[OPINION] Former Westporter: “Entitled Attitudes” Sent Us Elsewhere

The other day, an alert “06880” reader — and former resident — emailed me. He now lives in Black Rock — the diverse, tight-knit and active neighborhood in Bridgeport, just across Ash Creek from Fairfield.

It was a private note — but his perspective deserves a wide audience. He asked for anonymity, so that the focus could be on his words, not on him. That makes sense.

He wrote:

Moving here has been a great experience. We know our neighbors, watch out for each other, enjoy walks through the neighborhood.

What a change from our old neighborhood in Westport. We had a great lot — lovely trees and expansive lawns. We remodeled, and settled in for nearly 30 years.

But older neighbors left or passed away. Over time we had less interaction with  our newer neighbors. Many homes were torn down, with huge new ones taking their place.

Big stone walls were raised, shutting out sightlines from one home to another. It was time for us to decide if we’d stay or go.

Michael Bolton wall

Big walls alter streetscapes.

Our kids went through the Westport school system, and on to great college. We never complained about the taxes, because we really got something in return. We got the education system, the services, Longshore, Compo, and the continuity of building our family in Westport.

I commuted for many years. My wife was active in many community service organizations. We were well-integrated in Westport. We still belong to our church there.

So moving to Bridgeport was a very big step.

But little things happened. At the train station I’d pick up trash that people casually left. A guy once asked if I worked for the town. “Nope,” I said. “I’m a commuter like you. I just don’t like seeing garbage lying around, waiting for someone else to remove it.”

A familiar sight in Westport.

A familiar sight in Westport.

That was part of what rankled — the entitled attitude of so many fellow commuters. Perfectly fit men would leave their coffee cups on the railing, rather than walk 10 steps to the bin.

One morning I said to a guy, “Please put that in the trash.”

“What’s it to you?” he asked.

“I live here too,” I replied. “I don’t expect anyone to pick up after me.”

Grudgingly, he threw it away.

I was really angry. I saw him as a representative of entitlement — someone who typified a “type” that had moved into “my” town.

That was just part of it. I’d had enough of the super-wealth that had come to Westport, changing its ethos with a less-than-communal attitude — or so it seemed to me.

So when it came time to sell our home and  move elsewhere, we just happened to find ourselves in a neighborhood that seemed friendly and accommodating. We weren’t pressured to “keep up.” Rather, we were welcomed for whatever expertise and contributions we could make to our new community.

We jumped in with both feet.

The Black Rock section of Bridgeport. (Photo/Gregg Vigliotti for the New York Times)

The Black Rock section of Bridgeport. (Photo/Gregg Vigliotti for the New York Times)

All the problems are here too — and more. But the entitlement attitude — born of great wealth and expectation — is not.

There’s anger at the “haves.” There’s prejudice that comes from poverty and need. There’s vast deficits in opportunity and vision.

But there’s no shortage of need and desire for a better chance.

All the best for a more harmonious 2017, for all who live on this precious planet we share.

31 responses to “[OPINION] Former Westporter: “Entitled Attitudes” Sent Us Elsewhere

  1. As a former Westporter ( 1956-1966) I can really see the difference in Westport. It has become so “rich”- such a loss from the lovely community of those years- the artsy, casual feel from then. The local downtown has given way to chains. While shopping at Trader Joe’s last summer I noticed almost everyone using paper sacks- I thought there would be more emphasis on sustainability in Westport.
    I was so fortunate to grow up in Westport, getting a great education and being exposed to so much arch and progressive thinking.

  2. Refreshing

  3. Loved the posting – thanks! I respect the writer’s move to a more vertically integrated community and the thoughts shared. I grew up in Westport in the 1960s and came back to it five years ago, and while I do see many of the changes described I also see a lot of what I used to love, still here, and improvements as well. I think the exigencies around values follow us wherever we go and there can be blessings everywhere, including a community in a bubble of privilege. The people I know best volunteer, donate and give a lot of themselves.

