The sea wall at Swift's Rhode Island home before repairs began
David Collins, a columnist for Connecticut's New London Day, has publicly apologized to Taylor Swift for the negative press attention she received in the wake of his poorly-researched column about sea wall repairs at her Rhode Island home.
In a column entitled, “To Taylor Swift: Sorry”, Collins apologized for triggering “scorched-earth worldwide news coverage on gossip pages … I gather you must be used to it. Indeed, we first heard from your publicist hours after the column was posted online Sunday morning. She must have known what was coming. My first inkling about how sensational it might get was a headline someone sent me from Gawker Tuesday morning: "Taylor Swift is Fucking up the Rhode Island Coastline … I feel badly about this because I suspect you know very little about the work being done. I'm sure you've got other things to focus on ... Anyway, Happy New Year, Taylor."
After his story was picked up by media outlets including Vanity Fair, Collins was invited to appear on the television show Entertainment Tonight, where he admitted, "If I had that house and it was on a big cliff and I had the money to reinforce it and move those boulders, with permission, I would do it too."
The controversy began on December 29, when Collins wrote a column in which he expressed shock at workers "rearranging the rocky coastline" on a "public" beach near Swift's mansion. He claimed the boulders used in the project were being mined from the ocean floor. He bemoaned the sight of a "contraction trailer and portable potty" on Swift's land, remarking that it was "a neighborhood where trailers would not usually be welcome." Collins also quoted an unnamed surfer who claimed the work was "completely illegal."
It later transpired that the relevant permits were issued to Swift in early November; the news had been reported by the Westerly Sun. A spokeswoman for the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council explained to the Providence Journal that Swift’s engineers had originally submitted plans to replace unsafe rocks and re-set existing rocks following heavy storm damage: "The majority of the work proposed is related to the repair and replacement of the existing armour stone slope. Versions of this work have been done previously, with limited access. The current proposal seeks to provide a more permanent solution to the problem." At the Council’s request, the applicant also moved ocean boulders back to their original position along the sea wall to prevent coastal erosion: “They haven’t done anything wrong.”
After receiving an attorney’s letter from the construction company concerned, Collins clarified his original comments about the building work. He also conceded that the beach was Swift’s private property, after speaking with a spokesperson for the CRMC.
Collins still maintains that Swift should be required to get town permits for the $2 million repair project, thereby subjecting her property to an increased tax assessment. However, Westerly Town Manager Michelle Buck said that she and her staff, including Town Building Inspector David Murphy, made certain that everything regarding the project was being done properly from the start: "It's all within the jurisdiction of the CRMC." This was reiterated by Amy Grzybowski, Westerly's director of planning, code enforcement and grant administration.