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Queens Chronicle

Housing for mentally ill OK with community

The facility would accommodate 150 people who are getting treatment

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Posted: Thursday, July 28, 2011 12:00 pm | Updated: 1:13 pm, Thu Aug 4, 2011.

Civic leaders and residents of the Bellerose community are in support of a plan to renovate an existing building on the site of the Creedmoor Psychiatric facility in order to house mentally ill individuals.

“That’s a great thing,” said Jerry Wind, president of the Bellerose-Hillside Civic Association. “We are all for it.”

Richard Hellenbrecht, president of the Bellerose Commonwealth Civic Association expressed similar sentiments, though he cautioned that he has seen few details so far. “It sounds OK,” he said. “It sounds reasonable.”

The Federation of Organizations for the New York State Mentally Disabled has taken out an $11 million mortgage, according to city Department of Finance records, in order to renovate Building 74, located near 5th Street and Avenue A on the Creedmoor site.

It will share the facility with Transitional Services of New York and another group whose identity could not be determined. Each organization will have its own section of the building where it will house 50 mentally ill patients, according to Barbara Faron, CEO of the Federation. Renovations began last year and will be completed by the end of this year.

“We are not changing the building’s footprint,” Faron said. “We are just using an existing building on the existing grounds.”

That is also the reason why Faron said the group did not reach out to the community to explain the plan before construction began, which did not sit well with one area lawmaker.

“That’s a rather foolish answer,” said state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside). “Any nonprofit who plans on using the site should reach out to the community and the elected officials and introduce themselves.”

Larry McClean, the district manager of Community Board 13, said he thinks the plan “might be a good thing,” but added “We are trying to research what contact, if any, the group has had with us in the past.”

Avella, whose district includes the Creedmoor site, and other community leaders have been wary about development there ever since they claim another nonprofit group lied to them about its plan to build at the location.

The Indian Cultural and Community Center purchased two parcels of land at the site, approximately 4.5 acres, in 2008, which the group said it would use to build a community center, athletic field and parking lot. But now the group’s plans have changed and it is seeking to purchase another six acres in order to build two nine-story apartment towers, which it told the community would be affordable residences for seniors.

In August, Avella will meet with the commissioners of the state offices of Mental Health and Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.

He had reached out to the president of the state Dormitory Authority, Paul Williams, last week. The agency oversees most of the land transactions at Creedmoor, but Avella said he was denied a meeting. The lawmaker said it was because he had asked Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to investigate the ICCC deal, prompting Williams to say that a meeting would be “unnecessary and inappropriate.”

“I quickly realized that there is no master plan,” Avella said. “It’s very disconcerting. They have no idea what’s going on at all. Everything is being sold piecemeal and that’s not the right approach, especially when it comes to government.”

Williams could not be reached for comment.

Avella wants to have a clear map of each building on the site and who owns them, is buying or leasing them. He said the state paid millions of dollars in taxpayer money to renovate the building where the nonprofit, Services Now for Adult Persons, is located, and now it wants to move the group into a dilapidated structure on another portion of the campus near where the ICCC has purchased land.

Linda Leest, the executive director of SNAP, said the state told her the move was prompted by the closure of a diesel plant on the site from which the building draws its energy.

Welcome to the discussion.