Parents of child with autism say neighbors in Port Washington are pushing back fence installed to keep daughter safe

PORT WASHINGTON, NY – In a community on the North Shore of Long Island where fencing in front yards is largely prohibited, dividing lines are drawn across a fence.

Parents of a child with autism said they erected the fence to protect their daughter, but the family tells CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan they are being turned away by angry neighbors.

Stella Bovis, age 4, peeks out her front door at the new picket fence that has been installed in her Port Washington front yard.

“What I’m afraid of is her storming out the door. We’re one house down from Port Washington Boulevard,” said Stella’s mother, Stevie Bovis.

Stella, Stevie and Angelo’s only child, has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and goes through very difficult times every day. Therapists suggested more outside of time.

“So the security is huge and crucial to give her a childhood,” Stevie Bovis said.

The 4 foot high fence is the only one in the neighborhood. Aside from variances, the hamlet of Port Washington and the town of North Hempstead do not allow fences, but the Bovises have been advised that a fence for Stella is protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“They seemed very tolerant, the neighbors,” said Stevie Bovis.

Then it got mad.

“So we were a bit surprised that after explaining everything to our neighbors, our reasons for putting up the fence, our plan to work with the city, that some of them secretly banded together and sort of banded together against us,” he said Angelo Bovis.

The Bovises recently went before the city council. Your neighbors were there.

“The fence was pushed back by over a dozen neighbors who signed a letter. It just seems like it’s too high and too close to the road,” said neighbor James Marotta.

A petition circulated.

“No. We don’t want to talk. Nobody wants to speak. Nobody wants this,” a neighbor said.

“No, I don’t like everything and it doesn’t fit into our neighborhood,” said another neighbor.

“Everybody stopped talking to us … We would wave, they wouldn’t wave back,” Stevie Bovis said.

Several neighbors who would not go in front of the camera say their complaints have nothing to do with an autistic child and are more about the size, color and perimeter of the fence.

The city will rule soon, and it appears that the variance will be granted.

A hollow victory?

“To be completely isolated from a neighborhood that our daughter should enjoy is beyond hurtful and makes me sad for my daughter,” said Stevie Bovis.


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