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Smithtown neighbors express concerns about group home

This Long Hill Road home in Smithtown will

This Long Hill Road home in Smithtown will be the site of a new group home for women with disabilities. Photo Credit: James Carbone

A group home for six developmentally disabled women is coming to a Smithtown neighborhood, and some neighbors who recently learned about it say they should have been told months ago.

According to Catholic Guardian Services, the Manhattan-based nonprofit affiliated with the Archdiocese of New York that will run the home, the six women who will live at the Long Hill Road house have significant intellectual and physical disabilities. Three are visually impaired; three are unable to walk, and at least one has schizophrenia, according to a March letter the agency sent to Town Supervisor Patrick Vecchio and other local officials. They will have round-the-clock care, according to the agency.

Neighbors said they only learned of the agency’s plans late this summer.

“It’s not going against a group home and the people in it,” said Richard Troise, part of a group who spoke on the issue at a Town Board meeting Tuesday. “It’s not right to not let people know what’s going on in the neighborhood until it’s too late.”

Troise worried about added traffic. Others said they were concerned about the quality of care at the home, or that nonprofit agencies running homes could set up in our neighborhoods for commercial gain.

Craig Longley, Catholic Guardian Services’ executive director, said his agency provides a high standard of care and was not running a commercial enterprise.

He said one of his staffers spoke with Vecchio in March and recalled agreeing to do public outreach after the agency bought the house. The home sold for $430,000 Aug. 22, according to the real estate website Redfin.

Vecchio said he had called the agency soon after receiving its letter, but believed its staff were going to notify residents more promptly.

The town now relies on the agencies to make that outreach themselves. That practice may now change, Vecchio said.

The 40 days that state law gives a municipality to suggest an alternate site or object to the home expired in the spring.

Vecchio said the town could have done little to stop the home anyway. The town won’t behave like “a real estate agency” to find other locations, he said, and its power to object is limited to cases where a neighborhood already has so many group homes it would become “saturated” by the addition of another.

Smithtown has 11 such homes, according to the state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities.

Initial neighborhood anxiety can be intense. But, Vecchio said, “In all the years I’ve been dealing with these homes, I’ve only had one complaint, in Lake Grove . . . They didn’t cut their lawn.”

Longley said his group would host an open house in coming months for curious neighbors, and would work to assuage concerns over traffic and safety.

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