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Port Washington approves family's fence to protect child with autism, along with "autistic child area" signs

Port Washington approves family's fence to protect child with autism
Port Washington approves family's fence to protect child with autism 02:17

PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y. -- There's an update to CBS2's exclusive story about a fence fight in Port Washington.

Parents installed it to help protect their child who has autism, but there is a "no fence rule" in the town.

CBS2's Jennifer McLogan reports the zoning board has just approved the fence, and the town is putting up street signs in hopes of keeping the little girl safe.

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

Stevie Novis wiped away tears, saying, "The sign is amazing. Anything that helps supports my daughter and anyone who has a disability."

"Autistic child area" road signs on her Port Washington street are going up for Stella Bovis, the 4-year-old whose struggles became a flashpoint in her neighborhood when her parents put up a picket fence in their front yard to keep her safe.

Amid intense opposition from many in the neighborhood, others in the community have since rallied around them.

"The outreach has been amazing and makes us feel much more welcome," Stevie Bovis said.

Some neighbors went to North Hempstead Town Hall to protest the 4-foot fence. Without a variance, fences are not allowed in Port Washington.

CBS2 spoke with them last month during our exclusive report.

"There has been pushback on the fence from over a dozen neighbors who signed a letter. It just seems like it's too high and too close to the road," one neighbor said at the time.

"No. We don't want to speak. No one wants to speak. No one wants this here," another neighbor said.

"No, I don't like it all, and it doesn't match in our neighborhood," another said.

"We are painting the fence white for the neighbors and planting shrubs," Stevie Bovis said.

Until now the Bovis family has felt alone.

"A few of them got together in secret and kind of ganged up on us," father Angelo Bovis said last month.

"To be completely isolated from a neighborhood that we wanted to have our daughter enjoy is beyond hurtful and makes me sad for my daughter," Stevie Bovis said in January.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the fence was just approved by the local zoning board of appeals.

"Despite this happy ending, I still would like to extend my deepest sympathies on behalf of the town as their family was put through an ordeal, and I hope this will raise awareness going forward of what is considered a 'reasonable accommodation,'" North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jennifer DeSena said.

The Bovis family hopes painting the fence and the signs will serve as an olive branch to those neighbors giving pushback, whose children their daughter Stella wants to befriend.

"I just want to thank CBS and you, Jennifer, for covering the story and bringing light to the situation," Stevie Bovis said.

Living with autism, rising above.

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