Luciano escalates ADA battle in Seymour

In the weeks since Seymour resident Joseph Luciano filed an Americans with Disabilities Act complaint against the town, First Selectman Kurt Miller has refrained from criticizing Luciano’s actions. This week, though, he was actually nearly unable to do so.

“I’m utterly speechless, I don’t even have any idea what to say,” Miller said Monday after learning that Luciano had written to numerous state officials, including Seymour state Rep. Theresa Conroy, urging them to deny Seymour more than $468,000 in grant money. The town has earmarked the money, administered under the Main Street Improvement Fund, for improving its ADA compliance.

“This is money that we plan to use to do what he wants us to do, and he’s trying to thwart it?” Miller said.

Luciano, who lives downtown under a state program, uses a mobility cart to get around since a stroke left him with only the use of his left hand. He has complained that Seymour’s downtown area is not ADA-compliant due to the poor condition of some sidewalks and the lack of curb cuts to enable access to the sidewalks.

The condition of the sidewalks forces him to drive his cart in the street and prevents him from accessing downtown shops and restaurants, he said. Numerous news outlets, including cable and network television, have featured his plight.

In an April 6 letter to Office of Policy Management Secretary Benjamin Barnes, Luciano urged him to reject Seymour’s grant application, citing the fact that ADA has been the law of the land since 1990. Seymour officials expect to hear from OPM within a few weeks whether the grant has been approved.

“Approval of this trivial app would foolishly reward Seymour’s 23 years of neglect to maintain its downtown sidewalks, streets, and curbcuts — despite the fact that housing for elderly and persons with disabilities has been developing downtown,” he wrote. “Streets are in disrepair and hazardous to PWDs [persons with disabilities].”

Miller said the Main Street Improvement Fund was a state program for communities to improve the visual appeal of their downtown areas. Seymour would use the funds to repair sidewalks, improve existing curb cuts and install new cuts, in addition to installing new lights downtown.

Also, individual building owners can tap into the fund to obtain up to 50% reimbursement on projects to improve the visual appeal of their buildings. Zois’ Pizza, which has installed a brand-new facade, would qualify for about $50,000 in reimbursement if the state approves Seymour’s grant application.

Luciano, though, is adamant that Seymour’s plan does not improve his situation. For example, many downtown stores have doors too narrow to admit his cart or a wheelchair.

In a letter to Conroy, Luciano called the grant a “waste of money” and asked, “What good is making storefronts prettier, repairing sidewalks/curbcuts, adding more quaint streetlamps if we cannot go inside these so-called historic attractions?”

But Seymour can improve only town-owned property, Miller said.

“We can’t do everything he wants because these downtown buildings are private property,” he said. “We’re trying to piece together funding to do what we can.”

Ironically, Miller said, Luciano is opposing the grant funds because they do not address downtown businesses.

“But if he succeeds in stopping us from getting the grant funds, the one business that did make improvements, Zois’, will lose out on $50,000,” he said.

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  • B

    Maybe he should move. What a jerk.

  • JOSEPH LUCIANO

    Okay ….. where to? Which of Connecticut’s 168 other towns, cities, villages have access not only to sidewalks but also to the establishments, town/city hall, and post office? Try to understand the concept of Livable Communities. www.newstimes.com/default/article/Livable-communities-needed-as-population-ages-4279127.php
    Ancora Imparo! (Learn more; resist casting insults.) www.cga.ct.gov/coa/
    Critical readers should note my position is that the grant is misguided if not aesthetically based because it fails to be “inclusive,” i.e., it enable municipalities to develop for persons WITHOUT disabilities. Seymour’s half-baked economic development “plan” will result in an already depressed downtown where persons without disabilities can ENTER the historic establishments — while persons WITH disabilities can only “sightsee.” Check out other historic places (Mystic Seaport) and learn how many of its attractions are ADA accessible.
    Incidentally, only one Seymour historic establishment is not hiding behind the historic place “privilege” (exempt from ADA standards); the owners built a portable ramp enAbling wheelchairs to enter its 1840 business. It understands and welcomes persons with disabilities. Who knows this place?

  • Scott Ricker

    Is Zoe’s Pizza fully Accessible? If not, why oh why should that business get $50,000 when in fact it is in violation of the American’s with Disabilities Act of 1990! All public Accommodations (public invite businesses or facilities under Title III) were required to create a transition plan by 1992 and have that plan implemented by 1995, same with town/city or state government buildings.

