On March 22, 2016, residents, friends, and partners met for the West Side NRZ Meeting at the Fairgate Community Center.
The meeting began with Mike Cotela, Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Stamford. Cotela detailed plans and progress of the Boys and Girls Club, highlighting its partnership with the City of Stamford to revitalize the Michael F. Lione Memorial Park. With a focus on the natural desires of kids, the park will become more child-friendly, accessible, and safe for local residents. The two tennis courts will be converted into two basketball courts and a volleyball court, with a built-in tennis area, lights will be installed around the perimeter of the park and an expanded parking lot.
Rodney Pratt, member of the Stamford Board of Representatives, chimed in with thoughts, ideas and concerns, including the need to make streets around the park more accessible for residents, after-hours loitering at the park, and his hope for a revision of parking ordinance 231-15, with the goal of easing parking accessibility. “Our role as representative is to bring your needs to the folks downtown, so don’t be shy!” Pratt said, encouraging the group—and their peers—to voice more of their concerns.
Next, Maxon Keating, Farm Coordinator and Community Builder, spoke to the group about the advances Fairgate Farm has made over the last year. More than 1,400 plants have already started the season in the greenhouse; this year’s crops will include more than 100 varieties of produce. “The farm encourages building a community and coming together,” Keating said, reflecting on the true value of personal development through volunteering. “We really want to grow people in the farm.”
This year, Fairgate Farm will continue its classes in yoga, pickling/fermenting and nutrition and cooking classes. The Farm-to-Table series will start again in July, giving neighborhood residents and visitors an opportunity to harvest produce together and learn new ways to prepare them. Participants leave with recipes and fresh produce to try out in their own homes.
New to the farm this year will be bees and a hive, plus education about the importance of the species and their value to agriculture. Also planned are Earth Day celebrations at the Childcare Learning Centers and a next-day cleanup at the Farm (4/23).
The group next heard from Fabienne Prince, a longtime Stamford resident who grew up on the West Side. Prince spoke about her future trip to Kenya, where she will be traveling with a team of clinicians through the Global Autism Project. Prince will be bringing her experience and passion of behavior analysis to the Kaizora Center for Autism in Nairobi. Though she was handpicked through a recruiting process at the Global Autism Project, Prince will need funding to get her there. If anyone is interested in making a donation, she asked to be contacted at Princef27@gmail.com.
Pam Koprowski wrapped up the meeting with information about a grant application being considered by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; its focus is neighborhood safety. If received, the money would provide a pathway toward gun violence prevention within our community. Though the grant is currently pending, it has made it through the first round of the process. Stay tuned for future updates!