Community Board Reconsiders Objection to Placing Group Home in Luxe Condos

By Jeff Mays on January 24, 2012 9:32am 

Community Options wants to buy two condominiums that will serve as a home for 7 developmentally disabled men at the Savoy West on 138th Street and Lenox Avenue.
Community Options wants to buy two condominiums that will serve as a home for 7 developmentally disabled men at the Savoy West on 138th Street and Lenox Avenue.
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DNAinfo/Jeff Mays

HARLEM — Community Board 10 is reconsidering its objections to a group's plan to purchase two luxury condos on Lenox Avenue to house seven developmentally disabled men.

The board initially voted against a plan by Community Options to purchase two $500,000 condos for the men at the Savoy West at 555 Lenox Ave. But it has postponed a hearing with the commissioner of the state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities.

The board will instead revisit the issue at an upcoming executive board hearing and its next general board meeting, where members are expected to vote to support the development, two sources said.

"The board is in the process of reviewing the Community Options proposal," CB 10 chairwoman Henrietta Lyle said. "This will be discussed with the full board."

The board had voted against the plan — 33-to-2, with three abstentions — because it believed there was already an abundance of "special interest" housing, such as drug treatment centers, halfway houses and group homes in Harlem. In 2008, the board approved a moratorium against approving any similar housing.

"We feel that as a community board we have more than our fair share of special interest housing," said Stanley Gleaton, who leads the board's land-use committee, in explaining the board's recent objection. "It's nothing against people with disabilities."

But sources said the board now wants to reexamine its 2008 moratorium.

Some board members believe the moratorium does not make clear exactly where there is an abundance of "special needs" housing in the community. Distinguishing between small group homes like the ones Community Options is planning, and halfway houses and drug treatment facilities will be an important distinction, the sources said.

Eileen Egan, regional vice president for Community Options New York, said it was unfair to group the developmentally disabled men, who have aged out of the foster care system and have no criminal records or drug problems, in the same category as halfway houses and drug treatment centers.

"They are lumping us in with other kind of facilities," Egan said. "The community board is counting a 200-bed nursing home as being in the same category of a three-person residence for the intellectually disabled."

She added: "I don't think Harlem is saturated with similar facilities for people with developmental disabilities. They may be a bit underserved."

The Community Options plan allows for three staff members to accompany the men, whose ages span from 17 to 22, in two apartments. An attendant would also be on hand 24 hours a day.

Community Options has also met with the board at Savoy West. Glenn Martin, vice president of Savoy West's condominium board, said there were legitimate concerns about safety and whether the presence of a 24-hour attendant would diminish property values. But these issues have been addressed, Martin said.

Martin, who, as an executive with the Fortune Society, has experience placing supportive housing in communities, said CB 10's response to the issue has prompted him to consider becoming a member of the community board.

"[The disabled men] deserve to live in the community like anyone else," Martin said. "Why have a blanket policy if you are not going to do individual assessments?"

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