Tag Archives: Evan Stein

Evan Stein’s Autism Plea

Evan Stein has read, commented on and contributed stories to “06880” since our founding in 2009.

Today, he shares a family story. It’s deeply personal and truly compelling. Evan writes:

2023 is the 50th anniversary of my parents’ move from the Bronx to Westport with 3 kids. My sister and I were born after the move.

In 1992 I graduated from Staples High School as a captain of both the wrestling and math teams, president of the UN Club and a student manager of the Staples TV Studio.

Now I’m a doctor living in Manhattan with my wonderful wife Jen and 2 boys. But I come back to visit regularly. Just a couple years ago, Dan told my story of accidentally stealing a car at Compo Beach. Best PSA ever!

After losing my first son, Daniel, to complications of premature birth, Jen and I were blessed with 2 more sons: Josh and Sam.

At 2 1/2 years old, Josh seemed to be a bright boy who knew the English and Hebrew alphabets, and loved singing songs and reciting “Sesame Street” episodes.

But after just 2 weeks in pre-school, we were told he needed to be tested. He wasn’t acting like the other kids.

In December 2010 Josh was diagnosed with autism. He started private therapy, and we sent him to a school for children with special needs. At 4 we were lucky to find a school in Queens. The New York Child Learning Institute, for children with autism, is publicly funded. It specializes in cutting-edge applied behavioral analysis therapy.

But while director Susan Vener and her staff are out of this world, incorporate parent training into the curriculum, and make amazing strides with personalized curricula for every child, public funding is just another word for “underfunded.”

I organized fundraisers every year to supplement the needs of the school. I looked for grants, met with philanthropists, and gave whatever I could.

The pandemic made funding needs even more pronounced.

Regardless, over the years Josh and his peers made incredible progress. But even so, Josh had issues. One cold winter night 4 years ago, he kicked out a giant plate glass bedroom window in frustration.

The school was aware of his growing issues. They adjusted his therapy to help him find new ways of coping with difficult situations.

In the last few years, despite the challenges of the pandemic, Josh has made enormous progress. This was important, because he wasn’t just a cute little boy anymore. He has grown into a 14-year-old young man. He’s over 6 feet tall, and can be an imposing presence even when he’s joyful.

Evan, Sam, Jen and Josh Stein.

This year, for the annual fundraiser, Dr. Vener asked Josh to make a speech about his experience over the last 10 years.

He sat down 2 weeks ago with his teachers to brainstorm ideas. He found a theme he wanted to explore. Together, they created a 5-minute speech.

Only his teacher knew what was coming. No one could be sure what the delivery would be like.

But last Thursday night, 200 people listened attentively. They laughed, they cried, and I think they were inspired.

I hope you are inspired too.

Today it is my goal to help NYCLI find an angel philanthropist who can help it survive and thrive beyond the graduation of any one or two students with parents who can help supplement its funding. I’m looking for a philanthropist who can see the value of NYCLI, and wants to help it for reasons beyond those of the personal gains of their own child.

I know Westport has those kinds of angels — people, companies and foundations. I would love to show them the school, and introduce them to the leaders who make incredible progress in children with autism year after year.

Click here for more information on the New York Child Learning Institute. Click below for a video from last year’s Winter Spectacular. To contact Evan Stein directly, email steine01@gmail.com.

Josh Stein with his Westport grandparents, Linda and Steve Stein.


Compo Shopping Center: “06880” Readers Drive The Discussion

We may not be able to solve the COVID crisis. We can’t agree on where to put affordable housing, or what to do with trees on private property.

But together, we can fix one of Westport’s gravest threats: the Compo Shopping Center parking lot.

Yesterday, I asked for ideas about the clusterf*** that confounds us all. It is — as readers repeatedly report — a death trap. An embarrassment. And (this should get everyone’s attention) a detriment to business.

You did not disappoint. Ideas poured in — plus aerial photos, complete with arrows and Xs.

Sure, it’s the last day of the year. You’re distracted with New Year’s preparations, deciding which sweatpants to wear as you sit home tonight.

But I want to make sure that some of the best solutions don’t get buried in the Comments section. So here’s a summary of what you said.


Evan Stein has a thorough solution — with a diagram:

Evan suggests: Close all connections from the rear parking lot to the front. Re-stripe the lots, for angled parking.

Divide the lot with a barrier (giant planters with trees or shrubbery) into a south lot and a north lot. Each would have one entrance, and one exit. Enter the south lot from the south. Enter the north lot from the north.

