Tag Archives: New York Times

Rev. Alison Patton: The Story The NY Times Should Have Told

The New York Times’ now-famous piece on the coronavirus in Westport — “How a Soirée in Connecticut Became a Super Spreader” — included a photo of The Rev. Alison J. Buttrick Patton.

The caption noted that the Saugatuck Congregational Church minister “led an online fellowship hour with parishioners on Sunday after her church in Westport closed.”

That was it. No quotes or insights from one of our town’s most caring residents — a wise, insightful observer of all that goes on here.

Many Westporters thought there must have been more to her brief appearance in the Times. 

There is. Rev. Patton writes:

When a New York Times reporter called to ask me how Westport was responding to the virus, I thought she had a great opportunity to write an article about the creative ways that communities are navigating the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

That’s not the story the Times chose to publish. So I thought I’d write that story.

Rev. Alison J. Buttrick Patton

This has been a profoundly trying few weeks. Contending with the virus itself, the related fears, and the disrupted schedules has put a strain on all of us.

In the words of pastor and public theologian Nadia Bolz-Weber: “We’re not only experiencing a pandemic of COVID-9, we are also experiencing an ‘epidemic of disappointment.’”

How many of us have had plans derailed: championship games, theatrical performances, business engagements or family vacations? How many have lost income, access to hot meals or life-saving support systems?

That’s a lot of grief, even if we do manage to avoid or ride out the virus itself. And of course, there are those who have contracted COVID-19. This pandemic has been hard on our hearts.

We are all scrambling to adjust, to stay safe and grounded. But here’s what has struck me: We are also working hard to stay connected as a community. Saugatuck Congregational Church, along with most other faith communities in the region, has suspended in-person worship.

But like all our other faith communities, Saugatuck is finding alternative ways to stay in touch, counter isolation, encourage people and feed spirits. We are urging physical distancing while sustaining social connection. The responses I’ve witnessed remind me that we have an amazing capacity to adapt, when our connectedness is at stake.

I have so many examples. There’s the 91-year-old member who asked for technical assistance so she could participate in our online bible study by Zoom, and the member who joined our Sunday morning social hour via Zoom from his hospital bed — just 2 days after major surgery!

Saugatuck Congregational Church has anchored Westport for centuries.

There’s the patience everyone has shown, as we figure out how to use technologies that are new to many of us. We are muddling through with remarkable humor.

As one Saugatuck member observed, in response to our Zoom social hour and online small groups, ”What we’re doing is totally different, but really touching and human.”

I know it’s not just Saugatuck Church. Creative efforts to stay connected are springing up all over town. I suspect that everyone reading this will have a story to add. There’s the Westport neighborhood where residents circulated red, green and yellow cards in mailboxes, to help vulnerable neighbors safely signal if they need supplies or other assistance.

There’s the high school student who created a Twitter account to report on the local impact of the Coronavirus and share helpful information, and the families who compiled a website designed to support local businesses by encouraging online shopping.

There are the local artists who are sharing photos and music online, to inspire and encourage us. The list goes on and on. For my part, I am grateful for and inspired by all those who have responded to these trying times with such generosity and innovation.

Westporters have expressed their emotions in many ways. A neighbor took this opportunity to thank our first responders. (Photo/Molly Alger)

Crisis can do 2 things: it can bog us down in our own anxiety or kick start our creativity. Surely, both are happening here.

We all have days when we are worn out from having to revise our habits again and again, in order to stay ahead of an invisible threat. But I hope we can also lean into those creative impulses, bearing in mind that isolation is hard because we are, fundamentally, interdependent. So we figure out how to reach and sustain one another.

The best story isn’t how this virus started or who may have contributed to its spread. It’s how we will get through it, and eventually stop the virus, because we can only do that together.

NY Times Spotlights Westport: “Party Zero: How A Soiree In Connecticut Became A ‘Super Spreader'”

The New York Times has taken note — and told the world: Westport is ground zero for the coronavirus in Connecticut. 

In a long story posted late this afternoon — with the subhead “about 50 people gathered this month for a party in the upscale suburb of Westport, then scattered across the region and the world, taking the coronavirus with them” — Elizabeth Williamson and Kristen Hussey report on our town’s role in the pandemic.

Businesses have closed along Main Street in Westport, Conn., where a surge in coronavirus cases has been reported.

