The application of a possible group home in southeast Queens caused a huge stir during Community Board 12’s monthly meeting last week, after members protested the large number of shelters and other institutions in the area.
Felicia Robinson-Fiotillo, director of community services for Birch Family Services, spoke to the board about the Manhattan-based nonprofit’s plan to create a new home for six autistic 21-year-olds. Robinson-Fiotillo brought several members of her staff from the group’s other homes in Brooklyn and Far Rockaway and touted the success they have had helping adults and children with disabilities.
“Our desire is to be good neighbors,” she said.
Several board members, however, wanted nothing to do with the group home.
Ten out of the borough’s 18 official homeless shelters are located in the neighborhoods covered by CB 12, including Jamaica, Hollis, St. Albans, Springfield Gardens, Baisley Park and Rochdale Village. There are several unofficial shelters and group homes in the community as well, according to the board.
“The workers are nice people, but Community Board 12 is sick and tired of being bullied around,” board member Adriene Adams said.
Board member Mylean Brown said she had no problem with Birch Family or its services, but asked why the group decided to come to southeast Queens.
“It has to be in Board 12 because Board 12 is always the underdog,” she said.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) has sued the mayor over his new policy that would force people to prove they have no other means of housing themselves before they can be accepted to live in a city shelter. The speaker said the mayor and the city Department of Homeless Services never informed the Council about the change.
Robinson-Fiotillo said she had no intention of disturbing the quality of life in the community and told the board members her staff has already taken early steps to ensure they do not create any problems.
Less than two weeks ago, she and her staff, many of whom live in southeast Queens, toured the block near the home, at 122-15 Irwin Place, where they would like to house the mentally handicapped adults starting in July.
During the tour, Robinson-Fiotillo said she got positive feedback from neighbors.
“We met a woman in the community who had a child with autism and she was happy that there is something coming,” she said.
CB 12 members, however, disagreed.
“It can never be in Board 6 or in Board 8. It’s always in Board 12,” Brown said.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4546.
©2011 Community News Group
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