SCO Family of Services, the group operating a new home for youth convicted of crimes in South Ozone Park says Community Board 10 is wrong about SCO’s outreach to the community before the home opened on 128th Street in September.
“We met in August with a representative from Councilman [Ruben] Wills’ office, as well as with representatives from Community Board 10 and the South Ozone Park Civic Association,” the group said in a statement last week. “We subsequently had meetings during the past few weeks with the local police precinct, community board and civic association, and we are currently distributing informational flyers door to door in the neighborhood with 24-hour contact information for our local staff involved with the program.”
The home, which houses adjudicated — convicted — youths, those placed in group homes by the New York Family Court, opened on Sept. 1. It and several other such houses were established as part of the Close to Home program, which aims to keep teenagers detained for crimes close to their families in the city rather than be shipped upstate. The program was signed into law by Gov. Cuomo earlier in the year.
But at the Oct. 4 meeting of CB 10, Wanda Jackson, director of social services at the home, came to introduce her organization to the community, and CB 10 Chairwoman Betty Braton and several members of the board took the opportunity to express their frustration at what they perceived was the lack of outreach done before the home opened.
The board’s angst was aimed mainly toward the city Administration for Children’s Services, charged with implementing the Close to Home program in the five boroughs. The agency held one information session on the new law in Queens, last spring in Far Rockaway.
Braton suggested the location of the meeting was chosen to prevent residents from having input into the city’s implementation of the program. She also said the draft plans released by the ACS never discussed possible sites for the homes, leaving many in the dark as to where they would be located.
In response, Sharman Stein, a spokeswoman for SCO Family of Services, cited the series of meetings the organization had with community officials before and after the house opened and said a letter was sent to CB 10 District Manager Karyn Peterson in July.
On Aug. 27, representatives from SCO met with Braton and an aide to Wills. SCO staff also attended the 106th Precinct Community Council meeting on Sept. 12 and met with Borough President Helen Marshall about the program on Oct. 3.
The group also presented information about the home at the Oct. 16 meeting of the South Ozone Park Civic Association and said representatives have been knocking on neighbors’ doors since the home opened the door.
At CB 10, Jackson told the board that the house is staffed 24 hours a day and has tight security. The teens housed at the location are between the ages of 12 and 17 1/2. All boys, they are transported to an alternative school run by the Department of Education in Brooklyn.
In the statement, SCO said it seeks to be “a good neighbor” and aims to continue reaching out to the neighborhood.
“SCO Family of Services takes pride in being a good neighbor in all the communities where we have programs and services throughout New York City,” the statement affirmed. “We are committed to being responsive to community concerns; we use local vendors and service providers, and whenever possible, we hire employees from local communities.”