New Rochelle Group Homes: Fairness in Placement

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In the July 31, 2014 issue of the Westchester Guardian

A new group home for autistic adult men is being proposed for 75 Belmont Avenue in New Rochelle. The process being followed includes notification of interested parties. As reported in New Rochelle Talk of the Sound by Robert Cox on July 21, 2014, the original notice of the required hearing for the home in New Rochelle was sent to Mayor Noam Bramson instead of City Manager Chuck Strome.
The applicable Padavan Law gives the community 40 days to appeal to the state. However, by the time Strome and, subsequently, city council members were informed, time was running out on the 40 day deadline.
When Councilman Al Tarantino (who represents the district where this home is located and also has an autistic relative) asked for a meeting with the neighborhood, Bramson showed up, apparently to encourage the people not to object to this proposed group home or to go to protest at the city council's Citizens to be Heard. However, a few of the people in the neighborhood did go to Citizens to be Heard to speak out against the home. Subsequently, a hearing with the state was granted.
The process suggested by Bramson stands in sharp contrast to previous council's actions for proposed group homes. It was the Willowbrook scandal that forced the state to relocate mentally retarded persons from state institutions to less restrictive residences. Thus group homes in municipalities were a solution proposed and New Rochelle complied by creating a site selection committee. At that time the criteria used was that homes selected should have six bedrooms or four bedrooms with enough extra space for two more bedrooms.
In New Rochelle in past years sites were suggested, rejected, and revised because of resident opposition at city council meetings. Finally 34 Beechmont Drive was chosen for the first group home in New Rochelle for the mentally retarded. And afterward, this site selection committee continued to find more sites for additional homes.
A former Democratic Mayor, Vincent Rippa, had stated that New Rochelle was getting more than its fair share of group homes. But there is evidence that the quest for group homes continued and public reaction was occurring.
At a meeting in June 1980, about 200 people attended the council meeting to protest the placing of group homes in their neighborhood. Wykagyl Crosswalks Association even filed a lawsuit in l981 against two locations. However, one of them, 141 Bon Air Avenue, was later approved. It is interesting to note that in l981 the site selection committee proposed eight houses north of Eastchester Road, but the city council was reluctant to concentrate them in one section of the city. Other types of groups homes in the years following have been proposed and opened. The city by l991 had 11 gr
oup homes, four of which were for retarded adults. A list published in the local newspaper showed emotionally disturbed children and adults, recovering substance abusing adults, and mentally ill men, were in group homes in the city. More recently a group home on 45 Spencer Drive for people with disabilities was approved with minimum public involvement.
In fairness to the residents, the elected officials in New Rochelle should now request a review of the total number of group homes in the city and how the number of homes in each category compares to nearby communities, Westchester, and the whole state of New York. This would be a starting point which would allow residents to know how fairly the applicable state agencies are placing group homes throughout the state and especially In the City of New Rochelle.

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