West 7th Street Group Home Wins CB11 Backing

By Michèle De Meglio

Plans to create a group home in Bensonhurst for five mentally retarded adults are moving forward with local residents’ support.At its recent meeting, Community Board 11 unanimously voted to back the new residence, which will be located on West 7th Street between Avenues O and P.The home is being created by Program Development Services, which already runs 54 similar dwellings in Brooklyn.Although in recent weeks several West 7th Street residents have come out against the new project, only one local voiced opposition to the home at the CB 11 meeting.The gentleman questioned whether the residence was large enough for five individuals and the aides who will provide round-the-clock supervision.The state Office of Mental Retardation signs off on the safety of all group home projects.The floor plan of the West 7th Street property did not play a part in CB 11’s decision to back the project.It was the belief that the additional home would not oversaturate the area.Under city law, a community board may vote down a group home proposal if the neighborhood already maintains an excessive number of such residences and opening another would “alter the character and nature of the community.”Program Development Services only maintains one other group home in Bensonhurst. It’s located on Bay 23rd Street between Bath Avenue and Rutherford Place.Speaking about the agency’s newest project, Jerry Chiappetta, chair of CB 11’s site selection committee, said, “It does not in fact change the quality of life as we know it. There is no oversaturation.”The other main concern for local residents was the condition of the adults who will live in the home.A handful of individuals have expressed concern that the group home residents will pose a physical threat to their neighbors.That will not be the case, however, as Program Development Services officials have insisted.Direct care workers will be on hand to provide 24/7 supervision.When the residents leave the house to go to work, a day program, or for other activities, such as seeing a movie, they will travel via an ambulette and be accompanied by direct care workers.Some locals have also feared that the presence of such a facility would lower their property values.But that will probably not happen, Program Development Services reps have said.That’s because the agency’s residences are kept clean and maintain attractive façades, officials have explained.One Bensonhurst resident who lives on a block with a group home agreed, recently saying, “There has never been a problem at all…They are not a disruption to the neighborhood.”00

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