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January 23, 2003

Housing project for the deaf to be first in state

From: Middletown Press, CT - 23 Jan 2003

By JIM HICKEY, Middletown Press Staff January 23, 2003

MIDDLETOWN -- Plans for a new housing development for the hearing impaired in the South Farms section of the city are moving forward, and housing advocates are optimistic that work on the project could begin by the end of this year.
The project, believed to be the first of its kind in the entire state, would call for the construction of 18 units on the corner of Randolph Road and South Main Street. Each unit would be specially designed for the hearing impaired, complete with special equipment and flooring that would conduct vibrations from radio and television sets.

The project has been proposed by the Middletown Housing Authority, and has an estimated cost of around $2 million.

The Housing Authority has already secured some funding for the project, and is in the process of applying for a grant from the Federal Housing and Urban Development, according to Housing Authority Director William Vasiliou.

Vasiliou estimated that funding from HUD could cover around 70 percent of the project, with the Housing Authority leveraging the remaining cost. The town sold the 1.3 acre site to the housing authority in 2001, and the project has already been approved by the city’s planning and zoning commission.

Vasiliou said the community will allow people from the same culture to live together, and will be able to communicate using sign language.

"Many people that are hearing impaired feel isolated. We feel there are a number of advantages to having these people live together," he said.

Officials from the Housing Authority have already toured a facility in Danvers, Mass., and spent time with the hearing impaired asking them what their needs are and how they felt the community should be designed.

The proposed location, on the site of the old Long Hill School, is perfect because it is near the city bus line, Vasiliou said. Bus line access was one of the key requests made by the hearing impaired.

It is also next to Marino Manor, an assisted living community for the elderly. The bus line that leaves from Marino Manor makes runs for grocery shopping and errands, and people can ride up to Hartford or New Haven using bus transfers.

The new community would probably be able to use the entrance and exit of Marino Manor, and they likely wouldn’t be a need for any new curb cuts onto Route 17.

The project has been spearheaded by local businessman C.J. "Larry" Marino, who grew up with two sisters and a brother who were deaf.

In the past few years, 95-year-old Marino has been extremely active in helping fund programs to teach sign language in Middlesex County. Marino said he was always bothered that there was no community for the hearing impaired in the state, and started a campaign to build one here almost 20 years ago.

He said his hearing impaired siblings went to school at the School for the Deaf in West Hartford, got jobs, and later traveled around the world. But when they reached a certain age and wanted to sell their homes, there was nowhere for them to go in the whole state.

"I just hope that this new community for the deaf will allow families to stay together. This state needs a place just for deaf people," Marion said.

He noted that Massachusetts and New York have communities where the deaf can live together in a neighborhood, but no such facility exists here in Connecticut.

Vasiliou said that the Housing Authority is hoping to secure the HUD funding within the next six months, and said that construction on the community could begin by the end of this year or the beginning of 2004.

To contact Jim Hickey, call (860) 347-3331 ext. 221, or e-mail

©The Middletown Press 2003