Archive for September, 2007

What are we chopped liver?
September 26, 2007

Some news broke today (Sept. 25) that a company from New York plans some big investment in Metro Hartford. That’s great news.

Town Sports International (TSI) is opening up a health club with a pool and all the normal gym amenities in West Hartford Center at the new Blue Back Square Development. Anytime someone from somewhere else comes to our state to spend money, it is great news.

Blue Black Square is a complex that includes retail, restaurants, housing, entertainment and office space and more. It is named after West Hartford native son Noah Webster, the dictionary guy. The project is very local. The architecture is Connecticut and it looks very Connecticut. It’s going to be great.

Let’s talk about TSI. It operates hundreds of health clubs in the northeast and they have a local flair. Those in the New York metro area are called New York Sports Clubs, in the metro Washington D.C. area they are called Washington Sports Clubs, in the metro Boston area they are called Boston Sports Clubs, and in metro Philadelphia they are called Philadelphia Sports Clubs. It is a great concept because it makes people feel as if they are working out at a local club, even though it is a chain. Presumably if they expanded to Miami, they would be called Miami Sports Clubs.

The West Hartford location will be TSI’s first in the metro Hartford area, and, according to a press release, more health clubs are planned for our area. This is great news. Imagine “Hartford Sports Clubs” all over the region, perhaps at Front Street, Glastonbury and Evergreen Walk — just like the New York Sports Clubs, only with local identity.

  • Video Clip: Better Connecticut talks about health club
  • But wait. TSI will not be calling these health clubs “Hartford Sports Clubs.” Get this: They will be called “New York Sports Clubs!”

    What an insult to Hartford, West Hartford and the entire state. This area is not a suburb of New York City. In fact, Blue Back Square is closer to Boston than it is to New York, and we’re not a suburb of Boston, either.

    Hartford has its own suburbs. Every other club TSI operates is named for the metro area where the gym is located. Why can’t West Hartford be treated the same way? Is something wrong with us?

    This is its own metro area: The 28th largest television market in the country. We have newspapers, an airport, radio stations, televisions stations and the list goes on.

    I talked with a spokeswoman for TSI, Lisa Hufcut, who gave me a few reasons for TSI’s spurning of the Hartford name. First, she told me the New York name was the biggest of its four divisions and was recognizable. I’ll buy that. Then, why isn’t the whole chain called New York Sports Clubs? Because it wouldn’t fly in Boston, and it shouldn’t fly in Hartford.

    The next reason I was given was that TSI already operates eight clubs in Connecticut, all called New York Sports Clubs. Those clubs are in Fairfield County, which is the New York metro area. Again, West Hartford is in the Hartford metro area. If TSI wants to use the statewide argument, then why aren’t all New Jersey clubs called NYSC? Those in metro Philly are called PSC.

    If the entire chain was called New York Sports Clubs, I wouldn’t have a problem; that would be their brand. But TSI caters to each region, it just doesn’t want to cater to ours.

    Thank you TSI for chipping away at our identity.

    Pick up your trash
    September 24, 2007

    One of my pet peeves is litter and the people who trash our great state. I’ve seen people toss bottles out of their car windows, fling cups into bushes, and drop cigarette boxes onto sidewalks.

    From my observations, litterbugs are a diverse group: different ages, races, etc. One night while leaving Broadcast House, I noticed a car full of college women pulled over on Columbus Boulevard, apparently out for a night on the town. They then opened the door and dumped their McDonald’s wrappers and cups right on the sidewalk and drove off.

    Another time, I was walking on the street when a seemingly well-to-do woman walked out of the Wadsworth Atheneum in her mink coat, crumpled up a piece of paper and threw it on the sidewalk as she climbed into her Lexus. I walked up to her car, tapped her on the window and said, “Excuse me, ma’am? You dropped something.” She was mortified, got out of the car and retrieved HER trash.

    Another time during rush hour, a businessman opened his car door at the lights near the Travelers Tower and dumped out a handful of trash, wrappers and that sort of thing. It looked like he had been cleaning his car while waiting in traffic. At the next set of lights, we approached him and asked him if he would go back and clean up his trash. To our surprise, he did. He was embarrassed as heck and maybe thought he was going to be on the evening news.

    Another time, a young couple enjoying ice cream in West Hartford Center left their empty cups on a bench — feet away from a trash a barrel. What is wrong with these people?

    Litterbugs are mostly lazy people. Really lazy. Check out these pictures from Bushnell Park.

