Maria Maisonet’s Beach Bathroom Story

During The Great Compo Beach Bathroom Debate, we’ve heard from taxpayers, pickleball players, politicians, and just about everyone else in town.

Now a very articulate Staples High School senior weighs in. Maria Maisonet grew up in Westport. She works on the “Good Morning Staples” TV show, and for Cablevision’s public access division. Next fall she heads to the University of New Haven, to study communications and film. 

Maria also happens also to use a wheelchair.

She is a paid contributor to The Odyssey and The Patriot, 2 thriving online communities. Westport’s contentious brouhaha impelled her to write a piece, which has already been read by thousands.

Maria Maisonet

Maria wrote about how hard it is just to find a handicap-accessible bathroom.  So she created a video, which she believes helped sway some RTM members.

But not everyone was convinced. Her Odyssey piece mentions the back-and-forth comments, including a particularly hurtful one: that building this is “flushing  money down the toilet.”

“The sheer unbridled joy that filled me when I received word the proposal was approved during the wee hours of the morning at a 26-8 vote is the sad reality for people who live in a world built to exclude them,” Maria concludes.

31 responses to “Maria Maisonet’s Beach Bathroom Story

  1. Wow! Thank you. Maria is clearly a special person. She can send an incredible poignant message without vitriol. John

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  2. Patrick Kennedy

    You go girl. Well done!!

  3. Geralyn R Breig

    Words matter.

  4. Vivianne Pommier

    I am appalled that this would even need to be brought to a any type of contemptuous debate (including “money down the toilet”).

    We preach equality, we preach accessibility, and yet Westport Compo Beach​ and Exit 17 Residents and Ex-Residents Westport, CT​ would not have made this bathroom
    handicap accessible from DAY ONE is a cause for embarrassment.

    We should all thank Maria for her words and the final (yet late) outcome.

  5. Maria, we need your brave voice.

  6. I’m pro-bathroom, I agree with Maria and I’ve been approached twice to sign the Pickleballer’s petition and refused both times.

    In fairness though, the building of the bathroom itself is not the issue is it? I thought it was simply the location that everybody at odds.

    • There were 2 anti-bathroom positions. One was that the location was wrong. The other was that bathrooms were not needed on South Beach at all; people could just go to the existing ones.

      • Karen Saidel Schur

        Dan, surprised your overlooking your own blog documentation with so many opinions. Most people were concerned about the cost ,the location and size of the structure. Many care about a landscape forever changed. Some want the land utilized as designated for recreational use. Some identified safety issues with the design of the facility. Many of these opinions overlapped. All understood these bathrooms would meet the needs of many in South Beach.

        • Karen, how am I “overlooking” my own “blog documentation”? I stand by what I said above. Some people said (very vociferously, insistently and repeatedly) that the location was wrong. Others said the bathrooms were not needed there.

        • “Most people were concerned about the cost” – indeed, a fully ADA compliant set of bathrooms (of the sort folks like Maria require) has already been pointed to as one of the primary cost-drivers.

    • Andrew Colabella

      The location irked some people. Some wanted it located in the dirt lot. However, that would take away from out of town parking pass holders, vehicles with trailers, and events that take place in that area. You would also have to construct a parking lot, with entrance and exit to the bathroom facilities, with a number of them being handicap, add asphalt and a base for a road and traffic analysis of signs and a cross walk at either end and sidewalks in that area.

      The location chosen by Conservation Commission, P&R & P&Z was found to be more accessible, and in a straight line with the pickle ball and skate park recreational area. The parking lot and strip of parking is already existent, the lines for parking would have to be reconfigured obviously. Next, crosswalks would be added to a road that’s already there with a stop sign, and the location is in the middle of the south beach BBQ area.

