Photo courtesy of PropertyShark/Nicholas Strini
The property of the proposed Close to Home juvenile detention center in South Ozone Park.

BY ANGELA MATUA

After months of petitioning and a lawsuit filed by the South Ozone Park Civic Association West (SOPCAW) and three South Ozone Park residents, the proposed Close to Home juvenile detention center has been denied by City Comptroller Scott Stringer.

Councilman Ruben Wills announced the rejection of the Administration of Child Services’ contract at Tuesday’s SOPCAW meeting.

A spokesperson for Stringer’s office said the comptroller’s office returned a contract to ACS on June 12 “due to inconsistencies in the contract,” but did not specify what those inconsistencies were.

“For months, we have been shining a light on ACS’ attempt to inappropriately locate this juvenile prison in the heart of South Ozone Park’s community,” Wills said in a statement. “It has presented the facility to the public as a foster home for troubled youth, and has circumvented a number of regulations to maintain that facade.”

The juvenile detention center would house youths in a limited secure facility featuring a perimeter fence with lighting, gated windows, locked doors and surveillance cameras at 133-23 127 St. Wills and residents have argued that the facility would be a burden to the community because another Close to Home facility and Skyway Men’s Shelter are both located in the vicinity.

A spokesperson for ACS said they are still hopeful that they can bring the facility to South Ozone Park.

“The comptroller’s office has given ACS additional time to provide more information about our contracts for Limited Secure Placement services, and we are hopeful that we will be able to do right by these young people and bring them closer to home later this summer,” the spokesperson said.

Angie, a South Ozone Park resident and SOPCAW member who wished to have her last name withheld when speaking with The Courier, said she was “ecstatic” when she heard the news and is confident that the community can permanently block the placement of the facility.

“They can [bring the contract back to Stringer] but we still have a lawsuit,” she said.

The class-action lawsuit was filed in April against the property owner KAD of Queens, LLC, and the operator, Sheltering Arms Children and Family Services.

In his statement, Wills asked Stringer to audit all Close to Home facilities because “ACS has failed to detect critical security gaps and other inadequacies in its providers’ supervision of the delinquents in its custody due to its haste in implementing the program.”

Wills also called on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration to work with the community in order to identify an alternate site for the facility.

“Together, we can do this right,” Wills said.

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