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Neighbors upset over planned group home in Commack

Residents say they worry about traffic and quality of life issues associated with the proposed home for people with conditions such as autism.

A nonprofit that serves people with developmental disabilities

A nonprofit that serves people with developmental disabilities plans to open a group home for five adults at this house on Schuyler Drive in Commack, shown here on Saturday. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

A nonprofit serving people with developmental disabilities plans to open a home for five clients in Commack, but neighbors said the home would bring traffic, quality of life and safety problems.

Human First, of Manhattan, notified Smithtown officials in a Feb. 9 letter of its plans to open the home on Schuyler Drive, south of Commack Corners Shopping Center. The organization appraised but has not yet closed on a two-story, five-bedroom home on a quarter-acre lot with a market value of $448,106, according to records and Human First CEO Cheryelle Cruickshank.

At least four staffers would be on site at all times to provide support and supervision for the residents, Long Islanders with conditions such as autism, Down syndrome or cerebral palsy. Cruickshank said privacy laws prevented her from disclosing details about them.

“They are entitled to live in a nice home in a nice area and we try to help them fulfill their life goals just like everybody else,” she said.

Cruikshank said Human First officials hoped to move their clients into the home this year. Human First operates 12 homes in New York City. Commack would be the organization’s first home on Long Island.

About a dozen Schuyler Drive residents attended a town council meeting Tuesday, including at least two police officers who said they have had bad experiences with similar homes on their patrols. “We’re in and out all night long,” said John Cerulli, a Nassau County officer.

Some said that their street was simply too narrow to safely accommodate added car or van traffic. Some said the newcomers would fundamentally change the neighborhood. “They would be strangers to us,” Maria Carboni said. “Now we’re vulnerable to these strangers.”

Cruikshank said she’d encountered similar concerns before. “At first the community is outraged, and eventually they realize we’re not coming in and changing the integrity or fabric of the neighborhood,” she said.

Smithtown Supervisor Edward Wehrheim said the town attorney would check residents’ concerns about the home against town code. Under state law, the town can suggest an alternative site within its boundaries or object based on a “concentration” of similar facilities in the area.

Wehrheim said town officials would not propose another location and that state officials had already reviewed the location. “They know there is no saturation,” he said.

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