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Addabbo visits group home in Forest Hills

With much gusto, Forest Hills resident Malik Moore, who is legally blind and has been diagnosed with mental retardation, announced to state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) what he enjoys about living in a home for adults with developmental disabilities.

“I like to make my lunch, I like to bathe and I like to go on walks with my recreational therapist,” Moore emphatically told Addabbo, who toured Independence Residences on Metropolitan Avenue in Forest Hills Aug. 20. Addabbo visited the home to better get to know the program as well as to speak with officials there about funding for the house.

Moore seems to be the Independence Residence’s best spokesman and can give a detailed history of the Forest Hills house, which opened in 1998 and is home to six adults, who have been diagnosed with a variety of disabilities, such as autism or mental retardation. He gave Addabbo a whirlwind tour of the house, which has staff that brings Moore to volunteer activities on weekdays, golf on Sundays and other frequent outings of which Moore speaks fondly.

It was not lost on Addabbo that Moore clearly seemed to enjoy living there, and he praised Independence Residences, which runs 18 sites throughout the city and Long Island. The group provides support to more than 500 individuals with development disabilities and their families.

“This is a really, really nice program,” Addabbo said of Independence Residences, which receives about 98 percent of its funding from the state.

The lawmaker said he accepted Independence Residence’s invitation to tour the building after first hearing of the program at a fund-raiser the group held at Cunningham Park at the end of July.

“We often read about great programs in the state, but we like to actually get to see the program,” Addabbo said.

During Addabbo’s visit, Independence Residences officials spoke to the legislator about the need for additional funding.

“We would like to renovate our bathroom downstairs to make it handicapped accessible,” Raymond DeNatale, Independence Residences’ executive director, told Addabbo. “If we were to do that, it would be about $15,000, and we used to be able to go to the state for that. Now the maximum they’ll pay is about $5,000.”

While Addabbo said he was not optimistic the state’s finances were going to get better any time soon — the Senate will return in early September to address a possible $2 billion budget deficit — he did say a detailed financial proposal from Independence Residences could help to land them more funding next year.

“If you ask for the sun, the moon and the stars, hopefully you can walk away with two of the three,” Addabbo told the home’s staff.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 174.

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