A central Harlem community board has shot down plans to transform a pair of luxury condos into residences for developmentally disabled men.
The effort to purchase two multi-bedroom apartments at 555 Lenox Ave. for $500,000 each is spearheaded by Community Options, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing housing and work for the developmentally disabled.
Since hearing the initial proposal last October, Community Board 10 has voted the plan down twice, citing its 2008 moratorium on “special interest” housing designed to prevent an oversaturation of drug rehabilitation or ex-convict housing in the neighborhood.
But Community Options maintains that the group home, which will house seven developmentally disabled men, ages 17 to 22, will fit right into the community despite Community Board 10’s concerns.
“These guys aren’t sick or drug addicts — they just have intellectual disabilities,” said Eileen Egan, the regional vice president at Community Options New York.
“I think it would be a wonderful community for these guys to come home to.”
CB 10 Chair Henrietta Lyle did not return calls for comment.
To overcome the community board’s disapproval, Community Options is seeking a special hearing at the state’s Office for People with Developmental Disabilities.
The board must demonstrate the housing would have an adverse effect on the neighborhood under a 1978 state law that was established after the deinstitutionalizing of housing for the developmentally disabled.
Egan said the men living in the group home will spend most of their time out of the house volunteering or participating in special education.
At home, the men will be monitored by several staff members and attendants, some of whom would remain full-time, she said.
“They would blend right into the community,” said Egan.
“They would come and go during the day and are no different than anyone else in the community.”
Despite Egan’s best efforts to sway the opinions of the board, the board rejected the plan again last Wednesday, forcing Community Options to seek the state hearing, which is set to take place sometime in the next few weeks.
“There are people who think (those seven men) do not belong in the community,” said Egan. “But they have every right to live there.”