Sitting in the Fairfield University Bookstore, Michael Nayor recalled his thirty-seven years spent in Westport, Connecticut. Describing the town’s restaurants and theaters, he said Westport had a vibrancy he couldn’t resist.
“It was really an amazing place,” he said. “It was electrifying.”
But, those are not the choice words he uses today.
“It’s dead as a doornail,” he said. “You look at the main street downtown - it’s terrible.”
Nayor and others became frustrated by the “lack of action” as they percieve it in downtown improvements. As a result, they created the Coalition for Westport, the town’s newest political party. Formed about one year ago and officially recognized as a party in February, the party aims to focus on planning and zoning issues in support of a downtown makeover.
“We want to be a counter to those who essentially advocate for doing nothing,” he said. “Change is necessary.”
Some items the party has recently supported include the recently approved multi-million dollar library expansion and the Compo Beach Site Improvement Committee.
So, how do residents look upon the new addition?
Resident Sal Liccione welcomes the group, saying Westport needs to become more business friendly.
“We need to not have our town shut down at 7 o’clock every night,” he stated, referring to the town’s lack of movie theaters and late-night restaurants.
“Westport doesn’t have a problem attracting business,” he continued. But, he said many of those businesses don’t have a long life-span. He thinks that government assitance in the form of stipends and other tax incentives could make a big difference.
But not everyone shares the sentiments of Liccione and Nayor. Resident Steve Silver has lived in the neighborhood for more than ten years: “I just want people to stop saying this is the old Westport - or this is the new Westport,” he said. “It’s the same city and this is a wonderful town.”
And as the owner of Silver of Westport, he thinks downtown change should start with the owner, saying its the landlord’s perogative.
“I don’t think taxpayer dollars should go to fixing up main street or anything,” he said. “I think it should be done by the people making the rent.”