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Home on Gifford Avenue is being proposed by Unique People Services

Resistance builds to WL group home plan

People living in housing run by Unique People Services testified at a Community Board 10 public hearing on a proposed group home at 2717 Gifford Avenue on Tuesday, June 13.
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A group home proposal in Waterbury-LaSalle is getting some community resistance.

Unique People Services’ proposal to open a group home for six developmentally disabled young women at 2717 Gifford Avenue ran into resistance at a Community Board 10 hearing on Tuesday, June 13.

Board members questioned the Woodlawn-based group on their proposal, citing issues including an overall shortage of street parking near the house and the lack of onsite parking.

Several board members urged UPS to look for an alternate location within CB 10, with several offering to help find one, though the organization’s representatives said it is already far along in the siting process.

CB 10 members voted overwhelmingly against the proposal, with four in favor, 17 against and one abstention.

The young women who would live in the home have ‘aged out’ of out-of state specialized schools, according to UPS.

Martin Prince, CB 10 chairman, was one of the members who voted in favor, saying afterwards that he does not feel the area is oversaturated with facilities, the only criteria he understands can be used by law to reject the siting.

He would like to establish a good relationship with the organization, which would likely be a neighbor.

“If it were a family member of mine, I would want compassion,” he said of the women who would live at the home.

He said that the board’s vote would be communicated as recorded.

Gabriela Panagiosoulis, who lives across the street from the proposed facility, gathered petition signatures from neighbors who are opposed.

She said that the community is not opposed to the home, but only the location.

Neighbors received a letter from CB 10 dated Wednesday, May 24 informing them of a 40-day period that CB 10 had to comment on the plan, she said.

She said she hopes the community board could come up with a better location, possibly on a two-way, less isolated street where there would be more room to access the facility.

“It is certainly not the ideal location,” said Mary Jane Musano, Waterbury-LaSalle Community Association board member, agreeing with the parking concerns.

Musano said that she has several concerns about the proposal, including UPS paying more for the house, listed as $699,000 in a real estate advertisement, than recent sale prices for similar houses in the community.

Some of her other concerns include the fact the block, which runs between Bruckner Boulevard and Balcom Avenue, is narrow and the group home would need to park a van on the street to get the residents to and from programming, potentially creating a hazard.

Board members at the meeting were also concerned about a possible low water table where the house is located.

“If this organization blindly goes ahead and purchases this house it will prove that they are irresponsi­ble,” said Andrew Chricio, WLCA board member, who believes a better location should be found.

In a statement, Yvette Brissett-Andre, UPS executive director, said, “Our newly proposed residence for six women with developmental disabilities is our newest award from the Office for Persons With Developmental Disabilities and will serve as a stepping stone to further their independen­ce,” she said.

The 26-year-old organization was recently awarded the 2017 Best of the Bronx Award from the Bronx Chamber of Commerce, she said.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.
Posted 12:00 am, June 16, 2017
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