While Sunrise Detox sees an opportunity to offer Westchester residents a second chance at a sober life, some of the drug treatment center’s would-be neighbors see a facility that is ill suited for a residential area.
The Carhart Neighborhood Association is calling on fellow city residents to join its opposition of a proposed 31 to 33-bed short-term medically monitored drug and alcohol detoxification facility at 37 Dekalb Ave.
“Undoubtedly, there is a need for such a facility in our society,” said Ken Kristal, who is lives across the street from the proposed development and is the spokesperson for the neighborhood advocacy group. “I don’t doubt that Sunrise does good work the question is, ‘Is this the appropriate location for it?’”
The White Plains Planning Board voted to recommend that the White Plains Common Council approve Sunrise Detox’s special permit and site plan application at their meeting in July. The Nathan Miller Center for Nursing Care, a nursing home that previously operated under a special permit for “domiciliary care” out of 37 Dekalb Ave., shut down and has been unoccupied for at least a year.
Sunrise Detox—which has two facilities in Florida and another in New Jersey— is asking for a special permit to run a “community residence” in the residentially zoned neighborhood that would serve adults seeking voluntary private and discreet treatment for substance abuse for an average visit of 5.7 days.
The center would not serve as a receiving facility for court-mandated clients.
Sunrise Detox would offer “home-like amenities” in a comfortable, safe environment that “removes fears and confinement associated with an institutional setting,” according to its site plan and special permit application.
Sunrise Detox’s goal is to treat substance abuse as “a brain disorder, and not a moral weakness.” Since the Nathan Miller Nursing Center for Nursing Care, which opened in 1962, operated with 65 beds—Sunrise Detox sees its proposed use as “less intensive,” and will only have about 19 employees on site at once.
Sunrise would reuse the current building, but remove an existing portion of it for a total of 19,100 sq. ft. The building would get a new façade and windows that would make it “atheistically compatible” with the surrounding neighborhood. The facility would use Energy Star energy-efficient appliances and may incorporate solar panels and electric car charging stations in the future.
“Our main concern is safety,” said Kristal, who has lived in White Plains for seven years. “We have several elementary school bus stops within a block or two, and a BOCES special education program for developmentally disabled individuals. This facility is voluntary and the people, if they choose, can leave. They’re not locked down in any way, shape or form. This poses a potential threat. There are also several liquor and drugs stores within walking distance.”
Sunrise Detox declined to comment or be interviewed for this article.
Kristal, who resurrected the neighborhood group last summer when Sunrise Detox was moving forward with its application process, said he doesn’t see how this facility can benefit White Plains in this location, and feels that it would be better suited in a light industrial area, like Central and Westmoreland avenues, where it would have less of a negative impact.
The Carhart Neighborhood Association started a website at https://sites.google.com/site/nodetox/ and online petition (http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/no-detox/) that currently has 19 signatures. Its members have also been collecting written signatures, passing out bi-lingual flyers in the neighborhood and are collecting emails at email@example.com.
Kristal is encouraging others who opposed the proposed Sunrise Detox to attend the “Citizens to be Heard” portion of the White Plains Common Council’s Aug. 6 meeting at 6:30 p.m. at city hall to speak out against the project.
The council is expected to set the public hearing on this project for Sept. 4 at its August meeting.
“We hope that we’ll have a city-wide opposition,” said Kristal. “We’re hoping that the common council will realize that if this is something beneficial for the community, then maybe its not the best choice for this location. Ideally, we hope they’ll go away—they are looking at several other locations. I think the common council has to weigh the advantages with the disadvantages, and hopefully they’ll come to the right decision.”