By Judie Jacobson
Write this down. On August 24, 2020, Jerry Seinfeld lost his sense of humor.
Hard to believe. But there you have it. Years from now you’ll want to tell your wide-eyed, awe-struck grandchildren where you were and what you were doing when it happened.
Of course, there’s more to the story. In Jerry’s defense, the master of his comedic domain was goaded into an uncharacteristically humorless hissy fit by New York City comedy club owner James Altucher. In a self-published essay reprinted by the New York Post on August 17, Altucher professed his undying love for the city of his birth…then in the very next breath espoused what Jerry perceived to be his cockamamie theory that the shining city on the Hudson had seen the last of its glory days.
Pointing an accusatory finger at the pandemic and recent riots, Altucher noted that apartment vacancies in the Big Apple were at an all time high as residents headed for parts anywhere but there, and companies were packing up and moving out as well.
“NYC is Dead Forever,” Altucher lamented in the essay’s apocalyptic headline.
Jerry was apoplectic.
“The last thing we need in the thick of so many challenges is some putz on LinkedIn wailing and whimpering, ‘Everyone’s gone! I want 2019 back!’” Jerry hollered in an opinion piece published in The New York Times on August 24 (and written, or so it is rumored, from the confines of his $32 million waterfront shack in the Hamptons). He then instructed Mr. Altucher to “shut up,” and “wipe your tears, wipe your butt and pull it together.”
Ok then. Safe to say Jerry Seinfeld was not captain of his high school debate team.
After receiving a bushel of death threats, James “The Putz” Altucher wrote a more respectful response to Jerry “Which-Of-My-150-Cars-Shall-I-Take-Out-For-A-Drive-Today?” Seinfeld, saying: “I appreciate that Seinfeld is also concerned enough about the city to write a rebuttal. But there’s denial, and there’s reality. Denial won’t help anything. Failing to address problems won’t save Gotham.”
Unhinged tirades aside, I feel your pain, Jerry. As a Brooklynite born and bred, and a former longtime resident of Manhattan who arrived in West Hartford kicking and screaming in 1988, I stubbornly cling to the fervent hope of one day returning to the city wherein lies my heart.
As to the question of whether or not New York City will rise again, however, I’m not choosing sides. After all, does anyone really know what lies ahead? No. Does anyone really like being called a ‘putz’ by Jerry Seinfeld? I think not.
The resurrection of New York City notwithstanding, here’s what I do know: West Hartford is a gem of a suburban New England town that would make a great place for transplanted New York urbanites to call home.
I know this because Julie Lasky told me so.
On August 7, 2020 – a couple of weeks before the Seinfeld/Altucher feud erupted – Lasky penned an article in The New York Times entitled “Leaving New York: How to Choose the Right Suburb.”
“The pandemic, and its disruption of work habits, has led New Yorkers not just to untether from the city but to propel themselves to places where they never dreamed of living,” wrote Lasky.
So, where are those places?
To find out, Lasky asked more than 20 real estate agents in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to recommend places to move within two hours of New York City, based on eight different criteria. She then pared down the suggestions with the help of data about school performance, population density and demographic diversity.
Finally, she came up with eight suburban towns that might make great alternatives to New York City living. Six are located in New York, one in New Jersey.
West Hartford was the only town in Connecticut to make the cut.
No surprise – after all, West Hartford is the recipient of umpteen “Best Places” awards from the likes of Money, Niche, Family Circle, and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazines, as well as a travel website called The Crazy Tourist.
“West Hartford is a vibrant and walkable, diverse and welcoming community with a high level of services and with residents that care deeply about each other,” West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor wrote in an email.
“West Hartford has always been an attractive place to live for people from New York, Boston and other cities, but in this extraordinary time when a home is the center of so much of life, we have experienced a large influx of home buyers and business owners from larger metropolitan areas that recognize the high quality of life that West Hartford has to offer,” she added.
Lasky thinks she knows why. Besides being only a two hour drive to mid-Manhattan, West Hartford boasts real estate prices that are considerably lower than New York’s suburban towns.
In addition, she writes, West Hartford is noted for its “historic roots, walkable center, high-ranking schools, three public libraries, six public parks, two active senior centers” and, of course, Blue Back Square – which Lasky describes as “a 10-year-old mixed-used development that went out of its way not to look like a typical shopping mall.”
West Hartford also has easy access to Hartford’s cultural offerings and to the Farmington Valley, which is rife with apple orchards, golf courses, hiking and river sports, notes Lasky.
“As the executive director of the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce, I have witnessed the resilience of our town first hand,” says Chris Conway. “Collectively, our residents, civic leaders, businesses and nonprofit partners are working together to maintain and even grow our community. West Hartford has always been a special place. I am excited to welcome newcomers to our town.”
Newcomers like, say, Jerry Seinfeld? Just kidding, Jer. Hey, how about we all hop in that vintage Porsche of yours and go for a cup of coffee, maybe breakfast, at Sally & Bob’s. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Judie Jacobson is the editor-in-chief of Ledger Publications and West Hartford Magazine, and communications director of 2020 Media.