  4. Gary Dwor-Frecaut

    Great article -Love your blog- love the services of this town (Library,etc) and the municipal workers – we bought a home here some three and half years ago in Old westport – we came from Singapore with our children – we are of Mediterranean origin (Franco-Italian with a dash of the Middle East) – but I must admit that of all the places I and my family have lived -we do find Westport to be the most unfriendly place we have ever lived – people seem to o entitled (not all) and not really friendly – they are open to distant and near social causes but neighbours at least in our neighbourhood socialize through Linkedin and such – give me a break – I still remember living in the Eastern Mediteranean were the doors of our homes were also open – and one was always ready for friendly visits- that “world” has disappeared there – but to state again – love the town but it is the most unfriendly place to live in at least were we live for us- I escape to Norwalk for real social communication – bonne annee . We thought of moving four years ago to the Black Rock area

    • Lisa Marie Alter

      Hi Gary:
      Sorry to hear that has been your experience here in Westport — many of my friends who moved from other countries have expressed a similar opinion. I do think a lot of long-time Westporters tend to be more cliquish and stick to the “groups” that they have been associating with for years, but without malice – perhaps more out of habit and inertia — after all, it takes effort to extend oneself to make new friends.

      That said, we moved here from Rowayton because we found Westport to be MUCH friendlier… most folks there wouldn’t even return a “hello” on the street, as we would walk by with our infant in a stroller and our big friendly Golden Retriever. Thirteen years later, we have never regretted our move.

      Has Westport changed in those years: heck yeah. Agreed, there are many more “entitleds” and “insensitives,” than when we first moved here, but I like to say that “there are many schools of fish here in Westport, and I just choose those amongst which I like to swim.” Oh and I try to avoid those places that attract the “entitleds” (eg. Starbucks, trendy shops and restaurants)…

      We also opted – and were lucky enough to be able – to live by the beach, for its more intimate environs and walkability… so I also feel more connected with my neighbors, albeit we don’t “socialize” with most of them. So, if you are down by the beach, be sure to say “hi” – I’m always walking my adorable friendly Labradoodle (sad to say, my big friendly retriever went to heaven 4 years ago).

      As for the “former Westporter, now Black Rocker,” sorry to lose you here.
      I’ve heard great things about St. Marys by the Sea — and love the restaurants there… esp that funky breakfast joint ! Enjoy, and who knows: maybe one day, some of us may be joining you there…

  5. Arline Gertzoff

    I have lived in Westport for more than60 years.There are slobs who don’t pick up/leave their trash everywheres.Many former residents have nothing else to do but dump on Westport.This sense of entitlement is not unique to Westport.Happily my neighborhood and great neighbors are not in that catagory.I find it interesting that people who move nearby still come back often to us the facilities ,library, beaches,shopping,clubs,services houses of worship etc. I wonder why?So I guess Westport isn’t so bad.For the record Westport has one of the highest rates of sustainability and suspect many of the brown bag users at Trader Joe’s were from other towns or just plain lazy.I still use my originalTrader Joes reusable bag and it’s not falling apart.I urge all who can to go to the Town Planning meeting onJan12 to improve Westport rather than just complain

  6. I’m thinking about walking up and down main street with a sign that says “I’m Friendly!” Then develop a line of wearable buttons that says the same thing. Then maybe we’ll have a meeting place for people who are friendly. We can have monthly meetings where friendly people descend on a different restaurant each month and have friendly conversations and meet each other. I’d be game to start a friendly movement if I wasn’t the only one doing it. We can have a yearly “friendly clambake” where we can get friendly people do donate food (probably the restaurants we descend on for our monthly friendly gatherings) I am NOT the only friendly person here. Not by a long shot!!

