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2-29-12 SOS to Gov. Cuomo: 484 Petitions

PO Box 233

Naples, NY14512

February 29, 2012

The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo

Governor of NY State,

NYS StateCapitolBuilding

Albany,NY 12224                                                                     

Dear Governor Cuomo,

We are writing to you to express our deep concerns about the implementation of changes in mental health programs in Western New York, especially in Rochesterand its environs.  While your Commissioner Courtney Burke purports to be carrying out your cost reduction programs, it is obvious that it is a most vulnerable population and their families and communities who will be suffering the most.  Quite frankly “Putting People First”  is a hollow slogan, a cover for squeezing money from the most needy.

It is our understanding that you have approved plans to close the Monroe Developmental Center in Rochester, and to then take a dangerous population and put it into unsuspecting communities.  To do this, in our neighborhood meant moving 9 developmentally disabled adults to whom the community has grown close over 23 years, and to disperse them into other group homes (breaking up their own community and familiar circumstances and, in some cases, moving them farther from their families.)

Ours is not an isolated situation, but it does stand out for the arrogance with which our community in Middlesex, NY (Yates County) has been treated, first by not discussing this move with our local government or community, claiming fire hazard where people have been living for years, giving families very little notice and no written notice or consent agreements signed, keeping the entire process secret from the community, and treating the people involved with supercilious arrogance.  After we began publicizing what was happening, Mr. Michael Feeney came to a meeting and turned everyone off with his no compromise attitudes, and then proceeded to quickly remove all remaining Group Home population.

We have tried to work through our Senator O’Mara and Assemblyman Palmesano, both of whom have been helpful but met a stone wall with Commissioner Burke.  Quite frankly, Mr. Cuomo, the excellent relationship, we the community, have had with the people in the Middlesex Group Home stands no chance of being duplicated when Commissioner Burke and Mr. Feeney move 6-8 level 2 or 3 sex offenders into our community, with three family campgrounds, a public community center all catering to children and families living nearby and the facility being less than a mile from the public beach.  It will destroy tourism and rental income on the SE quadrant ofCanandaigua Lakewhen the proximity of sex offenders is made known.  Our Town government and our people never agreed to such a use, even though NYS apparently has the muscle to ignore our wishes, and our Town Supervisor has gone on record with his opposition as well.  The risk to our safety, the devaluation of our properties, and the bad future relations which are being created shows very short-sighted and uncaring management. 

We are familiar with the arguments being used, such as fire safety, and we don’t buy it.  There is 2.5x the water in tanks at the site as is carried by the Fire Department’s tanker truck which is stationed only 4miles away. (5000 gallons vs. 2000 gallons), more than enough.  A new exit and wheelchair ramp could be easily constructed to the east and west wings of the facility for the wheelchair population.  We want the original population returned and if this is not possible, then a comparable population of developmentally disabled adults.  We do not want sex offenders in our neighborhood.  We have created a website which explains our plight in more detail. 

Further, we are enclosing copies of the petitions previously sent to our legislators and to Commissioner Burke.  We believe that the Middlesex IRA Group Home could be rehabbed successfully without changing the nature of the population.  Moreover, there seems to be serious doubt if the Monroe Developmental Center (which closure is causing this move of Group Home prospective occupants) needs to be closed at all.  We oppose the plans you have apparently approved, being carried out by the current activities of Mr. Michael Feeney, Director of Finger Lakes Developmental Disabilities Services Organization (FLDDSO), at the direction of the NYS OPWDD, the NYS Office of People with Developmental Disabilities and your office.  We protest especially the abrupt, insensitive and uncaring treatment of the 9 people who until quite recently had been located in the Group Residential Home located at 6166 South Vine Valley Road, in Middlesex, NY, 14507.  We protest the lack of compassion or understanding of the effect playing musical chairs has on the lives of those with developmental disabilities and their families, and on the community at large.

Commissioner Burke’s office claims a slogan of “Putting People First” yet everything about the current situation shows just the opposite.  It is clearly “Putting Money First, Second and Third.”  Communications were late or non-existent, arrogantly dismissive or condescending.  That 6-8 sexual offenders are planned to be moved into the facility, is frightening to local residents, especially regarding what Mr. Feeney alluded to plans of “integrating” them into the community with a staffing package to appropriately manage the intended population without the added features of a lock-down scenario., This sounded to us like ineffective security, in close proximity to neighboring children, the beach, campgrounds and community center.  Moreover, we support others who are in Group Homes for the Developmentally Disabled inNew York State who are threatened with similar relocation and lack of compassion in their treatment.  Above all else, the State’s  failure to follow due process, and to respect the rights of those in the center, family and guardians under the Office of Mental Hygiene Legal Services and the Community Placement Procedures listed in your “Green Book”.  Furthermore, we oppose moving sex offenders or any dangerous population into these vacated facilities.

We urge you to take action worthy of a slogan “Putting People First.”  Enclosed are signed petitions by 484 people concurring with concerns we have set forth above.  As we collect more signatures, we will forward those as well.

Very truly yours,

Alphabetically Signed: 

Diane C. Harris, Dawn M.E. Kane, Lynn Lersch, James K. Newell, Leigh H. Williams

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