Tag Archives: Westport Commission on People With Disabilities

Roundup: Arrests, Susie’s House, Garden Cinema …

The Westport Police Department arrested 4 people between October 19 and 26 on the following charges:

  • Reckless driving; operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol; failure to drive in the proper lane; failure to wear a safety belt.
  • Criminal mischief (2 arrests)
  • Violation of probation (2 counts); failure to appear.

In addition, the WPD issued the following summonses:

  • Cell phone use, 1st offense (17 people)
  • Traveling unreasonably fast (5 people)
  • Speeding (2 people)
  • Operating a motor vehicle under suspension (2 people)
  • Failure to obey traffic control signal
  • Violation of Traffic Commission regulation
  • Failure to grant right of way
  • Insurance coverage fails minimum requirement.

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There will be new life for the old “poor farm” on Compo Road North.

First a farmhouse, then a home for needy Westporters, and most recently the site of “Susie’s House” for Project Return, the property between the Little League fields and town tennis courts will be renovated into 6 residential units for homeless women.

The agreement with Homes with Hope was ratified this week by the Board of Selectwomen. The non-profit agency will provide 24-hour supervision and counseling to the residents.

Homes with Hope has already raised most of the $900,000 needed for renovations, says CEO Helen McAlinden.

Project Return’s “Susie’s House,” on North Compo Road.

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The long saga of Garden Cinemas ended yesterday.

Demolition began on the Norwalk art house, beloved for many years by countless Westporters and other area residents.

Attempts to turn the theater into a non-profit, with film-related after-school activities, failed. The site will now be developed for the Wall Street Place condominiums. (Hat tip: Matt Murray)

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Tomorrow (Friday, October 28), Westport celebrates National Disability Employment Awareness Month. First Selectwoman Jen Tooker and the town’s Commission on People with Disabilities invite residents, businesses, employment services agencies and disability advocates to a 10 a.m. ceremony at the Senior Center.

The event includes coffee and donuts thanks to the Friends of the Senior Center, baked goods from Sweet P Bakery and the Porch, and a “network of employment champions.”

For more information about the Commission on People with Disabilities or the Employment is for Everyone initiative, click here, call Westport Human Services at 203 341-1050, or email humansrv@westportct.gov.

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One of the town’s most anticipated clothing tag sales takes place this weekend.

The Westport Woman’s Club holds its annual event tomorrow and Saturday (October 28 and 29, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.) and Sunday (October 30, noon to 3 p.m.). The site is the WWC clubhouse at 44 Imperial Avenue.

Gently used women’s, men’s and children’s clothing and accessories are back, with a wide array of suits, dresses, pants, jackets, blouses, gowns, coats, scarves, shoes, jewelry, handbags and hats.

Funds raised from the clothing tag sale support the Westport Food Closet, many local charities, and need-based student scholarships.

Preparing for the Westport Woman’s Club clothing tag sale.

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On November 12, Sustainable Westport sponsors 2 important — and very “green” — events.

Free mattress and box spring recycling runs from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m., at Earthplace (10 Woodside Lane). They must be dry and unsoiled.

Up to 90% of the 55,000 old mattresses disposed of every day by Americans can be recycled into new products like carpet pads, cushioning for exercise equipment and bike seats, insulation, air filters, and steel materials.

Boy Scout Troop 36 provides pickup service, for a small donation. Click here for details, and to sign up.

Then head to the Staples High School fieldhouse, for the first-ever Westport Holiday Green Festival (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).

The joint effort of Sustainable Westport and Staples’ Zero Waste Committee includes crafters, artists, local resources and businesses, presenters, food, and the Staples Zero Waste Committee thrift store.

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Westporters love to speculate about Bridgewater. The nation’s largest hedge fund is headquartered here, but keeps a very low profile.

Part of the curtain may be pulled back next fall. An “unauthorized, unvarnished” biography of its billionaire manager, Ray Dalio will be published then.

