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Castle Hill community upset by new neighbors

St. Andrews Village homeowners upset by new neighbors

Residents of St. Andrews Village address Community Board 9 during the meeting on Thursday, November 16.
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A home in St. Andrews Village is turning heads, but not for the right reasons.

A transitional safe house is about to locate to an attached two-family home on Caesar Place to help single, formerly incarcerated women assimilate into society after prison.

Also known as Hope House NYC, the pilot program’s goal is supporting ‘house guests’ as they transition to more permanent housing while providing a safe, vibrant, and positive living space, said Topeka Sam, Hope House NYC co-director and founder.

Long time members of this residential community, however, are doubtful about the legitimacy of the program and are concerned about how the property’s use will affect the community quality of life and the value of their homes.

During a Community Board 9 meeting on Thursday, November 16, St. Andrews Village homeowners demanded Hope House be shuttered.

Residents said they had learned that the homeowner, Cheryl Selby, was renting her house several months earlier.

However, they did not know who she had decided to rent to and claimed Hope House had not informed them of their plans either.

“I think it could be a good program and had it been introduced to us differently maybe we’d be open to working with her (Topeka Sam),” one St. Andrews Village resident explained. “We’re very uncomforta­ble.”

Neighbors speculated Selby and Hope House have withheld information from St. Andrews Village residents because of the anticipated backlash to the plan.

“The level of deceit and obfuscation is quite sophistica­ted,” said Doni Walker Santiago, another St. Andrews Village resident. “We are demanding answers and accountabi­lity.”

“My property is an investment and I want people to respect it,” Selby said. “If the property is clean and the trash is taken out and there’s no damage, doesn’t that benefit eveyone?”

“It hurts when you hear people talking in a way. You’ve already been criminalized... why do our neighbors have to treat us that way,” said Sam, who will also be living in the house and was formerly incarcerated.

Sam is now an advocate for women who were victims of incarceration and the founder of Hope House’s non profit corporation, Ladies of Hope Ministries.

“I can take it, but what about the sisters who can’t? It’s painful, the rejection,” she said.

Since the meeting on Thursday, November 16, community leaders have been reviewing the impact the program will have to the community, though legally both Selby and Hope House have followed all the required regulations so far, according to Senator Jeff Klein’s office.

“While I understand the need for a supportive environment for women reentering society after prison, the planned location of Hope House in Castle Hill is just not the right fit for that homeowner community,” Klein said.

Programs like this one exist in many places and only change buyer or renter perceptions if they bring more crime, commented a local real estate agent, offering a professional analysis of the program’s effect on the surrounding community.

A spokesperson for Hope House said they are still vetting applications and have not set an official start date.

Reach Reporter Sarah Valenzuela at (718) 260-4584. E-mail her at svalenzuela@cnglocal.com.
Posted 12:00 am, November 30, 2017
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