In the aftermath of the Jan. 22 incident in which a resident of the Hawthorne Cedar Knolls High School walked into a neighboring home and attempted to steal some items, Mount Pleasant Supervisor Carl Fulgenzi and state Sen. Terrence Murphy are demanding action from the state and Fulgenzi said there should be a consideration of changing the management agency of the school.
There have been a series of incidents involving some Hawthorne Cedar Knolls students over the past several years that have raised the concerns of both neighboring residents and elected officials.
Mount Pleasant Police Lt. Robert Miliambro said that at about 2:49 p.m. last Monday a home owner reported to police that a female Hawthorne Cedar Knolls resident “entered through an open garage door” in their Marietta Avenue home. The female youth, whom he would not name because of her potential youthful offender status, asked the homeowner to use the telephone but he refused, Miliambro said.
Miliambro said the youth allegedly tried to steal two granola bars, some Goldfish crackers and a utility knife. The youth was charged with burglary in the second degree, a felony, he said.
At the Jan. 23 Town Board meeting, Fulgenzi sharply criticized the management of the facility, the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services. “We have been given false information, empty promises and we will no longer accept the rhetoric,” Fulgenzi said.
Fulgenzi said the Jewish Board has frozen the intake of new students at the school and the state Offices of Children and Family Services and Mental Health have representatives on the campus and were scheduled to be there throughout the week.
Fulgenzi said action needed to be taken at the campus. “I want a lockdown on the campus where no one leaves unless in a vehicle with a specific approved destination,” he said. “This is to protect those on campus and our residents.”
“I do not want this to be a secure facility in the sense that it will be used as a place where more violent individuals will be placed,” Fulgenzi said.
Fulgenzi said he has requested an independent investigation of the facility, saying he questioned its safety. He also said the town is discussing having an outside agency run Hawthorne Cedar Knolls and the Pleasantville Cottage School.
“The governor has been notified of the situation and the dangers our community has been dealing with for too long. We expect a response from him on the future of these facilities and putting the safety of our community first,” Fulgenzi said.
Murphy also expressed his criticisms last week.
“Enough is enough. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results,” Murphy stated in a press release. “CEO David Rivel has failed to adequately provide the proper safety of the Mount Pleasant community and for the children themselves.”
“It is time for New York State to act and make sure no one is put in harms away again due to their consistent mismanagement,” Murphy stated. “The Jewish Board of Family and Children Services must be held accountable for the latest episode stemming from the campus of Hawthorne Cedar Knolls.”
“Life for the families neighboring this facility should have never reached the stage where inadequate security, vandalism and violence have become the norm,” Murphy stated. “Suspending the intake of new children and installing a fence did not quell the number of incidents at the facility. The new security measures have yielded the same old results.”
Jewish Board responds
A spokesperson from the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services’ public relations agency, who declined to be identified, responded in an email on behalf of the Jewish Board on Friday.
“The safety of our residents and the community is our highest priority and we are in continuous contact with local law enforcement and elected officials as we seek solutions to keep both our community and our residents safe,” the spokesperson said. “As a start, we have closed intake at the facility while we review admission criteria and safety protocols. We are in the process of hiring an independent security firm to audit our existing systems. We will launch a dedicated hotline for the community to reach us with any questions or concerns. We look forward to working with the community in the days and weeks to come,” the email said.