Parks officials on Tuesday night reasserted that they have safety concerns about how the Caffeine & Carburetors auto enthusiasts’ gathering at Waveny, even though the deputy chief of police said that the New Canaan Police Department has no such worries.
In fact, Deputy Chief John DiFederico told members of the Parks & Recreation Commission during their special meeting, “We have no issues at all from a police and safety perspective either here in Waveny or downtown.”
“We have worked closely for the past five years with Caffeine & Carburetors and from my perspective they are one of the most organized groups that we have worked with,” DiFederico told the Commission during its meeting, held at Lapham Community Center. “What they bring to the town—the size, the volume of people and the volume of traffic—they work very closely with us, they are very organized, they work with Public Works and with [the Community Emergency Response Team]. They hire as many officers as we need to cover the event. They are open to all suggestions. We have feedback afterwards and talk about how the events go. So work closely with them and from our perspective we have no issues at all from a police and safety perspective either here in Waveny or downtown.”
A show for classic and special car enthusiasts launched by New Canaan resident Doug Zumbach, owner of an eponymous coffee shop on Pine Street, Caffeine & Carburetors was held in Waveny in June. The next Waveny event was to be held Oct. 21, though for scheduling reasons it has been relocated to downtown New Canaan.
At the Commission’s July meeting, Chair Sally Campbell said that organizers failed to adhere to some conditions established for the event in June. They included that exhibiting cars parked on the grass alongside the main road through Waveny, forcing show-goers into the roadway itself, that exhibitors did not all display placards in their windshields, that the number of exhibiting cars exceeded an agreed-upon maximum number and that some show cars left early, driving past people walking in the road.
Following DiFederico’s remarks, Campbell said during this week’s meeting that the Commission is “not here to discuss the merits” of Caffeine & Carburetors, and appeared to say the matter should not be vetted publicly.
“I do not think it’s a discussion for here,” Campbell said, addressing Zumbach. She added that Zumbach and other organizers could meet with Parks & Rec “not at the Commission level, but at the kind of the ‘sub’ level.”
“It is not the place,” Campbell said. “The biggest issue Doug, last time, was we asked you to abide by certain things—one, that every car had a placard on it, so we knew that we were controlling the cars entering park basically were the ones that were registered because we wanted to separate visitor parking from exhibition parking. And there was a snafu and lot of people did not have placard, there were a lot of cars driving though and people walking on the street and it was kind of an unsafe condition in park. And that’s the main thing, we are looking for safety. But I do not want to go into it here. We were going to, if you have this event, we were going to sit and talk to you about it, and the fair place to do it is not at a Commission level.”
Town councilman Sven Englund, a guest at the meeting, asked whether “in the interest of governmental transparency,” the meeting Campbell described would be publicly noticed.
Campbell said, “I can certainly notify people when we do have this meeting. I don’t have an issue with that.”
To her claim that Caffeine & Carburetors is unsafe, Zumbach said, “We disagree. I think it is safe.”
Campbell responded: “We a Commission are looking for the safest event for park. That is our goal.”
DiFederico said it was important to discuss the matter publicly “so we can have some understanding of what your concerns are because in the past five years, as I have said, we do not have any concerns.”
Campbell said that the police officers were not in the park itself during the event, though CERT volunteers were.
Commissioner Francesca Segalas said: “We made agreements, like that people would not be walking on the road so much. People were going to be walking on the paths, but the way cars parked made it impossible for them to do that, so people were forced to walk on the roads and the cars were leaving. We also agreed that they would park and sit tight, they wouldn’t move all throughout this whole exhibition the way they wanted to. And yet when we went to the exhibition there were always cars driving in the road.”