The operator of a controversial proposed group home in Throggs Neck is appealing a community board decision to oppose the home’s siting.
Martin Prince, Community Board 10 chairman, said that CB 10 received notice that operator Services for the Underserved will appeal to the NYS Office for People With Developmental Disabilities regarding the proposed site at 276 Graff Avenue.
An OPWDD commissioner’s hearing will be held on the matter, SUS confirmed.
A hearing date has not been set yet, said Prince, who also said that the board is committed to representing the community.
Under the 28-year-old Padavan Law, which provides means for communities to oppose group homes for the developmentally disabled, the community could oppose the siting if there is over-saturation, meaning a concentration of similar facilities, in the area, said Prince.
“You can go with over-saturation: that is the primary reason a community could oppose one of these facilities,” said Prince of the options. “Finance can also come into play.”
However, Prince added that the outcry over the Graff Avenue location has made it clear that CB 10 needs to be more proactive when a group home is sited in the board.
He wants to bring together the communities affected, service providers and group home clients and their families to foster greater understanding when OPWDD facilities plan on locating in CB 10.
“In OPWDD type cases, what I would like to see in that 40-day period is that the providers working with us and the community to explain themselves and get to know (us), and to interact with people who will be in close proximity,” said the chairman, adding that just scheduling a public hearing is not doing enough.
Stronger dialogue would be helpful in preventing tension in a community that feels as if something is being forced on them.
Speaking for the board, Prince said that the developmentally disabled are citizens of the community.
He added that while there may be objections that the group home clients do not come specifically from CB 10, he believes there is need for developmentally disabled services in the board and borough.
Opposition to all group homes will make it harder for the community to request services when they are needed or to attract top-notch operators, he said.
Nevertheless, opposition to the Graff Avenue site remains among neighbors, a group of which attended CB 10’s Thursday, June 16 meeting and voiced their opposition.
Graff Avenue neighbor Sonia Capifali believes that the purchase price for the property, $600,000 according to SUS, is way above fair market value for the home.
“From a taxpayer standpoint, [the house] is just not worth the money,” she said. “It is not a good use of taxpayer money.”
Neighbor Foti Bouklis believes the operator should seek a more commercial area for its facility.
He is also concerned about traffic congestion and safety in the residential area, and said that he believes the purchase price is very high.
SUS is determined to exercise its right to a commissioner’s hearing under the Padavan Law, said Louis Cavaliere, SUS executive vice president for developmental disability services, in a statement in response to several questions from the Bronx Times.
The service provider doesn’t plan on further dialogue with the community on the matter, the statement said, adding that the community was entitled to voice its opinions.
SUS has already attended two public hearings and answered all questions posed to them, Cavaliere said.
“It is now up to the OPWDD commissioner to decide what happens next,” he stated.