Federal Judge Axes Adult Homes
If a federal judge has his way, a dozen adult homes in Rockaway may soon have to shutter their doors, placing their residents, a majority of whom are mentally ill, in local apartments scattered throughout the peninsula.
Judge Nicholas Garaufis of the Federal District Court in Brooklyn recently ruled that New York State discriminated against thousands of mentally ill people in New York City by placing them in the privately run adult homes, which effectively replaced state run psychiatric hospitals more than forty years ago.
The non-profit group that sued the state had asked Garaufis to stop the state from steering mentally ill clients into 28 adult homes in the city, each of which has more than 120 beds.
While Garaufis stopped short of making that order, he told the state that it has until October 15 to come up with a plan to close the homes and move the residents to apartment settings.
The ruling, which applies to "mentally ill people who are not considered dangerous to themselves or others," strongly suggested that the state will have to begin finding individual apartments or small homes for virtually all adult home residents who wanted one.
Garaufis wrote that adult homes were "segregated settings" that kept residents from integrating into the community at large. "The state has denied thousands of individuals with mental illness in New York City the opportunity to receive services in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs," he said.
The present housing violates the Americans With Disabilities Act, Garaufis wrote.
The notion that the mentally ill who already populate such adult homes as the Park Inn Hotel on the boardwalk at Beach 116 Street and the Surfside Manor on Beach 95 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard would be moved to private homes and apartments throughout the community has caused a concern among locals.
Jonathan Gaska, the district manager at Community Board 14, believes that moving mentally ill people into more traditional housing has been "problematic" in the past.
"We have had some people move from the adult homes to SROs, and it has caused an impact on the surrounding neighborhood," Gaska said. "When I first saw the story in the newspaper, I thought, how is this going to impact Rockaway. I think that the impact is going to be a large one, especially on the west end, where there are still some SROs and where the mentally ill traditionally have an impact on the commercial areas."
Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer says that she is "troubled and concerned" by the ruling.
"There are some real problems that will be posed should the state have to close the adult homes and move the residents to apartments," she said. "Now, at least there are programs and social workers in the homes. Who is going to deal with the very real problems that the mentally ill have if they are moved into individual homes and apartments? Where are the apartments? What impact will that move have on the community? Most of them are not harmful, but some are and that has to be addressed. Putting them in apartments throughout the community is not what we want."
A local real estate agent, who asked to remain anonymous, agrees.
"Putting mentally ill people in a stable community will only serve to destabilize that community," she said. "Think about taking people to see a house they are interested in purchasing and being harassed by some mentally ill people who live next door. It makes no sense."
The local adult homes identified in the lawsuit as violating federal law are: Belle Harbor Manor, New Gloria's Manor Home for Adults, New Haven Manor, Park Inn Home for Adults, Rockaway Manor Home for Adults, Surfside Home for Adults, Central Assisted Living LLC, Long Island Hebrew Living Center, Seaview Manor and Wavecrest Home for Adults.
Several of the owners of the above named adult homes were contacted, but all of them declined to comment on the impending closings.
A spokesperson for the state's Department of Mental Health said, "We are studying the 270-page decision closely and will provide the judge with a remedial plan by the deadline."
Gaska said that he is urging our local elected officials to sit down with the state and work out a plan that would not negatively impact the peninsula.
"If this is not done with a plan, then this is going to really hurt Rockaway," he said.