      The price of the bathrooms startled many people including myself. But when I looked further into detail as to how, an ADA FEMA certified building, could be permitted and could receive coverage of insurances, the 10’ slab of concrete that the 755 square foot building would have to be affixed to cork screw like pilings, 30 of them to be estimated anywhere in 15-20in diameter that cost a couple thousand. When the pilings are screwed into the ground at a very deep depth, it will fortify the structure to a ground and soil composition of sand. Other facilities that I’ve toured in Fairfield County, where it was done for less were either non-ADA, or were just a base and have already been exposed to mild weather where undermining is occurring underneath the slab (Sasco Creek Beach for example.)

      Flood doors and waterproofing are a must so that if any water were to enter the facility I’d be able to drain out.

      Landscaping and sidewalks already part of the plan for the building will be installed providing coverage and aesthetically complimenting the building chosen to resemble the architecture and colors of existing buildings at the beach.

      The next issue was, would this effect our bond rating and/or forecast of future big upcoming needed projects in the town (Coleytown, Bridges, etc). When Brian Stern, chairman of the BOF spoke at the RTM meeting explaining our current rating and expenditures in regards to our mill rate and further financial forecast, I felt relief when he spoke. And given Mr. Stern and his colleagues experience and knowledge in the finance world, I have 100% faith and trust with their body.

      While this is only my opinion and what I gathered as a new and young RTM member, with 9 years experience as a municipal employee, running Compo beach guest services and maintaining facilities for 6 years, I feel that the addition to these permanent restrooms, with the lifespan of 70+ years, it is an addition to an asset and gem of our town, my second home, Compo Beach.

      What I am displeased to see, is the bullying and lack of respect to those with different opinions about this matter. If you feel so inclined to disagree with me, not see from my perspective, or anyone’s to begin with, there’s always a nice way to put your opinion out. Otherwise, if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

      I cannot imagine being in a wheel chair for life and not being able to BBQ at the beach, or go for a stroll on the beach, or have to travel a couple hundred feet, with someone to help me to load and unload my wheelchair or even try to make it down the side of the road to get to a tight entrance of a bathroom. I would literally breakdown and cry. My loss of independence. This bathroom, along with the sidewalks and Mobi-pads, is an asset to our facilities but a gain for independence for all, especially those less fortunate, challenged, or disabled.

      It’s a win in my eyes.

    • Karen Saidel Schur

      Thanks Nick – agreed more about the location than the building. However, we are residents of your community and many

      are not pickle ball players. These players just happened to catch the deed being planned. The petition was just to allow a community vote.

