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New legal day care centers raise concerns over lower density growth management

Bronx Times

Proponents of the new Lower Density Growth Management zoning laws in Community Board 10 expected those regulations to keep certain businesses off residential side streets. So when day care facilities began popping up on those streets over the past year, they started looking for answers. And those answers proved hard to come by.

Lower Density Growth Management, which became law in CB 10’s residential areas this past January, was partially intended to ensure that all merchants stay on commercial strips, and thus prevent excessive traffic on side streets. Day cares centers, however, are permitted to operate out of homes and apartments in such areas, as long as their enrollment does not exceed a certain number.

The maximum amount is usually 12, but can vary slightly depending on the type of day care, age of students and number of employees.

Day care centers are licensed by the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Community Board 10 district manager Ken Kearns began reaching out to the agency for an explanation about the proliferation of day-care centers in July, but has yet to receive a direct response.

“We haven’t really gotten a satisfactory answer out of them,” Kearns said. “That, to me, is a fundamental flaw on their part. They’re responsible for responding to a community board.”

Also in July, Community Board 10 chairman John Marano sent a letter to DOH Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley. The letter enumerated the board’s concerns regarding the new day care centers.

“The creation of these facilities brings with them increased traffic, competition for scarce parking and noise and air pollution,” the letter read.

It also addressed a lack of transparency about the enrollment at each center, and proposed a moratorium on further day care licensing in the area.

“We are especially concerned over the safety of the children receiving services at these centers. What are the numbers of children allowed in each center, and what safeguards exist to protect them from overcrowding and being exposed to buildings of shoddy construction?”

The Department of Health is responsible for verifying that day cares are in accordance with zoning ordinances as part of the certification process. Kearns said the board has not received a direct response to the letter.

Andrew Chirico of the Waterbury LaSalle Community Association said in an e-mail to the Bronx Times Reporter that “the Lower Density Growth Management regulations were supposed to prevent all of these child day care locations from opening in residential neighborhoods, now it seems they have found a loophole.”

Mary Ellen Do runs Love Bugs Day Care on Crosby Avenue. She received her certification from the DOH in October, and has been found to be in full compliance by the Department of Buildings.

She said she saw no reason she should not be in business, given the fact that her day care center met the criteria of the necessary government agencies.

“I’m fully licensed by the NYC DOH,” she said. “I understand that there may be some day cares that are operating illegally but I’m not one of them.”

Bill Weisbrod can be reached via e-mail at bweisbrod@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3394. Follow him on Twitter @bweisbrod

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