Abusive Staff Called NYC Group Home the ‘Bronx Zoo': Lawsuit

Families of people living at the Union Avenue IRA say the staff there denied food, hit residents and botched medical care

Three families are suing staff at a New York City group home, alleging they punched, kicked and spit on disabled residents and that state authorities knew about the abuse and did nothing for weeks.

The federal lawsuit says staff at the Union Avenue IRA referred to the facility as the "Bronx zoo" and also denied residents food and botched their medical care.

One resident's sister, who asked not to be named to protect her sibling, said that her sister was beaten, raped and contracted a sexually transmitted infection while staying at the home in 2004. 

"They're inhumane," she said. "They've treated these individuals very inhumanely."

The lawsuit seeking unspecified damages was filed Monday in Manhattan.

The defendants are six staff, additional unnamed staff, eight supervisors and officials at the state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities.

The state office says abuse of anyone in its care is unacceptable. It says it referred the case to the Justice Center in 2014, put accused staff on administrative leave and is taking disciplinary action against those responsible.

"(The office) immediately placed the accused employees on administrative leave, is taking disciplinary action against those found responsible and is implementing comprehensive program review to ensure proper oversight and retraining of staff on site," the office said in a statement. 

The lawsuit says evidence of abuse goes back a decade. It alleges the office received an August 2014 staff whistleblower letter but didn't respond for weeks.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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