  7. I always find perspectives on Westport intriguing, both the good and the bad. I was raised here, left for about 20 years, then returned once my son was born. My husband and I are now raising our 8 year old here. My perspective is a little different because I have a lot of family in town. My parents still live here and my sister moved back with her family, living less than 1 mile from me. When you have children, being near family is so important so that undoubtedly colors my experience. Growing up I was always happy here, but I was always open to other places as well. It was kind of cool to gripe about how Westport was “not the real world” or, worse yet “boring”, as a teenager back in the 80s. I secretly thought those kids were spoiled and entitled. It most certainly is NOT diverse, which is a shame, but as an adult I am struck by the genuine concern people have about the community in which we live. I find people to be very open, willing to help, interested in community affairs, striving to create the kind of environment they want for their children. I also find people are very aware of their privilege and don’t take it for granted. Of course there are exceptions. We run into angry, self-absorbed, entitled people all the time. I do not think they are unique to Westport but perhaps there are a higher percentage of them in this entire Fairfield County area then in other pockets of the nation. i also think you find jerks everywhere. I prefer to live my life with the values I hold dear no matter where I am located and I find that looking through that lens, I can easily see others doing the same no matter where I am. It is true, many people who move to neighboring towns do continue to enjoy our many amenities. In reference to the train example in the original post, I am struck by something my husband, who is a train commuter, just said to me earlier this week “I always say good morning and good night to the train conductors on Metro North. It amazes me how nobody does that”. I have to admit, before meeting my very friendly and outgoing husband, I probably never would have either. But not because I was entitled, rather because I was shy, or absorbed somewhere in my own head and not present in the moment. Of course, I would never leave trash on the train, unless it was by accident! So you never really know what is going on in other people’s lives but if you are open to it, you will probably find way more caring, open, helpful, and unentitled people if you are looking for them, no matter where you go. I don’t believe my perspective of the town has really changed through all the years. Yes, the houses are bigger and there are more high fences separating us from each other, but I happened to move to one of the few “original neighboroods” left in Westport where we have an annual road picnic and try to look out for each other. By the way, I love Black Rock as well and can definitely see why people move there, but I am happy to stay put here and help to build and contribute to the community in which I was raised and in which I am raising my son and in which my husband, who is not from here, so willingly moved to so we could be near my family. I know I am extremely lucky and priviliged to be able to do so.

    • Arline Gertzoff

      Bravo You have nailed it

    • My wife an I have the pleasure of living in the one of the houses you grew up in it as well as one of the neighborhoods you grew up in. Thank you and your family for all you have done and continue to do for Westport!

      • Thank you Jamie! I was thinking how the whole Gorham/Evergreen neighborhood must still retain some of the neighborhood feel, thanks in part to you! Not many high fences, etc

  8. Gotta say I agree with Angela and Arline. I am always quick to point out the “Over the Top” behavior of some Westport people who flaunt their wealth (such as one described in a recent 06680 posting) but by and large our locals are civilized and polite. Spending a fair amount of time in Bridgeport, I’d remind Dan’s “alert” source that there is plenty of trash left around there, particularly in the neighborhoods less snazzy than St. Mary’s by the Sea. There is also a less-than-optimal regard for traffic safety. Red light and stop signs are much more routinely ignored.

  9. Michael Don Sullivan

    Hello Dan! Mike Sullivan here! Formally of Oscar’s Deli.For 23 years I enjoyed working for Lee with my twin brother David. All the time,and then some, I lived in Black Rock.I was always proud to share that fact with all of the wonderful friends that I had in Westport! I am currently and hopefully temporarily out of the area and miss the best of two worlds only 8 miles apart! Thanks Dan!

  10. Yes, as 3rd generation, (my kids say ‘last generation’ Westport) I agree with the writer of the original post. Listening to another teardown and starter mansion even as I write this. Don’t think a “middle class” family will be moving into the neighborhood. It’s almost as if the P&Z wants only the wealthy to live in Westport?

  11. The guy who left is a little too righteous for me. Are there snotty/entitled people in Westport? Sure, but they are everywhere. America voted in The Donald, so obviously the calbre of the entire country is semi-crap.

    My 30 year old kid grew up here; she gravitated to non-snotty friends and turned out very well. And many kids currently growing up here are turning out well, too. The biggest factor is the parents, not the town or the times. Children follow the examples they see at home; living an honorable life is the most important thing we can do to keep a civilization civilized.