  7. Way to go, Maria! Great job!

  8. Maria, Vivianne, Nick, Dan, and anyone else who reads this blog, I will again dispel the misinformation, propaganda and straw-man arguments that have been used to mischaracterize and tarnish the opposition to this restroom proposal. CLEARLY everyone in Westport who supported upgraded restroom facilities on South Beach desired a building that was handicap accessible – that implicit from the outset, and is required by law (George H.W. Bush rest in peace). To clarify, the petition for a referendum was created by WESTPORT RESIDENTS who care about the unnecessary & excessive cost, size, imprudent location, destruction of recreational space, obstruction of views, obtrusiveness, and unsafe design that places residents (including seniors and the handicapped) at risk. As Karen told Dan, he has “overlooked” ALL these other important reasons that were documented on his blog. The comment about “money being flushed” has been intentionally misinterpreted as it had nothing to do with providing an ADA facility; it refered to the excessive cost chosen to provide this facility while ignoring the more responsible and safer options that are available. A safer, more efficient, ADA/FEMA compliant 300 sq ft. facility costing only $235,000 was an option that was intentionally not presented for approvals despite THAT OPTION being the one recommended by our experts. There is NO law or regulation requiring a 189 sq foot room housing a singular toilet nor a law demanding an unsafe locked door design, to adequately meet ADA needs. There is likely no other similar imprudent unsafe ADA facility in the entire nation for the very reasons stated above. Unfortunately Andrew parrots propaganda that was utilized by the PRC to mislead the RTM and the public, and coerce votes to support a proposal that is needlessly expensive, unsafe, obtrusive, and that Westport residents rightly do not want. Even the construction rationale being stated is untrue – what was not told to the RTM is that the structure could simply be raised only 2 feet (using an imperceptible cement ramp for access) eliminating ANY FEMA flood concerns and the need for expensive “flood proofing” that FEMA recently warned is often “unreliable” and prone to failure. To state that “Flood doors and waterproofing is a must to enable water to drain out” makes absolutely no sense and is simply not true. These beliefs, although well intentioned, support the fact that due to the biased PRC presentation, the RTM membership did not fully understand when they voted. The TRUTH is that more reasonable, responsible, safer, FEMA compliant alternatives were available but never presented to the P&Z, the Board of Finance, the RTM, OR TO THE PUBLIC. There is no shame in providing an ADA/FEMA compliant facility while simultaneously doing so in a prudent, safe, non-obtrusive and fiscally responsible manner that does not destroy recreational space. It is disheartening that many in the handicapped community seem not to agree with that, stating disinterest in being inclusive of others. Understand that the opposition to this proposal is based solely upon many valid concerns that Maria herself should share – NONE of which is against ADA restrooms. That neighbors oppose it (10-1 resident opposition as stated by an RTM member) does not mean they are uncaring; rather it reflects being prudent and responsible in that care. Tarnishing those dissenting neighbors is insulting and despicable. Questioning spending and demanding prudence for CMS remediation does not mean residents are anti-children – it only means they are being responsible while being caring. Maria articulates the experience of many with physical challenges – and we are all sensitive to that plight. I hope she can see past her unkind experiences to understand that insensitivity to anyone’s needs was never a valid concern she needed worry about – that was just some people using that as a scare tactic. You were misled: NO ONE EVER PROPOSED TAKING THIS AWAY FROM YOU. On the contrary, people were fighting for it to be done in a more equitable and safer fashion. This restroom structure should not be viewed as “reparations for past transgressions” as some have portrayed it – and I hope Maria understands that contrary to her perspective, no one here “builds a world to exclude them”. If anything, Westport has proven itself to be a diverse, caring, inclusive community. In exceptional fashion, the P&Z just offered an olive branch opportunity to the town to remedy the opposition to this imprudent restroom in a harmonious fashion that would satisfy EVERYONE’S needs. Denying an ADA facility was NEVER proposed as part of any offer and would not happen. I hope that Maria and the entire handicap community will finally understand and accept that truth. That the Town will refuse to accept that P&Z olive branch speaks volumes.

    • Thank you for your feedback. I hope to see you at the grand opening as I will be attending as a guest of honor.

    • Thank you for your feedback. I hope to see you at the grand opening as I will be attending as a guest of honor.

  9. Incidentally, if anyone was wondering, the recreational space that will be needlessly destroyed by this restroom is currently utilized by children to roller skate, for family activities, by our EMS responders for bicycle training, and for Service League of Boys program that safely teaches children with physical and mental challenges how to ride bicycles in a safe area protected from vehicular traffic. Other recreational activities that Westport children and adults can enjoy together will be forever lost. Unnecessary.

  10. Arline Gertzoff

    It is disheartening to think those against the bathroom project were in anyway trying to discriminate against the elderly and handicapped. This could not be further from the truth.The objections were based on misinformation about the project, the design of the building,the location ,and the large price tag.

  11. Karen Saidel Schur

    Thank you for your factual summary Jay-So when P&Z offered to quickly MOVE the bathrooms 35 feet to lessen the impact (after a mishap of Parks and Rec-) and reunite the community last week-Why would this not be considered?

  12. Test

  13. Maria-thank you for getting involved and sharing your story. I applaud you for wanted to speak out.

    However, I caution you when you try to use an accusation to support your efforts. Your post about me is wrong and taken totally out of context.

    I have been a supporter of the bathrooms as I am someone who BBQ’s in the beach many times during the summer months. We need real bathrooms.

    However, I have challenged their location to support the pickle ballers and also question the over $800k cost. In addition there was a concern regarding the bathrooms being FEMA compliant.

    Maria-please stay involved as your voice is needed in Westport.