“The Fund: Ray Dalio, Bridgewater Associates and the Unraveling of a Wall Street Legend,” will be written by Wall Street Journal investigative reporter Rob Copeland. He’s conducting hundreds of interviews for the book.

“’The Fund’ peels back the curtain to reveal a rarified world of wealth and power, where former FBI director Jim Comey kisses Dalio’s ring, recent Pennsylvania Senate candidate David McCormick sells out, and countless Bridgewater acolytes describe what it’s like to work at this fascinating firm,” publisher St. Martin’s Press says.

While working for Bridgewater — and later, as head of the FBI — Comey had a Westport home.

Click here for more, from the Washington Post(Hat tip: Bill Dedman)

Ray Dallio

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Jeera Thai has expanded its hours. The great, very authentic and much-loved Thai downtown restaurant is now open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner, either in-person or takeout.

Click here for the menu, and more information.

Two Westport gems: Jeera Thai owner Luna (seated) and Savvy + Grace owner Annette Norton.

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La Plage’s special Halloween party begins this Sunday (October 30) from 5 to 8 p.m. It’s also a way to say goodbye to the patio bar (for the season).

There’s a DJ on the patio, complimentary bites, Belvedere shots — and a costume contest.

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Speaking of Halloween: Creative decorations are seen all over town. This is on Plunkett Place, off North Avenue:

(Photo/Baxter Urist)

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One of the stranger casualties of COVID was the “I Voted!” stickers. Handing them out to voters was deemed a health risk, I guess.

Just in time for the 2022 election, they’re back. The town registrars’ office has given permission to poll workers to hand out the civic souvenirs.

They expect a heavy turnout, and have ordered 15,000 ballots. The League of Women Voters has several thousand stickers on hand, and ordered 12,000 more.

Support democracy. Vote on November 8. Then — for the first time in 3 years — wear your sticker with pride.

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Salon Nash is one of the Westport’s most popular hair styling salons.

Now boys and girls of all ages can have their hair styled  in a grown-up salon — while enjoying an afternoon of fun friends.

Salon Nash is available for kids’ parties. There is plenty of room inside, plus an outdoor patio. Owner Felicia Catale, and her entertainment, can also come to you.

Salon Nash provides a 45-minute magic show, with balloon sculpting or face painting. Candy cups are also available. Meanwhile, Felicia will style hair for adults and children

Email catalefelicia@icloud.com, or call or text 203-747-9753 for details.

Party balloons, at a Nash Salon event.

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The Camp Gallery’s new solo exhibition for Westport artist Liz Leggett opens tomorrow (October 28, 5 to 8 p.m., 190 Main Street). She’s an abstract expressionist, working on canvas and panel.

Leggett will be at the opening. Wine and cheese will be served.

Liz Leggett’s solo show at the Camp Gallery.

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Sure, and Stephen Fogerty has been named one of the Irish Legal 100 for 2022 by the Irish Voice. The honor goes to 100 attorneys in the US who share pride in their Irish roots. Fogerty — whose roots are in county Tipperary and Sligo — practices with FLB Law in Westport.

Stephen Fogerty

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Longtime Weston resident Stephen Steinbrecher died October 18. He was 88.

In 1949 the graduate of the Walden School and Clark University met Phyllis Schwartz at the University Settlement camp in Beacon, New York, They were married 6 years later.

Steve served on the New York Hotel Trades council, where he bridged industry divides, and on the Clark University board of trustees, where he founded the David Steinbrecher Fellowship Program. For more on Steve Steinbrecher’s impact on Clark University, click here.

Steve also sat on the University Settlement board, and helped create the Phyllis Steinbrecher Fellowship program.

He is survived by daughters Marcy Steinbrecher Puklin of Norwalk and Laura Steinbrecher of Weston; grandchildren Rachel Johnson, Sarah Livingston, Matthew LiVigni and Mikaela LiVigni, and his beloved dog Brooklyn. He was predeceased by his wife Steinbrecher in 2009, and son David Steinbrecher in 2004.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Phyllis Steinbrecher Scholarship at University Settlement and the David Steinbrecher Fellowship Program at Clark University

Stephen Steinbrecher

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There must be a back story to this tree on Fairport Road.

