Faces of New Canaan: Kara Laviola

The plan to rebuild with greater density the public housing units “up the hill” at Millport Avenue has gained traction since last November. The New Canaan Housing Authority board has held regular meetings—there’s another one scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday—to discuss and prepare for the physical work, when families that reside there will face a dramatic if temporary change in their lives. Some time soon, these New Canaanites will move into new units built within an expanded footprint at Millport while their homes are razed and rebuilt.

Although this will be adjustment for the residents of Millport, many are excited about the upside of the project, according to New Canaanite Kara Laviola. As a resident there trusted by her neighbors and well-attuned to what’s happening, Laviola has been appointed a resident representative during the project. We spoke to her about the rebuilding and her experience living in New Canaan. Here’s our conversation.

Kara Laviola of New Canaan. Contributed

Kara Laviola of New Canaan. Contributed

New Canaanite: What are your thoughts about the project? Do you have any anxieties? Is there anything that you are excited about? 

Kara Laviola: I’m really excited about the project. My two children and I moved here in August of last year. And I wish I knew off the top of my head the building fee for where we live now, but I don’t really have any personal anxieties regarding the move or project. You know, the housing authority has been really great about keeping everyone informed about the plan and in the loop. I don’t think I have any more anxieties that anyone else would about having to move, just that kind of thing. You know when you have to move you have to pack and that kind of thing. But, it’s in the near but distant future, the project, but I wouldn’t say that I have any real anxieties towards anything than you would just with any kind of move. They’ve given us, as residents, a lot of input and kept everyone really well informed and once we get started and closer to the construction, I’m sure there’s going to be some more [questions]. [But], really they’ve been great about answering all of the questions and getting our two cents on things. There’s been meetings that a lot of residents have attended regarding the project so generally it’s just exciting to have the nicer, updated accommodations in comparison to where we are at now. So yeah, I would definitely say that I am excited, but I wouldn’t say I have any real anxieties about it.

Do you have any exact timeframe when you will be moving in and out while the construction is going on?

Well while the construction is going on, we’ll remain where we are. Until the first stage of construction is completed we wouldn’t be moving. So it’s projected to be at least a year out, before we would actually have to move.

Do you think that, for the most part, other residents at Millport are feeling the same way as you about the project?

Well yeah. No one in particular has expressed any major concerns. [Residents] brought up a few minor things here and there at the meetings, but there has never been any kind of protest or objection to what’s happening or expressed anything that [we] felt we would really need to look at or address. I really think once the project is completed, everyone will really appreciate the updated accommodations and just the overall quality of living in comparison to what it is now.

New Canaan doesn’t have a huge amount of public housing. What has your experience living in New Canaan been like?

Well, I’ve always lived in New Canaan. I graduated from New Canaan High School and I moved out of New Canaan in 2006 briefly, even though [I] worked in New Canaan, just because the living expense was too high. Then [my family] actually moved back into town a year later, [before] I moved in with my family who also are local and stayed there until last August when we were able to move in here. Obviously my experience living in New Canaan, you know there isn’t a lot of options for [those of] low income or public housing. I was on the wait list for Canaan Parish for two years, and then I was on the wait list for here for two years, before I finally got placed where we are now last August.

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?

I am a New Canaanite all the way up the line. My grandmother’s parents were a Realtor and a builder and they built houses over by the Parade Hill area, a bunch of those. So my grandmother and grandfather moved into town in 1963. My grandmother is originally from Rowayton. So [my grandmother and grandfather] moved in [to New Canaan] in 1963. My grandmother taught school in Darien for 30 years. My grandfather was on Connecticut State Police Board until 1968 and then he was on the New Canaan Police board for a year, before going back and being a State Trooper. Both my mom and my aunt attended Center School and New Canaan High School. I graduated from New Canaan High School in 2005, and then like I mentioned, I lived in Norwalk briefly after getting married and then moved back to town and rented for a year, because both myself and my former husband were employed in New Canaan and then we separated and divorced. I worked at the New Canaan YMCA for about seven years, before I took a corporate job in Stamford three years ago. So I’m working for an international tree care company. So I’ve been doing that for three years and I just actually enrolled to go back to school. So basically what I do is I go to work. I am a mom, I have two kids who are both in [New Canaan Public Schools]. My son is going into first grade [and] my daughter will be in the middle school in the fall. So between working and being a mom that eats up a lot of my time. I am on the board for the Housing Authority, so we meet once a month. We’re members at the YMCA in New Canaan, so my kids go to the after school program there and I like to work out there. But I do try to exercise when I can at the YMCA.

Is there anything else you would like to add about yourself or the Millport community?

We have a pretty tight-knit neighborhood here with just the small amount of houses at the top of the hill where they are going to be doing the renovations. Together in the winter we will go shovel each other out, the kids play really nicely together in the other months of the year. It’s just like that little ‘it takes a village’ feeling between the townhouses. With the increased number of units, I do just wonder if it will still have that same type of community feel as it does, but I think that going forward, these building improvements are going to far outweigh any of the change as we addressed. But, I think everyone is really excited about it. I think [with] the updated accommodations, it will be more energy efficient which will lower the cost of living. I think [there will be] better quality accommodations, the fixtures, the everything. [The Housing Authority] has really gone over the plans with everybody in detail pretty well in my opinion.

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