In response to growing concerns regarding the community impact of social service agencies operating in the Westchester Square-Zerega area, Senator Jeff Klein met with representatives of the Westchester Square-Zerega Improvement, Inc./Merchants and Professionals of Westchester Square Committee for Community Growth and Development (CCGD), NYS Office of Mental Health (OMH), NYS Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), and the NYS Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (OMRDD). Also in attendance were the executive directors of various social service providers in the Westchester Square-Zerega area as well as Kenneth Kearns, district manager for Community Board 10.
The purpose of the meeting was to give community members a chance to sit down with providers such as DAYTOP and Sound View Throggs Neck Community Mental Health Center to address certain concerns about the interaction between the community and residents and/or patients of these and numerous other providers.
Issues discussed were the capacity and services provided by the agencies, concerns about loitering, drug use in the area, and the overall community involvement by the social service providers. Many of the agencies expressed a willingness to have an open dialogue with the community and assured the residents of their desire to try to work together to address any problems that residents may have with their patients/residents.
“Because the Westchester Square-Zerega community has shouldered the burden of a high density of social service agencies in their neighborhood, it is essential that we have an open dialogue about the quality of life issues that arise,” said Klein. “Only through discussion of these concerns can the residents, agencies, service providers, and community leaders work to fix the problems.”
Representatives from DAYTOP discussed ways they have tried to address community problems, such as preventing the littering of cigarette butts on neighbors properties by citing a new rule that residents are not allowed to smoke in, around, or on the block of the facility. They also expressed their recent conversations and continued work with local residents with regards to loitering issues.
Sound View Throggs Neck Community Mental Health Center spoke about maintaining their property and assisting in graffiti clean-up of their premises when their building is defaced in order not to be an eyesore in the community. They also offered to be responsive to community concerns as they were relayed by the CCGD.
The meeting also addressed the prevalence of drug dealing and drug use in the community, and all providers agreed in unison that they take a hard stance against that culture surrounding their residents as it is contrary to the work they are trying to do. They also agreed to work with the community and assist local police in eradicating drug sales in and around Westchester square.
Klein hopes this is the first of many meetings between the service providers and the Westchester Square-Zerega community. “Our goal is to get to a point where the community can work with representatives from all the institutions. I will keep working to ensure that all of the community concerns are responded to.”