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No Welcome Mat For McDonald Ave Halfway House – QNS.com

No Welcome Mat For McDonald Ave Halfway House

By Gary Buiso

Yes Virginia, there is a halfway house on McDonald Avenue—for now. The two-family home at 2257 McDonald, called a “sober house” by Bridge Back to Life Center Inc., the organization operating it, is currently accommodating approximately 15 people who are recovering from chemical dependency. But its time there might be brief, according to a state lawmaker who said a “conversation” he had with the building owner and the facility’s clinical director has prompted an imminent departure. “It’s obviously a square peg in a round hole,” Senator Carl Kruger said. Kruger said he was initially contacted by nearby Magen David Yeshiva, which objected to the home’s presence, which was at first only supported by conjecture. Then, the state lawmaker said, he recently spoke to a person delivering a large number of mattresses to the home, confirming a rumor that a social services type facility would be arriving. Kruger said that property owner Egal Shasho “understood that this was a bad business decision.” In a June 10 letter to Magen David Yeshiva, Shasho, of Mill Island based American Real Estate LLC, writes that he will provide Bridge Back to Life, “two new locations that are currently in final stage completion [sic].” “Within two weeks maximum, 2257 McDonald Ave. will be delivered to me vacant,” the property owner explains. Kruger said he had a “tough conversation” with the clinical director, explaining “that they went about it all wrong.” He said it was “totally inappropriate”’ for the organization to move into the home, with nary a word to anyone. “The bottom line is that they are leaving that location,” Kruger said. When a story about the home ran last week, no information about the facility could be found at the local community board or through the city’s Department of Buildings. That’s because, under the law, according to the head of the organization, no notification was required. Gary Butchen, the executive director of Bridge Back to Life, a private network of state licensed, outpatient substance abuse treatment centers, said he was hopeful an amicable solution could be reached soon. He confirmed that the building owner has agreed to look at other properties he owns that could be more suitable the organization’s needs. “I’m considering it, but we haven’t committed to anything yet,” he said. Butchen stressed that the home was for people already “clean and sober.” The organization has a network of recovery homes, where recovering patients may stay after treatment. The McDonald Avenue site is not a treatment center, and therefore did not require any public notice, Butchen said. Such residences are protected under federal law, including the Fair Housing Act, Butchen said. No one in the home has been convicted of a felony, “and certainly never any sexual offenses.” Any brushes with the law, he said, have been misdemeanor offenses. Butchen said the conversation with Kruger, “did not go well.” He said he heard that Kruger spoke to Larry Litras, who work’s at the organization’s Remsen Street treatment center. “There was not much of a conversation. I heard Kruger basically tried to read us the riot act. He [Litras] said he felt Kruger stepped over the line, and in many ways, was intimidating,” the executive director continued. “If it’s more advantageous for my people than we will move,” Butchen said. “But I’m certainly not going to bend because I feel I am bullied by a state senator,” he said. “We haven’t done anything to warrant being run out of town,” he added. Assembly member William Colton initially said he found no evidence of the facility—which he objected to at this location anyway. “If they want to insert something like this in the community without notifying the neighborhood…they will get a reaction,” he said. Butchen’s organization has been in existence for over 20 years; treatment centers are located in Bay Ridge, Downtown Brooklyn and Coney Island. Residents typically stay up to a year in any of the residences, Butchen said. The average stay 6-9 months in duration, he added. There are house managers on site 24 hours/seven days a week he said, but no security cameras. “We try and create a sense of a domicile, not a bank,” he responded when asked about cameras. Butchen said he understood that local residents are initially, “frightened by our clients.” “We are not importing drug addicts from Kansas. These are former Brooklyn residents that need transitional housing.”

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