    Dennis observes litter

    Dennis observes litter

    Note the proximity of the trash barrels. Why can’t they throw their trash away? The wrapper on the bench came from Whole Foods, whose customers pride themselves as being environmentally conscious. This particular customer obviously is not. These are horribly lazy pigs we are talking about it.

    Cleaning up after these losers costs all of us money. Our taxes pay for people to clean up after the swine that pollute the Connecticut landscape. In Hartford, three men patrol downtown cleaning up after the filthy beings who should be living in a barn. In a story I did a few years back, we learned that, on a weekly basis, these men pick up tens of thousands of cigarette butts — some of which lay strewn mere feet away from trash cans and receptacles made specifically for cigarette butts.

    This is a beautiful state and the Capital City is a marvel of historic architecture. Let’s have some pride, show some respect and keep it clean.

    Channel 3 Turns the Big 5-0!
    September 21, 2007

    This week, Channel 3 celebrates our 50th anniversary!

    It was such a different world when we first when on the air broadcasting from the Travelers Tower on September 21st, 1957. Dwight Eisenhower was president, the Brooklyn Dodgers were playing their final games in New York City and cars had stylish ginormous fins.

    We were WTIC-TV then, and became WFSB in 1974. It’s been quite a run.

    This Sunday, September 23rd, tune in for Face the State at 11 a.m. and you will see a special presentation celebrating our 50th. Later this fall, we will have a series of reports looking back at the past 5 decades of Channel 3. I’ve been talking to many Channel 3 alumni — including Gayle King, David Ushery, Pat Sheehan, John Sablon, Charlie Bagley, Duby McDowell, Don Noel and others — and you will hear from them in October and November.

    Please, feel free to share your memories of Channel 3 here.

    Welcome to Connecticut?
    September 13, 2007

    First impressions are lasting. So, why do the “Connecticut Welcomes You” signs look so bad?

    This one here is in Voluntown welcoming drivers from Rhode Island.

    Connecticut Welcomes You sign

    It would be nice if they said “Constitution State” instead of “We’re Full of Surprises.” Those four words make up a long, defunct slogan that, from what I understand, didn’t go over well.

    Maybe the signs should say “Historic Connecticut.” Whatever the sign says, they should look better than this one. The signs on the Merritt Parkway are attractive and unique, so why not use them elsewhere?

    Any ideas? Leave a comment and remember to sign your hometown!

    Remembering 9/11
    September 13, 2007

    Everybody remembers where they were on September 11, 2001. I was at home, actually sleeping in a bit when my news director called my house moments after the first plane slammed into the World Trade Center. “Are you watching TV?” she asked in a frantic voice. She explained what was happening and told me to get ready to go to New York.

    I showered and packed in about 15 minutes and then jumped in a cab and headed to Broadcast House. Photographer Mike Kopelman and I left Hartford and drove toward Manhattan. We listened to coverage on the radio of the towers collapsing. It was beyond comprehension and difficult for us to envision. Did the towers tip over, or crumble?

    Along our drive, we were diverted to Stamford Hospital, where we were told survivors would be showing up because of the expected overflow at emergency rooms at hospitals in New York. But, the news coming out of lower Manhattan was becoming more and more grim, and in all likelihood, Stamford Hospital would not be treating any survivors. We resumed our trip toward what would later be called “Ground Zero.”

    We got word that our satellite truck was having trouble getting through security to enter Manhattan, so we ended up stopping in Sound View Park in the Bronx and reported live from the banks of the East River. Over my shoulder, Channel 3 viewers could see plumes of smoke coming from Ground Zero — some 12 or so miles from my location.

    After a few live reports, we drove as far south into Manhattan as we could. We parked and started walking. The more we walked, the more smoke we encountered. Manhattan was a virtual ghost town except for the whail of sirens and the roar of military aircraft. We saw people covered in soot in a daze.

    Our satellite truck set up in Tribeca and that’s where we reported live for the 11 p.m news.

    I ended up spending about 2 weeks in Manhattan covering the biggest story any of us had ever seen. I will never forget talking with dozens of people, some from Connecticut, who walked up to me begging for help in finding their loved ones.

    We worked long hours in the days following 9/11 and it was a physically and emotionally exhausting assignment. Of course, it paled in comparison to what others were going through. After several days of coverage, Kara and I took a walk to a fire station near our hotel that had lost more than a half dozen firefighters. Candles were burning, pictures were posted along with letters and drawings from children.

    We couldn’t help but cry.

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