  14. Jessica Purcell

    As Maria’s mother I would like to make my comment to those of you making comments to her. What I’d like to say is that you as adults should remember she is a 17 year old young woman. While she is very articulate that seems to be lost here when speaking to her and telling her shes wrong, has accused you etc. Anytime words are written online the tone is open for interpretation by the readers, that is a hazard in this day. So while you may think comments like money flushed down the toilet, we already have 3 bathrooms, why cant someone walk a few extra feet etc are harmless jests, they are actually hurtful and truthful comments from whomever stated them. Saying money is being flushed down the toilets about the price tag is saying the project isnt worth while. Because let’s be honest here, I’m sure a great deal of this price tag is because it needs to meet ADA compliance, thus why many other establishments do not renovate because they too would pay a hefty price tag to come up to current codes. My daughter and I are not taking information and twisting it, we are reading the under tones given. Whether it be to say move the project over because that’s more convenient for the able bodied who want a view, or find a cheaper way, those are statements saying people like my daughters needs are less important than your view or your loss of small area that could maybe someday be used for something else. I think the take away here is to remember before you put statements out there on the internet that they hold alot of weight and while you may not think they are hurtful they are. And contrary to what was said the world is a very excluding place when your disabled (maybe not intentionally but just how it is). Stop and look when you go places. People park in handicap spots without a care, there are steps that prevent someone in a wheelchair from entering are just a few examples. Even my daughters high school here in town excludes her from participating in Pep Band and Staples Superfans club because the bleachers where they both are run do not have a ramp. So any barriers she faces are real and we experience them daily and until you’ve been in her shoes you shouldn’t make statements that the world and Westport are so inclusive. This project and the people for it are proof that there are still people out there who want to be inclusive to all, but all this backlash is proof that there still is just as many people who feel their needs are more important that someone disabled, even though you have been blessed with the ability to walk for your view your going to lose while my daughter cant. Thank you.

    • I understand your daughters dilemma and I have not disputed the need for handicapped bathrooms. However, it is not unreasonable to debate the cost and exact location to insure we do what’s best for all residents of Westport. In fact moving the bathrooms away from the pickle ball courts make them more central to south beach. Not a bad thing.

      While I applaud your daughter being an advocate and your decision to post her letter, i cannot ignore her unfavorable comment that called me out personally about something I wrote and taken out of context. She ignored all my positive comments.

      Questioning the cost of a project is not attacking or saying anything bad to your daughter. It is not saying the bathrooms are not needed.

  15. Jessica,
    I empathize with your distress. However, contrary to your assurance the truth is that “a great deal of this price tag” is NOT to meet ADA compliance. That’s a false assumption promoted to justify support for this unnecessarily expensive project. Renovating existing structures could be expensive, and sometimes impossible to meet ADA standards, since the 1990’s all new construction must comply with the ADA. It’s unfortunate you remain obstinate in false belief opposition is founded upon prejudice towards those with physical challenges. I can understand you cling to that false belief to justify your position. Moving that restroom’s location is not for the “convenience of able-bodied people who want a view” – by now you must know that statement is a distortion of the truth. Even most senior citizens and many physically challenged residents want it situated in a location that would serve the needs of south beach equitably; something this does not do. Less-costly construction that maintain ADA requirements while using a safer design is a responsible approach that this proposal is not. It’s not necessary to destroy a permanent recreational space that for decades has been designated for the entire community to enjoy – including children and those with “handicaps” – in order to provide this restroom facility. No one is denying the fact that physical and mental challenges make “the world” less accessible than for those without those daily difficulties – many of us have experienced this first hand and through the lives of loved ones we’ve care for. However this imprudent and unsafe restroom will not resolve those realities, and its expense will actually diminish the funding for other things that might otherwise be used to make those lives better. Contrary to your other assertion, no one has ever even implied that “their needs are more important than someone disabled”; there is no justification for that inflammatory statement. There is no reason that as a community we cannot not provide this facility in a collaborative and harmonious fashion rather than having it imposed on anyone. It is ironic that you tarnish your neighbors with a broad brush of prejudice and selfishness, while mandating those same neighbors be taxed for something that they know can be done in a more inclusive and responsible fashion. After reading your postings, I hope that one day the prism of anger and bitterness you seem to chose to view your neighbors through will become kinder and less deprecating.

