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At long last the politicians of Queens have taken an important step in addressing the problem of community facilities in the borough. The city and state have agreed to form a task force that will monitor the placement of facilities such as group homes in the borough at the request of southeast Queens lawmakers.
Community Board 12 claims to be home to 34 community facilities and Community Board 13 claims at least 44 facilities. These boards feel oversaturated with group homes. So does every other community board in Queens.
The task force will begin by creating a map showing all city and state facilities in Queens. This is an important first step. For decades community boards have complained about group homes and other facilities, but no one knew how many there were or how they were dispersed. There was no planning. Each agency, whether it was an AIDS hospice, a methadone clinic or group home for moderately retarded adults, was on its own. There was little or no communication.
This will not only benefit the communities, it will benefit the services providers as well. They will no longer be arguing their case in a vacuum. More importantly they will know if there are other providers in the area that may not be compatible. One would not want to operate a group home for juvenile delinquents on the same block as a drug rehabilitation center or halfway house for convicts leaving prison.
The map will help community leaders and politicians determine which areas might be best for a given service. Although we have advocated strongly for the right of moderately retarded adults to live in residential areas, there are other facilities, such as the methadone clinics that might function just as well in a semi-industrial area as long as they are accessible to public transportation.
Ultimately the task force will have to address the larger question of saturation. This cannot be easy. The growth of community facilities is driven by demand. Citizens will have to assess how far they want society to go in caring for the disadvantaged. Some of those served by community facilities, like the retarded and physically handicapped, are there by no fault of their own. Others like the ex-cons, the alcoholics and the drug addicts are responsible for their own demise. But society ignores any of these groups at its own peril.
We hope the creation of the task force will lead to a comprehensive and compassionate approach to all of those who for whatever reason need societys help.
Editorial: Letters of support
At least three members of the state Assembly representing south Queens admit that they wrote letters of support for the Florida-based Correctional Services Corp. in 1998. The for-profit company, which no longer has any contracts in New York State, is at the center of a growing political scandal.
Assembly members Anthony Seminerio (D-Richmond Hill), Barbara Clark (D-Queens Village) and Vivian Cook (D-South Ozone Park) signed letters of support for the company when it was about to lose its contracts with that state.
Already one former and one current Assembly member from elsewhere in the city are under investigation for accepting free rides to Albany and other valuable gifts from the CSC. The Queens crew say they got nothing for their letters.
Seminerio said he would write a letter for anybody. Thats nice. Its not good government, but its nice. Clark argued that the services offered by CSC, such as employment and halfway houses, are badly needed in Queens.
Still, this company is tainted and any politician linked to it can expect to have more explaining to do.
©2003 Community Newspaper Group
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