Each lot exit would have an independent traffic light. The exit from Compo Acres Shopping Center (Trader Joe’s) would also have its own traffic light. There would be a 5-light cycle:
• South lot green
• North lot green
• Compo acres green
• Route 1 green (no turning allowed)
• Pedestrian crossing.


Elizabeth Thibault likes Evan’s idea, but notes that Post Road traffic frequently blocks the light at CVS. She’d make the lights one way, going into the plaza and then flowing out the back. If that doesn’t work, at least paint a giant box in front, and ticket drivers for blocking the entrance.

Elizabeth has a more radical suggestion: Remodel each business, making the main entrances in the rear. She’d keep the glass windows and displays on the Post Road side, to attract drivers, but would make the store layouts favor back entry.


Doug Kniffin offers 4 fixes, from easiest to most difficult:

Adjust the CVS-adjacent traffic signal for 3 separate phases: a) Post Road both directions; b) CVS lot exit only, with cars able to turn east and west; c) Trader Joe’s lot exit only, with cars able to turn east and west.

Paint solid yellow lines down the center of the parking lots in front of CVS and Gold’s Little Kitchen. This will help keep drivers on the “right” side of the lot.

Change the exit ramp next to Cohen’s Optical from exit-only to entry-only.  The exit ramp now is useless. A new parking lot entry will reduce traffic going into the entry further west, at the traffic light.

Take space from the north end of the People’s Bank parking lot; create entry/exit access lanes between the back of the Compo Shopping lot and North Compo Road. People’s rarely uses this space, but an exit/entry there will reduce the traffic traveling through the front lots.

Here’s Doug’s diagram, with every option marked:


Beth Berkowitz suggests angled parking too. That makes it harder for 2-way traffic to imperil drivers.

She’d also make the spaces closest to the road parallel parking — not head-in — and would turn the entrance/exit in front of CVS into entrance only. Traffic could exit only through the south (North Compo) end, or the back lot.


Wendy Crowther has one simple, quick fix: Eliminate the parking spaces that encroach upon the lot’s main entrance/exit, as well as those near the center driveway that passes between the 2 buildings. This would allow drivers to enter and exit the lot without the hassle of cars trying to pull in and out of those spaces.


There you have it: Westporters’ ideas for fixing a seemingly intractable traffic nightmare.

Coming soon: the Post Road/Riverside Avenue/Wilton Road debacle.

Grand Theft Auto: Westport Edition

Lots of cars look alike these days. Lots of them don’t even need keys to start. And lots of us have lots of things on our minds.

That can be a dangerous combination, as Evan Stein learned this weekend.

Here’s his car theft story — with a part-O. Henry, part-Westport twist.

I went to the beach on Saturday. Put on sunblock, had a nap and listened to podcasts. My wife Jenny went for a walk.

Evan Stein took this selfie Saturday at Compo Beach.

At 2:45 my alarm went off. I packed up our stuff and put it in the back seat of my parents’ car, which I borrowed because I don’t have a beach sticker this year.

When the stuff was in the car, Jen got back from her walk. We did a lap around the marina, and walked back to our car.

We headed across town to my parents’ house, about 10 minutes away. As we pulled into the driveway, I reached up to open the garage door buttons.

The buttons weren’t there.

I puzzled over this for a moment, then said to Jen, “I think this might not be our car.”

She said, “Of course it isn’t. We borrowed your parents’ car.”

I said, “No. I mean, I don’t think this is their car!”

I had driven to the beach in a Toyota SUV. I now drove an Infiniti SUV.

Evan Stein sent along this approximation of the 2 SUVs.

It was the same color. Same basic shape. But there had been clues. There were more cameras as we backed out of the space at the beach. There was a map on the screen as we drove home. There were 2 beach stickers. My father does not leave extra stickers on the windshield.

And as we looked around, we saw children’s seats in the back. Thank G-D there were no sleeping kids!

Then there was a purse by Jen’s feet. It was not her purse.

The culprit.

Presumably, there was a key fob in the purse. How else could the car have started?

I pulled into the driveway. I told my parents we were home. But I said we had to go back to the beach. We had taken someone else’s car.

My dad followed us to Compo. When we arrived, the couple whose car we had taken were talking to the Westport Police.

I pulled into a spot by the showers. I got out and apologized for taking the car.

The officer took my name and phone number. He seemed more focused on reminding the couple to not leave their keys in the car.

My father and I walked back to his car. I drove us home.

