Police Commission Approves Sunday Morning Partial Closure of Park Street for Church Services

Town officials voted last week in favor of closing the street in front of the Congregational Church of New Canaan for 90 minutes on Sunday mornings so that the faith community may gather and worship outside while maintaining social distancing. 

The Police Commission voted 3-0 in favor of the measure, which will apply to the short one-way stretch of Park Street atop God’s Acre from 8:30 to 10 a.m. Sundays. Deputy Chief John DiFederico, who received and presented the church’s request to the Commission, called it a “very reasonable request.”

“Most other churches in town have their own property and have the ability to expand outdoors into parking lots and what not, but the Congregational Church does not have that luxury,” DiFederico said during the Commission’s May 20 meeting, held via videoconference. “It is very easy to detour around,” he said. “It is not a state road or anything like that, so it would not be too difficult for us to manage. I don’t even know if we would need to station an officer out at that intersection.

VIDEO: Emergency Responders Roll Out ‘Happy Birthday’ Drive-By’s for Local Kids

Happy Birthday Valentina Chavez Del Campo

On April 20, 2020, members of New Canaan Police, Fire, EMS and Public Works with a Happy Birthday Valentina Chavez Del Campo, age 6. Credit: Michael Dinan

Members of New Canaan Fire, Police, EMS and Public Works on Monday morning sounded their sirens and honked their big horns from emergency vehicles for six elementary school kids on their birthdays. As part of a newly launched birthday celebration effort, the row of public safety vehicles rolled slowly past East School kindergartner Valentina Chavez Del Campo’s home on Cross Street at 10:16 a.m. She appeared in the doorway with her family just as EMTs began serenading her with the “Happy Birthday” song, waving back. Neighbors emerged from their own homes to see what was happening and, on realizing their young neighbor had a birthday, called out “happy birthday,” too. “It’s the least we could do to brighten the spirits of kids in town, and everybody in town, and show people we are still here and there are still positives going on in town that we can collectively celebrate,” said Police Deputy Chief John DiFederico. Others receiving the special birthday salutes Monday included South School kindergartner Alice Duan (six), East School fourth-grader Theodore Pemberton (10), East School kindergartner Spencer Weiner (six), West School third-garden Brady Hibbert (nine) and West School third-grader Jacob Fisher (nine). 

The idea was shared by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi during a recent daily call of emergency operations officials, DiFederico said. 

More celebrations are planned for the 10 a.m. hour.

Town Recommends Reducing Speed Limits to 25 mph Throughout Three Local Roads 

Town officials last week voted to recommend lowering the speed limits on three local roads so that they’re 25 mph throughout. 

The Police Commission voted 3-0 at its June 19 meeting to establish the new speed limit throughout Old Norwalk Road, Wahackme Road and Weed Street. “They should be uniform,” Chairman Sperry DeCew said during the regular meeting, held in the training room at the New Canaan Police Department. “Almost all of them [local roads] are 25 [mph].”

Commissioners Paul Foley and Jim McLaughlin also voted in favor of the change. The change is meant to create more uniformity among local roads, which would then be 25 mph throughout New Canaan. (State roads such as Routes 106, 123 and 124 allow for higher speeds.) After residents of Silvermine Road complained about the 30 mph speed limit there, the town lowered it to 25 mph despite warnings from police and others that doing so would not change motorist behavior.

Town To Keep ‘No Turn on Red’ at Farm and South

Saying it makes the busy intersection of Farm Road and South Avenue safer, officials determined recently to preserve the ‘No Turn on Red’ signs there. 

Prompted by a New Canaan High School student who observed that about 40 percent of motorists before and after school turned right anyway at the stop lights at Farm and South, Public Works Director Tiger Mann had asked state transportation officials to study the intersection to see whether it might make sense to remove the signs.  Ultimately, the Connecticut Department of Transportation (South Avenue is a state road, Route 124) recommended keeping the signs, as more than 3,000 total vehicles move through the intersection daily at peak times, and more than 75 pedestrians and cyclists, mostly school-aged, walk across some part of the intersection on weekdays. “It was noted that there were more pedestrians crossing the intersection that did not make use of the pedestrian signals, particularly during the afternoon peak hour,” DOT Transportation Engineer Catherine Watras told the town in an email summary of the state’s findings. “These are the peak hours for vehicles, and the turning movement counts indicate even more pedestrians during the peak times for school aged pedestrians due to the elementary, middle, and high schools in the immediate vicinity with requirements for all students residing within certain distances to walk. The intersection falls within those distances for all age groups. Even though the Town authorities have indicated that a policeman is posted at the intersection during the morning and afternoon peak school pedestrian hours, the staggered times for school start and end times already span 45 minutes, resulting in less coverage for either the high school students that begin the school day earlier or the later younger elementary school students.”

Though a three-year crash history of the intersection shows no crashes involved right turns, that’s with the ‘No Turn on Red’ signs already in place (which they have been since 1978), Wattras said.

Police: Temporary Sign at Nursery Road Has Created New ‘Safety Concern’ in U-Turning Motorists

The new ‘No Left Turn’ sign preventing northbound motorists from turning from Marvin Ridge onto Nursery Road during the morning commute is creating an entirely new safety hazard, according to police. Drivers seeking to avoid Merritt Parkway traffic between Exits 38 and 37 are traveling just past the sign and then pulling into private residential driveways—including those that serve as bus stops for local schoolchildren—in order to swing back around to make the right-hand turn down Nursery, according to New Canaan Police Deputy Chief John DiFederico. “I can confirm that is happening frequently, every minute or so there is another car that is northbound that pulls into [a Marvin Ridge Road woman’s] driveway, backs out into traffic, goes down southbound and turns right onto Nursery,” DiFederico told members of the Police Commission during their March 20 meeting, held at police headquarters. “That is a pretty serous safety concern, in my opinion, that now we have cars going onto private property that are school bus stops and backing into traffic. And that is something that we never had before with just high-volume traffic on Nursery Road.