Tag Archives: New York Times

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)

Rent Or Buy? A Question For These Times.

For decades, most Westport families lived in homes they owned. This is suburbia, after all. Renters lived in places like New York City.

But times, real estate markets and financial planning have changed.

According to a story in today’s New York Times real estate section:

In a real estate market tinged with so much uncertainty, renting at more than $5,000, $8,000 or even $10,000 a month feels like a safer bet these days to a number of people who could well afford to buy in the suburban counties of Fairfield and Westchester, where median sale prices in many towns are above $1 million. Indeed, demand for high-end single-family rentals is up significantly, a trend that dovetails with a decline in sales in New York and across portions of the region.

The story includes a couple of Westport examples.

Aimee Raupp-Temple and her husband Ken Temple rented instead of buying a house when they moved here from Brooklyn Heights  3 years ago. They were testing out an unfamiliar place.

But they love Westport. They think home prices will continue to drop. So they’re renting again — in Wilton — while waiting out the market to buy here.

This Riverside Avenue house rents for $5,800 a month. Current rental listings range from $2,800 to $11,500.

Another couple — Michelle and Jeremy Fine — and their 2 young children have moved White Plains. Property taxes are much lower  here.

But they too did not want to buy in Westport until they test-drove the town.

Click here for the full Times story. If you’re a renter, we’d love to hear your thoughts; please click “Comments” below.

Meanwhile: Welcome to Westport, Temples and Fines!

(Hat tip: John Karrel)

Alan Abel Is Finally Dead

It was inevitable: Alan Abel’s obituary would mention that this was not his first.

The “professional hoaxer” — who first got his death notice into the New York Times in 1980 — is now actually dead.

The Times reports that the former Westporter died Friday, in Southbury. He was 94.

Alan Abel

Abel was a jazz drummer, stand-up comic, writer, campus lecturer and filmmaker, the Times said. The paper also called him “a master psychologist, keen strategist and possessor of an enviable deadpan and a string of handy aliases.”

Among his hoaxes: creating the Society for Indecency to Naked Animals, which purported to want to put clothes on horses, cows, dogs and cats. He also created the fictitious Yetta Bronstein, a Jewish grandmother from the Bronx, who “ran for president” in 1964 advocating fluoridation, national bingo tournaments and truth serum for congressional water fountains.

Following the Watergate scandal, he hired an actor to pose as Deep Throat. The press conference drew 150 reporters.

Alan Abel is — finally, irrevocably — dead. But his website lives on.

(Click here for the full New York Times obituary. Hat tip: John Karrel)

As part of Alan Abel’s actual obituary, the New York Times ran its previous one — and subsequent correction.

Jim Crow And Compo

With the hubbub of a holiday weekend, you may have missed  the NewYork Times opinion piece, “The North’s Jim Crow.”

It’s by Andrew W. Kahrl, an associate professor of history and African-American studies at the University of Virginia. He recently wrote a book about Ned Coll, the 1960s and ’70s activist who sought access to Connecticut’s shoreline for all.

Citing 2 recent examples — the Starbucks manager who called the police when 2 black men asked to use the restroom while waiting for a friend, and the woman who called police to report a black family grilling at a picnic — Kahrl says that “the selective enforcement of minor ordinances … performs the same work today that segregation laws did in the past.”

Take public beaches, for example. He notes that while Southern officials “literally drew color lines in the sands,” towns in the Northeast “devised elaborate, and ostensibly colorblind, procedures for determining who could access public shores, and what they could bring and do inside, and then proceeded to enforce them for black and brown people only.”

In 1975, members of Ned Coll’s Revitalization Corps demonstrated in Old Saybrook, for access to the beach. (Photo courtesy of Bob Adelman)

Kahrl zeroes in on “wealthy, all-white towns along the Connecticut Gold Coast, where blacks were effectively excluded from living by racist housing policies.”

He says, “While nearby urban black populations swelled and the demand for access to public places of recreation spiked, towns like Greenwich, Westport and Fairfield restricted their beaches to residents. It was obvious whom these laws were meant to exclude.”

This winter — in response to last summer’s crowds, who came from throughout Connecticut and nearby New York, and sometimes filled the parking lot to capacity — Westport restricted the number of daily passes (sold to anyone without a season sticker).

Yet I don’t know that Westport ever “restricted (our) beaches to residents.” That’s a pretty strong charge for Professor Kahrl to make, and for the New York Times to print.

If any “06880” readers have recollections of Westport’s beach policies in the 1960s and ’70s, click “Comments” below.

(For the full New York Times opinion piece, click hereHat tip: Fred Cantor)

Farewell Travels: Hello Travel Designer

Westporters are no strangers to luxury travel. Whether it’s a helicopter to the Hamptons or a private jet to Jasper, you (or a neighbor) has done it.

