EXCLUSIVE: Queens residents outraged over juvenile detention center set to open

SOUTH OZONE PARK (WABC) -- Not in my backyard. That's the sentiment from a neighborhood in Queens where they may soon have some new neighbors: young men who've committed crimes.

They will supposedly be confined, but many South Ozone Park residents aren't sure they believe city officials and they're worried.

ACS will build the fence higher, but it will still separate teenagers who have committed crimes that led to them being confined, with children. Like Patricia Miranda's four year old daughter.

"We're just starting to raise our children, my two nephews live upstairs, they're all under five years old, we walk our kids to the park, we walk to school, and our back yard, you can see our backyard from the jail," Miranda said.

"They're not going to be serving our youth," a resident said at the meeting.

Residents got together Tuesday night to talk about the facility to house teenagers convicted of crimes, and it was packed with people who are worried for the safety of their families.

"I recently found out there is a prison, a juvenile detention center coming to our neighborhood," said Sabrina Bharrett-Sooki, a resident.

The facility is part of the "Close to Home" program designed to put youthful offenders close to their families.

"These residents who will be staying at this facility are not from our neighborhood, they're from other neighborhoods, they should be in their neighborhood if it's 'close to home' not close to my home," Bharrett-Sooki said.

"They're not going to be in the neighborhood because they are going to be under supervision and actually most of the services are contained within the facility," said Felipe Franco, the ACS Dep. Commissioner.

The Administration for Children's Services says the teenagers will be supervised when outside.

"Most times, kids are with someone that is guiding them, yes it takes a lot of effort to earn the privilege to go out on his own," Franco said.

"You worried about your daughter?" Eyewitness News asked.

"I'm going to watch her like a hawk. And I'm worried about her yes, I'm worried not only for my daughter, but I'm worried for the entire community of kids who have to walk to school," said Michael Duvalle, a resident.

Neighbors say that ACS never once tried to reach out to them or to assure them that they would try to assure them that they would do what they could to keep them safe. They say they didn't know until it was under construction. They plan to sue ACS to prevent the facility from opening.
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