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Nation’s First Safe Injection Site

In November 2021, Greater Harlem Coalition received the unwelcome news that Mayor De Blasio has unilaterally placed the nation’s first safe injection site on 126th Street, bordering East and Central Harlem on Park Avenue without consulting local community members, despite a moratorium by community board for more social services. The site is placed across the street from a Pre-K school, mostly attended by children of color, A-B-C school. Click here to read GHC’s letter to Mayor De Blasio in response to this illegal unilateral action.

A year has passed and the public drug use condition in Harlem has not improved. It is clear to Greater Harlem Coalition that placing more harm reduction programs in a district already oversaturated with drug treatment and harm reduction program is harmful to the local community.

Currently, the safe injection site is a magnet that attracts drug dealers and users from outside the district to come into Harlem. From this 1 year of experience, we know this safe injection site should be removed from Harlem unless 2 conditions are satisfied :

  1. The government opens 30+ sites all throughout New York City’s 59 community districts
  2. Reduce the excessive concentration of social services in Harlem unwanted by wealthier whiter neighborhoods, e.g., drug treatment and harm reduction programs and adult only shelters
Outside of the safe injection site – notice the drug dealer sitting outside of the entrance

The location of the safe injection site is particularly disturbing. It is located in a small block that contains:

  • New York City’s largest methadone clinic, operated by Mount Sinai
  • 2 out of 3 bus stops of the M35 bus which is the only form of transport for 1200+ adult only homeless shelter resides from Wards Island
  • One of NYC’s largest needle exchange program

To this end, see the protest organized by Greater Harlem Coalition here, and subsequent news reporting here.

Reference:

18 October 2021: Meeting of Community Board 11 Human Services Committee where Dr. Cunningham presented the benefits of overdose prevention center: https://youtu.be/9RPGX4O0iW0

20 October 2021: Testimony from Dr. Cunningham: https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/doh/downloads/pdf/public/testi/testi-20201020-impact-of-covid-on-overdose.pdf

7 November 2021: Opening of the overdose prevention site

Feasibility study: https://www.nyc.gov/assets/doh/downloads/pdf/public/supervised-injection-report.pdf

Senate bill to sanction overdose prevention site: https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2021/S603

Syringe Exchange policy: https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/aids/consumers/prevention/needles_syringes/syringe_exchange/docs/policies_and_procedures.pdf