    • Jay

      All I can say is that you stating that I’m making assumptions or I’m angry and bitter or saying the world is against us is I guess along the same lines of the statements that bathrooms with locks will promote crime. Both are far stretches from the truth in order to get people to agree with you. I’m not even going to go any further to waste my time when nothing I say will make a difference to you and to those it will they have already heard my point. All I can say is you cannot empathize for someone unless you too have the same situation. You may sympathize and feel bad but you dont actually know what it’s like unless you have a disabled child as well. The RTM has worked very hard to make this project a reality which will benefit so many, even the people fighting against will still in the end enjoy it. So I will not allow you or others to tarnish that for us. We are so proud of having people on the RTM working tirelessly for everyone not just some. When this project is done my family will for the first time ever have a BBQ at south beach and be able to enjoy the entire beach. Thank you for your difference of opinion, I am done having my opinion torn at, I have nothing else to say to you.

      • Maria and Jessica –
        You guys are an inspiration. Thank you for your hard work, leadership and insight… and patience.
        Mike S

    • Jay,

      Thank you for reminding me people like you are the exact reason why I do what I do and use my voice to stand up for the under represented disabled community who often feel silenced by ignorant bullies who refuse to even begin to see the world from someone else’s perspective. This is all the more motivation for me to continue fighting and winning battles to make our town and world a more tolerable, acceptable place for all. I hope that one day you will be blessed with compassion for others. Happy holidays.

      Maria

  16. Maria, your latest posting has added comic relief to our day. A word of advice in your budding career in communications – you really should know more about the people you attack prior to doing so – you may feel emboldened but it is empty bravado that makes you look foolish to those who know the truth.

    Jessica, while opinions are ubiquitous, in the end facts really do matter & that is why the Town hired experts in 2013 – experts who were ignored. I know you desperately want to believe otherwise, but multiple experts in their fields have deemed this restroom design to be problematic and unsafe – and this is the reason why prudent public restrooms are not constructed this way. It doesn’t take much research to confirm this for yourself.

    While I will not share my family’s personal history with you, nor discuss how I’ve spent the decades of my life, I assure you that I do understand – which is the very reason for the tremendous amount of time that I’ve dedicated to getting this project done wisely. Numerous postings from many people have attempted to supply facts in the face of high emotion and unbridled opinion – and they have been tarnished and insulted for stating the truth; a common tactic used by those who can’t respond to truth. From many years of experience, I know that decisions based upon emotional reasoning and anecdotal opinion rarely work for the better. Unfortunately this one will be indelible.

    Moving this restroom 35 yards westward would not have interfered one iota with your BBQing days next summer but it would have made it more convenient for those who prefer the western end – especially for those with physical challenges – and not destroyed irreplaceable recreational space. It is unnecessary and imprudent to destroy and to place people at risk to construct a building we all desire when better alternatives exist – particularly when it will be used only a fraction of the year. Those are facts, not opinions. I wish we had the opportunity to discuss this in a more appropriate forum; however despite our many requests for that to occur, this desire was denied to our community. Too bad. Wishing you and your loved ones a joyous and healthy holiday season & New Year.

    • Jay-thank you. Your work to insure functional bathroom placed in the most approoayrenplace is greatly appreciated.

      Just sorry the mom and daughter seem not to want to read and then comprehend there can be a more successful outcome.

  17. Dava Waltzman, PhD

    06880 readers are indebted to Dan and Maria for providing the final pieces of evidence that multiple Westport officials engaged in a conspiracy to impose their will on our residents by using deception, misinformation, propaganda, violations of process, neglect of procedures, falsification of documents, secrecy, and collusion with unwitting zealots in an unethical fashion. Although inflicting a needlessly destructive “white elephant” project upon Town residents against their wishes is serious, the shenanigans used by Town officials to accomplish it brings this to a completely different level.

    All of Westport should take notice and demand accountability.

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