It wasn’t by any means a runaway, but Community Board 17 has given the go-ahead to a group home for East Flatbush.
The home, which would be the 16th within the neighborhood and which would be located at 1514 New York Avenue, has been proposed by YAI, the National Institute for People with Disabilities, which operates over 80 homes in the New York metropolitan area, 10 of which are located in Brooklyn.
These facilities, and other, similar ones, are licensed and approved by the state’s Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (OMRDD).
The board voted 22 to four in favor of the facility, with eight members abstaining, during CB 17’s April meeting, which was held at Public School 198, Farragut Road and Albany Avenue.
Local residents showed up with questions about the facility, which is planned to house eight individuals with mild retardation, two women and six men, between the ages of 35 and 44.
Averyll Perry, who lives in the house attached to the proposed group home site, wanted to know, “Am I going to be able to sleep, or am I going to be awakened at 3 a.m. with people running back and forth?”
“Are there going to be hang-outs?” Gailene Windsor asked.
There would be 24-hour supervision at the home, said YAI representatives, who stressed the distinction between mental retardation and mental illness. While all of the home’s proposed residents have learning disabilities, none are mentally ill, they said. Six of the residents would be accompanied when they left the home; two are “travel-trained,” said Fred Feibusch, director of residential services for YAI.
“It’s a very structured type program,” he told the group. “They do not hang out. They have activities. You will see them. They don’t stay just in the house, but you won’t find people hanging out or causing disruption to the community.
“There is a need for this type of service,” stressed Feibusch. Those who have learning disabilities, he said, have “A lifelong disability (that) impairs a person’s ability to adapt to life. Many can’t live on their own unless they live with their families. We don’t put them in institutions, anymore,” Feibusch added.
“This particular group,” he also noted, “we know very well. They are already living in another location in Park Slope that is one of our oldest programs, with 15 people. We are trying to make it smaller to give them a better quality of life.”
Feibusch also reassured his listeners that YAI, “Will be very respectful and aware of the neighborhood. If we ever do anything that disturbs your comfort, you should speak to us. We know we are a little different than the average neighbor.”
Nonetheless, he added, “It’s our experience that, when we open a program, the people on the next block don’t know we’re there.”
The establishment of the home, Feibusch added, “Will have a positive impact,” on the community. “It’s not unusual,” he added, “for people to have concerns, but within a month or two or three, people say, What were we worried about?”
Despite the concerns raised about the facility, several people spoke up in support of it.
Among them were three employees of YAI, who live in CB 17.
“I am advocating for the residence to be established here, in the community, so we can be our brother’s keeper,” asserted Pninah Bat Natanel, one of them. Those who live in such homes, she said, “Wouldn’t bring crime to the community. These are loving people. There for the grace of God go you or me.”
Father Coman Brady, the pastor at St. Vincent Ferrer, said that there was a similar facility in the church’s old convent. “It’s working out very well, no problem to us, no problem to the school. They are very good tenants. We are blessed rather than harmed by this facility.”
Board member Lois Locke spoke in support of the facility, The son of a friend of hers, she said, lives in such a facility. “It’s one of the greatest things that he could take care of himself because of the care these people give them,” she told the crowd.
Board member Kenrick Wescott also spoke on behalf of the group home. Recalling one that had opened up some years back at East 51st Street and Avenue D, he said, “The people are quiet. When you pass, they wave. I don’t think it will be a problem.”
The agency does not target specific neighborhoods, said Jennifer Davidson, YAI’s planning and development specialist. Rather, she explained, “I look all over Brooklyn,” for houses that meet the agency’s needs. “This house meets the criteria, and it happens to be in Community Board 17.”
The home is being sited under the New York State Site Selection Law, also known as the Padavan Law, which mandates a public review process for such facilities. Each site must be evaluated by the municipality in which it will be located.
In New York City, the municipality is represented by the community board. There are three possible choices
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