's small downtown Main Street business district. The Text Amendments on the table include proposals for 6 story, 60 FOOT HIGH buildings to go up in the middle of downtown. They include proposals for a new " overlay zone", an entirely new concept, which removes setback and height restrictions. They include proposals to increase the square footage of commercial space from 10,000 square feet to 50,000 square feet. Now we discover that Mr. Corwin is actually a paying member of their group, called Downtown Activist. http://bit.ly/nLBbfS . Mr. Corwin ought to recuse himself from a vote on these proposals given his obvious bias on the issue. P & Z Commissioners sit in quasi-judicial capacities during public hearings. Mr. Corwin has prejudged these text amendments and ought not to vote. He has abdicated his responsibility to be an impartial commissioner who would fairly hear both sides of the issue during the upcoming hearing on September 8, 2011.
If you haven't heard about this, it's most likely because The Westport News and The Minuteman are not covering the story. I leave it to you to speculate on the reasons for that. Thank you to theWestport Patch for alerting me to this entire situation. http://westport.patch.com/articles/paving-paradise Had it not been for the journalistic prowess of Chandra Niles Folsom, I would not have known about this. And I host a daily talk radio show. You can see that an effort has been made to keep this under the radar.
In a recent article in Fairfield Business Journal http://westfaironline.com/2011/15742-in-wesport-an-active-voice-for-business/, Mr. Corwin is even quoted as saying, "There is no question there is a widespead community sentiment that the downtown area needs a makeover." Widespread Community Sentiment? Sure, if the "community" is a small group of landlords who raised their rents so high in the good years that many small businesses were forced to flee or close. But last time I checked, the word community was more inclusive than that. Community actually means the people who moved to Westport because they LIKE the downtown the way it is. They LIKE the fact that downtown has a small, pedestrian-friendly feeling, with open sidewalks and low buildings. They moved to Westport BECAUSE of the small-town feeling, not in spite of it.
And how exactly would Mr. Corwin be able to judge such "widespread community sentiment"? On the basis of an anonymous poll taken on the Downtown Activist site, admittedly funded by landlords who have the greatest economic stake in increasing the square footage and density of their properties? The first chance that anyone in the community will have to voice their concerns is on September 8th, which has not even occurred yet. Clearly Mr. Corwin has already made up his mind.
The main argument in favor of these proposals that I heard was that there was a "lack of economic vitality" in downtown Westport. Hello? There is a lack of economic vitality in this country right now, a situation which has existed for at least two years and may persist. This economic downturn is not exclusive to Westport. Nor can it be attributed to the zoning requirements.
Second, the perceived lack of economic vitality is due more to the lack of diversity in the downtown shopping district than any other factor. What is missing from our downtown? Hmmm. Here is my short list- feel free to add.- Bookstore (there used to be three), Movie Theaters (there used to be four, none in higher than a two-story building), Grocery Store (Gristede's- before my time), Hardware, Gas Station, Bagel Cafes... Moreover, the Westport Y and the Post Office (!) are actually leaving downtown! Without the Y and the Post Office, the only reason to go downtown will be to shop. A real downtown is not merely an outdoor shopping mall. That is what is being overlooked in this discussion.
There are mutliple ironies in these proposals. One, of course, is that the landlords are bringing these proposals to increase square footage when people can't afford the rents that exist right now. Two, the landlords arguably caused the problem because they raised the rents so high that only large, non-local chainstores could afford to move in. Those managers do not support local charities, they do not have a hand out for our community and they are not really a part of it in any meaningful way. Contrast the contributions of the Mioli family, owners of Westport Pizza, with the owners of the Gap, Banana Republic and Brooks Brothers. Who do you think gives more to our community? Not even a contest.
The third irony is that one of the leaders in this effort is David Waldman, who bought up the Y property and intends to transform its use into more commercial and retail space. Will he diversify use with space he controls? We don't know- and he doesn't have to tell us. Nevertheless, he and others are seeeking to increase the maximum square footage of their buildings from 10,000 feet to 50,000 square feet. A five-fold increase. You do the math.