    So many people in this town volunteer here and in other places, puting their time and money into causes they believe in, supporting change for the better.

    To tar the whole place is easy and lazy.

  12. Entitlement?

    Try asking a guy from out-of-town, who has commandeered a 6 person table at “our” library in order to run his $175/hr tutoring business if he would mind not talking so loudly, so you can read nearby. He won’t even respond to you. – Chris Woods

    • Try speaking to the chief librarian about the problem, or carry those expensive Bose noise cancelling headphones. Or, ignore your own sense of entitlement.

  13. John F. (J-period) Wandres

    What the writers seem to kvetch about is a remembrance of times past; a kind of Norman Rockwell “Four Freedoms” view of the “olden days” in Westport — their Westport, and however “exotic” it may have appeared on the day they moved in, compared to how they perceive it has become now. Get over it, folks: that is what America is. In 1942 my family moved from Highland Park, an uber-“high rent” district near Dallas, Texas. We rented several houses in Weston and we lived in Weston until 1954 when my dad died from cancer and I enlisted in the Navy. Since then I’ve watched what happened to “the old neighborhood” in San Francisco, Tokyo, London, Philadelphia, Brooklyn (Park Slope), Matawan, New Jersey; and now, Portland, Oregon. Everyone here pisses and moans about what is happening to their special God’s green acre. But they have been doing that here ever since Thomas Jefferson and John Jacob Astor foresaw that the Columbia River and Portland (then a fishing village) could be “developed” into a world-class trading center. Here in Portland in the 1980s, Albina, then a separate city and a historic black neighborhood, was incorporated into Portland, then nearly obliterated to build a hospital. Here in Portland, starting around 2005 the SoHo-like industrial neighborhood known as “the Pearl” started to become encrusted with chrome-and-glass residential towers. Out “west” in Hillsboro (home to Intel, Oracle, Tectronics and other high-tech companies), a former 410-acre farm was sold, is now being platted for one thousand two hundred homes, whose median price will be in the “mid-$500s.” And so it goes.

  14. What…you’re telling Westport people not to kvetch? It’s our favorite pastime!

  15. Michael Don Sullivan

    Love the picture of Seabright Ave, Black Rock! Drove it everyday on way home from Oscar’s.

  16. Westport is wonderful. It is a great town with so much going on and great people. Walk around the beach, get a grill in the summer with friends and family and enjoy the night. Read 06880 and learn about the care by many in Westport, helping cities like Bridgeport and their chidlren in schools and Al’s Angels raising money to buy a van for child in need, and organization providing holiday meals. The Womans Center and Homes for Hope doing so much.

    You lived in Westport for years and a few neighbors changed their homes and you moved?? Really? Some coffee cups convinced you to leave?? Huh?

  17. I grew up when there were “station” cars, dented and worn upholstery. I am very appreciative of what Westport offered me. However, when I decided to leave NYC and return to the area, I chose Fairfield. People were more polite on the road and the street where I live has only one home with a high fence/wall. I’ve lived in Fairfield for 15 years and have never regretted my choice.

  18. Bill Boyd (staples 66)

    I moved to Westport in 1959 aged 11…. now I live in Trumbull… I desceibe it as the the New York city effect… people are in a hurry… less likely to exchange simple pleasentries.. avoid eye contact… can be loud and self centered… etc… I do not experience this as much in other nearby towns… yet some can be worse (Rowayton? Darien?) Still a beautiful town… but lost some of its charm

  19. Westport still makes my heart leap decades after leaving. It is a beautiful town changing with the times but there is so much that is timeless and never seems to change. The drive into Compo Beach by the Minute Man, the South Beach grills, the jetties, the old Saugatuck El condos, Town Hall formerly Bedford El. on the hill, Coffee An donuts and more. It still has the same ole feeling to me and I find that incredible. Sadly, the demands of society make everyone everywhere different and seem less neighborly than the 1960’s — it’s not just Westport. Have to say when we’ve had brief visits over the years to Westport – on Main Street or Compo or wherever, people are very friendly. Driving not so great though :/

