Tag Archives: New York Times

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.)

Main Street, Bleecker Street, And The Future Of Retail

A year and a half ago, the New York Times said Bleecker Street “looks like a Rust Belt city.”

On 5 blocks from Christopher Street to Bank Street, more than a dozen storefronts sat empty.

“Where textured-leather totes and cashmere scarves once beckoned to passers-by,” the paper reported, “the windows are now covered with brown construction paper, with ‘For Lease’ signs and directives to ‘Please visit us at our other locations.'”

This past Tuesday, the Times changed its tune.

A headline trumpeted “The Return of Bleecker Street.”

Eighteen months after its obituary, that same 5-block stretch of the West Village is “full of cool, vibrant people doing interesting things.”

What changed?

“Big-name luxury labels” are gone. Their storefronts are now filled with “young, digitally native brands….a well-curated mix of small brands with big ideas.” Many are run by women.

Hill House Home on Bleecker Street shows that a bit of creativity can produce wonders — and entice shoppers. (Photo/Stefania Curto for New York Times)

The sudden switch was no accident. Brookfield Properties bought 4 properties with 7 storefronts last April — “after exorbitant rents and a dearth of shoppers had driven out most of the businesses.” The new owners “immediately set to work rethinking the landscape.”

A creative strategy firm helped plan short-term leases — and revenue sharing.

Nell Diamond — the founder of bedding and bath retailer Hill House Home, an early arrival — did not believe retail was dead.

Bad retail is dead,” she clarified.

Bleecker Street’s new stores have become destinations — and community centers. They offer hot cocoa, and host podcasts, educational events and book club meetings. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand held a book signing at Lingua Franca, which sells cashmere sweaters hand-stitched with political slogans.

So why is “06880” highlighting a story about 10012?

Because some of the descriptions about last year’s Bleecker Street resonate with this year’s Main Street.

There are some great, fun stores downtown. You can lose yourself — and find nearly every gift you need — at Savvy + Grace, and The Brownstone. Bedford Square is filled with shops like Savannah Bee Company. Serena & Lily has brought new energy and creativity too.

Serena & Lily draws crowds of shoppers, just off Main Street.

But there are too many “windows covered with brown construction paper.” Landlords still hold out for sky-high rents, and refuse to consider options like short-term leases and revenue sharing.

I know, I know. Apples and oranges. Westport is not New York. Main Street will never have the foot traffic of Bleecker Street.

But we don’t need all those empty storefronts either.

If Greenwich Village can find a way out of its retail doldrums, our village can too.

(Click here for the full New York Times story. Hat tip: Michelle Sinclair Colman)

Where We Live

Earlier this month, the Sunday New York Times included a fascinating special section.

“Where We Live” was a 4-page feast. Drawn from an enormous Microsoft database, it showed every building in the United States.

Including Westport.

The Times explains:

We found fascinating patterns in the arrangements of buildings. Traditional road maps highlight streets and highways; here they show up as a linear absence. Where buildings are clustered together, in downtown, the image is darker, dense. As suburbs stretch out with their larger lawns and malls, the map grows lighter.

Your eye can follow the ways that development conforms to landscape features like water and slopes….You can detect signals of wealth and poverty, sometimes almost next door to each other….

These images don’t just reveal cityscapes; they reveal ourselves.

I find the size of our downtown especially intriguing. It looms so large in our mind. On the Times map, it looks so small. Meanwhile, the Staples High School/Bedford Middle School complex looks so big. (Click each image to enlarge it.)

Here’s a tighter view. That’s the Post Road near the bottom, with the two condo complexes (Harvest Farms and Regents Park) at the far right.

Now check out Compo Beach. Pretty dense — no wonder it’s prime trick-or-treating territory!

What catches your eye? What did you learn about Westport? How has your perception of this place we call home changed?

Click “Comments” below.

And — to see the Times map of the entire United States — click here.

(Hat tip: Jeff Mitchell)