The Examiner

Agency Drops Mount Pleasant Group Home Appeal

We are part of The Trust Project
Devereux New York Executive Director John O'Keefe.
Devereux New York Executive Director John O’Keefe.

The agency that sought to convert a Mount Pleasant house into a group home for autistic adults has decided against pursuing an appeal of the town board’s decision to block its proposal.

Devereux New York Executive Director John O’Keefe, who threatened to ask the state to overturn the board’s decision after the March 11 vote, announced in a March 24 letter to Supervisor Joan Maybury that the matter would be dropped. The board voted 4-1 against the proposal submitted by Devereux New York to convert a private home at 659 Belleview Ave. in Thornwood to a group home for four adults with developmental disabilities.

“After careful consideration, the Devereux Foundation is withdrawing its Jan. 28 Letter of Notification regarding the development of an Individual Residence Alternative for people with developmental disabilities,” he stated.

On Thursday, O’Keefe explained that the agency will look to site the facility elsewhere in Westchester. The family that owns the Belleview Avenue house decided not to go forward with selling it, he said.

“It was a mutual decision,” he said.

It also would have taken about four months for a state appeals hearing to be scheduled. “That would be a very time consuming process,” O’Keefe said.

Town officials’ concern about how the house does not comply with the town’s building code also played a factor. During the March 11 board meeting, Maybury said the house had three bedrooms on the second floor and one on the first floor even though the Certificate of Occupancy does not allow the first-floor bedroom. However, the owners of the house, Laura and Anton Vdaj, vehemently denied that they were failing to meet building codes.

O’Keefe did not say where Devereux would look for an alternative site.

The four town board members who voted against the proposal said Mount Pleasant is already saturated with group homes and other nonprofit organizations that do not pay town property taxes.

In a guest column that appeared in the March 25-31 issue of The Examiner, Robert Kreider president and CEO of Devereux, accused the board of discrimination.

“To willfully deny people with autism the right to live as engaged members of the community – near the natural support of their own families – represents blatant discrimination and violates the most basic and moralistic human rights of dignity and fellowship, not to mention a host of fair housing principals,” the column state.

Maybury responded to Devereux on March 25, refuting the charge.

“That is a very strong statement and one I disagree with wholeheartedly,” she said.

Though he disagreed with the town board’s decision, O’Keefe said that proper protocol was followed during the meeting.

“I believe we were treated fairly,” he said.


We'd love for you to support our work by joining as a free, partial access subscriber, or by registering as a full access member. Members get full access to all of our content, and receive a variety of bonus perks like free show tickets. Learn more here.