BY ANGELA MATUA
The construction of a Close to Home juvenile justice program in South Ozone Park was the hot topic during the Community Board 10 (CB 10) meeting on Thursday.
The proposed facility in South Ozone Park has angered residents, who say that the city has already opened a number of social service programs in the community, including an adult men’s shelter and a Close to Home non-secure facility.
The Close to Home juvenile justice program would be a limited secure facility featuring a perimeter fence with lighting, gated windows, locked doors and surveillance cameras. The facility is planned for 133-23 127 St., one block away from the non-secure facility and close to Skyway Men’s Shelter.
Board 10 sent a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio on April 23 to discuss the Fair Share Assessment, a mandate “to further the fair distribution of the burdens and benefits associated with city facilities,” according to nyc.gov.
Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) Commissioner Gladys Carrion responded to the letter and Betty Braton, CB 10 chair, read the letter aloud to everyone in attendance.
“I understand your concerns about the perceived negative impact of the LSP [limited secure placement] residential facility and the concentration of facilities in the South Ozone Park community,” Carrion said in the letter. “However as described in the analysis, a review of residential facilitates in Community District 10 found that it ranked 57th in the citywide ranking of residential beds by community district with a ratio of 4.5 residential beds per 1,000 people. The citywide average is 19 beds per 1,000 people and the average in Queens is 19.9.”
Braton penned a letter in response to Carrion and also read it aloud on Thursday.
“Although we appreciate your response, it does not address adequately the concerns of the residents in the area immediately surrounding the location,” Braton said. “It does not alter our board’s view or our community’s view that the site selected is inappropriate…While we understand your analysis of residential facilities in our district, we continue to maintain that your decision to place an LSP facility in immediate proximity to another, albeit one less secure, is a poor decision in that it implies that impacts on a community from one type of residential bed facility versus another type of residential bed facility are no different from each other.”
Braton’s letter was met with cheers, especially from residents standing in the back of the Knights of Columbus hall who held signs opposing the facility.
Jahi Rose, director of constituent affairs at Councilman Ruben Wills‘ office, who is strongly against the construction of the facility, thanked the community board for its efforts and said Wills’ office has been using the media to highlight ACS’ mishandling of the issue.
“We’re pretty much outlining that ACS has not been completely forthcoming with us and they’ve been disingenuous with one, notifying us and two, making sure that they are listening to our concerns,” Rose said. “We’re going to continue to fight this fight.”