BY LUIS GRONDA
The fight against the proposed South Ozone Park juvenile facility has gone to court.
The South Ozone Park Civic Association West and three residents filed a class action lawsuit on Tuesday against the owner of the property, KAD of Queens LLC and the group that would operate the proposed facility, Sheltering Arms Children and Family Services, who would run the center for the Administration for Children’s Services as part of the agency’s “Close to Home” Program.
The suit filed in Queens County Court aims to stop the controversial juvenile detention center from opening at 133-27 127 St. in South Ozone Park. Residents have voiced their displeasure for the proposal since news was released about ACS’ plan last year. They have held weekly rallies outside the vacant property.
The suit alleges that the owner of the building, KAD of Queens LLC, have not followed City building codes since it purchased the property last year from its former owner Patrick Khan, a Community Board 9 member.
This includes not meeting regulations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Buildings Department launched an audit last month against the plan for the building in relation to the property’s zoning and whether or not it can obtain an ADA waiver.
Residents have also raised concerns about the center being close to another juvenile facility located one block away from 127th Street and close to the Skyway homeless shelter.
Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Rochdale Village), who announced the lawsuit filing in a press release, said the concerns from the South Ozone Park community should not be dismissed as a “NIMBY” issue.
“Since 2011, these proud citizens have been saddled by the City with responsibilities they never asked for, and left to cope with the unintended consequences of those actions,” Wills said in a statement. “They’ve done more than their share, but now they’re at the end of their rope. ACS has addressed neither their concerns nor mine, particularly about the property owner and architect’s non-compliance with existing laws, and I will continue to apply the full weight of my office to ensure they do so. I wholeheartedly stand-by their complaint.”
The plaintiffs on the complaint are the South Ozone Park Civic Association West, which is headed by Anthony Gellineau, and three neighborhood residents, Cynthia Soria, Yudraj Tuwari and George Savich. They are represented by Manhattan-based attorney and former Brooklyn City Council candidate Natraj Bhushan.
Gellineau said ACS “blindsided” the South Ozone Park community by opening a facility three years ago and they are attempting to do the same once again.
“Now, by proposing to open one of its six Limited Secure facilities only a block away from the Non-Secure one, ACS has added insult to our injury. This prison will further unravel our community, much like the first facility has,” he said.
Soria, who lives next door to the building where the proposed facility would be placed, said she believes ACS has not listened to the community about their concerns.
“If it were to open, I don’t know how I’ll be able to ensure the safety and privacy of my children once my family begins sharing a border with youth offenders,” she said in the release.
In a statement released Tuesday, ACS said it was “disappointed” to hear about the lawsuit.
” In collaboration with Sheltering Arms, our goal is to provide a safe and stable environment for young people to receive residential rehabilitation services while in our care, while also ensuring the safety of residents and the surrounding community,” the statement read. “We are committed to continuing conversations with community leaders and elected officials in Queens and South Ozone Park to ensure that they are fully briefed on our plans and that we address their concerns.”
There is no contact information listed for the Middle Village-based KAD of Queens LLC.
Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @luisgronda.