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Residents Fight Mental Health Facility Rezoning at Village Meeting

Board votes to continue public hearing on 585 Merrick Road at its next meeting.

A decision on the proposed re-zoning of the property at 585 Merrick Road has still yet to be reached, as the Rockville Centre Board of Trustees once again voted to continue the public hearing on the issue until its next meeting on Jan. 7.

“I think we need to continue this hearing to get some of those issues out, to let [South Shore Association for Independent Living] explain to the villagers about exactly what [they] want to do, and we need to work out a covenant where we are going to keep the residents in [their] facility the same number and not expand it,” Village Administrator Keith Spadaro said at the board's monthly meeting Monday evening.

At its last meeting on Nov. 5, the board voted to continue the public hearing after the proposed rezoning for the remodeling of the South Shore Association for Independent Living (SAIL) mental health residence was met with backlash from neighbors.

Residents from the area once again attended Monday’s meeting to voice their concerns over the SAIL residence, citing inappropriate behavior from SAIL residents and a lack of supervision for reasons as to why they are against the rezoning.

Rockville Centre Police Commissioner Charles Gennario was on hand Monday night to share information on police activity at the SAIL residence after villagers asked for the information at the November meeting.

Gennario said that the police department has received 70 calls from the SAIL residence since January of 2011, dealing mostly with the removal of residents to the hospital. Gennario also said that there have been a few assault investigations at the residence.

SAIL attorney Charles Russo said that SAIL residents receive 24-hour-a-day supervision and reminded villagers that SAIL only intends to remodel and not expand the property. Russo encouraged the villagers to take a look at the plans and welcomed any communication with the community regarding the proposal.

“This village, like many villages in Nassau and Suffolk County, has accepted the responsibility of taking care of this population of people and it should be commended,” Russo said. “I understand that it’s difficult and I understand it’s not easy sometimes being a neighbor, but since 1981 you’ve accepted that responsibility.”

“We will open up our doors to sit down and talk and work it out but we are going to be there,” Russo added. “We are just trying to be there with a better quality.”

After receiving complaints from villagers about the communication regarding the issue, the board said that it will re-notify village residents of the continued hearing.

Prior to the public hearing, the board recognized members of the Rockville Centre Police and Fire Departments for their work in responding to a devastating fire on Woods Avenue on July 17. The heroes were awarded RVC medals of distinction for their heroism by Mayor Francis Murray.

“There are few things that go along with being chief of this fire department that are more satisfying than seeing your people do such an outstanding job as this,” Chief of the Rockville Centre Fire Department John Busching said.

In addition to the citations handed out to the policemen and firemen, Gennario also promoted detective Sal Mazza to sergeant at the meeting.

“One of the greatest privileges I have as commissioner is to be able to promote those individuals in my command and in Sal’s case this is a real honor,” Gennario said.

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