Businesses have closed along Main Street in Westport, Conn., where a surge in coronavirus cases has been reported. (Photo/Dave Sanders for The New York Times)

About 50 guests gathered on March 5 at a home in the stately suburb of Westport, Conn., to toast the hostess on her 40th birthday and greet old friends, including one visiting from South Africa. They shared reminiscences, a lavish buffet and, unknown to anyone, the coronavirus.

Then they scattered.

The Westport soirée — Party Zero in southwestern Connecticut and beyond — is a story of how, in the Gilded Age of money, social connectedness and air travel, a pandemic has spread at lightning speed. The partygoers — more than half of whom are now infected — left that evening for Johannesburg, New York City and other parts of Connecticut and the United States, all seeding infections on the way.

Westport, a town of 28,000 on the Long Island Sound, did not have a single known case of the coronavirus on the day of the party. It had 85 on Monday, up more than 40-fold in 11 days.

 

That’s the start. The story ends …

The first partygoer to be diagnosed passed word from Johannesburg to Westport that he had fully recovered and even planned to go for a jog.

“I don’t believe I’m the problem anymore,” he told The Sunday Times. “It seems that the real problem is now the people who are too scared to say anything. The problem is the ignorance of the public.”

(To read the story on the New York Times website, click here.)

Faith Hope Consolo Did Not Grow Up Here

Tomorrow’s print edition of the New York Times will carry a long, intriguing story about Faith Hope Consolo.

Faith Hope Consolo (Photo/Beatrice de Gea for the New York Times)

Contrary to years of self-description, the glamorous real estate broker did not follow her real estate executive father into the business. Her mother was not a child psychiatrist. Consolo did not attend Miss Porter’s School for Girls, nor did she earn a degree from Parsons Paris.

And she most definitely did not grow up in Westport.

Consolo fabricated nearly every fact about her life, beginning with her age (she was 73 when she died in late 2018, not 69) and her birth in Cleveland (not Shaker Heights, Ohio).

But these 2 paragraphs attracted the attention of alert “06880” reader Heather Grahame, who definitely did grow up here:

She also claimed that she moved to the tony suburb of Westport, Conn., as a young girl, but she really grew up on a dead-end street in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn.

Ms. Consolo’s longtime friends and colleagues never knew the truth, including Joseph Aquino, Ms. Consolo’s business partner for 26 years. “I remember once we were together in Westport, and I was all excited for her to show me the house where she grew up,” Mr. Aquino said. “But she got really vague and seemed sad, so I just dropped it, figuring she didn’t want to talk about it.”

I posted a story about her death a year ago, on “06880.” I asked anyone with a memory of her to share it. There were comments — but only one person thought she remembered her. Another woman mentioned their time together in Brooklyn.

Faith Hope Consolo, as a young girl in Brooklyn. (Photo courtesy of the New York Times)

This weekend’s Times piece is a sad story about an allegedly glamorous figure — one who felt she had to obscure her past, in order to be accepted by Manhattan’s elite.

But just think: Of all the places she could have pretended to have grown up, she chose Westport, Connecticut.

Real-life realtors here must be very impressed.

(Click here to read the full New York Times story.)

The Year In Pictures: Tyler Hicks/Lynsey Addario Edition

Every year, the New York Times produces an end-of-the-year retrospective: “The Year in Pictures.”

The 2019 project was the most ambitious yet. Last Sunday’s photos were part of a stand-alone special section. It included interviews with the photographers, taking readers behind the scenes (and the lens).

Editors culled through over 500,000 photos. Just 116 made the cut.

Three are from Staples High School graduates. And one — by Tyler Hicks — is the first image shown, for the very first month.

(Photo/Tyler Hicks for the New York Times)

The 1988 Staples alum photographed Saleh Raken, a boy of about 10 years old, who was playing near his home in Yemen when a land mine blew off his lower leg.

Hicks explained:

On this assignment, I saw more of the humanitarian impact of the war than I had on any of my previous trips there, particularly in northern Yemen, where I took this photograph of a young boy who had lost part of a leg from a land mine explosion. There were also many other children and adults alike who had lost limbs or who continue to lose limbs every day in Yemen.

In this case, it’s very difficult when you walk into a clinic and a hospital and there are so many people suffering. You ask yourself: Whom should I photograph? You want to document every case, but that would be impossible.

