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Friday, November 7, 2008

11/07/08 YMCA Hires Greenwich Attorney Christopher Bristol In An Effort To Keep Handicaped Out New Facility.


Handicapped Need Not Apply For Membership


YMCA WANTS TO CONTINUE TO DISCRIMINATE AGAINST

THE INFIRM AND CRIPPLED OF GREENWICH


Heartless Greenwich YMCA Head Rebecca Fretty And Her Insensitive Board Chairman Bob Goergen Wants To Build New Spin And Aerobics Studios Instead Of Bringing The Building Into Compliance With The Americans with Disabilities Act.


Staff Writer
Article Launched: 11/07/2008 09:18:28 AM EST
GREENWICH - The Greenwich Family YMCA has requested a five-year extension to complete its $39 million renovation and construction project.


Escalating construction costs and lack of money will force completion of the new gymnasium, the second phase of the two-part renovation, well past the original target date of summer 2009, officials said.


The YMCA is requesting the approval of the Planning and Zoning Commission for more time and a new interim plan to maintain facility operations while construction continues, according to documents submitted by Greenwich attorney Christopher Bristol of Gilbride, Tusa, Last & Spellane LLC, the firm representing the nonprofit organization.


The approved project, which includes the renovation of the 96-year-old building at 50 E. Putnam Ave., as well as construction of two underground parking lots, an Olympic aquatics center and a gymnasium, was slated to be finished by June 2009......


.....In the original proposal approved in 2002, the Planning and Zoning Commission stipulated that the project not exceed five years of construction. With construction beginning in 2004, the YMCA is approaching that deadline, according to the document......


......ADA requirements have come into sharper focus recently as the family of a man who uses a wheelchair has fought to get a temporary ramp installed while renovations are carried out. On Monday, YMCA officials announced that the facility will not be handicap accessible until renovations are complete.


The YMCA has completed some of its renovations, such as the new Olympic aquatics center, which opened in November 2007. A new basketball court also opened Monday. YMCA officials also expect a warm-water therapy pool, new spin and aerobics studios, a teen fitness center and childcare classrooms completed by June 2009, according to an e-mail sent Wednesday by Ashleigh Rowe, communications director for the YMCA.....


.....Calls were not returned from Greenwich Family YMCA officials or their attorneys Wednesday.


PLEASE SEE:




Rebecca Fretty Is Making Sure That
There Will Be No Wheelchair Basketball Games At
The Greenwich YMCA


To Rebecca Fretty,
apparently "headless and brain dead"
Head of the Greenwich YMCA
Ms Fretty:


Obviously you don't belong running any town facility if you ignore the LAWS REGARDING HANDICAPPED ACCESSIBILITY. Not only are you violating a mandated code, you can/will be sued.


There is no loophole to crawl through on this one. This was set in stone a long time ago....and YOU ARE THE REASON, Ms. Fretty. People tend to forget about those with disabilities. That is until they personally become disabled. So, every building must abide by the regulations..ALL BUILDINGS..the tall, short, the ones with and without windows....those with steeples, and those with people. Even those building which hold criminals. Yes. Its true.....


.....Do you consider your "little" idea about sending wheelchair bound people over to Rye and Darien the SOLUTION? Are you going to personally drive these people? Or maybe give them a gentle little push down a hill and aim them in that direction? What the hell is wrong with you? How are they supposed to get there?


Are you so completely clueless, that you think the Town of Greenwich will not act on the behalf of their residents? Think again. You are violating building and zoning codes as well......


COMMENTS:


It Is Quite Possible That The Residents Of This Town Will Not Be So Generous To The Greenwich YMCA Next Time They Have Their Hand Sticking Out For Donations.


I Think There Are Quite A Few Residents With Handicapped Stickers In Their Car Windows Who Donated To The YMCA's Capital Campaign Just Because The New Building Would Be Accessible By The Town's Crippled Citizens.


Why Is It That All Of The Other YMCA's In The Area Have Provided Access And Programs For The Handicapped, While The Greenwich YMCA Has Turned A Blind Eye To The Infirm.


