Residents angry over a “temporary” supportive housing facility slipping into their neighborhood turned a local community board meeting into a shouting match.
Community Board 10 wound up saying it will now call on Gov. Cuomo to overhaul state policy on such facilities, which now do not require public notice before they open in a community.
Outraged Pelham Bay and other east Bronx residents packed Villa Barone Restaurant Jan. 17 to personally hear from Dr. Yves Ades, chief operating officer for Services for the UnderServed, the nonprofit now occupying the long-vacant, high-end Pelham Grand apartment building.
Following Hurricane Sandy, SUS transferred 62 de-institutionalized mentally ill clients from their storm-damaged Rockaway Beach residence, signing a six-to-nine month lease with little public notice. Two tenants have criminal records for low-level, non-violent offenses, SUS has said.
“The board is not happy SUS moved like this,” griped CB10 chairman John Marano, “but it’s beyond our control.”
Building neighbor Vera Gonzalez echoed major sentiment in the hostile room, saying she was not happy with the board or local elected officials, who sent representatives on their behalf– “They bamboozled us!”
District Manager Ken Kearns told the audience SUS had no legal obligation to alert the public before moving in, though he pointed out CB10 is ready to challenge that policy to state agencies.
“Our tenants are not murderers, they’re not rapists, they’re not predators,” said Dr. Ades, emphasizing his tenants will be good neighbors. “They are people who are simply looking to live with dignity.”
One speaker, Egidio Sementelli was quickly corrected by Ades when he accused SUS of operating a “men’s only homeless shelter.” A public tour of the facility also showed Sementelli’s claim to be false.
But Ades barely won any hearts and minds.
Ades offered neighbors the chance to take a tour of the facility, even providing busses for large groups.
No hearing required
The community uproar has sparked talk of whether nonprofits operating supportive housing through the state Office of Mental Health should be legally required to advise the public of a move.
Nonprofits setting up group homes are legally required to hold public hearings under the Padavan Law of 1978, named after its sponsor Sen. Frank Padavan.
CB10 members have now drafted a letter to Gov. Cuomo, urging him to incorporate nonprofits like SUS under the purview of the Padavan Law.
David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383