Gifford Avenue group home proposed

Unique People Services confirmed it is planning a group home for developmentally disabled young women at 2717 Gifford Avenue.
Community News Group / Patrick Rocchio

A group home has been proposed for a long-vacant house on a very narrow one-way street.

Unique People Services sent notices to elected officials and Community Board 10 this week announcing its intention to open a group home for six developmentally disabled young women at 2717 Gifford Avenue, near Bruckner Boulevard.

Martin Prince, CB 10 chairman, said that the board is now in the process of scheduling a hearing within 40 days and notifying the community, per all applicable rules.

The Woodlawn-based organization’s executive director, Yvette Andre, said that the two-family house would include bedrooms for each of the young women, all of whom have been going to school out-of-state but are coming back home after reaching adulthood.

“This is a home for individuals with developmental disabilities who are from the Bronx,” said Andre, adding “We try to develop group homes where the individuals are from; so, all of their family members are from the Bronx (and) they would have easy access to the individuals.”

She said that a detached house was chosen because of potential minor behavioral issues that some of the individuals have displayed, caused by Down syndrome and autism.

The goal, said Andre, would be to integrate the women into the community.

“I aim to add value to the community,” she said.

Mary Jane Musano, Waterbury-LaSalle Community Association board member, said she has heard the claim that the incoming group home would serve local people before. She’s waiting to learn more about the facility.

“All in all, we have more than our share and I don’t think it is fair,” she said, adding that she hopes the community would look into UPS’ other operations, which include housing for people with HIV/AIDS and mental illnesses.

Kevin Heckman, who lives on Gifford Avenue, said he was not in favor of the group home proposal based on what he has heard.

He believes that the entire community should be formerly notified and should have a chance to comment, including on traffic issues.

“This is a small street,” he said. “We don’t have any space for an ambulette to pull over and pick up or drop off.”

Any vehicle serving the proposed group home would choke off the street’s entire traffic flow if it doesn’t find a curbside place to stop.

As things now stand, Heckman said he sometimes has to back out of the block because he cannot pass if there is a large truck, bus or van on the street.

“Parking on the block is at a premium now, and the last thing we need is (a group home) staff who need to use parking spaces,” he said, after learning it will be monitored 24-hours a day.

Neighbor Elix Madera-Fliegelman, said she was not concerned, but could see how some of her neighbors might have traffic concerns.

“I don’t have a problem with (the group home residents) because they are just like you or I,” she said of the women, adding that the street is narrow and the house doesn’t have a driveway.

The property was the site of a fire in 2010, according to a published report.

The 3,168 square foot residence was put on the market for $699,000, according to real estate listings.

UPS is not yet in contract, said Andre.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.

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