The Smithtown town attorney said last week that a Manhattan-based nonprofit serving people with developmental disabilities apparently “misled” the town and its residents in its “surreptitious” handling of the purchase of a Commack house to use as a group home.
Nonprofit Human First bought the five-bedroom, quarter-acre Schuyler Drive home March 30 for $465,000, according to town officials and real estate listings site MLSLI.
That was less than a month after the homeowner’s real estate agent told a Newsday reporter that negotiations with Human First had halted and her client was seeking another buyer. During that time, town attorney Matthew Jakubowski wrote in a letter on Tuesday to the group’s CEO, that the town tried to confirm the purchase had been canceled, but Human First did not respond.
The agency didn’t confirm its plans to the town until a 40-day objection period mandated under New York State law had expired. It followed up with a phone call to Jakubowski’s office — but only after finalizing its purchase, he wrote.
Human First CEO Cheryelle Cruickshank and Katy Cardinale, the Douglas Elliman Real Estate broker who represented the home’s owners, did not respond to requests for comment. The former owners, identified in records as Mohammed and Amtul Sulaiman, could not be reached.
Jakubowski, who sent copies of his letter to an oversight agency, the New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), also wrote that the home would substantially alter the “nature and character” of the neighborhood, language taken from the state law that lays out the procedure for establishment of group homes.
That law limits the ability of municipalities to resist placement of the homes within their boundaries. In certain cases, a municipality can request a hearing before the commissioner of the home’s licensing agency — here, the OPWDD — but the law stipulates that the request be made within the objection period.
An OPWDD spokeswoman did not comment. It was unclear what remedies the town might seek.
Human First notified the town in mid-February of its plans to open a home for five clients. At a March 6 town meeting attended by the group’s executives, neighbors warned the home would bring quality of life and safety problems and said the group’s past management problems were problematic.
Cruikshank said last month those assertions were untrue.
Human First’s former CEO, Wafa Abboud, was charged with conspiracy, embezzlement and bank fraud in a Brooklyn federal court in 2016, accused of siphoning off hundreds of thousands of dollars in agency funds to pay expenses like $8,000 in cosmetic surgery and a new home patio.
Abboud pleaded not guilty and the case is still open, according to records. She was fired, Cruikshank said.