  20. Yesterday I went shopping at Fresh Market, picked up a sandwich at Gaetanos, and stopped in at several other places. I made a bigger point of being and noticing friendly. I did what I usually do, talk to people who waited in me, chatted with other shoppers, and I also acknowledged someone else’s friendliness. A shopper at the FM checkout allowed someone with two items to go ahead of him in line. I said “wow! That was really friendly of you!…did you see Dan Woog’s blog today?” I told him about it and guess what he said? “I have never seen rudeness or unfriendliness at all here!” There are thousands of friendly people here! 🙂 I think ultimately what people are seeing is people in different stated of being. Reaching out is the answer! If you get a rebuke wonder for a moment what people might be going through and make it a tiny bit easier for them.

  21. Marcy Anson Fralick -- Staples Class of 1970

    When I read these comments from those who left, I have to agree with them. But, I also agree that there’s a a nostalgia factor at work both for me, and for others who left. We want the familiar, what-we-grew-up-with back. It happens everywhere. Some call it progress, others decimation of a once good thing. In the last 40 years, America has become a homogeneous country. People who are used to one set of amenities move to a new town and demand those same amenities. Corporations are more than happy to build them. There’s no going back to the way it was. Technology, social media, instant news, McDonald’s in Russia, Subway in Budapest and KFC in Japan have given us a set of expectations we take with us wherever we live. I left Westport in 1972 as my father’s company left NYC and moved it’s world headquarters to Denver. I got married and we moved to a little town west of Colorado Springs called Divide. 423 people. No amenities, per se. We had to drive down a mountain pass 45 minutes to Colorado Springs for everything. I loved that small town and we lived there until 2010, raising four kids. In the years we lived there, its population jumped to almost 10,000 people, several subdivisions were developed including many mega-mansions on 10 acre tracts. A major hospital was built, doctors, dentists, lawyers, CPA’s, and other professionals poured into town and into those subdivisions and mansions. Several new schools had to be built, a golf course, every fast food known, a multi-plex movie theater, a huge aquatic center, a college with dorms and hundreds of students, 14 churches, several shopping centers, six Starbucks, and more. With every change, we “old timers” groaned, grumbled and complained, but the growth was inevitable with the population increase and resident demands. Like returning Westporters to their town, when we go back to Divide, we whine that it’s been so commercialized, mom and pop stores are gone, the small town flavor is gone, traffic is awful, and the new people are so unfriendly and rude. My answer to my kids who are broken-hearted over the growth and rudeness is to appreciate what you have and be happy with it. It’s good to love your memories, but you’ve changed over the years, and so has the world around you. It’s inevitable.

  22. I hope you don’t mind my throwing a contrary opinion in on this one, Because the Westport I’ve known is always enormously, jubilantly supportive, glass half full, rising waters raises all ships kind of spirit. since the late 1970’s when my grandparents 1st took me there in summer to visit their friends up until now because it’s where I still drive to from downtown NYC just To get some pieces of family jewelry cleaned (that’s how much I trust the people there; I’ve yet to find a jeweler elsewhere who I feel as comfortable leaving these pieces with) Westporters have always been really, really supportive, encouraging, enthusiastic for one another. These criticisms about materialism and elitism never enter into my experience there. I think maybe once I ran into that sort of energy there but it was coming from someone who had just moved in and was trying too hard to ‘fit into’ a daytime soap opera stereotype of Fairfield County and not the much more organic reality.

  23. As a member of a family in this community for over 68 years, a graduate of its schools, I too mourn what Westport has lost. I struggle to be open and receptive to newer and younger–but the entitlement is often on parade; it repulses at its worst (litter bug, parking arrogance and the like). Just responding with simpatico and glad you shared this. I am sorry this person moved; clearly the hopes that people of similar mind to his do remain…but the fences get higher, the McMansions more like impersonal hotels and flag ships by the day, neighbors who once easily shared are more challenged and isolated.

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