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Hearing held on L&W home

Residents of Zerega’s Glover Street had a shaky relationship with Leake & Watts’s group home, once a fixture on their block for 30 years. The prospect of having another group home administered by the same outfit, but serving a very different population, is causing some uneasiness.

Community Board 10 held a public hearing in the basement of Santa Maria Church at 2352 St. Raymond Avenue on Monday, May 18. Leake & Watts executive director Alan Mucatel said that the new home for six developmentally-disabled women ages 40 to 60 would be better run than its predecessor, which housed troubled teenage girls.

Though the matter will be voted on at the next general CB 10 meeting, the overall consensus among the community was stern opposition to giving the go-ahead the proposed home.

“I know that it is a different kind of residence for a different population, but we voiced our concerns about their other group home on our block for 30 years, and nothing was ever done,” said Mary Cruz, who lives across the street from the home that formally housed rambunctious teenage girls but has been vacant for seven months, according to residents. “There would be sex and drugs [at the other group home].”

CB 10 district manager Kenneth Kearns said that the Westchester Square area was already over-saturated would social service facilities like group homes, and was especially critical of the Leake & Watts plans for yet another.

CB 10 is obligated to hold a hearing under state law every time a new application is before the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disability.

Mucatel answered the questions of residents and merchants for over one hour, and even pledged to invest between $200,000 and $300,000 in renovating the 40-year-old house.

According to the agency, all of the occupants will have their own bedroom after renovations are complete.

A balcony, which has been called “a hangout” when the facility was a group home for young women, will be removed as part of the renovations. The new residents all come from the Bronx, though none are from CB 10.

Some who live nearby were more optimistic about the future of the site, which will have 24-hour staffing, though many said it is hard to deny that Westchester Square and Zerega has an ample share of group homes and outpatient mental health facilities.

“If the residents are developmentally-disabled and don’t have a history of substance abuse, police and criminal problems, or major psychological issues, it would be better than most if the supervision is sufficient,” said Dr. Carl Anderson. “It would be a more appealing than teenagers with behavioral problems, but the fact is we are still over-saturated.”

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