Whatever it is, it makes an intriguing “Westport … Naturally” photo.

(Photo/Tom Lowrie)

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And finally … I never cared for Roger Miller’s “King of the Road.” I cared even less for Jody Miller’s reply song, “Queen of the House.” But both Millers (no relation) won Grammys for their work.

I never heard (or can’t remember) her biggest hit, “Home of the Brave,” about a boy bullied and barred from school for being different.

But Jody Miller died earlier this month in Oklahoma, at 80. Today’s songs are hers. (And Roger’s.) Click here for Jody Miller’s obituary.

(There’s a lot to love — or at least read — in today’s Roundup. To help keep information like this coming, please click here to support “06880.”)

 

 

Disability Community Included In Town Hiring Initiative

Plenty of focus has been put recently on diversity in employment. Town departments, Police and Fire, the schools — all are taking measures to be more inclusive in recruiting and hiring employees.

Another group is important too: those with disabilities.

Next Tuesday (March 29, 10:30 a.m.), First Selectwoman Jen Tooker kicks off a town-wide inclusive employment initiative.

Residents, businesses, employment service agencies and disability advocates are invited to the Town Hall event.

“Employment Is For Everyone” is a collaboration between the Department of Human Services, the Commission on People with Disabilities and the local business community.

The goal is to encourage and support business in the recruitment, hiring, and advancement of people with disabilities in the workplace.

The Commission hopes to create a disability-friendly, inclusive culture by providing guidance and resources for employers and employees to get the support needed to succeed.

CPD chair Jim Ross says, “Westport already has several businesses successfully employing people with disabilities and embracing a disability-friendly and inclusive culture. These employment champions should be celebrated, and their best practices shared with the greater business community.”

Among those businesses: The Porch at Christie’s, and Stop & Shop. A group of Westporters is working right now to form a non-profit and buy the former Elvira’s/Joey’s by the Shore property by Old Mil Beach, and open a market that would offer training and employment to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The Porch hires people with disabilities. The bakery features items from Sweet P Bakery, which also employs members of the disability community. 

Ross adds, “Countless qualified workers with disabilities are eager and ready to work. This population offers tremendous benefits to their colleagues and the businesses that they serve.”

With support from town and business leaders, the Commission has partnered with regional disability employment organizations to create an online platform. The “Employment Gateway” provides a job board, resource guide, and hands-on support for individuals and businesses seeking assistance in enhancing inclusivity among their workforces.

Tooker — who as 2nd selectwoman helped create the “Westport Means Business” and “Choose Westport” platforms — notes, “Studies show that employers who are disability-inclusive realize increased profits and greater consumer loyalty.”

Click here for the website. For more information, call Human Services (203 341-1050), or email humansrv@westportct.gov or the Commission on People with Disabilities directly: copwd@westportct.gov.

Special Needs Housing Planned For Riverside Avenue

One of the Westport’s greatest needs — supportive housing for people with special needs — is moving through the regulatory pipeline.

136 Riverside Avenue is a 12-room 1880 Colonial Victorian just north of Saugatuck Elementary School. Owned by the town, it’s used now by the Board of Education.

A few years ago it was considered for special needs housing. That opportunity has come around again.

Rick Redniss — principal at Redniss & Mead, a surveying, civil engineering and planning firm — has been exploring possibilities for “off-site affordable housing” for developments like 41 Richmondville Avenue and The Residence at Westport for several years.

That’s the process by which approval is granted for new market-rate housing at one location. In exchange, builders create affordable housing units elsewhere in town.

136 Riverside Avenue.

Redniss has met with parents of special needs individuals and Westport’s Commission on People with Disabilities to determine the best design. Based in part on a Darien model, he realized that if individual units include a private bath, kitchenette (to help with independent living) and deed-restricted lease, they count toward the town’s moratorium points (granted for showing that a municipality is actively building affordable housing).

The current plan would convert 136 Riverside to 5 apartments. Four would be for people with special needs; one would be rented to a staff member, who also would qualify under regulations for affordable housing.

