Neighbors cheer closing of facility for troubled kids in Hawthorne

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Neighbors are cheering the closing of a residential facility for troubled kids in Hawthorne.

At a public meeting in Mount Pleasant Wednesday night, authorities unexpectedly announced the closure of the embattled Hawthorne Cedar Knolls Residential Treatment Center.

Run by The Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services,  the center is housed on a campus with two other facilities that cater to troubled youth.
When problems arise, mostly from Cedar Knolls, it's fallen to local police, officials say. “The police department, they're over there daily, sometimes two or three times a day," says Mount Pleasant Town Supervisor Carl Fulgenzi.

People who live in the Linda Avenue neighborhood have been calling for the closing for quite some time, and the protests have increased after recent reports of runaways and violent incidents involving students. There is also the issue of students easily getting off campus.

There was an incident last week where a 17-year-old allegedly broke into a house and confronted the owner with a box cutter. The family was not hurt, but that seemed to be the last straw. "God knows what really could've happened," says Sean Pickering, the homeowner who came face-to-face with the runaway teen in his Thornwood home last week. "The hardest part was explaining to the kids what had happened without scaring them too much as well."

People who spoke with News 12 say they understand that some children treated at the home come from horrible situations, but they say changes had to made for everyone's safety. "They need to be in a more controlled atmosphere for everyone's safety," says Heidi Banziger, of Thornwood.

The Residential Treatment Center is expected to close by the end of summer. Students are expected to be transferred to another facility in New York City.

While Hawthorne Cedar Knolls Residential Treatment Center will close, the other two facilities will remain open. A spokesperson for the campus says that the Hawthorne Cedar Knolls Union Free School District is not closing.  A statement reads, in part, “The Cedar Knolls Academy, Achieve Alternative High School and Linden Hill programs are open and will continue to provide educational services. The Hawthorne Cedar Knolls Union Free School District is a New York State Public School District and separate from the Jewish Board.”

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