A plan by a Queens-based group to open a treatment center for drug addicts in Bensonhurst is coming up against some fierce opposition from local residents, the community board, and City Council members.
One World Counseling LLC, based in Fresh Meadows, has filed an application with the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services for permission to set up a rehabilitation center at 1990 McDonald Ave. The center would be located in a two-story building on the corner of McDonald Avenue and Kings Highway, two busy commercial thoroughfares.
Community Board 11, which reviewed the application, voted unanimously in October to recommend that the state reject the application on the grounds that the facility would not fit in with the character of the surrounding community. “This is a residential community as well as a commercial area,” Board 11 District Manager Marnee Elias-Pavia said. “There are schools and churches within the area where this facility would be located,” she said.
Councilmen David Greenfield and Domenic Recchia Jr. started getting phone calls from residents objecting to the idea of a drug rehab center opening in their neighborhood. When the two elected officials looked into the matter, both decided to join the community board’s fight to keep the facility out.
Greenfield and Recchia have written a joint letter to the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services stating their opposition to the drug rehab center. The lawmakers said they are particularly concerned about the center’s plans to treat people with criminal records or have been recently released from prison.
“Neighbors should not have to fear for their children's safety because of a drug rehab center. Simply put, this is the wrong location for this type of facility. This is a quiet, safe neighborhood with many homes, schools and businesses, and it’s not right that residents’ lives be disrupted as a result of this drug rehab center,” Greenfield said.
“I am deeply concerned about the drug treatment facility that is being proposed for McDonald Avenue. To place a facility that intends to serve criminals and parolees for drug and alcohol abuse treatment in such close proximity to schools and residential neighborhoods is misguided and a threat to the safety and security of the community,” Recchia said.
Recchia suggested that One World Counseling LLC find an alternative site for the center.
Elias-Pavia said the community board shares the concerns expressed by Greenfield and Recchia. “We heard that it would be a treatment center an individual would go to as an alternative to incarceration," she said. The thought of drug-addicted ex-cons wandering around freely in a neighborhood filled with schools, churches, and mom-and-pop stores is “very troubling,” she said.
Elias-Pavia and Community Board 11 Chairman Bill Guarinello met with the owners of One World Counseling LLC a few months ago to hear about the proposal. The community board does not have an official role in the process, Elias-Pavia said. “But as part of their application, the state requested that they get a general consensus from the community. They came to meet with us. From what they described, it seemed they would be offering general counseling. We requested a copy of their application to the state. When we saw it, it was different than what they had described,” she said.
One World Counseling, LLC was incorporated with the state in August and operates out of an address in Fresh Meadows, Queens, according to Greenfield. The application with the State Office of Substance Abuse and Prevention Services indicates that the facility would provide treatment for high school students, diagnosis and treatment of individuals with drug or alcohol dependency, and legally-mandated counseling for individuals who have been placed on parole or probation following incarceration, and as an alternative to incarceration for individuals found guilty of a crime.
The owners of One World Counseling could not be reached for comment.
“This neighborhood has a great past and a bright future, and we will not stand by as our quality of life is threatened by this shortsighted plan,” Greenfield said.
There is no timetable on when the application process would be completed, Elias-Pavia said. It’s not clear if the community board would be notified when the state makes a decision on the application.