On March 11, our world changed.
COVID had lurked here for a while. But that day, schools closed. Stores, restaurants, the library and Y followed quickly. In a head-spinning 24 hours, the entire town shut down.
Every Westporter had a multitude of fears. We worried about interrupted educations, job losses, wiped-out savings. We wondered how to juggle childcare and eldercare. We had no idea how or where to shop for groceries. We hoarded toilet paper. We thought we might, literally, die.
A few industries flourished. Most suffered greatly.
Real estate professionals bunkered in. With buyers and sellers confined to their homes, open houses canceled and the entire Northeast locked down, they imagined they’d never sell another property.
To everyone’s amazement, the market sizzled. First came rentals; sales followed soon. Buyers purchased houses sight unseen. Sellers juggled multiple offers, above the asking price. In a world gone crazy, the real estate market was truly insane.
Some of those newcomers have been here since spring. Others arrive every day. Almost unnoticed — kind of like the coronavirus, but in a good way — they snuck up on us.
They haven’t taken over our town. But all these new arrivals will inevitably change it.
As a native Westporter, I am truly happy and excited
In a thoroughly unscientific sampling, it seems that nearly every new homeowner comes from Manhattan or Brooklyn. Some had already thought about moving to the ‘burbs; the virus sped up their plans. Others had no intention of leaving New York.
But here they are. They bring youth, energy, fresh eyes and young kids to our town. They are smart, talented and creative. They are diverse and intriguing.
They want to take advantage of the best that Westport offers. They love what they’ve seen so far — and they haven’t even seen us at our best.
They want to contribute something to their new community, too. With so many of them working from their (new) home offices, they’ll have time to give back. All we have to do is let them know what’s possible, and invite them in.
If you’re a newcomer, get involved!
- Learn about our schools. Visitors will be limited in the beginning, but I’m sure there are many ways to help outside the walls.
- Check out the Artists Collective of Westport. Wander over to MoCA.
- The Westport Country Playhouse is closed this year. Put it — and its many wonderful programs — on your list for 2021. And don’t forget the Levitt Pavilion.
- Join the Westport Rotary Club, Westport Sunrise Rotary, Westport Woman’s Club, Westport Young Woman’s League and/or League of Women Voters (men welcome!).
- Volunteer for a political campaign. The Democratic Town Committee, Republican Town Committee, and similar organizations are looking for the next generation of leaders. Once you get a feel for local politics, run! The Representative Town Committee (RTM), Boards of Education and Finance, Planning & Zoning Commission and so many more need you.
- Play ball! Coach your kids in youth sports. You will never be turned away.
- The Westport Library — at least, the transformed version — is almost as new as you are. Hours are limited now. But you’ll be astonished at the variety of its offerings, the richness of its collections, the technology that it harnesses, and the community it creates.
- Go outside our borders. The need for help is great in neighboring towns. Bridgeport’s Mercy Learning Center and Adam J. Lewis Academy are 2 of my favorites. There are literally dozens of others.
- Have you been to a drive-in movie this summer? The Remarkable Theater was a way cool, surprise pop-up addition to our entertainment options. Now help them bring an actual building to town.
- What’s your interest? Environment? (Sustainable Westport. Wakeman Town Farm. Earthplace. Save the Sound.) Diversity? (TEAM Westport.) Neighborhoods? (Greens Farms Association. Save Old Saugatuck.)
The Westport world is your oyster.
And we’ve got plenty of them. Find them at a restaurant (and discover your favorite eating places). Learn about the Saugatuck River by kayak, paddle boat and rowing vessel (Westport Paddle Club, Saugatuck Rowing Club, Sea Kayak. Work out at the (soon to be expanded) Westport Weston Family YMCA. Spin at Joyride or Soulcycle. Jog or bike on the roads (be careful!).
I’ve left out thousands of ways for newcomers to get the most out of their new home — and contribute to it. Feel free to add your own; click “Comments” below.
Our new arrivals will add new ways to this list, too. They’ll bring new ideas, create new organizations, take our town in new directions.
This is a wonderful time for our town. Out of the bleakness of a pandemic has come an opportunity for reinvention, growth and progress.
Our realtors have done their part. Now it’s up to all of us — the Westporters who have been here awhile, and those who have just joined us — to do the rest.