Abilis — the 70-year-old nonprofit serving over 800 people with special needs — sees this as an excellent opportunity. They’ve been collaborating with the 41 Richmondville Avenue developers to make this a reality. Redniss has met with neighbors, and continues to address concerns.

The proposal — which includes remodeling that respects the original architecture, and enhanced landscaping — is going through the 8-24 (municipal improvement) and special permitting process. It’s on the agenda for the Architectural Review Board’s March 23 meeting.

If approved, 136 Riverside heads to the Planning & Zoning Commission, Board of Finance and RTM, for lease oversight.

The ADA In Westport: 30 Years Of Progress

Thirty years ago this week, President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans With Disabilities Act into law.

It was a monumental achievement. The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, state and local government, public accommodations, transportation and more.

Its effects have been both intended (curb cuts make things easier for wheelchair users; closed captioning aids people with hearing loss) and unintended (those same curb cuts help anyone pushing a stroller or wheeling luggage; closed captions are great for TVs in noisy spots like restaurants and bars.

In Westport — as in the rest of the nation — the ADA has made building access easier. At Compo Beach, Mobi-Mats intended to ease the trek across sand to the Sound for people with mobility problems has been a boon to anyone hauling a cooler (or young kids).

Compo Beach Mobi-Mat. (Photo/Patti Brill)

The new bathrooms at South Beach are a welcome relief to many. So are the walkways that now lead from the pavilion all the way to the kayak launch.

Jim Ross — chair of Westport’s Commission on People With Disabilities — notes a few other important local initiatives.

The Remarkable Theater‘s drive-in movies have brought joy and life to Westport during this entertainment-starved COVID summer. But the theater has another, equally important mission: to create meaningful employment for the disability community. That visibility may be another legacy of the ADA.

The confidential Voluntary Registry — managed by Westport’s Department of Human Services, in conjunction with the Police Department — enables individuals with disabilities, and their families or caregivers, to register medical and living arrangements, so it can be known during a police or fire emergency.

Town officials and disability leaders are working to secure independent housing facilities on town-owned property.

An “Employment is for Everyone” initiative is in its early stages. Ross’ commission is working with the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce and Westport Downtown Merchants Association to help people with disabilities find employment here — and help Westport businesses better serve the disability community.

When a beach wheelchair was delivered more than 10 years ago, then-Parks & Rec director Stuart McCarthy gave Rotary president Irwin Lebish a ride.

It is estimated that up to 1 in 5 Americans have some sort of disability. Have you, a relative or friend been impacted by the ADA? How does Westport compare to other places, in terms of accessibility and accommodations? Are there areas where Westport can do better? Click “Comments” below.

(For more on the 30th anniversary of the ADA, click here. Hat tips: Diane Johnson and Elaine Daignault.)

All Abilities Welcome At ADA Compo Celebration

At first, the long blue mat drew puzzled stares.

Very quickly last year however, the Mobi-Mat — running from the Compo Beach boardwalk to the water, near the brick pavilion — proved spectacularly popular.

People using wheelchairs and walkers — plus parents pushing  strollers — loved the non-stick surface. Soon it was used by others who, for whatever reason, had trouble navigating the sand.

One of the Compo Beach Mobi-Mat’s many users. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

It was a smart, simple solution to an age-old problem: providing access to amenities for the many folks with mobility or related issues.

That’s not all that our Parks & Recreation Department has done to make Compo more accessible to all.

The boardwalk was extended 2 years ago, from the pavilion to the cannons. This year another section was added, from the cannons to the end of South Beach.

It’s a safety measure for all. And a godsend for everyone with a mobility issue, who just could not walk on the sand — or in the road — to enjoy the very popular barbecue-and-sunset-watching end of Compo.

The new South Beach boardwalk increases accessibility, adds safety — and does not take away those beloved close-in parking spots.

The addition of picnic tables with cutouts for wheelchairs — in the pavilion next to Joey’s by the Shore — was one more small but important recognition that Westport is a place that tries to welcome everyone, of all physical abilities.

