Net-zero hotel

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Work is underway to turn the vacant Perelli Building, in the Long Wharf section of New Haven, into the country's first "net-zero emissions" hotel.

Developer Bruce Redman Becker broke ground in the fall on a new $50 million project to convert the long-vacant Pirelli Building in New Haven into a new 165-room boutique hotel that will, Becker says, be the first “net-zero emissions” hotel in the U.S. when it is completed. According to The Associated Press, “the hotel is being named for Marcel Breuer, the famed modernist architect who designed the building in 1968 to look from a distance like a floating concrete cube.”

The New Haven Independent reports that the net-zero goal will be accomplished thanks to the “use of high-efficiency heat pumps, solar panels on the building’s roof, as well as three large solar canopies to be built on a grassy plot just north of the building.” It’s slated for a fall 2021 opening. — EO

A tough pill to swallow

Stamford-based Purdue Pharma, the bankrupt pharmaceutical company behind OxyContin, agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges as part of an $8 billion-plus settlement with the Justice Department, the Stamford Advocate reports. It’s the latest chapter in the saga of the Connecticut company that helped make prescribing opioid painkillers commonplace in the late 1990s and early 2000s. “The company will plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S., and two counts of conspiracy to violate federal anti-kickback law,”. “At the same time, the Sackler family members who own the company have agreed to a separate $225 million civil settlement.”

The deal is opposed by Connecticut Attorney General William Tong and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, both longtime critics of Purdue Pharma. “This settlement provides a mere mirage of justice for the victims of Purdue’s callous misconduct,” Tong said in a statement. “The federal government had the power here to put the Sacklers in jail, and they didn’t. Instead, they took fines and penalties that Purdue likely will never fully pay. Every dollar paid here is one dollar less for states like Connecticut trying to maximize money from Purdue and the Sacklers to abate the opioid epidemic.”

Blumenthal was equally critical. “This (new) settlement is scant solace for millions of American families destroyed by Purdue Pharma’s hideous criminal law breaking,” Blumenthal said in a statement. “There is little justice here. The Sacklers can buy another drug manufacturer or otherwise use the billions they have funneled from the company. The company’s toxic corporate culture seemingly continues unchanged.” — EO 

Case closed against Skakel in Moxley murder

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Martha Moxley, in an undated file photo.

Forty-five years after Greenwich High School sophomore Martha Moxley was brutally murdered with a 6-iron on the night before Halloween, the case is officially closed. Prosecutors announced in late October that they would not retry the case against Michael Skakel, a neighbor of Moxley’s who was convicted in 2002 and served more than 11 years in prison. Skakel, 60 and the nephew of Robert and Ethel Kennedy, was released after a state judge ruled he was convicted as a result of incompetent legal counsel. Moxley and Skakel were both 15 at the time of the murder.

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Michael Skakel at State Superior Court in Vernon in 2013.

The case has spawned many books, movies and theories about who, if not Skakel, is the killer. Some have pointed to Skakel’s brother Tommy and live-in tutor Kenneth Littleton as potential suspects.

Martha’s brother John was at the courthouse for the decision. “I don’t think Michael Skakel is the devil. I think he did something in a fit of jealous rage. He was a self-described alcoholic at 15, and involved in drugs. He probably didn’t know what he was doing. His life will never be the same, mine will never be the same. I wouldn’t want to walk a mile in his shoes.” — MW

The conclusion to Oliver v. Danbury

The most anticipated and highly contentious battle of 2020 finally came to an end. That’s right, John Oliver vs. Danbury culminated in the naming of the John Oliver Memorial Sewer Plant in October. The host of HBO’s Last Week Tonight had been going back and forth with Mayor Mark Boughton after Oliver launched an unprovoked “attack” on the city back in August. — MW

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HBO comedian John Oliver secretly visited Danbury to cut the ribbon on the "John Oliver Memorial Sewer Plant."