Maybe, The YMCA Can Be So Insensitive, Because The Town Building Department Has Failed To Properly Do It's Job At The Putnam Avenue Building. The Building Department's Temporary Certificate Of Occupancy Should Have Had A Date Certain Completion Time For Handicap Access.


Long Ago The Greenwich YWCA Provided Handicap Access. So Why Can't The YMCA Do The Same......






Despite pleas from a family to put in a temporary wheelchair accessible ramp, the Greenwich Family YMCA said the new facility will likely not be handicap accessible until a $39 million renovation and construction project is complete in summer 2009.....


......In the statement, new President and CEO Rebecca Fretty, who took office two weeks ago, recommended individuals with disabilities use other wheelchair-accessible facilities until the entire construction project is complete.


"In speaking with my counterparts at the Greenwich YWCA, Rye, N.Y., YMCA and DarienYMCA, all three facilities are currently wheelchair accessible and available.......


COMMENT:


The Greenwich YMCA Is Morally Wrong.


The Greenwich YMCA Wants Handicapped Greenwich Residents To Leave Go To Darien In Order To Use The YMCA ?????


Is The Greenwich YMCA Going To Pay To Transport One Of These Handicapped Individuals Back And Forth From The Darien YMCA?




.....Citing the need to confer with management at the non-profit organization, which will decide what course of action to take, Jonathan Wells, the attorney for the YMCA, said he would contact the family of Luis Gonzalez-Bunster by next week, according to Frank Peluso, the family's attorney.


Gonzalez-Bunster, who is disabled, sought to train for an upcoming triathalon at the YMCA but was unable to because the building is not accessible to the handicapped.


Peluso contacted the YMCA, at 50 E. Elm Street, Oct. 24 to demand they provide at least a temporary ramp to the Y's new state-of-the-art Olympic-size swimming pool, which opened last November and is not accessible to the handicapped......




Shame, Shame, Shame
On The
Greenwich YMCA




The family of the town man who could not access the Greenwich Family YMCA because the building is not wheelchair accessible, is now pressuring the nonprofit organization to install a temporary ramp or face the possibility of being shut down.


Luis Gonzalez-Bunster's family contacted Greenwich attorney Frank Peluso, who said the facility is in violation of town, state and federal laws for not providing access to people with disabilities, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Town of Greenwich building code.


"They are required to have access," Peluso said.....


....William Marr, town building inspector, previously said the town issued the temporary certificate of occupancy, often requested by the owner or architect, because making the building wheelchair accessible was a part of the original proposal and was just not yet completed, he said.


The YMCA declined to comment on Peluso's letter ......


.....the Gonzalez-Bunster family, the issue is simple. If there is one person who is denied access to a public building, it is a problem.


"I don't understand how the town gave them a (certificate of occupancy). It's very suspect," said Luis's father, Rolando Gonzalez-Bunster.


There are other problems, the family says, including the lack of a curb cut for wheelchairs next to the handicapped-parking space in the newly constructed parking lot.


"There are so many problems with this," he said.....


Comment:


Hats Off To Meredith Blake And The Greenwich Time For Continueing To Cover This Important Story And Publishing Letters To The Editors About This Issue.


The Other Newspapers And Citizen Journalists Of Greenwich Have Wrongly Ignored The Lack Of Handicapped Access To The New Greenwich YMCA Building.


The YMCA Came To ALL Of The Citizens Of Greenwich And Asked For Construction Variances And ALL Of This Community Said Yes You Can Have Them.


The YMCA Constantly Seeks Out Funds, Grants And Tax Dollars From ALL Members Of This Community And Therefore Should Serve ALL Members Of This Community.


The YMCA's Wrong Headed Idea That The Crippled Citizens Of Greenwich Should Be Served Last Is Abhorrent At Best.






Letter To The Greenwich Time Editor


To the editor:


Once again, we can see the discrimination that continues in town against people with disabilities ( "Man fighting for YMCA access, Greenwich Time, Oct. 20). We have been the silent minority, but things are about to change.


