Reaction mixed to group home

This home at 2992 Layton Avenue, at the corner of Throgs Neck Boulevard (above), recently built by local developer Frank Porco, may soon house seven mentally challenged men in their 40s and 50s. - Photo by Patrick Rcchio

While some claim that group homes make good neighbors, Throggs Neck area residents by and large had a mixed reaction to a proposed facility on Lawton Avenue.

The Institute for Applied Human Dynamics and Community Board 10 held a public meeting on Tuesday, July 1 at Ft. Schuyler House. The discussion centered on a proposed group home for seven developmentally-disabled men, ages in the 40s and 50s, at 2992 Lawton Avenue, at the corner of Throgs Neck Boulevard.

CB 10 received word in the mid-June that a group home was being proposed for the site, and held the meeting as part of a public review process that will culminate in an advisory vote, at their September meeting.

After a vote is taken, CB 10 will likely send a letter to NYS Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disability either in favor or against the project.

“We are an agency in good standing with the state regulatory agency, and consider ourselves to be good community members,” said Stanley Silverstein, executive director of IAHD. “We are here to ask for the board and community for their support for these seven men.”

The men, who have been living in larger settings, have family members or guardians who want to move their loved ones to a small setting, echoing a trend in group home living.

According to Silverstein, the men who would reside in the home have been living in various locations run by the IAHD for approximately 15 to 20 years.

The possibility of a group home in the community drew testimony both against the home, on the grounds of what many neighbors worried would be an increase in quality of life and safety issues, and also pleas for understanding from those who had neighbors who were developmentally disabled.

“When does CB 10 reach its saturation point with group homes?” asked CB 10 member Peter LaScala.

The gallery session had the potential to grow particularly contentious, with a contingent in the back of the hall strenuously opposed to the group home.

“Many people testified, but where were the people who are going to live in this home and their families?” said Jimmy Wilson, who was in attendance. “You could feel tension in the back of the room as people read letters in favor of the project.”

Wilson came away with mixed feelings. 

“I think if they asked for a show of hands, the majority of those present would probably be against it,” said Wilson. “Of course, our hearts do go out to those with mental disability. I like to hear all of the facts before I say I am for or against something.”

Silverstein noted that two workers will supervise the men while they sleep, and three will be in the house or with the residents at all times during waking hours.

According to Silverstein, the property, owned by developer Frank Porco, was listed through area realtors. 

The IAHD operates group homes around the Bronx, including locations on W. 197th Street, Nereid Avenue, Van Cortlandt Avenue, and near E. Tremont and Castle Hill avenues.

Silverstein continued to stress throughout the meeting that the seven men have no criminal records, never used drugs, been drunk or been in any trouble with the law, and will be attending day programs in living skills, and spend the weekends in an assortment of recreational activities similar to those of the rest of the community.

“The risk they pose to themselves is limited to when they are unsupervised,” Silverstein stated, as a reason residents have nothing to fear.  “They will always be supervised.”

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