Or heard someone brag about it, in the Balducci’s checkout line.

But there is luxury travel, and then there are people like Susan Farewell.

Today’s New York Times has a feature story on “a subset of travel planners — they prefer the term travel designers — who do far more than simply book trips. They manage the travel portfolios of their affluent clients.”

Susan Farewell

The piece includes Farewell Travels — the eponymous owner’s company. Like other travel designers, Farewell makes house calls (to observe family dynamics), and does “reconnaissance … the better to make recommendations on lodging, tour guides and special excursions.”

As an example, the Times article cites Westport clients Russell and Bobbi Crocker. Farewell planned a trip to South Africa and Zambia for the couple — then went ahead to check everything out.

After returning, she booked a different — presumably better/nicer/more something — for the Crockers.

The Times reports how she works:

Ms. Farewell’s initial meetings with new clients amount to an intake. She isn’t interested solely in where they would like to go, but in where they have been, their “style” (large hotel or boutique? adventurous or not so much? sedentary or active?), the ages of their children, the length of time they are willing to spend on a plane, the number of days they have available and the money they want to allot to travel annually. It’s not unusual, she said, for some small families she works with to spend $50,000 for a weeklong trip (not including the private jets).

The Times story notes that one client — hopefully not Farewell’s — would never use his particular travel designer again. At a remote location, the man was served frozen — not fresh — orange juice.

I’m sure no Westporter would ever feel so entitled.

But if he did, I’m also sure that Susan Farewell would tell him where to go.

(For the full New York Times story, click here.)

Tyler Hicks: Finding The Truth

The New York Times‘ “Truth” ad campaign — launched during the Oscars — is unusual.

A variety of spots, in an array of mediums, hammer home one theme: “The truth is hard to find.”

One of the most compelling is a quick video series of photographs. Desperate immigrants, piled on rafts, seek safety and freedom.

A man’s voice says: “I see fear. I see desperation. But I also see hope.”

He continues: “I feel it’s important to take photographs that will make a difference.”

At the end, he says: “I’m Tyler Hicks. Photojournalist for the New York Times.

Hicks is a 1988 graduate of Staples High School. He’s won 3 Pulitzer Prizes. He’s documented wars, tragedies and a few triumphs all over the globe, from Afghanistan to Albania, Kosovo to Kenya.

He — and fellow Pulitzer-winning/Times photojournalist/Staples grad Lynsey Addario — were abducted in Libya, and spent 6 harrowing days in captivity.

In 2012 Hicks was in Syria, when Beirut bureau chief Anthony Shadid died of an asthma attack. Hicks helped carry his body across the border to Turkey.

The truth is indeed hard to find. Somehow, Tyler Hicks brings it closer to us all.

(Hat tip: Jim Honeycutt)

Tyler Hicks

Justin Paul, His Best Friend, And The New York Times

“06880” has covered the career of Justin Paul extensively. All of us in Westport are intensely proud of the Broadway songwriter, who — with his musical partner Benj Pasek — has been called the next Rodgers and Hammerstein.

Now the New York Times has taken note too.

A long — loooong — cover story in this coming Sunday’s Theater section by Michael Paulson is headlined “What It’s Like to Make It in Showbiz With Your Best Friend.”

Justin Paul (right) and Benj Pasek.

Justin Paul (right) and Benj Pasek.

It begins:

They met at 18, the worst dancers in a college ballet class, and sought refuge in a basement practice room, taking a first stab at songwriting with a tune about adolescents playing hooky and footsie at a suburban diner.

They went viral before going viral was a thing — their undergraduate years coincided with the birth of Facebook, and the first song cycle Benj Pasek and Justin Paul wrote, called “Edges,” was discovered, shared and performed by musical theater majors around the country.

Now, at the age of 31, after a decade of being touted as promising, up-and-coming, and ones-to-watch, Pasek and Paul have arrived.

Ben Pasek (left) and Justin Paul, deep into their

Ben Pasek (left) and Justin Paul a few years ago, deep into their “24-Hour Musical.” (Photo by Kerry Long)

There are ample shoutouts to Westport:

They are, on the surface, quite different from each other. Mr. Paul, who lives in Harlem, is a churchgoing Christian from Westport, Conn.; straight; married; and the father of a 7-month-old daughter. Mr. Pasek, who grew up in Ardmore, Pa., and now lives on the Upper West Side, is gay, Jewish and single.

But they both began as little boys who loved to sing.

Mr. Paul, a talented pianist, started early. At age 3, he was singing gospel music with his father, a pastor, in church. Later, he sang and danced at senior centers with Music Theater of Connecticut; and then, at Staples High School, he performed in “Into the Woods,” conducted the orchestra in “Hello, Dolly!” and spent his free time poring over Broadway “fake books,” which help pianists master melodies.