We recently formed the First Selectman's Advisory Committee for People With Disabilities. The mission is to advise town officials on matters pertaining to the rights and needs of citizens with disabilities. We will also advocate for improvements to make the town more accessible for people with disabilities.


The YMCA building expansion should never have been given a temporary certificate of occupancy. Why should some people be allowed to use this facility when others are turned away?


When the builders at Hamilton Avenue School did not comply with the disability regulations by placing the light switches at the incorrect height, they were told that they must be lowered. Shouldn't this apply to the Y?


It is obvious that individuals with disabilities are not a priority. The YMCA Web site says "the Y has something for everyone," and "we offer programs for everyone in the family." I guess that means that people with disabilities are not included with everyone.


Why should the disabled have to wait? If one of the aims of the expansion was to provide access for the disabled, then the accessibility to the expansion should have been done first. Evidently, it is more important to have a new pool than it is to allow access for all.


The YMCA has now shown people with disabilities that they are not a priority. It has discriminated against many people who just want to use the same facilities as others in this town.
I hope that the YMCA will find some way to make this area accessible immediately, and that the town will consider whether its temporary certificate of occupancy should be withdrawn.


Carol Kana

Riverside


The writer is a member of First Selectman's Advisory Committee for People With Disabilities.




After a little over a year at the helm, Bernie Mucci is out as the CEO and president of the Greenwich Family YMCA, leaving behind a $160,000 per year job and questions about his departure.


A spokeswoman for the nonprofit recreational facility characterized Mucci's departure as a retirement and referred to a press release that she said the YMCA put out on Sept. 22 announcing the change.


Rebecca Fretty, a longtime town resident and marketing executive with ties to the Junior League of Greenwich, will take over the top job Oct. 20.


....Messages seeking comment from Bob Goergen, chairman of the YMCA's board of directors, were left Monday on his cell phone and with Rowe, who said she would be the only person responding to questions on the matter.


When asked about the departure of Mucci, who was 61 at the time he was hired, Rowe said in an earlier interview that "not much notice" was given by him about his plans to retire.....


....YMCA board members Charles Tyler Sr. and Hilary Pearl are serving as interim co-CEOs until Fretty starts later this month, Rowe said.Rowe said she did not have information on the search process for a new CEO.


================================================================

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11/07/08 "You're almost setting up shadow boards, where you have an eight-person board and an eight-person committee," Marianna Ponns Cohen says.


Is Greenwich Board Of Education Chairwoman
Nancy Weissler Setting Up A Shadow Board ?
Newly Elected Greenwich BOE Member Marianna Ponns Cohen said.
"That, to me, does not seem to work."




Staff Writer
Article Launched: 11/07/2008 09:15:26 AM EST


GREENWICH - The Board of Education began its search for a new schools superintendent Thursday, but not without considerable disagreement among some members over how the process should play out.


The school board voted 7-to-1 Thursday night to form a search committee, comprised of all eight board members, that will vet candidates for schools superintendent.


Current Superintendent of Schools Betty Sternberg announced last month that she will step down from the position when her current three-year contract with Greenwich Public Schools expires in June.


To help manage the search for her successor, Chairwoman Nancy Weissler said she will appoint two board members as chairman and vice chairman of the eight-person committee to oversee the process.


The committee will first select a search firm and then seek feedback from community members and district officials on desired superintendent qualifications before interviewing the top candidates and making a recommendation for the position.


The board will then vote on its own recommendation, with the goal of having a new superintendent ready to take the reins of the school system by a target date of July 1, 2009.


But Marianna Ponns Cohen, the only board member to vote against the proposal, questioned the logic of having the full board serve on the committee......


......Two current board members - Weissler and Steven Anderson - served on that committee, which recommended Sternberg in 2005......


.....In an interview before the meeting, Ponns Cohen also raised concerns about appointing to the committee members whose four-year terms will expire in November 2009, just five months after the new superintendent is slated to take over control of the schools.


With Weissler, Moriarty, Anderson and Susan Ellis all facing re-election next fall, Ponns Cohen said she worried that newly arriving members could be unfairly saddled with a choice over which they only had partial control.


"What about the people who are new to the board?" asked Ponns Cohen. "They are the ones who are going to have to live with this decision.

