2012-04-13 / Top Stories

Court Throws Out Group Home Order

By Howard Schwach

The Belle Harbor Manor on Beach 125 Street was one of those adult homes named in the lawsuit. That suit was thrown out last week. The Belle Harbor Manor on Beach 125 Street was one of those adult homes named in the lawsuit. That suit was thrown out last week. The state will not have to comply with a Brooklyn federal judge’s order to move mentally ill adult home residents from their present facilities into group homes in the community due to an order last week by the federal Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

Judge Nicholas Garaufis had ordered the drastic remedy to move “warehoused” adults from their large adult homes into assisted living facilities in the community in which they lived.

Of the 28 group homes named in the suit, which was brought by an advocacy group called Disability Advocates in 2003, a dozen are in Rockaway.

The appeals court, however, threw the entire suit out, declaring that the advocacy group lacked “Constitutional standing to sue.”

Only briefly in its 20-page decision did the appeals court address Garaufis’ proposed fix, saying that it “had concerns with [the plan’s] scope.”

Garaufis’ ruling would have meant that many of the 1,700 mentally ill residents of the dozen homes in Rockaway would have had to have been moved to supported housing units in the community, where they could live independently while still receiving specialized treatment and services.

His ruling said that the roughly 4,300 adult-home residents in 28 adult homes in New York City were not being cared for in the most integrated setting, a violation of federal law.

Garaufis’ ruling gave the state four years to provide housing in community settings for residents of adult homes in New York City. He ordered that the state develop at least 1,500 beds a year for the first three years, and after that, 1,500 beds a year until there would be enough for all residents who wanted to move into community housing.

That ruling was appealed by the state and an offer was made to begin the process much more slowly due to budgetary problems.

Garaufis, however, rejected the state plan and ruled that it would have to begin immediately to place the mentally ill adult home patients within the community.

The appeals court ruling ends the process.

A spokesperson for Disability Advocates said, “We’re disappointed, but we’re going to continue to advocate for justice for adult home residents.”

The spokesperson added that the group might re-file as a class action suit, one that could be brought by some adult home residents who do have standing to sue.

Legal experts say, however, that would bring the suit back to step one and make any movement on the adult home issues years away.

Cliff Zucker, the organization’s executive director, told the New York Times that he believed that Governor Andrew Cuomo has a commitment to helping the disabled and that some sort of deal could be worked out without another lawsuit.

There is some possibility that the Justice Department, which joined the lawsuit late in the process, might file a suit of its own.

Some locals believed that Garaufis’ ruling would prove to be good for Rockaway.

Attorney and Belle Harbor resident Howard Sirota said after the original ruling was made, “Rockaway residents should applaud the federal appeals court lifting the stay of emptying the hell-holes posing as therapeutic assistance, which plague our [Rockaway] neighborhoods.

The result of the ruling is that the residents will be scattered around the five boroughs in suitable housing with real therapy and a real hope for an independent life instead of the residents of the five boroughs all being placed in Rockaway.”

“The Park Inn and its ilk must now close at long last,” he added. “The former residents will be much better off, and so will Rockaway.”

Jeffrey Edleman, who represents adult homes, was happy with the decision.

“We stand for the rights of these adults to live in the homes of their choice, rather than becoming the targets of others dangerous social experiments,” he said.

The adult homes on the Rockaway peninsula that would have been impacted by the lawsuit were the 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.

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