‘Autism Child Area’ signs installed after battle over fence in Port Washington

PORT WASHINGTON, Nassau County (WABC) — Parents of a little girl with autism on Long Island are celebrating a win that they say will help keep their daughter safe.

Stevie and Angelo Bovis, parents of 4-year-old Stella, unveiled newly installed “Autism Child Area” signs on their street in Port Washington.

North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jennifer DeSena and representatives from The Nicholas Center were on hand for the big unveiling.

The Bovis’ recently fought a long and expensive legal battle for a variance for a fence in their front yard so Stella could play outdoors safely.

“We needed extra protection and we also didn’t want to take away her right to play,” mother Stevie Hill-Bovis said.

But they faced the heated opposition of their neighbors.

“I thought if they had a problem they should come directly to us, instead of getting a petition kind of going behind our backs,” Hill-Bovis said.

The battle forced the family to spend money and time appealing their case to the town’s Zoning Board.

A variance was granted last week by the Board of Zoning Appeals as per the Americans with Disabilities Act, which considered the fence a reasonable accommodation.

“I hope this will raise awareness going forward of what is considered a reasonable accommodation,” DeSena said.

The town supervisor also used this opportunity to remind other families with children living with autism, that if they wish to have signs like these in their neighborhoods, all they have to do is reach out.

While it was a happy conclusion to the battle for them, concerns and hard feelings between them and their neighbors still exist.

The family said 16 neighbors petitioned against it. But there was also an outpouring of kindness. Nearly 700 people wrote in favor, the family said.

To help the Bovis’ in the fight for the betterment of their daughter’s life, Supervisor DeSena directed the installation of the signs to warn motorists, as they live on the corner of busy Port Washington Blvd.

“It takes more than a village to raise a child with disability,” said Stella Spanakos of the Nicholas Center for Autism. “It takes everybody.”


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