    If the Town of Seymour is in support of doling out these funds at a 50% reimburstment rate for improvements to the facades, then the reciepiant must put in writing, with a clear and defined timeline as to when full Equal Access will be created at their business, if Access to it has not already been provided. And the timeline must be reasonable considering they are recieving significant funds for doing improvements, but clearly failed to provide Equal Access to all residents, or visitors to their facility! The reciepiants must provide Access to all aspects of the facility, and not just an Accessible entrance.

    The comment from “B” above is a pretty clear indication of the deeply rooted cultural ignorance that envelopes some of Seymour’ residents or visitors…….

  • JOE LUCIANO

    Public, be aware: Seymour’s law firm has filed a motion to “dismiss” my ADA complaint [CHRO 1330326: Luciano v. Seymour]. I propose that the Town should have responded positively ….. by offering to immediately begin patching broken sidewalks and patching curbcuts to make them the latter ADA “gentle slopes enabling PWDs to access street crossings to and from sidewalks. Regarding the NBC-TV investigative report on Seymour’s ADA compliance, First Selectman Miller was quoted as saying “it takes time.”
    Really? ADA was signed into law July 1990. Aren’t 23 years enough time for Mr. Miller and his predecessors (Bob Koskolowski, John O’Toole, Frank Conroy, Scott Koskolowski again, Paul Roy, and now Kurt Miller). Public Works has no human resources (employees) on the payroll to start patching as an interim step and show of good faith—not to mention show respect for its PWD citizens living and visiting downtown?
    Res Ipsa Loquitur! Check out photos on public view showing broken sidewalks; broken curbcuts; curbcuts leading to ordinary curbs; cross walks leading to no curbcut; curbcuts with vertical drop-offs; broken crosswalks; sidewalks that end in dirt; “historic brick” sidewalks leading to nowhere; inaccessible downtown public shops; illegally parked cars obstructing elderly trying to reach a (broken) curbcut; shopkeepers obstructing sidewalks with signage or merchandise; elderly forced to walk in streets; vehicles (even official town vehicles) illegally parked on or obstructing sidewalks; elderly trying to climb “historic” steps to enter historic shops that inexplicably have no hand rails for grabbing; vehicles parked on sidewalks; plantings overhanging (encroachment) sidewalks, forcing elderly and PWDs into streets; encroachments the Town ignored for a year after complaint; snow removal Town Ordinance (14-6) violations; and more.
    ###

  • JOSEPH LUCIANO

    Public, be aware: Seymour’s law firm has filed a motion to “dismiss” my ADA complaint [CHRO1330326: Luciano v. Seymour]. I propose that the Town should have responded positively ….. by offering to immediately begin patching broken sidewalks and patching curbcuts to make the latter conform as the ADA “gentle slopes” enabling persons with disabilities (PWDs) to access street crossings to and from sidewalks. Regarding the NBC-TV investigative report on Seymour’s ADA compliance, First Selectman Miller was quoted as saying “it takes time.”
    Takes time? Really? ADA was signed into law July 1990. Aren’t 23 years enough time for Mr. Miller and his predecessors (Bob Koskolowski, John O’Toole, Frank Conroy, Scott Koskolowski again, Paul Roy, and now Kurt Miller). Is it true that Public Works has no human resources (employees) on the payroll to start patching as an interim step and show of good faith—not to mention show respect for its PWD citizens living and visiting downtown? Seymour and the other 168 towns, cities, and villages need to develop themselves as Livable Communities – not merely to “facelift” (pretty storefronts, ADA-compliant sidewalks, “quaint” lighting) but also research funding sources to help privately owned establishments with funding and/or loans to provide access to PWDs. We want to do more than “sight-see; we have money to spend — and therefore can contribute to economic development. The Main Street Investment Fund is an insult to PWDs by excluding funding for access costs to privately owned businesses. We have no interest shopping and buying from sidewalks. Towns like Seymour with economically depressed downtowns that fail to consider our buying power do not understand why we shop the malls. We can access everything there!
    Res Ipsa Loquitur! Check out photos on public view showing broken sidewalks; broken curbcuts; curbcuts leading to ordinary curbs; cross walks leading to no curbcut; curbcuts with vertical drop-offs; broken crosswalks; sidewalks that end in dirt; “historic brick” sidewalks leading to nowhere; inaccessible downtown public shops; illegally parked cars obstructing elderly trying to reach a (broken) curbcut; shopkeepers obstructing sidewalks with signage or merchandise; elderly; vehicles (even official town vehicles) illegally parked on or obstructing sidewalks; elderly trying to climb “historic” steps to enter historic shops that inexplicably have no hand rails for grabbing; vehicles; plantings overhanging (encroachment) sidewalks, forcing elderly and PWDs into streets; encroachments the Town ignored for a year after complaint; snow removal Town Ordinance(14-6) violations; and more.
    ###

