Hartford Officials Tell Joe The Barber Not To Set Up Shop In Bushnell Park –Then Reverse Course
Anthony Cymerys Lauded By Mayor For His Compassion A Few Years Ago
By STEVEN GOODE
June 13, 2013
HARTFORD — — For about 24 hours, haircuts from Joe The Barber joined the list of things that need a permit to be held in Bushnell Park.
Anthony Cymerys, a retired Windsor businessman, had been cutting hair under that name for the poor and homeless in the park on Wednesdays for more than 20 years.
But that was put into question Wednesday shortly after he set up on the Elm Street side of the park and started on his first customer.
"The guy from the city said 'we have to look after the health of these people," said Joe, who was told he couldn't cut hair without a permit.
Joe briefly joined organized soccer and frisbee games on the growing list of things the city requires a permit for in the park. The city decided last fall that the cleats used to play the games were harmful to the park's turf.
City officials initially said Thursday that Joe was banned from the park because some residents had expressed concerns about safety and sanitation issues with the haircuts and noted that he was not a licensed barber.
But in a turnabout late Thursday, the mayor's office issued a release saying that Mayor Pedro Segarra was granting Joe "a special dispensation in light of his numerous years of charitable work to the city of Hartford and wishes for him to continue his great and generous work in Bushnell Park."
Joe took his temporary ouster in stride Wednesday and packed up and went to a local shelter parking lot to do something he has been doing since he started volunteering in city homeless shelters in the 1980s.
"I remember I went up to this homeless guy named Arnold and I said "Arnold you look like a bum with that hair, how about I bring in my clippers."
Joe said that police who have seen him cutting hair over the years, have always applauded his efforts, so he didn't understand what changed.
"Nobody bothered us," said Joe, who estimated that he has about 10 to 12 customers every Wednesday in the park.
Segarra had given him a citation at the Pump House in the park a few years ago for his efforts. Joe was honored by Leadership Greater Hartford with a Polaris Award in 2011.
"He called me the Sister Theresa of Hartford," Joe joked.
Susan Campbell, communications and development director at Partnership for Strong Communities, said Thursday that Joe gives the homeless community a caring, human connection who can help steer them to shelters and services, but added that he does much more.
"What he does for the morale of men and sometimes women is huge," Campbell said. "Setting up a chair for them in Bushnell Park makes them feel human."
Efforts to reach Joe with news about the reprieve were not immediately successful.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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