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White Plains Residents Oppose Sunrise Detox Center

More than 30 residents spoke during Monday's White Plains Common Council in opposition of a proposed detox center in the city.
More than 30 residents spoke during Monday's White Plains Common Council in opposition of a proposed detox center in the city. Photo Credit: Patrick Stapleton

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Safety was the No. 1 concern voiced by opponents of the proposed Sunrise Detox Center location on 37 DeKalb Ave. during a packed White Plains Common Council meeting on Monday night.

In a public comment session that lasted almost two hours, more than 25 residents urged the Common Council to deny the proposal because they fear an increase in crime and a danger to their children in an area with 10 bus stops.

Representatives of Sunrise Detox, including CEO Linda Burns, attended the meeting. Burns, who has been with the company since December 2004, spoke about the facilities in Stirling, N.J., Lake Worth, Fla. and Fort Lauderdale, Fla. However, the project’s opponents said these facilities are not in residential areas like the White Plains facility would be.

Burns said Sunrise facilities are controlled and have limited access with alarmed doors, external/internal cameras and tracking every 30 minutes to notice happenings and trends within the facility. She said Sunrise patients voluntarily sign themselves in and out, which many people said Monday was a major concern about the proposal.

Sunrise Detox submitted an application to the city for a special permit and site plan approval to operate a short-term, medically supervised detoxification treatment facility.

In its application, Sunrise White Plains, as it would be called, said clients would be admitted on a voluntary basis only, and the facility won't "serve as a receiving facility for court-mandated clients nor any other non-voluntary clients."  The facility would not provide long-term or outpatient services.

When asked by Council member David Buchwald about Sunrise’s safety records, Burns said that in servicing 15,000 patients – excluding the Ft. Lauderdale facility, which was just opened in August – no crimes have been committed by any patients or staff members.

Frank Pezzella, criminologist and assistant professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, was one of the residents who spoke out against the facility. He provided police reports to the council of incidents from the Lake Worth and Stirling facilities, including multiple assaults, disturbances, missing persons, suicide attempts, larcenies and car crashes.

“Do you really want to open this Pandora’s Box?” he asked the council. “Because if you approve their application, they’re in and potential criminal activity is likely to get worse.”

The public hearing was adjourned until the council’s next meeting on Nov. 5.

“We’re in a phase where the council is hearing information,” said Mayor Thomas Roach. “We have another public hearing and (a decision) will be subsequent to that.”

He said he was pleased with how the meeting was conducted while discussing what has become a tense issue.

“My goal is to run a meeting in a way that everyone shows respect for each – it’s a White Plains tradition – and I think everyone did comport themselves with appropriate decorum tonight,” he said. “I know that sometimes the issues can be emotional and people can feel strongly, but it’s in everyone’s best interests that everyone has an opportunity to be fairly heard and that’s part of my role. I feel that we achieved that tonight and that’s something I thank the participants for.”

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