Moreover, Gordon Joseloff, Westport's First Selectman is a member of the family that closed the last movie theaters in town, transforming their property into Restoration Hardware. If the leader of this town cares so much about diversity of use, the answer lies not in building more and higher buildings, but in creating economic incentives to transform the buildings we already have.
At the recent P & Z meeting I attended, the only people who sat at the table with Ron Corwin and Ellie Lowenstein (the former Chair of the P & Z) were three landlords, one landlord employee, Larry Bradley, who works for the Town, and two consultants. I think Jonathan Steinberg was there too, our Westport Representative in Hartford who sits on a board that has a financial interest in this project. Not one member of the general public was at that table. Almost everyone who spoke had either a direct financial interest in seeing their property wealth increase, or stood to earn money from the town.
The fundamental problem with re-zoning a downtown so dramatically is that once the buildings go up, they don't go down. The Wright building, on the corner of the Post Road and Route 33,at the edge of town, is universally regarded as a huge mistake by the planners of Westport. They let it go up and now we all have to live with that ugly eyesore. The only good result to come out of that edifice was the community's response to it, which was to write zoning laws to (theoretically) prevent it from happening again. If a six story building is built to house the "next great arts center", who is to say it will be economically viable? What if that, too, goes under, just as so many worthy ventures have not been able to thrive? The town is stuck with another problem, this one right in the middle of downtown.
I was scared when I attended that recent meeting. I was scared to lose the downtown essence that I love, a main reason for moving here 22 years ago. I was scared when I heard Ron Corwin say "This is just a foot opening the door". What more might he have planned, that we haven't even seen yet? I was scared, because this movement is organized and determined. They said as much during the meeting, noting that they only had until November to get this done.
Town activists lost a brutal and expensive battle when the P & Z decided to allow Mahackeno Camp to become a new Y, leaving a gaping hole in the downtown district. The wounds are still fresh, and many are disheartened. I understand and share their frustration, and their pain. Were I sitting on that P & Z Commission, I would have rejected that proposal, but my time on that Commission had passed. Nonetheless, this battle is just as important. We, the vigilant soldiers who love our town, must attend this meeting on September 8th and make ourselves known. We need to elect leadership in November that will reflect our vision of Westport, one which is in accordance with the Town Plan, and not in accordance with the view of a few myopic , shortsighted developers. It's too easy to sit on the sidelines and complain when the buildings go up. The time to act is now.
Please sign and circulate this petition I have written with respect to these text amendments. http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/713/944/407/ "We, the undersigned, oppose Text Amendment 637, which would permit 60 foot high buildings in downtown Westport, CT, create a new "overlay zone", and increase square footage of certain commercial buildings from 10,000 square feet to a maximum of 50,000 square feet.
We would very much appreciate your support. There is urgency to this request because this Amendment is being heard on Thursday, September 8, 2011 at Westport Town Hall at 7:00 PM. We will present this petition at that hearing. Thank you very, very much."
I'll see you at 7PM on September 8th at Westport Town Hall, 110 Myrtle Avenue, Westport, CT 06880. If it can happen here in Westport, CT, it can happen in your town too. We don't want Bedford Falls turning into Pottersville.
Hello everyone. Bobby and I just came back from a fabulous trip to London. We went to visit our friends Robbie and Ayda Williams and to see Robbie and his band, Take That play two incredible shows at Wembley Stadium. I can't even begin to tell you what a great time we had. The British people were amazing and they love Americans. While there we did a lot of tourist type activities, including visiting Windsor Castle, sightseeing and of course we shopped at Harrods. I also ate so much fish and chips I almost had to swim the Atlantic Ocean to get back home!
