Today’s news:

Group home tossed

A group home for the developmentally disabled slated for Waterbury Estates won’t open after a successful year and a half fight against the plan.

The home’s sponsor, Community Action for Human Services, backed away from 3407 Bruckner Boulevard on Friday, January 15 thanks to massive neighborhood opposition and a steep price tag. Community Action had hoped to move developmentally disabled residents from the south-central Bronxto Pelham Bay.

Neighbors who reached out to Senator Jeff Klein, Assemblyman Michael Benedetto and Community Board 10, were concerned that it wouldn’t be safe to house seven developmentally disabled children across from a busy highway.

“It took a while, but we were successful in blocking the opening of the group home in Waterbury-LaSalle,” Klein said. “In addition to the community board’s opposition, I called the [New York State Office of Mental Retardation] commissioner twice a week for the last three months. We made the case that bringing the patients from Community Board 3 to a neighborhood that they are unfamiliar with would not be a good idea. I think it is a big victory.”

Neighbors thanked Klein and CB 10. They joined Klein and CB10 district manager Ken Kearns in front of the Waterbury Estates home on Saturday, January 23 to celebrate.

“I think this is a victory and a recognition on the part of the state that it would be wrong to bring in another group home, because we are already oversaturated,” Andrew Chirico of the Waterbury-LaSalle Community Association remarked.

It would have cost the state too much to purchase and modify the home for the developmentally disabled, Chirico explained.

“The state must realize that it does not have an open checkbook,” he said.

Some estimates put the house at more than $700,000. Modifications would have cost an additional $100,000 to $200,000.

“My chief objection was that the state was paying too much for this home and that the price was out of line for these tough economic times,” Assemblyman Benedetto said. “I thought that this wasn’t a good decision as far as the price was concerned.”

Group home residents do make good neighbors, Benedetto said. The assemblyman was less vehemently opposed than some.

The state initially asked the neighborhood to suggest an alternate site but later withdrew that request, Klein said. Community Action for Human Services has operated the group home in Community Board 3 for three decades, sources said.

“We really stuck by our guns and made sure that we weren’t bullied,” Ed Romeo of the Pelham Bay Taxpayers Association said. “Ken Kearns’ tenacity was tremendous. I think [the outcome] showed the [Community Action] that it cannot just come into our neighborhood and do whatever it wants without going through the proper channels. This is one of the biggest wins for our neighborhood in a long time. It feels like a community again.”

Reach reporter Patrick Rocchio at 718 742-3393 or procchio@cnglocal.com

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