 "At the end of this awful, awful year, what could be more important than evidence that if we want to, we can come together, overcome our differences and sort our $#!‡ out?" — John Oliver

The Coronavirus toll

It is no surprise that the coronavirus brought more death to Connecticut this year than is typical, but just how much has begun to become clear. An analysis by The Connecticut Mirror of data released by the state Department of Public Health shows that “the number of people who died in the state jumped 55% between March and May — 4,326 more deaths than normal. The coronavirus was the culprit of 88% of those additional deaths.” Broken down by month and compared to the median average from 2012-19, deaths in Connecticut increased by 6 percent in March, 100 percent in April and 57% in May before largely leveling off in June and July.

As we know, these deaths were not distributed evenly. According to an analysis conducted by the Connecticut Data Collaborative, in April adults over 60 experienced twice the number of deaths as generally die in April in Connecticut. Black individuals experienced over triple the number of deaths. Black individuals over 80 experienced more than four times the number of deaths. Hispanic deaths nearly tripled and white deaths nearly doubled. 

Tracking deaths has been more difficult in Connecticut, as it and North Carolina are the only states that have not digitized death records. During the period of March through July, the Mirror’s analysis showed an 18% increase in deaths in Connecticut, a figure comparable to the 20% spike research has shown in the other 48 states. — EO

An invasive pest spotted in Connecticut poses a growing threat to trees and plants

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In recent years the spotted lanternfly, a destructive invasive insect from Asia, has been found in increasing numbers in Connecticut.

The spotted lanternfly, from Asia, was first found in the U.S. back in 2014 in Pennsylvania. Now, the colorful, inch-long, plant-hopping bug that damages trees and other vegetation appears to be gaining a foothold in Connecticut. This year, growing populations have been seen in New Canaan, Greenwich and West Haven, in addition to a single insect found in Stamford. This comes after isolated finds in Farmington in 2018 and Southbury in 2019. According to an October statement from the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, “the impact on the agricultural industry of Connecticut could be devastating,” with endangered crops including apples, cherries and grapes. Oak trees and maple trees serve as the insects’ hosts. — MW

A ‘blessed’ honor

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Michael McGivney, a Roman Catholic priest and founder of the Knights of Columbus.

A Catholic priest from Connecticut who lived more than a century ago is one step away from becoming a saint. Born in Waterbury in 1852 and the founder of the Knights of Columbus, Father Michael J. McGivney was beatified in late October at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford, becoming the first person from Connecticut to be elevated to “blessed.” In May, Pope Francis formally recognized a miracle attributed to McGivney, clearing the way for his beatification. Tennessee parents say they prayed to McGivney in 2015 to save their unborn son from a fatal condition. The child survived. McGivney was the parish priest at New Haven’s St. Mary’s Church before dying at age 38 in 1890 during the so-called Russian flu pandemic. A second miracle needs to be credited to McGivney for canonization, or achieving sainthood. He would be the first American-born man, first Irish American and first parish priest to become a saint. — AY

This article appears in the December 2020 issue of Connecticut MagazineYou can subscribe to Connecticut Magazine here, or find the current issue on sale hereSign up for our newsletter to get our latest and greatest content delivered right to your inbox. Have a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com. And follow us on Facebook and Instagram @connecticutmagazine and Twitter @connecticutmag.

The senior writer at Connecticut Magazine, Erik is the co-author of Penguin Random House’s “The Good Vices” and author of “Buzzed” and “Gillette Castle.” He is also an adjunct professor at WCSU’s MFA Program and Quinnipiac University

Mike Wollschlager, editor and writer for Connecticut Magazine, was born and raised in Bristol and has lived in Farmington, Milford, Shelton and Wallingford. He was previously an assistant sports editor at the New Haven Register.

Albie Yuravich is the editor in chief of Connecticut Magazine. A product of the Naugatuck River Valley, he's also been a newspaper editor and writer at the New Haven Register, Greenwich Time, The Register Citizen and the Republican-American.