Pushback on Homeless Shelters

Given so much push back on placement of homeless shelters, the latest being on Upper West Side and West Harlem, we thought some facts would be helpful.

There are about 60,000 individuals who do not have a permanent home in NYC. The majority of these are families who typically enter shelter when they can no longer afford to pay rent due to job loss or other hardship.

Times are tough. We encourage all districts to help take care of their own residents who fall into hard times. Unfortunately, “most homeless families are not sheltered in the communities they come from.” Currently, only about 50% of children are placed in shelters in areas where they have been going to school. In fact, there are 12 districts in NYC with no family shelters at all.

Regarding single homeless adults, “Research shows that, compared to homeless families, homeless single adults have much higher rates of serious mental illness, addiction disorders, and other severe health problems.” These adults should be placed in small settings fairly distributed in areas where the individual used to reside, and with adequate social services to support them. 

Times are tough. Let’s all help each other while keeping fair share and equity in mind. We need to strike a delicate balance for the sake of our beloved NYC.

See these 2 links for more info and our quotes: https://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/basic-facts-about-homelessness-new-york-city/
https://www.icphusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Shelter-DynamicsFinal07819.pdf

The graphic is plotted based on Shelter Score Card data: “https://fordham.carto.com/u/shill18/builder/8f51c8fb-6910-48d3-ae9d-35ffadfed443/embed”

BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON OPIOID EPIDEMIC AND ACTIVISM AIMED TO PUSH BACK ON PLACEMENT OF HOMELESS SHELTERS

  • 2021 Jan: West Harlem pushes back on homeless shelter on 145th st. (Patch)
  • 2020 Dec: NYC Districts pushes back on housing affordable housing planned by Mayor – (nytimes.com)
  • 2020 Dec: NYC Upper West Side: The residents in Upper West Side Lucerne homeless shelter filed a law suit on decision to relocate them – (nydailynews.com)
  • 2020 Nov: NYC Downtown: Downtown residents filed a law suit against movement of homeless shelter to downtown hotel – (nydailynews.com)
  • [NEW] 2019 Dec: Description of the medical challenges faced by residents in homeless shelters in New York City – (The New York Medical Journal)
  • 2019 Nov: NYC Ozone Park: 500 residents pushed back on new homeless shelter. 1 man went on hunger strike! – (citylimits.org)
  • 2019 Sept: NYC Harlem Wards Island: Wards Island Homeless Shelter managed by Andrew Cuomo’s sister gets new 4 year renewal worth 45 million despite 22 code citation- (THE CITY)
  • 2018 Jul: NYC Midtown: Billionaires Row group sues city over homeless shelter plan – (Nydailynews.com, Fox News)
  • 2016-2019: NYC: In 12 years, NYC homeless population surged 40% from 2011. The City counted almost 4000 people sleeping on the street and there is a 50-60,000 homeless population. Mayor launched turn the tide campaign to set up 130 shelters in the city – (Daily Mail Online, nydailynews.com, Curbed NY)
  • 2012: NYC Harlem: Wards Island Homeless population of 1000 has one bus M35 and the only drop off point is… 125 street and Lexington. The City Limits claimed many of these men are ex convicts and sex offenders – (citylimits.org)

Disappointing New Data

We are sad to report that new FOIL data indicates that number of patients traveling into Harlem to obtain methadone treatment continues to rise over the last 2 years.

For your background, below is the density map of methadone facilities in NYC.

And below is the overall capacity of methadone dispensing approved by NY State OASAS (Office of Addiction Services and Support)

Stop Mt. Sinai’s CARES program from moving at risk youth to a location rife with drug-trading activities. Stop this madness!

Despite tremendous push back from community members, Mount Sinai has announced it will relocate the 60 or so at-risk youth, ages 13-21, in its CARES program from their current Morningside Heights location to their new facility at 160 W 124th Street in Central Harlem as part of a “restructuring” effort. 

We appreciate such schools to help these vulnerable children, however, what is very concerning is that this new location, is a well-known drug nexus!!

As you see in our data map above, CARES’s current neighborhood has little drug-trading activity. The new location is rife with drug-trading activity — as indicated by the density of drug-related arrests — partly driven by its proximity to 3 methadone clinics as well as a safe-injection site (aka needle exchange site) maintained by Harlem United.

According to Mount Sinai, students in the CARES program are youths with “early run-ins with the police… and/or legal problems…” and “severe emotional problems and school truancy.” Common sense would dictate that these students needs to be placed as far away from drug dealers as possible. 