So it’s fitting that next Wednesday (June 26, 5:30 p.m., near the new South Beach bathrooms), the town celebrates Westport’s efforts to improve accessibility everywhere.

Parks and Rec director Jen Fava, Human Services director Elaine Daignault and Westport’s Commission on People with Disabilities will host the event. First Selectman Jim Marpe — an ADA champion — will be there too.

The location is significant. Not only are the new bathrooms handicap accessible — of course! — but they’re located across from 2 barbecue stations with ADA-compliant surfaces. They’re specially marked, for folks with wheelchairs and vehicles that transport them.

Jr’s Deli will provide free hot dogs.

Crumb Together — the bakery that trains and employs adults with disabilities — will be there too.

Everyone — of all abilities — is invited!

Disabilities Commission: It’s Way More Than Ramps

The Americans With Disabilities Act — signed by President George H. W. Bush in 1990 — had many consequences.

Some were intended. Others were not.

It opened employment and educational opportunities for tens of millions of Americans with physical and emotional issues. Curb cuts and other design changes now benefit pregnant mothers, parents with youngsters and the elderly.

The ADA also impelled the state of Connecticut to create grants, allowing towns to fund initiatives studying the best ways to promote inclusion for people with disabilities.

In 2006, Westport and Wilton formed a task force. One recommendation was followed: Today our town has a designated official for disability issues (Sarah Heath, in Human Services).

One recommendation was not followed: the creation of a permanent commission.

Until now.

Jim Ross

Jim Ross

Earlier this month, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe announced appointments to Westport’s new Commission on People With Disabilities, which the RTM approved in July. Members include Marina Derman, Diane Johnson, Stacie Curran, LuAnn Giunta, Tom Holleman and Evan Levinson.

The chair is Jim Ross. A successful businessman, he’s also the former head of the Westport Citizens Transit Committee.

Ross is legally blind, and the father of 2 special needs children. “I live this every day,” he notes.

He became a voice for the disabled community in 2012, when  he helped pass legislation giving students access to epilepsy medicine when a school nurse is not present.

Along the way, he  met Human Services director Barbara Butler, who told Ross that the proposal for a town commission had never been implemented.

Ross went to work. Now — with Marpe’s help, and broad public support — it’s a reality.

Westport's former director of human services, Barbara Butler, is a longtime advocate for people with disabilities.

Westport’s former director of human services, Barbara Butler, is a longtime advocate for people with disabilities.

There’s a reason so many Westporters support the new commission. Twenty percent of the town’s population is directly affected by their own or a family member’s physical or intellectual disability. In a community like ours, that means all of us have neighbors, friends and fellow members of civic groups and congregations with disabilities.

“This is an exceptionally humbling opportunity,” Ross says of his post. “It’s a chance to take the ADA — a magnificent civil rights initiative — to the local  level.”

He notes that Westport — a “very socially aware town” — has already done good things. There are ramps everywhere. Compo Beach has a sand wheelchair. The Levitt Pavilion is quite accessible.

But, he adds, “this is about a lot more than ramps. It’s a 2-way conversation between people with disabilities, and the community as a whole. It’s a chance for businesses, organizations, the town and people to have a dialogue to create avenues, paths and bridges for everyone to come together.”

In many ways, Ross says, “people with disabilities are heroes. We can learn a lot about ourselves by including them, and letting them contribute to a more vigorous, dynamic environment. This is not about clubbing people over the head. It’s about everyone working together.”

Beach wheelchair sign

He mentions education, housing, transportation, recreation, employment, the arts and emergency preparedness as areas in which discussions involving people with disabilities can lead to “logistical and tactical benefits” for all Westporters.

He’s eager to get started. Ross calls the 7-member commission “a dynamite group. Everyone has a different area of expertise.”

The Commission on People With Disabilities will meet publicly the 3rd Thursday of every month. The 1st session is Thursday, January 19 (8:30 a.m.), at Town Hall.

Of course, it’s handicap accessible.