The battle to open group homes in northeast Queens for disabled adults goes. Last week Community Board 7 in Flushing and Community Board 11 held hearings for three proposed homes. Once again the people who would run these homes showed incredible patience. Once again the residents who opposed the group showed incredible ignorance.
At the Community Board 7 hearing, HeartShare Human Services was seeking the right to open a group home on 145th Street in Linden Hills. HeartShare currently operates 13 group homes scattered throughout Brooklyn and Queens. Their reputation is excellent. HeartShare was also represented at the Community Board 11 hearing, seeking to open a group home on 214th Street in Bayside Hills. The Association for the Help of Retarded Children (AHRC) sought approval for a group home on 204th Street.
Our reporters could have written the story before the meetings began. Residents stepped up to the microphone to express their fears that the proposed homes would lower property values and create traffic congestion on narrow residential streets.
First, let's look at the traffic congestion red herring. There will be six mild to moderately retarded adults living in each of these homes. None of them drive. A van will take them to their jobs and treatment. They will have 24-hour supervision, so we suppose the counselors will be parking their cars in the neighborhood. Big whoop.
Then there is the perennial concern about property values. Group homes have been operating in Queens for more than a decade. If it were true that these homes had a negative impact on property values, the opposition has had ample opportunity to document the decline in values. They can't because it just isn't true.
Although people will often go so far as to say that they fear for their children, no one ever takes the microphone and says they just don't like people with disabilities. Instead the opponents of group homes are prone to say that they have nothing against those people per say, but theirs is not the right neighborhood.
At present there are long waiting lists for families trying to place a loved one in a group home. These homes offer adults a measure of freedom and dignity that would be impossible in an institutional setting. In many cases, the adults living in these homes hold jobs and become productive citizens.
There is every good reason to support the group homes. If the number of homes is growing in northeast Queens, it is because the number of people with special needs is growing. They are part of the Queens family and they are welcome to live here.
Community Board 11 did the right thing last week when it named the pedestrian bridge over the Clearview Expressway at 46th Avenue in Bayside after Christopher Scott, an 11-year-old who was killed when he crossed the bridge and rode his bike into oncoming traffic. The bridge will forever be known as Christopher's Crossing.
Sadly the bridge will always be a reminder of not one but two deaths that did not need to happen. Christopher was the second child killed at the foot of this bridge. In 1994, John Shim, 10, died in a bicycle accident that was tragically similar. The authorities should have acted then to correct a very dangerous situation in which residents safely cross a highway only to walk or ride into the busy service road.
Understandably, the family and friends of John Shim would have liked to see him included in the naming of this bridge. That didn't happen, but there is no reason why a plaque with the names of both boys couldn't be placed somewhere on this walkway.
©2001 Community News Group
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