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New task force to monitor group homes across boro

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The city and state have agreed to form a task force to monitor the placement of group homes in the borough at the request of southeast Queens lawmakers, state Sen. Malcolm Smith said.

In an attempt to combat the overabundance of residential facilities under government contracts in southeast Queens, Smith and other politicians met with the commissioners of the state offices of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities and Mental Health as well as a representative from Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office Monday.

"This is very big for us," he said. "They wanted to be cooperative. Everyone agreed that a task force is necessary."

Group homes, including homeless shelters, assisted-living centers, mental health facilities and other residences, have overrun southeast Queens, Smith said. Community Board 12, covering Jamaica, South Jamaica, Hollis and St. Albans, has at least 34 facilities, and Community Board 13, which stretches from Glen Oaks to Rosedale, has at least 44 centers, said CB 13 Chairman Richard Hellenbrecht, who attended the meeting.

"Queens Village and all of Community Board 13 have been oversaturated for a long time," he said. "We've taken the brunt of the group home placement in the borough of Queens."

In CB 12, a bankrupt 335-room Carlton House hotel on the North Conduit road near Kennedy Airport reopened in July as a city shelter for homeless families over community outcry against the plan. The hotel, now managed by the Salvation Army, is the largest homeless shelter in the city, and neighborhood residents have complained of people loitering on the street and destroying their quality of life.

Both community board chairmen will have seats on the task force along with city and state agencies.

The task force will begin to address the group home problem by creating a map showing all city and state facilities in Queens, Smith said.

"The agencies don't really talk to each other," he said. "Once we have a map we can see just exactly where the oversaturation is."

When they become available, the maps will enable the task force to recommend home placement sites to city and state officials for tracking. The group also will be able to monitor complaints and review potential legislation, he said.

"They all agree that they do not want to overtax an area," he said. "The task force will also look into where, in fact, there is an oversaturation of resources."

Although Smith, assembly members William Scarborough (D-St. Albans) and Michele Titus (D-Far Rockaway) and others at the meeting were hoping to get a moratorium on group homes in southeast Queens, the task force will help control future placement of facilities. Bit it is unlikely that current facilities will be removed from that area, Smith said.

"I don't think that will happen," he said. "We talked about moving forward."

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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