We flew Virgin America Upper Class and it was fabulous. They no longer have spa services, but they did provide us with access to their Upper Class Lounge at Heathrow. Also, when you fly in Upper Class you go through a private security line for boarding so there's no wait. Here's a travel tip for you. If you are buying duty free make sure you do it at least an hour and half before your flight is scheduled to depart. I waited too long to make my purchases and the duty free was closed to my flight. Apparently they have one person who brings everything that people have purchased to the plane and once he has left he cannot come back. Duty free is then closed to the flight.
When I got home I filmed an episode of Iron Chef America on Food Network where I am a guest judge. It was so much fun. I can't tell you much else at the moment as the episode won't air for awhile. I will tell you though that I am on my way to being an official foodie.
On tonight's episode you see me having a brain scan. I was actually surprised to find out that my memory is above average. In hindsight, I guess I do have a pretty good memory. I just lack focus sometimes and that causes me to forget things. This is something I constantly have to work on. While I was having the brain scan I kept asking Sonja questions about why she didn't want to be in Luann's video. It wasn't important if she wasn't in the video, but I could sense she wasn't being honest. Luann and Sonja have been friends for over ten years. It was important to Luann and sometimes you have to do things for other people. Even if she just went to Atlantic City to show her support for Luann it would have been better than not going. Bobby took the day off and drove two and a half hours to be there. Cindy came down later in the day and even though she wasn't in the video, she was there for Luann. It's a shame that Bravo chose not to show that.
I'll leave it up to you to decide whether Ramona's argument about parenting styles with Luann was valid considering the scenes Ramona has done over the past four years. The hotel scene with Mario, turtle time, just to name a few. I have my opinion and I'm sure you have yours. My daughter was not embarrassed to see me in an evening gown, sitting in the back of a limo or lounging by a pool in a robe. After all, it's not like I was in lingerie rubbing my husband's feet.
My jaw dropped when I heard Simon refer to Luann as Countess with the O removed. See you next Tuesday? OMG! What a horrible thing to say about your cast mate and friend of the last four years. Once again we see Alex defending the indefensible when she gave in and agreed about the boys being able to drink when they are seventeen years old. I also hope Alex was kidding when she said the word "class" was forbidden in her household. Why would "class" be forbidden but yet Countess without the O is acceptable?
It was a nice to see Ramona sharing a moment connecting with Avery doing something she enjoys. The Hip Hop dancing looked like a lot of fun and it was nice that Alex and Sonja joined in.
I thought it was great to see Alex and Simon having a party in support of the arts. What a great thing to do. I saw the hurt look in Simon's eyes when Mario made that comment about Brooklyn. Alex and Simon were trying so hard to impress their friends by hosting the art exhibit in their home. Even Ramona was embarrassed.
We had such a good time making Luann's video in Atlantic City. It was much more work than I expected but still fun. I wish Luann nothing but the best with her music career. I would like to thank Jersey Murray who was the stylist for the video. You saw him on the episode. He did such a great job. He just started his own agency blackicemanagement.com. I wish him great success. You can also follow him on Twitter @stylebyjersey.
I wanted to give a mention to Patti Dvorak who was helping me paint my apartment a few episodes ago. She is GIFTED and available to travel all over the world. Please check her out at http://pattidvorak.com. Â
One more episode to go! Please send me any healthy, summer recipes you would like me to share with everyone or any other ideas you may have for this newsletter. You can write to me at Jill@JillZarin.com.
I'm very proud to announce that my mother, Gloria Kamen will be making her first solo speaking engagement and book signing for Secrets Of A Jewish Mother, Sunday, November 14 from 2:00pm - 3:30pm at Barnes & Noble in Boca Raton, Fl. See details below.
Gloria will be glad to give you advice, talk about the book and sign your copy of the book. She is very excited about meeting you so I hope all of you in the area will show her your support!
Barnes & Noble
1400 Glades Road
Boca Raton, FL
*If you purchase Secrets Of A Jewish Mother while there, be sure to take your receipt to the Book Fair info table and you will receive a raffle entry for each copy of the book purchased."
** Up to 20% of all purchases made to support "Book Fair" will be donated by Barnes and Noble to support Jewish Education for children.