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Group home gets a-ok - CB18 backs E.53rd St. facility

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Over the objections of the local civic association, Community Board 18 last week voted overwhelmingly to support the arrival of a group home in Mill Basin.

The board reasoned that there did not exist compelling enough evidence to reject the proposal, which seeks to convert 1641 East 53rd Street into a home for five men with developmental disabilities.

In its Oct. 15 vote, the board argued that no facts were presented that would indicate that neighborhood character would be substantially altered by the home, which is being sponsored by Mercy Home, a not-for-profit agency founded in 1862 by the Sisters of Mercy.

The matter was initially before the community board at its September meeting. It was then that Sister Kay Crumlish, the executive director of Mercy Home, admitted that neighbors were never notified about the home’s potential arrival—a fact that prompted the board to hold over its vote until residents were apprised.

A day before the community board meeting, the Mill Basin Civic Association slammed the proposal.

“Everyone is opposed to it,” said Anna Howard, first vice president of the civic and a resident of East 53rd Street.

“They were very adamant with the fact that they have young teenage girls and children and it is upsetting for them to have this type of home on the block,” Howard said.

Crumlish described the men as “lovable.”

“We know they are good guys and have good behavior and would be compatible living together,” she said.

She said the men would be supervised 24 hours a day; from 8-4 p.m. they would busy themselves with a variety of programs at other times.

All but one of the men would be allowed to leave the home unaccompanied, she said.

The men, who have severe to moderate intellectual delay, already live in a Mercy Home facility, Crumlish said.

Some have spent all of their lives in the care of Mercy Home, and in the East 53rd Street property, the men will have “more freedom,” Crumlish said.

There would be no change to the exterior of the two-family home, only changes to its interior, she said. Mercy Home paid $565,000 for the property, Crumlish said.

The community board’s vote is simply advisory. The New York State Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, which has oversight over the proposal, must approve the location if the project is to proceed.

City Councilmember Lew Fidler said it was difficult for him not to support the civic association, but in this case, he could not.

“These people are your sons and daughters and nieces and nephews,” he said. “They are not deranged. They have a disability.”

Moreover, the city lawmaker said, it is not true that property values decline when a group home moves in on a block.

Still, fear of the unknown pervades.

“There is no guarantee that nothing is going to happen at that house,” Howard said.

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