You may have noticed the alarming presence of “DayCare Centers” opening in residential homes and, based on the inquiries that I have received I did some investigating. It should be stated that all the inquiries are from residents who are fearful that they are threatened with such a facility opening next to them. The fear is not unjustified because it’s like the Wild West with the rush to open daycare centers in residential housing. Since the requirements rise exponentially with the size of the residential housing and zoning I will use as my example the areas of Middle Village and Maspeth.
Let me start first with this statement on the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene website:
“Inspections and violations: The NYC Health Department inspects annually permitted
childcare services to monitor compliance with the NYC Health Code. Inspections are also conducted for permit renewal, in response to complaints, and in follow-up to a citation (compliance inspections).”
Very importantly, don’t assume that because a neighbor puts out a sign on their house stating “Licensed DayCare” it’s legal because to be legal many rules and regulations need to be implemented and followed, including the size of the sign on the house.
This is what I was told by Kate Mooney, Deputy Chief of Staff for Council Member Elizabeth Crowley: “Mayor Bloomberg totally favors the concept of the daycare openings in residential housing because we need them!” My answer, well, we need more hospitals, does that mean we start opening them in our basements?” Somehow I doubt that Mayor Bloomberg feels threatened with a daycare facility opening next door to him!
I called Tom Smith, Associate City Planner, in the NYC Department of City Planning and he elaborated on the different rules and regulations involved with residential daycare. He explained how the size of the house is a significant factor in whether a licensed day care facility is even possible and the many rules and regulations for getting approval and staying within all the guidelines. In answer to my question about the signage on the property, Smith stated that legal signs could be no bigger than what we see for professionals like doctors and lawyers who open in residential housing.
For instance, in residential areas similar to Middle Village and Maspeth where the homes are relatively small a daycare can probably open that limits the size of any amount of children that could be enrolled. There is always the very important issue of the adequate fire exits on each floor and where they are located.
Before I continue, read the following excerpt on the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene site where you can check on any facility and its record by borough and using the facility’s zip code. – “Group Child Care Services -This directory lists the group child care services that have been issued permits by the New York City Department of Health. The Department does not endorse any organization to which it issues a permit but it inspects them to ensure compliance with the New York City Health Code. The directory is provided to help you locate a childcare service in your area and review its history of inspections. We are dedicated to the protection of the health and safety of all children in New York City and recommend that you research the child care service you are interested in by reviewing its inspection history and visiting it to see if it will meet your child's needs. The directory will be updated weekly.” There is the additional statement that if you want more information call 311
I found the following discovery very sobering. There is a home based daycare facility in a house one short block east of Woodhaven Boulevard on 63rd Avenue in zip code 11374. I called for information and was told by the owner that she has 16 children in her care. There is a billboard of a sign in her front yard and the facility is open from 8am to 6pm, with wiggle room to accommodate different hours for the parents/guardians. It is a semi-detached house so that allows for meeting some of the many regulations, particularly the important fire exits on each floor. The house is in a very attractive residential area but there you have it, a daycare facility with the words “Learning Center” on their sign. The owner also stated “we’ve been here already 5 years!”
Think of the number of cars and vans arriving and departing with the children and also workers needed to run a daycare facility with 16 children. You have to ask, how qualified are the workers and who is doing the checking and accountability? Would you want that next door to you or in a nearby house on your block? As Tom Smith told me you do need a set number of workers per child to run a facility of 16 clients. Traffic and parking issues are an instant problem.
Also, a new “licensed daycare” center has opened at 63-06 71st Street just off Juniper Boulevard South that has a large sign right on the house. I called the number listed on the sign and a woman answered the phone. I questioned her about the facility and in response to my question of how many children are involved she replied that there are 12 children in her care. In response to my question about any complaints from her neighbors about additional cars and vans involved with the workers and the children she said she had spoken to her neighbors and they had no problem with the facility opening on their street. She stated that she is licensed by the Health Department. Then she hung up on me. There you have 12 children in a small, attached house with a garage in the front.
You can check both of these facilities in their appropriate zip codes on the NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene Directory. The links at the end of this article.
Licensed residential daycare in our neighborhoods also begs the question, if you wanted to buy a house would you even look at a house near a residential “DayCare” facility? That means that as soon as you see a “DayCare” open near your house there’s the very real possibility that you limit the field of interested buyers in the real estate marketplace to say nothing of the monetary hit on your property’s value.
A red flag for me is the fact that it is stated that the NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene doesn’t endorse any of the facilities and that they inspect annually unless there are complaints or follow-up compliance issues. That means you’re on your own in choosing a facility to care for your child and, once chosen, keeping them accountable with frequent inspections from the parents/guardians.
While the vast majority of those involved in child daycare may perform their job professionally and carefully it was reported recently that a child died in an allegedly illegally run daycare facility at 92-45 55 Avenue in Elmhurst. There is no question that parents/guardians have to be totally involved 24/7 to make sure that they choose daycare facilities very carefully and stay vigilant observing the care their children receive.
We need to put in place a mechanism whereby the surrounding community is notified when a daycare facility is being planned in a residential neighborhood. Those of you who questioned me about the possibility of daycare opening next door to them should be concerned because the answer is simple, yes, we’re all possible victims of this relatively new industry of home based daycare.
I have put two links below. In the first link you can see all the requirements for opening residential daycare and in the second link is where you can check the legal daycare facilities in your zip code.