Thursday, September 11, 2008

CB 10 Rejects Group Home Proposal

Plans for South Ozone Park Facility Angers Board Members, Residents

By Nicole Turso

A unanimous vote against the addition of another community residence program group home in the Community Board 10 district marked the first monthly meeting of the board for the new season, held last Thursday.

Community Board 10 Queens was back in session after a summer off, meeting at the Knights of Columbus on Lefferts Blvd. Their first order of business was a presentation from St. Vincent’s Youth Residential Services to establish a children’s group home on 126th Street in South Ozone Park.

Chris Jones, a representative from St. Vincent’s, gave the presentation for the residents program, which would service eight disabled children from Queens, up to age 18, deemed suitable for community living. The home would serve as a transition ground for children plagued by social, emotional and behavioral difficulties with the intent to return to their families after a year.

A Queens designated Single Point of Access (SPOA), a government designated program for children and families used to identify children with the highest risk of placement in out-of-home settings, would place the majority of children in the facility, with an intake screening committee involved in placement decisions. Some children may also be placed through the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS).

Martha Taylor Butler, a representative from Assemblywoman Michele Titus’ (D-Queens) office attended on behalf of the community’s interest, denouncing the addition of another facility. “In our community we have too many residential programs. We’ve had enough,” she said. “We are against anymore residential beds in Ozone Park.”

Jones claimed at the meeting that there is no saturation of residential group homes in Ozone Park or its surrounding communities, but CB 10 Chairperson Betty Braton produced a list with the number of group homes established and running in zip codes-- 11420, 11417, 11419 and 11414. Just in the community of South Ozone Park alone there are 14 facilities.

“It seems that when people don’t know where to put something, they plant it in Ozone Park,” said Community Board member Margaret Finnerty, “Enough is enough in our community.”

St. Vincent’s planned to build an eight-bedroom, five-thousand square foot residential home, comparable to a one-family home already in place in Springfield Gardens that has been operating for six months. The home would be staffed with 15 full-time supervisors, and at least two to three staffers on duty at all times.

After hearing St. Vincent’s presentation, the board motioned to vote, and was followed by a unanimous vote to reject the proposal — the board viewing another group home as saturation of the zip code.

Photo: An overgrown empty lot on 126th street will serve as the site for a group home if St. Vincent’s Youth Residential Services has its way.

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