Home for adults vacated without notice

By Geoff Samuels
The community home for developmentally disabled people at 123 Church Street in Margaretville was vacated on Monday morning, November 19.
Diane Galusha, communications director at the Catskill Watershed Corporation who lives on that street, said that two large vans were parked in front of the three-story Victorian house early that morning with “a lot of activity going on,” and later that evening, the place was dark.

In a phone interview with the News, Cynthia Heaney, director of community services of Delaware County, said that the seven residents of the home have been relocated to a new single-floor modular facility near Franklin. She explained that the move was necessary because they were in need of more medical care than was available at the Margaretville location.

The home was operated by the Broome Developmental Disabilities Services Office (DDSO) located in Binghamton, but it is actually owned by New York State. The director of that organization, Mark Lankes, could not be reached by phone; however an e-mail received several days later from Tiffany Portzer, director of communications of the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) read: “All individuals and staff have been relocated and OPWDD has no alternate use plans for the home. The Office of General Services (OGS) has been notified.” The OGS has a real estate division that deals with surplus state-owned properties.

Another communication from Heather Groll of OGS stated that they are currently inspecting the property and will soon begin the process of preparing it for sale at auction, which she said will likely take place next spring.

In a related article, a WABC-TV news report written by investigative reporter Jim Hoffer and published in February of 2011 said, “property auctions have stopped in part because the state has yet to inventory the hundreds of empty buildings it owns… (It has) no clue about how many vacant and under-utilized buildings it has.”

The house itself, which is strikingly set back on its lot behind several large conifer trees, is said to have been bought for $4,000 at a “sheriff’s sale” in 1926 by Embree Johnson, and was known as the “Embree house” until the mid-1940s. However, the actual date of its construction remains elusive as the cornerstone was apparently removed when a new foundation was put in. Records at the county assessors’ office show that the structure was purchased by the Broome organization in 1986.