This boy in particular had a very innocent face and reminded me a lot of any kids that I would see in my own community. And yet he was changed for life by something that he’s absolutely not involved in, and so I chose to focus on him and allow this boy to represent, in this case, all of the other children in the clinic.

Oftentimes, it is more effective for a photograph to be specific than it is to try to include a large group. It allows viewers to identify with somebody and interpret that subject and that photograph in their own ways.

Two other photos were taken by 1991 Staples grad Lynsey Addario. A shot from February showed Marine recruits at the beginning of a grueling 54-hour training exercise.

(Photo/Lynsey Addario for the New York Times)

Her second image was of Marieke Vervoort, a Belgian Paralympic athlete with a degenerative spinal disease that caused excruciating pain. This fall, she chose do end her life via euthanasia. Addario’s photos about Vervoort’s life and death appeared in a special Times report earlier this month.

(Photo/Lynsey Addario for the New York Times)

To see all 116 photos, click here.

Lynsey Addario Chronicles A Champion’s Death

Lynsey Addario is remarkable.

The Staples High School graduate is a Pulitzer Prize winner — and a MacArthur “genius grant” Fellowship awardee.

She’s spent her career photographing life in Afghanistan, the plight of Syrian refugees, conflicts in Iraq, Libya, Lebanon, Darfur and Congo, and humanitarian and human rights issues around the world for the New York Times, National Geographic and Time magazine. She’s a book author too.

“06880” can’t cover all of Lynsey’s projects — there are just too many. But her latest effort deserves a special shout-out.

For 3 years, she and New York Times reporter Andrew Keh followed Marieke Vervoort as the Belgian Paralympic gold-medal athlete wrestled with the decision to die by euthanasia.

Marieke Vervoort at home in Belgium. She did not believe in God, but kept a Buddha statue in her back yard. (Photo copyright Lynsey Addario for New York Times)

Lynsey visited her often at home and in hospital stays in Belgium, and traveled with her on trips to the Canary Islands and Japan.

The result is an astonishing story about the human spirit. It ranges from sports, family, friends to the many ways in which people live and die.

The writing is strong and insightful. Lynsey’s photos add one more dimension. Days after Marieke died, they beautifully honor her life.

In her final hours, Marieke Vervoort embraces her parents. (Photo copyright Lynsey Addario for New York Times)

(Click here for the full New York Times story. Tomorrow [Monday, December 9, 8 p.m.] Lynsey Addario appears at Fairfield University’s Quick Center. She will speak on “Eyewitness Through My Camera Lens: World in Conflict,” as part of the Open Visions forum that celebrates outstanding female leaders. Click here for tickets, and more information. Hat tip: Dick Lowenstein.)

[OPINION] Westporter Urges: Make Good Choices. Support Local Businesses.

Michael Smith is an alert “06880” reader, a longtime Westporter and a financial advisor. He writes:

We all have choices to make. We should understand the impact of every choice.

The other day I read in the New York Times about a hardware store closing in Manhattan. Not exactly unheard-of in the age of the internet and Amazon.

It was by a Columbia Law professor who wrote a book on the impacts on small businesses in America, from increasing corporate influence and rising rents in wealthy areas of the country. That’s something worth considering, as residents of Westport.

All of our local businesses have 2 things in common. One is that they contribute to the tax base; the other is that they have some “ripple effect.”

Indulge by Mersene on Railroad Place is a very cool, funky — and thriving — local business.

The contribution to the tax base is obvious, but the implications from declining contributions to our town budget from the state level are becoming increasingly important.

It’s harder to quantify when you click “buy now” on the web, along with impacts on the environment from single-use plastics and our collective carbon footprint.

The other “ripple effect” — which is much harder to see — is the choices individuals and small businesses make from the standpoint of investment in maintaining or opening new businesses, and where to own personal real estate.

Last April, I attended a panel discussion sponsored by the Coalition for Westport which attempted to discuss some of these issues and develop awareness. That session highlighted the complexity of the issues and difficulties of making change a plurality can agree on.

More awareness and involvement would be beneficial, because at the very least it helps us all understand that we can make a difference by recognizing the impact of our choices.

Westport residents would do well to consider the long-term impacts on our tax base and property values from short-term decisions, such as where to buy light bulbs, screws, household items and clothing. These purely economic considerations play a large role in the broader concept of community.

Where do yhou buy screws or lightbulbs?