“Grand Theft Auto” challenge unlocked. Fortunately, without an arrest.

The morals of the story: Don’t leave your key fob in your car. And pay attention!

Evan Stein: “I’m A Very Lucky Father”

Evan Stein is a native Westporter, a 1992 Staples High School graduate, and a proud father.

He now lives in Manhattan, and works as a neuroradiologist in Brooklyn. But he, his wife and boys will be at Compo all summer long. (They ponied up for an out-of-town beach sticker.)

On this Father’s Day, he reflects on the challenges — and joys — of a special type of fatherhood. The piece was posted this past Thursday on “The New Normal.”

Sometimes I feel bad about being a father of a child with autism. And then something crazy happens.

This week it was something tragic. A little boy who was born the day before my son, in the same hospital 10 years ago, died in a tragic accident while on a joyful visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. And now, I can’t sleep.

I don’t think my son could enjoy the Baseball Hall of Fame. He doesn’t really like baseball. I think he thinks he’s supposed to like it. He even tried a Challenger League (Little League for kids with special needs) last year.

Josh Stein

When he said he wanted to try it, I ran to a sporting goods store to buy him a lefty mitt. They asked if I wanted to donate $2 to help children with autism. I said, “this whole purchase is to help a child with autism!”

He wore the mitt twice. He stood in the field and waved his bat at the ball. He ran to first. He ate 2 hot dogs.

It’s always 2 hot dogs. He prefers CitiField to Yankee Stadium. It’s not the Mets or the better sight lines. It’s Shake Shack. CitiField has it. Yankee Stadium does not. 2 hot dogs. Always 2 hot dogs. Shake Shack because he’s a hot dog snob.

But he’s mine. If he wants to repeat 10 jokes or skits from Sesame Street with Ernie and Bert or Neil Patrick Harris as the Fairy Shoe Person or Lin Manuel Miranda as Freddy Flapman or a bit with the Good Cop and the Bad Cop from the LEGO Movie or from some other video on YouTube that I can’t stand but he loves, I’ll do it.

I’ll let him do the sequence of jokes and skits 10 times in a row. Sometimes 20. When I’m supposed to do it alone or it’s a team act, like Abbott and Costello, I’ll let him correct me until I get the accent just the way he wants it and say it with the inflection he prefers. I’ll do it over and over because when I get it right he smiles and giggles and laughs.

Josh enjoys Compo Beach.

He’s falling behind his grade level because it’s hard to get him to pay attention to his lessons. His academic progress seems to be slower and slower while the therapists and teachers focus on keeping him focused.

I would work on his homework with him but he won’t let me. I’d teach him multiplication and math tricks I’ve learned but it’s pointless. His memory lets him memorize arithmetic in a way that often surpasses my skills. And he’s starting to get fractions now — at least that’s what I see in his reports from school. He doesn’t do that with me. Mostly, he leaves school in school and only acquiesces to homework with his therapists but not with me. Maybe someday.

He likes when I take him to run short distances at New York Road Runner events and he runs 400 yards with a smile burned onto his face. He loves the cheering and the medal around his neck. And then he wants the 2 hot dogs at Shake Shack. And he wants to pick the Shake Shack. Even if it’s one that’s 45 minutes away without traffic. And I’ll take him because I just want to see him smile.

The Stein family

I give him almost whatever he wants whenever he wants. I’m pretty sure it makes me a bad dad but he has the short end of the stick and I’m not sure the stick is ever going to get any longer. I’ll usually give him whatever I can to make him happy.

Except when he makes me crazy.

I’ll try again tomorrow to not yell when he makes me crazy. When he asks one too many times for me to do it again. When he says something mean to me or his mom or his brother for no reason other than that he likes the way it sounds to say idiot or moron or jerk. He doesn’t mean it and I think he knows it’s wrong but it’s just one more thing that he can’t seem to control. And getting upset is stupid (another favorite word of his) because then he knows he got me and that’s really his goal so when I get upset I’ve lost twice.

But he’s here and he’s mine and I don’t ever want to lose him.

Josh, as a newborn

My son has autism. Being a father isn’t what I thought it would be but maybe it’s the same father I would have always been.

I’ll never know. Can’t really compare it to being a father to my son without autism because he’s still the son to a father who is the father of a boy with autism. It will always be an uncontrolled experiment.

I love being his father. Being father to both of them. Separately and together.

I’m very lucky. Really, I am. Sometimes I just need a reminder of just how lucky.