  • JOSEPH LUCIANO

    MILLER PLAYS “PITY CARD” Regarding First Selectman Miller’s claim in the April 9 Valley Gazette story (“Luciano escalates ADA battle in Seymour”) that “. . . if (Luciano) succeeds in stopping us from getting the grant funds, the one business that did make improvements (Zois Pizza Palace) will lose out on $50,000.”
    Readers and commenters should be advised of Town employee Deirdre Caruso’s October 24, 2012 email sent at 3:58pm to me in which she kindly explained that Zois’s owner was going to spend fifty grand to facelift his establishment whether or not he was included in this grant:

    “Mr. Luciano, Mr. Tzepos (Zois owner) is well aware of the reimbursement that he may receive IF (her shout) the Town’s application is accepted. There weren’t any other downtown businesses/property owners that had shown an interest in participating in this program. Also, the Department of Public Works had nothing to do with the town’s proposed project or the project at Zois Pizza Palace, which Mr. Tzepos was going to have done whether or not he was included in this program. As to whether or not Mr. Tzepos is complying with ADA Guidelines will be within his project plans, which are separate from the town’s plans. (italics mine)

    Ms. Caruso is Town of Seymour Manager of Operations & Grants. Her email was also sent to Christine Conroy, Fred Messore, and Kurt Miller.

    From: Deirdre Caruso Town of Seymour Manager of Operations & Grants

    To: Joseph Luciano; “zoispizza@att.net”
    Cc: Christine Conroy ; Fred Messore ; Kurt Miller
    Sent: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 3:58 PM
    Subject: RE: Main Street Investment Fund

    - Joseph A. Luciano, April 14, 2013

  • JOSEPH LUCIANO

    MAIN STREET INVESTMENT FUND Wrong for Seymour’s Downtown
    To “B” and all others whose vocabulary skills and cognitive power limit them to insults rather than logical civil discussion: the “face-lifting” MAIN STREET INVESTMENT FUND is wrong for Seymour’s downtown and all other poorly livable communities 23 years after ADA’s enactment.
    It “enables” only people with abilities to “stroll” downtown boutiques and other shops to window-shop and buy.
    We persons with disabilities (PWDs) cannot “stroll”; for mobility we use canes, walkers, scooters, and wheelchairs. We want to shop, and we can buy too. The 1840 Trestle Tavern knows that and is the only historic establishment that built a portable wooden ramp at the ready to welcome wheelchairs and everyone else to enjoy Seymour’s quality of life.
    Twenty-three years after ADA, MSIF is inappropriate. It excludes a class of people (PWDs) from contributing to economic development of an already depressed downtown. See for yourselves the rudely ludicrous sidewalk obstacles to mobility and the limited number of establishments (including Town Hall and the Post Office) that are ADA inaccessible. This fund is exclusionary. That Seymour’s Public Works has failed to maintain downtown sidewalks and curbcuts is fiscal negligence if not beyond deplorable—a preposterous insult to elderly and young with and without disabilities.
    Continued exclusion will only motivate us to continue shopping the malls.
    ###

  • A

    I just saw Zois “face-lift” for the first time yesterday. I wouldn’t really call it a face-lift. It’s a gigantic billboard. How should anyone…being we, the taxpayers, be paying for that? It’s absolutely ridiculous for anyone but ZOIS PIZZA to pay for their “face-lift”.

  • Joseph A. Luciano

    In order for our state’s 169 towns, cities & villages to develop as Livable Communities, people of all abilities, including persons with disabilities (PWDs), must have access to all places, such as government buildings and retail establishments of all kinds.
    I am aware that the state’s Main Street Investment Fund grant exists to provide funding for “facelifts” (improvements of sidewalks, streetlamps, and storefronts, for example). However, the MSIF is discriminatory.
    It does not provide funding to private businesses or property owners who rent/lease to private businesses that enable provision of ADA access. What’s the good of funding to “facelift” a downtown area if only people without disabilities can enter “facelifted” places (restaurants, bars, gift shops, antique shops, doctors’ offices, theaters, law offices, and other establishments)?
    The MSIF fails to fund projects for people of all abilities. Years ago it may have been appropriate before emergence of the concept and economic benefit of Livable Communities and Aging in Place. It’s inappropriate today ….. and thoughtless as well—an insult to PWDs and their advocates.

    What grants or funding sources exist that provide funding to help private businesses afford to provide ADA access—which will allow PWDs to enter their shops to dine or purchase services or products?

    It seems to me that our state government should be enabling property owners to comply with the 23-year-old Americans with Disabilities Act.

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