Sister Kay Crumlisch, executive director of Mercy Home, the non-profit agency proposing the residence for eight men at 149-26 123rd St., stood before angry neighbors last Thursday in South Ozone Park who said they fear the group home would increase traffic and put children in the area at risk. The South Ozone Park homeowners also claimed their property values would be affected if the home were allowed.
"It definitely could cause property values to go down," said Jim Persram, who lives on 123rd Street. Persram also said he was angered by the proposal to have a large-size van parked in the home's private driveway, because it would increase noise in the usually quiet neighborhood.
Natasha Ramrup, another South Ozone Park resident and registered nurse, said she was worried the eight residents would be inadequately supervised. She also questioned Crumlisch on the medication the men would be taking and whether this could make them violent toward homeowners.
"I think the neighborhood does not necessarily need two group homes in a three-block radius," Ramrup said.
Her claim, however, about the other group homes was unsubstantiated, and Betty Braton, chairwoman of CB 10, listed figures about the other group home facilities for mentally disabled people in the area.
According to state law, Braton said, community boards can only reject a proposed group home if they cite a saturation of such homes in the area. The chairwoman said there are 269 people living in group homes in Community Board 10's jurisdiction, which includes the communities of Ozone Park, South Ozone Park, a portion of Richmond Hill and Howard Beach, out of the total population of 127,274.
That figure means only two-tenths of 1 percent of CB 10's population lives in a group home for mentally disabled individuals, Braton said, making it virtually impossible to present a case that the area is saturated with group homes.
The board voted in favor of a motion to allow the group home with a vote of 23 in favor and nine against.
Crumlisch, whose agency already operates group homes in Flushing and Rosedale, said the eight men who will move into the neighborhood will occupy a two-family dwelling that will be remodeled to include five bedrooms, a private dining room, kitchen and recreational facilities. She said Mercy Home will pay $550,000 for the facility and set up a committee for neighborhood residents so they can get involved in the home's activities.
"(The residents) have severe to moderate intellectual delays," Crumlisch explained to the angry residents. "This house will look the same as any house on the block."
She added: "We are good neighbors."
Crumlisch said there will be 24-hour supervision at the group home by registered nurses. She said funding for the home's purchase comes from state grants.
Mercy Home, founded in 1862, operates eight similar group homes in Brooklyn and the two others in Queens. Crumlisch said a majority of the non-profit group's clients enroll at an early age and are adjusted to living in a communal setting.
Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at news@times
©2004 Community News Group
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