By Helen Klein
A group home for eight individuals disabled by cerebral palsy is one step closer to opening. At its February meeting, which was held at Public School 249, Caton Avenue and Marlborough Road, members of Community Board 14 unanimously voted to support the facility, which will be located in a yet-to-be-built house at the corner of Seton Place and Lawrence Avenue, in an area that is considered to be a United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) “large scale community facility” established in 1978. “We have had a long history of working with UCP and a long history of observing that when we have approved a community residence under the Padavan Law, it has invariably worked well,” remarked CB 14 Chairperson Alvin Berk during a public hearing on the matter held by CB 14 in the board office, 810 East 16th Street. The new one-story home will be built on the site of a UCP parking lot. To accommodate the parking that would be displaced by the construction of the new group home, the parking lot will be relocated to another property owned by UCP, on Lawrence Avenue. The City Planning Commission (CPC) approved the proposal in December, according to James Hood, assistant executive director of administrative services for UCP, who spoke about the proposal during the public hearing. The proximity of the new group home to the main UCP building is a key, according to the agency. They say that it will house individuals who are considered to be “medically frail.” Having them living close to where they attend day programs would lessen the stress on them, according to the agency. The people who would be moved to the home, “Currently live in Brooklyn and attend day programs on Lawrence Avenue,” explained Linda Laul, associate executive director of program services for UCP. “They now have to take a bus to get to their day program. We would prefer for them not to take the bus. It will be easier on them.” Several of the individuals currently live “in the community,” Laul added, when questioned by CB 14 Vice Chairperson Ed Powell. Having the eight people living down the block from the building where they attend day programs could, “Actually cut down on some of the traffic,” she later noted. UCP, said Hood, had tried to address issues brought up during a prior public hearing about the configuration of the house. “One of the concerns raised was how the building would appear relative to other residences on the block,” Hood noted. While, he acknowledged, the building would jut out slightly compared to its neighbors, Hood said it couldn’t be shifted backwards and still leave room for a parking spot at the rear of the property. However, board member Tzvi Plotsker, who had addressed the matter at the prior public hearing, contended, “Your building will stick out further toward the street than adjacent buildings, blocking the view of the adjacent building. “I don’t see why you can’t recess it back and expand within your garden (to the side), maybe 36 inches,” Plotsker went on. “The community doesn’t object to UCP being there. They just want they should be what they have been in the past – neighborly.” “We will take it under consideration,” agreed Laul. The relationship between UCP and its neighbors had also previously been questioned by Fern Weinreich, chief of staff to City Councilmember Simcha Felder, who had said at the prior public hearing that Felder was concerned because he hadn’t gotten advance notice of the proposal from UCP. Felder had subsequently met with UCP representatives, Weinreich said during the public hearing earlier this month, noting, “The councilmember feels confident that this is a good program. He is supporting the program at this point.” The Padavan Law, also known as the New York State Site Selection Law, controls the siting of group homes in New York State. Under the law, each site must be evaluated by the municipality in which it will be located. In New York City, the municipality is represented by the community board. There are three possible choices – the group home can be accepted, an alternative site within the same community board can be suggested, or the home can be turned down, on the basis that its establishment will cause an over-concentration of such facilities that would change the character of the community.