A home for the mentally handicapped in the northern section of the Lovejoy District would enhance police protection and redevelopment efforts in the neighborhood, Lovejoy Council Member Norman M. Bakos assured about 40 residents of the neighborhood Wednesday.
"This community should not have drug pushers and prostitutes," Bakos said after one resident questioned why the mentally handicapped should be subjected to a neighborhood plagued by crime and heavy traffic.
"I intend to have more police protection. The mayor has made a commitment that he is going to use the project as a demonstration that it can be done."
Bakos was responding to Walter Nestorowich of Roland Street, who suggested that the home be placed at the original site of William and Greene streets in East Lovejoy, where residents have opposed it adamantly.
"Why not in the (East) Lovejoy area?" Nestorowich asked. "They have parks, swimming pools and a library. They go out here on the street, and they are going to be approached by prostitutes and drug pushers."
Nestorowich's remarks started a shouting match involving Bakos and other residents who said the home would help stabilize the neighborhood.
"Clean up the neighborhood first, then build it," said Mary Moody of Zenner Street. She said neighborhood residents have not had enough time to consider the proposed project.
The house for 14 mentally handicapped adults would be constructed on a vacant city-owned lot at 1800 Genesee Street near Wende Street.
DePaul Mental Health Services of Rochester owns the original site at William and Greene. Because of community opposition to that site and a ruling by the state's mental-health commissioner that DePaul could build on the site it owns, Bakos has proposed to exchange the city land at 1800 Genesee for the DePaul site.
"I see this as a plus in our neighborhood," said Carolyn Partridge of Leslie Street.
Christopher Burns, DePaul's director of community residence programs in Erie County, assured residents that the clients who use the facility would not have violent histories or drug-abuse problems.
"It's a concern, and we will need to work with our residents to overcome the drugs and prostitution," Burns said. He added that the group homes his non-profit agency builds often become a "catalyst for development."
"It's not going to happen overnight, but it might help," he said.
DePaul has 18 centers offerring various services in the Rochester area and plans five in Erie County, Burns said. DePaul group homes are already located in Lancaster and Cheektowaga.
Bakos said the Bailey-Doat Boys Club, the site of Wednesday night's meeting, would be a center for processing residents' applications for city programs to provide free paint and low-interest loans for housing rehabilitation.
Bakos also promised new street lighting, sidewalks and tree trimming for a project area made up of the northern part of his district and including Zenner, Wende, Leslie and Kilhofer streets.
The Common Council Finance Committee earlier this week tabled Bakos' proposed land swap for two weeks. He plans to bring the matter before the full Council on Tuesday. Bakos said the mayor has agreed to approve the deal.