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May 5, 2010
The Untold Story Behind the Kennedy Dream Home
What They’re Not Saying (But We Will)
Photos courtesy of Morton Pictures
Jim Blansfield with Robert and Mary Kennedy
We’ve been hearing a lot these days about Robert and Mary Kennedys' eco-friendly house in Mount Kisco and the new book about it. It’s an impressive story about going green, but here’s another no-so awe-inspiring tale that you won’t find between the two covers of that recently released controversial book.
Trying to minimize the PR on the book itself and focus instead on the virtues of the new house, sources reveal there had been a major rift between the Kennedys and Robin Wilson, a “green” designer based in New York City who started out as a co-author on the bood but apparently tried to steal the show. No one is talking, and the more we ask, the more they clam up. BUT Somewhere between a beautiful friendship and co-authorship, things broke down, and Wilson went ahead with her own publisher, unbeknown to Mary K. You’d never know of the falling out judging from a glossy YouTube interview between the glamorous Wilson and Nightly News’ Chuck Scarborough. Check it out.
The real story of the rebirth of the Mount Kisco house, at least according to Kennedy, can be found in the forward to the book, written by the RFK Jr. himself. The rest of the book is Wilson’s.
Kennedy tells of returning home with his wife Mary from a Cape Cod vacation in 1996 to find that their sprawling clapboard 1920 structure with 1950s aluminum siding had flooded while they were away. They were greeted with a black mold bloom that made everyone sick.
“When visitors with hacking coughs fled our home for fresh air, I taunted them from the front steps to come back and ‘man up,’” RFK Jr. writes in the forward. (I can believe that’s exactly what he told them, having once hiked up and down a steep hillside in Dobbs Ferry with him on a story assignment. He’s one tough dude, and it took me, as just an ordinary human, days to recover.)
But back to the mold in Mount Kisco: after unsuccessfully attempting a gut renovation, the family finally reached the conclusion that the only solution was to rebuild from the ground up. RFK Jr., an environmental advocate extraordinaire, said he figured it was about time he started “walking the walk in my own home.”
The couple embarked upon a LEED certified renovation, and the house now showcases the latest in green technologies, sustainable building practices, and eco-friendly home products. Its promoters say it could become the new model for green building and healthy homes nationwide.
But the question is whether your average family could afford the dollars to do something similar. In the short run the construction costs are somewhat higher; long term, though, you’re sure to save dollars if you do green the right way. Most importantly, our planet’s at stake. So, do we really have a choice?