Today’s news:

Group home irks Royal Ranch

Residents of the Royal Ranch section of Glen Oaks said a group home for autistic teenagers has been a nightmare for the community ever since it opened in February.

One of the teens stabbed a worker at the home with a pen, while another snuck into a neighbor’s backyard and masturbated, residents said. Other problems include vandalized cars and increased traffic near the home at 70-25 267th St., they said.

“It was a quiet neighborhood,” said Cindy Markopoulous, who lives near the group home, where houses are valued close to $1 million. “Tough luck for us, I wish I knew. There’s a lot of problems.”

The group home is run by the city chapter of the Association for Help of Retarded Children, which could not be reached for comment.

Markopoulous accused AHRC of “bad management” for hiring workers who she said were not equipped to handle the six teenagers with autism who live at the home.

“They should know what kind of staff is qualified to take care of such individuals,” she said.

Markopoulous said the teen masturbating was caught on security cameras installed by the neighbor and said other such cameras have been purchased by homeowners after the incident.

“He could come to my backyard and scare my little girl,” she said´╗┐. “What is AHRC going to say, ‘I’m sorry’?”

Since a community meeting was called three weeks ago to address issues at the group home, she said AHRC has not let the teens outside.

“Now they have them caged like Alcatraz,” Markopoulous said. “Not only are they caged in, we’re caged in. I won’t let my daughter go out and play by herself.”

She said she doubted the improved conditions in the neighborhood will last.

“They just want us to shut up,” she said.

A Royal Ranch resident who asked not to be named said the teens play their radios too loud and there are double-parked cars near the home.

The resident said AHRC told the community the teen who stabbed a worker with the pen had been transferred out of the home and that they would get more older, sedentary residents to replace some of the teenagers.

But residents worried that older people would have difficulty getting to the second floor of the two-family house where the group home operates.

In January 2008, the Royal Ranch Association voted 27-4 with seven abstentions in opposition to the group home and Community Board 13 followed suit later that month with an 11-7 vote against it with five abstentions.

CB 13 contended that area of northeast Queens was oversaturated with group homes, but apparently the state, which has oversight over such facilities, did not agree.

“The people who ran the group home assured the community that it was safe,” said the resident, who asked not to be named. “Basically everyone knew what was coming. We were concerned there would be problems. The group home has been here for less than six months and there’s problems.”

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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