I advocate for all of us to make a conscious commitment to consider what item or substitute could be purchased here in Westport, or very close by, to help sustain the economic component of our community.

I have no personal interest in writing this. I am a 25-plus-year resident of Westport, and a financial advisor who understands the rapid and far-reaching dynamics of our global economy in the 21st century.

As I told my children when they were young; “Life is about choices. Make good ones.”

If You’re Thinking Of Living In Westport …

… then this Sunday’s New York Times has a story for you.

We’re the subject of this coming weekend’s Real Estate section feature. Sometimes a neighborhood is featured; other times, a village or — like us — entire town.

The piece begins with a story about a British couple with 3 young daughters. They rented in Old Greenwich, but found it very “finance-driven. They wanted to be part of “a real community.”

The New York Times map of Westport.

Westport — with its “scenic waterfront, proximity to New York City and variety of restaurants, as well as its international contingent and cosmopolitan atmosphere” — offered “ nice balance of diversity, understated successful people and enough of a European vibe.”

1st Selectman Jim Marpe then touts Westport’s “global mind set,” along with the arts, education, abundant recreational facilities and — according to the Times — “2 downtowns.”

One of our downtowns serves as the main image for the New York Times profile of Westport. (Photo/Jane Beiles for New York Times)

“The lifestyle here caters to a range of interests,” Marpe says. “And to high expectations.”

Marpe notes, “We live in a place that dates back to the very start of this country. There is a sense of history here, but we are firmly focused on the future.”

The rest of the piece includes information on Westport’s geography and neighborhoods (I learned that there’s an area known as “In-Town,” which is “within walking distance of the main downtown”); the housing mix (there are 8,818 single-family houses, 104 multifamily homes, 546 condos in 21 complexes, 292 rental apartments in residential and mixed-use buildings, 4 affordable-housing complexes with 217 units, and 1 building with 36 age-restricted cooperative apartments); the price range ($350,000 to $22.5 million, with homes under $1 million selling fastest and waterfront properties listed at a premium).

An aerial view of the Saugatuck River.(Photo/Jane Beiles for New York Times)

There’s also this, headlined “The Vibe”:

From “The Twilight Zone” and “Bewitched” to the current sitcom “American Housewife,” Westport has long been cast as an affluent suburban backdrop for television. Stereotypes aside, the town blends a laid-back ambience with year-round cultural offerings, high-end shopping and dining, and a slew of outdoor activities.

“With roots as an artists’ colony, Westport remains a creative hub,” The Times continues. The Westport Country Playhouse, Community Theatre, Levitt Pavilion, Westport Writers’ Workshop, Library, and MoCA Westport (formerly the Westport Arts Center) are all mentioned.

Schools get mentioned too, including the district’s #1 ranking in the state (and 28th in the country) by Niche, and Staples’ 7th place state rating by U.S. News and World Report.

Girls soccer: one of the many great activities at Staples High School. (Photo by Jane Beiles for New York Times)

Finally, there’s a section on the “64- to 90-minute” commute (though Marpe notes that more people now come to Westport for work than leave), and a bit of history of the Minute Man monument.

It’s a very fair and balanced picture of our town.

It’s just a week after Labor Day. But clearly, every realtor in Westport has just been handed an early Christmas or Hanukkah gift.

(Click here for the full New York Times story.)

Classic Connecticut, Says The New York Times

Today, the New York Times published a photo quiz.

They posted one archival image from each state. Readers were given a clue, and invited to guess which state was represented.

Here’s Connecticut’s image:

The caption says:

The 1993 Thistle Atlantic Coast Championships, seen here, kicked off at the Cedar Point Yacht Club in Westport, Conn. Fifty Thistle sailboats — 17-foot-long, single-masted, centerboard crafts, normally crewed by three people at a time — participated. Thistles are well suited to the light-air sailing encountered on calm summer days along the Constitution State’s shore.

It’s great that Times editors chose this photo to showcase our state.

Personally, I would have chosen a throwback tollbooth.

(Click here to see the entire Times piece. Hat tip: Jeff Manchester)

US Cities Stop Recycling. What Will Westport Do?

On Sunday, the New York Times published a front-page story:”As Costs Skyrocket, More US Cities Stop Recycling.”

It turns out that because China — our former number one customer — no longer accepts used plastic and paper, because it’s mixed with too much other trash, towns and cities across our country have seen collection bills rise steeply. The result: They’ve ended their programs, or now burn or bury more waste.

