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New York state will pay $6 million to families of disabled residents who claimed abuse at group home in the Bronx

2019-10-01

The families of three developmentally disabled residents who said they endured horrific abuse at a New York state-run group home known as the “Bronx zoo” will receive $6 million under a deal announced Monday that also requires a non-profit operator take over the hellish facility.

The disabled residents at Union Ave. IRA alleged that staff gave them black eyes, pulled their hair, spit in their faces, kicked them, smashed their heads into walls, sexually abused them, withheld food, showered them in frigid water and botched medical care.

The suit alleged staff operated “like a street gang,” enforcing a code of silence and retaliating against whistleblowers. One staff member even testified she wouldn’t have left her dog in the care of colleagues sued by the disabled residents. Documentation of abuse dated as far back as 2006.

Under the terms of the deal, nine staffers named in the suit are immediately barred from reentering the facility as long as the three alleged victims — who are identified in court papers by their initials — remain in the building.

“I’m completely saddened and heartbroken. How can people prey on the innocent with no remorse? We will move forward trying to repair the damage that was done,” Barbara Melendez, the sister of one of the developmentally disabled residents, said in a release through her lawyer.

The state’s Office for People With Developmental Disabilities will select a non-profit operator to take over the facility. In a deposition, the agency’s former Commissioner Kerry Delaney called the home “a disaster” and acknowledged that staff failed to protect residents.

“The proper care and treatment of the people supported by the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities is our highest priority and this resolution will help ensure these residents receive it,” spokeswoman Jennifer O’Sullivan told The News.

“How could so many New York State employees brutalize so many people, for so long, while no staff or supervisor did a thing about it? This case is a wake-up call for massive reform in this State agency,” attorney said Ilann Maazel said.