Last Thursday, Senator Klein and Dana from his office arranged a very important meeting between members of the Committee for Community Growth and Development (CCGD) of Westchester Square and Zerega and the following state agencies: the Office of Mental Health (OMH); Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS); and the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (OMRDD), all of which run programs in the immediate Westchester Square-Zerega area. Some programs are outpatient (eg, Throggs Neck Soundview Community Mental Health [TNSCMH], Daytop, and Bronx Psychiatric on Waters Place) some are offices, and some are residential (eg, Pibly, Leake and Watts, and the upcoming Lyvere Street apartments [Postgraduate Mental Health Center]). The room was filled to capacity, which is a good indication right there how many of these programs are clustered in this small, 2000-person community.
Senator Klein attended the meeting, as well as (from the CCGD) Dorothy Krynicki and Woody Brundage from WSZIO, Dr. Carl Anderson from the Westchester Square Residents’ Association, and yours truly. A very important attendee was Ken Kearns, district manager of CB 10.
The immediate goal of the meeting was to gather information about the programs in the Square (which has been almost impossible for us to do, and only through the intervention of the Senator, were we able to finally meet some of the directors of these programs who have been here for years) and to open up lines of communication between the agencies and programs and the community representatives.
Some programs have been good neighbors, and we have heard almost nothing negative about them (Pibly). However, problem issues we and CB10 have raised in the past have been: unruly behavior of Daytop clients on the streets surrounding the facility on Halperin Avenue (raised by Dr Anderson); the methadone distribution treatment center on Waters Place (the trailers are gone, and there is a new building there now) and it’s possible influence on drug use and trafficking in Westchester Square; the huge (1100 patients a week) outpatient population served at TNSCMH, and the difficult and challenging nature of the patient population treated there, creating loitering issues among others. (An aside: It gave me great satisfaction to finally, after all these years, tell the Director of TNSCMH in person that his facility does not belong in a low-density residential community like Westchester Square. When they began in the 1960s they had FAR fewer patients and the population was different. It may not mean much as far as change is concerned, but there you have it.) The inappropriateness of the Lyvere Street project was raised as well.
Now, I will be the first to admit that the unknown inspires fear. Many of the facts about these programs have been shrouded in mystery and so have provoked anxious speculation. The solution to this is communication; and this has been lacking. Ken spoke of many attempts by the Board to contact these agencies and facilities, which had been ignored. Contact information was exchanged at the meeting, and this is a beginning. They will hear from us as we hear from you. In addition, they will be invited to attend the CCGD public meeting at Doyle’s Pub on November 15th; then they can share the information directly with the community and you can ask questions and hopefully, get some answers.
The second goal was to make it clear that we would disapprove of and fight against any attempt to expand existing programs or locate new ones in the area. The community has been patient and compassionate (in fact the Executive Director of Pibly remarked on the civility of the meeting), but enough is enough!
Here I wish to give grateful thanks to State Senator Jeff Klein and Dana Caretenuto of his staff for taking the time to arrange this, but also for making the mission to improve and defend the Square and environs a priority and taking it so seriously.
Upcoming events: October 18 (Saturday) from noon to 4 p.m., Fall Fun Day (yes; it’s Family Fun Day (which was KO’d by Hurricane Hannah) in disguise. It will be in Pelham Bay Park at the Playground for all Children, and there will be arts and crafts, face painting, a magician, and story telling; October 25, 1 to 3 p.m., Halloween arts and crafts at the Westchester Square Branch Library. Also the display window there has been broken two times in succession by bat-wielding vandals. A third attempt left cracks in the new Plexi already; please, if you see anything, report it to the police right away. As many times as it is broken, that’s how many times it will be fixed. The library is NOT giving up “our” window to destructive idiots.
That’s all for now, TTFN