Many readers’ first thought was: “Holy smoke!” 

Their second was: “I wonder what my community is doing?”

To find out the 06880 answer, I contacted 1st Selectman Jim Marpe. He responded:

Pete Ratkiewich, our Public Works director, has been addressing this issue for several years.

The situation described in the Times article is also a reality here in Westport. In the recent past, international companies would buy US recyclables for reuse and repurpose abroad. As such, the town of Westport received compensation for its recyclable materials.

Recycling takes place all around Westport. This is the Farmers’ Market.

In 2018, China determined that US recyclables are too “contaminated” to be reused or repurposed, so that market has since ceased to exist (as well as in other countries such as India). So what was once a revenue generator here in Westport is now a cost to us.

The good news is that the town’s focus on recycling for several decades has “trained” all of us to think about what should be recycled and how best to do it.  Many of us still have and use our blue bins.

Up to the end of the fiscal year that ended July 2018, the town of Westport was realizing revenue from our recycling programs. But the cumulative cost effect for this fiscal year, and the next one we are budgeting for, is a total of $300,000.

We saw this coming, and have actively pursued alternative approaches along with a number of neighboring communities. Westport is in a consortium with approximately 14 other communities called the Greater Bridgeport Regional Recycling Interlocal Committee.

The GBRRIC — also called “the Interlocal” — aggregates all of our municipal recyclables, thereby increasing our purchasing power with private haulers. The GBRRIC recently negotiated a contract with Oak Ridge Waste and Recycling, and determined that the GBRRIC cost of recycling is now $75 per ton. As recently as 2017, that same recycling yielded a revenue of $25 per ton.

Annually, Westport residents generate 3,300 tons of recyclable waste. The total trash generated is approximately 10,000 tons from residents and 6,000 tons from commercial entities.

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection sets guidelines on what materials should be recycled. We believe that glass products should be removed from the list of recyclables and set aside from the other materials, given their high level of contaminants. We have found that glass has become one of the most frequently rejected recycled commodities for that reason, and also a major contributor to our tonnage total.

Our Green Task Force, currently being rebranded as “Sustainable Westport,” is leading the charge to find alternate solutions that either cut our recycling expenses, or reduce the amount of waste that gets generated here in Westport.  Efforts underway include a composting program at Greens Farms Elementary School, which will roll out to other schools and hopefully other entities as the pilot proves the value of composting.

Also, we plan to lobby the state to allow glass to be placed in a separate recycling stream, and to change related recycling regulations.

The immediate challenge is that the Town’s fiscal year 2020 budget will need to reflect the increased cost of the recycling process.

Hillary Frank: Mommy, Misogyny And Me

When it comes to motherhood, Hillary Frank has seen — and reported on — it all.

The Staples High School Class of 1994 member — who left after junior year, headed directly to Tufts University — has carved out a national niche as a “mom’s expert.”

She’s not an advice giver — plenty of women do that. Instead she reports on life as a mother. It’s a rich vein, and she’s done it for “This American Life,” “Studio 360,” “Marketplace” and “All Things Considered.” She’s written 3 novels.

Hillary Frank

And for the past 8 years, Hillary’s podcast “The Longest Shortest Time” has covered stories mothers may not even know they need to hear. Topics include miscarriages, the NICU, and a lifelong vegetarian who thought her son’s digestive problem came from her breast milk, and began eating meat.

Along the way, she’s learned many things. Including the fact that even in the waning days of 2018, motherhood is still a topic deemed unimportant by many.

And that includes other women.

Hillary wanted to do a story on why many mothers who suffer childbirth injuries live with pelvic pain long after giving birth. They are resigned to painful sex — or no sex at all — even though most injuries can be remedied by pelvic floor physical therapy.

The editors — one female, one male — thought her focus on sex after injury was inappropriate. But, Hillary notes, there is no shortage of stories — on the radio, and everywhere else — about erectile dysfunction.

Hillary shares that story — and other cogent observations on life as a motherhood expert — in today’s New York Times. Her op-ed piece is called “The Special Misogyny Reserved for Mothers.”

Will anything change in 2019?

Stay tuned — to Hillary Frank’s podcast.

(Click here to read today’s op-ed story by Hillary Frank. Click here for a link to her podcasts.)