================================================================
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11/07/08 Greenwich Post News Links For Friday


Temple to honor women for volunteer work

Written by Kristan Zimmer
Friday, November 07, 2008 00:00


The Sisterhood of Temple Sholom will honor eight area women who have volunteered 45 years or more at their annual dinner on Tuesday, Nov. 15 at 5:45 p.m. at the Temple at 300 East Putnam Ave.


Mullen named Connecticut teacher of year

Written by Ken Borsuk, Staff Reporter
Friday, November 07, 2008 00:00


As he continues a career working with students who desperately need a helping hand, Anthony Mullen knows what to look for.


“I’ve always found the way to reach students is to know their story,” Mr. Mullen told the Post. “Each and every one of my students has a story and if you get to know the story you get to know the dynamics of the student a little bit more. When you get to know those dynamics you get to know part of what makes them behave the way they behave. That’s the beginning.”


================================================================

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11/07/08 Greenwich Time News Links For Friday




By Colleen Flaherty

Staff Writer
Article Launched: 11/07/2008 01:00:00 AM EST


Should downtown Greenwich be groomed as an arts and cultural center over the next 10 years, or should development be limited?


Should the town make reduced-rate housing available to some town employees in the coming decade?


Unable to reach a consensus on these and other issues, the Planning and Zoning Commission will take extra time to revise the draft of its 10-year Plan of Conservation and Development.


The draft, initially slated for release last month, will now be released in December after the commission weighs feedback from residents, according to Planning and Zoning Chairman Donald Heller.


"What's happened is that it's taken longer than we originally anticipated," said Heller. "Some of the comments made were very, very good."


Written every 10 years as required by Town Charter and state statute, the Plan of Conservation and Development outlines the town's land-use initiatives for the next decade, ideally aligning development goals with those of conservation. A draft in circulation since July emphasizes the preservation of green space and other natural resources, as well as the need to mitigate traffic and congestion through better infrastructure.


While most residents support those goals, they are divided on the plan's recommendations regarding downtown development and housing, Town Planner Diane Fox said.....


....Aside from content, both Fox and Heller said the commission is also revising the plan's format. At 200 pages, residents have criticized the draft as being too long and, with sections that skip back and forth between focus areas, hard to read.


The final draft will be better organized and shorter, said Fox, with a chart and figure-heavy appendix.


The commission is also working on a "vision statement" for the plan, something the Representative Town Meeting recommended earlier this fall.


A public hearing on the plan before the Planning and Zoning Commission is set for January. Revisions may be made to the plan after that, said Heller. The RTM will vote on the document in March.

Lieberman faces wrath of Democrats


WASHINGTON - Sen. Joseph Lieberman facing a demotion by Senate Democrats for sharply attacking President-elect Barack Obama during the election campaign, Thursday defended his actions as "best for our country.

Lamont: Lieberman will become a Republican


By Brian Lockhart

Staff Writer
Article Launched: 11/07/2008 01:00:00 AM EST


Ned Lamont, the Greenwich Democrat who challenged U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman two years ago, believes his former opponent will soon join the Republican minority in Congress.


Lamont declined to say Thursday whether the junior senator from Connecticut and self-described "independent Democrat" should be punished for backing U.S. Sen. John McCain's presidential bid.


"My sense is he's psychologically moving into the Republican column," Lamont said. "I think he'll probably jump."


Lamont, an entrepreneur and millionaire, challenged Lieberman's support for the Iraq war and won the Democratic primary in 2006.


But Lieberman formed a third party, Connecticut for Lieberman. With support from Republicans and unaffiliated voters, he won the general election.


Lamont had expected Lieberman would make peace with state Democrats....


.....One possible punishment for Lieberman is being stripped of his chairmanship of the Senate Government Services and Homeland Security Committee.


As speculation about Lieberman's fate increased Wednesday, the senator's office sent out an e-mail announcing he had helped secure more than $25 million in security grants for Connecticut in fiscal year 2009.


But Lamont said Connecticut has nothing to fear if Lieberman loses clout with the Democratic majority in Congress.