There’s much more, of course. For the full story — and photos — click here.

(Hat tip: Tommy Greenwald)

Holy Staples Players! Kevin Conroy Is Batman!

In April, “06880” profiled Kevin Conroy.

For over 20 years, the 1973 Staples High School graduate has lent his “deeply charming, yet virile voice” to 9 Batman TV series, 12 animated movies and 7 video games. No other actor has played Batman for so long, or been as closely identified with him.

Today, the New York Times finally took notice.

Kevin Conroy (Photo/Ben Esner for NY Times)

Kevin Conroy (Photo/Ben Esner for NY Times)

The Arts section features a full-length story on Conroy — who, it should be noted, is hardly a 1-trick Batman. The Juilliard alum also toured nationally with “Deathtrap,” appeared on the soap opera “Another World,” played Laertes in the New York Shakespeare Festival, acted on Broadway, and was a regular on “Ohara” and “Tour of Duty.”

But it’s as Batman he’s best known, and that’s the Times hook. Jeff Muskus writes:

He has logged the most screen time of anyone in the comic-book vigilante’s 77-year history — without ever showing his face onscreen for the role. Still, his voice, deep and resonant, has defined the character for fans who grew up with his shows, and again for those devouring his three Arkham video games.

“It’s so much fun as an actor to sink your teeth into,” Mr. Conroy, 60, said over lunch in New York’s theater district. “Calling it animation doesn’t do it justice. It’s more like mythology.”

The story notes that “school plays” — aka Staples Players — provided Conroy with a home, away from his dysfunctional family (he lived some of the time with friends).

Muskus concludes:

Unlike Batman, Mr. Conroy has managed to resolve much of his childhood trauma. First, he sought a modicum of financial stability….He saved during his stage and Los Angeles days, flipping houses on both coasts, and supported and made peace with his parents in their final years. “I was able to speak for my father at his funeral and sing for my mother at hers,” he said.

Mr. Conroy said he’s grateful for his long-running second act. “I’ve been really fortunate to have gotten Batman, because he’s a character that’s just evolved,” he said. “It’s just been a character where you can ride that wave for 24 years. Keeping him alive, keeping him from getting just dark and boring and broody, is the challenge.”

Click here to read the full New York Times story. Click here for the Times’ selection of Conroy’s standout Batman performances.

(Hat tip: James A. Torrey)


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Bridgewater: NY Times Story Is “Distortion Of Reality”

Bridgewater Associates — the Westport-based largest hedge fund in the world — has responded vigorously to a New York Times story, which “06880” linked to yesterday. The firm says:

Although we continue to be reluctant to engage with the media, we again find ourselves in the position of being left with no choice but to respond to sensationalistic and inaccurate stories, both to make clear what is true and to do our part in fighting against the growing trend of media distortion.  To let such significant mischaracterizations of our business stand would be unfair to our hard-working employees and valued clients who understand the reality of our culture and values.

While we all would hope that we could count on the Times for accurate and well-documented reporting, sadly, its article “Sex, Fear, and Video Surveillance at the World’s Largest Hedge Fund” doesn’t meet that standard.  In this memo we will give you clear examples of the article’s distortions.  We cannot comment on the specific case raised in the article due to restrictions we face as a result of ongoing legal processes and our desire to maintain the privacies of the people involved for fear that they too will be tried in the media through sensationalistic innuendos.  Nonetheless, we can say that we are confident that our management handled the case consistently with the law and we look forward to its successful resolution through the legal process.

Bridgewater logoTo understand the background of this story, you should know that the New York Times reporters never made a serious attempt to understand how we operate. Instead they intentionally strung together a series of misleading “facts” in ways they felt would create the most sensationalistic story.  If you want to see an accurate portrayal of Bridgewater, we suggest that you read examinations of Bridgewater written by two independent organizational psychologists and a nationally-renowned management researcher.  (See An Everyone Culture by Robert Kegan; Learn or Die by Edward Hess; and Originals by Adam Grant.)

Rather than being the “‘cauldron of fear and intimidation’” the New York Times portrayed us as, Bridgewater is exactly the opposite.  Bridgewater is well known for giving employees the right to speak up, especially about problems, and to make sense of things for themselves. Everyone is encouraged to bring problems to the surface in whatever ways they deem to be most appropriate.  To be more specific, our employees typically report their business problems and ideas in real time through a public “issue log” and a company-wide survey that is administered quarterly.  More sensitive matters are reported through an anonymous “complaint line,” and all employees have access to an Employee Relations team charged with being a closed, confidential outlet outside of the management chain for handling issues of a personal nature.

The company’s response continues. For the full statement, click this link: Bridgewater Response.