By Neil Vigdor

Staff Writer
Article Launched: 11/07/2008 01:00:00 AM EST


While local Democrats were celebrating victories by Jim Himes and Barack Obama deep into the night Tuesday, U. S. Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., was driving back to Washington, D.C., with his wife, Betsi, and daughter, Jeramy.


That was always the plan, win or lose.


Where the road goes from there for Shays is uncertain after voters in the 4th District rejected the incumbent's bid for re-election and handed him his first political defeat since he ran for mayor of Stamford in 1983.


"I need to decide where we live, where I'm going to work - Connecticut, New York, Washington. To my credit, I have not thought about what do I do if I'm defeated. I wasn't looking to hedge my bets," Shays said in a telephone interview Thursday from his office on the Hill.
Shays and his aides must vacate that office by Thanksgiving.


A former state represenative and former real estate agent, Shays, 63, said he has ruled out running for governor or for Senate in two years, as some Republicans have been suggesting in the 48 hours since New England's last remaining GOP House member went down to defeat to Himes.


"I cannot imagine running for public office again," Shays said....


.....During the campaign, Shays was widely criticized by Himes for his support of the war in Iraq, where he has been more times than any sitting member of Congress since the invasion in 2003. He was also questioned about comments made in a Labor Day radio appearance on the "The Brian Lehrer Show" in which he said "the fundamentals of the economy are sound. No one can disagee with that."


Shays stood by that assessment and said that sound bites given by candidates are often twisted.
"If it wasn't this comment, it would have been something else," he said.


Looking back on a Washington career that began when he won a special election in 1987 to fill the seat of the late Stewart McKinney, Shays referred to an 88-page book put out by his campaign when asked about his greatest accomplishments.


It was that same book that Shays campaign distributed to the audience at each of his seven debates against Himes.


"I feel like I've been let go really at the height of my effectiveness," Shays said.




America is a country of immigrants, both its people and its plants. While our native plant inventory is large, the American plant population known to have originated overseas is larger.




To focus on corporate travel, Hogg Robinson Group recently outsourced its North American leisure travel business to Valerie Wilson Travel Inc.




To the editor:


We have all tolerated the behavior of "our" Sen. Joseph Lieberman as he desperately sought to help his friend John McCain win the election. Many of us felt his motivations were focused more on Joe and what he could get in return if McCain were elected, given that he clearly could not hope for much from a Democratic administration, which he had attacked and betrayed for months.


It's one thing to support a friend; but I felt he really crossed the line with his hateful attacks on Barack Obama at the Republican convention and has done even worse since then.


Monday, he took it to an even lower level. When asked by radio interviewer Glenn Beck whether he agreed that America would "not survive" a fillibuster-proof Democratic majority in the Senate, he said: "Well, I hope it's not like that, but I fear."


I believe he crossed the boundaries of civil discourse, and demonstrated a lack of judgment, morality and even soundness of mind. How could he seriously consider that America would not survive if there were 60 Democrats in the Senate? Not survive?


This was inflammatory, incendiary and clearly a last-ditch, cynical attempt to scare people into thinking they'd better vote against Democrats.


He must be called to account, and while we have little power other than to wait until the next election, there is something we can do now to send a message.


This week or next, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he will meet with Lieberman (who no longer merits honorable titles given his recent behavior) and discuss his role in the party and his committee chairmanship. Sen. Reid has said it's a party matter.


I believe it is a Connecticut matter as well, and that ITALwe the citizens of this stateITAL should at least weigh in on this issue with Sen. Reid. I will be contacting Sen. Reid and urge others to do so.


This is not just an internal Democratic issue or an internal Senate issue - Lieberman is our senator. He clearly has little regard for his own party, so how can we trust him to represent our interests?


Whatever your feelings, including if you think Lieberman deserves yet another chance, share them with The Honorable Harry Reid, 528 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510; Phone: (202) 224-3542; Fax: (202) 224-7327; or contact him via link on his Web site http://reid.senate.gov/contact/index.cfm


Speak up Connecticut citizens.


This is our issue, too.


Kathy Lewton
Stamford

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