Who in their right mind would think placing these at-risk youths in this drug nexus is a good idea? 

Mount Sinai seems to be more concerned about about their bottom line than about the students’ welfare. To read more about our grievances with Mount Sinai, see here.

How can you help?

Tell Mount Sinai to STOP THE MOVE! These particularly vulnerable teenagers will encounter the open street drug dealing and usage on a daily basis.

For the sake of these children, tell Richard A. Friedman and James S. Tisch the co-chairmen of Mount Sinai’s Board of Trustee to STOP THE MOVE!!! Mr. Friedman is the Chairman of Merchant Banking at Goldman Sachs and Mr. Tisch is the CEO of Loews Corporation, which oversees the Loews Hotel chain. These large companies don’t like seeing negative press.

To help this cause, we recommend you to set up a twitter account and write something on the twitter accounts of Goldman Sachs and Loews Hotel. On their new posts, you can either leave a remark or quote tweet the post to your followers to raise awareness. Many of their millions of followers, including people from the media, will see your remarks.

Looking Back at Our Jan 14 2021 Town Hall

In Jan 14 2021, over 200 attendees turned out on Zoom to listen to updates on crucial quality of life concerns in Harlem, as well as Greater Harlem Coalition’s accomplishments in 2020, and our strategy for 2021. Thank you all of you for showing up in such powerful numbers.

Not surprisingly, emotions in the meeting ran high as  we listened to Mount Sinai obfuscate and filibuster, especially around the issue of their patients loitering after receiving treatment at Mount Sinai’s 132 W 125 Street and 103 E 125 Street methadone facilities. As a reminder, 40% of Harlem’s methadone dispensing capabilities come from Mount Sinai|Beth Israel.

With over 200 questions for Mount Sinai in the chat, the audience showed Mount Sinai that Harlem and East Harlem are watching, and that we are concerned about the community impact of their new Mount Sinai Ambulatory Care Center at 158 W 124th Street, which notably includes the  CARES program.  GHC members are also demanding  that Mount Sinai address and reduce the unacceptable impact that the methadone programs on 125th Street have on residents, our children, and local businesses.

Updates on the 158 West 124th Street Facility and CARES program from Mount Sinai

In spite of Mount Sinai’s less than forthright engagement with the community, It’s important to note that that we learned of one significant win:

Mount Sinai changed their minds about putting addiction services in their new 124th Street building. 

While this does not square with their insistence that CARES (a program for high school students with behavioral health and substance abuse issues) will also be located in this new facility, we are celebrating Mount Sinai’s reversal after two and a half years of protesting and organizing.  Although, this is not the complete abandonment we want, it is a victory to be celebrated nonetheless!

Although Mount Sanai has not completely abandoned the new 124th Street facility, as we wish them to, this is a victory to be celebrated, nonetheless!

Updates on Existing Facilities on 132 W 125 Street and 103 E 125 Street

As for the issue of loitering in the 2 large existing facilities, Mount Sinai informed us that they have contracted a new , more reputable security firm and will staff their new building with retired NYPD sergeants.  Mount Sinai will also be installing additional security measures  inside the buildings, such as metal detectors and security cameras. 

To our surprise, Mount Sinai pointedly noted that they are only responsible for security inside their building. We wonder: if Mount Sinai believes that such intensive security measures are required to protect their own personnel from their patients, where does this leave the local businesses and residents who live and work near these facilities? 

If Mount Sinai believes they are not responsible for mitigating their negative impact in the vicinity, who is protecting the local population??? 

Not government agencies, as OASAS has already stated that this is not their problem. Not the police, as they are overstretched and believe OASAS to be the root cause of the problem. This game of hot potato being played with our safety is extremely disturbing to say the least. We urge Governor Cuomo to address this issue.

Update on 160 W 124 Street Facility CARES Program for At-risk Youth

We are highly disappointed to hear that Mount Sinai insists on moving CARES from its Morningside Heights location at 1111 Amsterdam Avenue to 160 W 124th Street. CARES — Comprehensive Adolescent Rehabilitation and Education Services is Mount Sinai/St. Luke’s program for high school students ages 13 through 21 with mental health and/or substance abuse issues.  

CARES program current location

To be clear, Mount Sinai is moving at-risk youth to one of Manhattan’s most blatant open-air illegal drug marketplaces and half a block from one of NYC’s largest methadone treatment clinics. How is this a good idea???

Would Mount Sinai board members send their children to school in this location?  It is hard to see any pedagogical motive for this move.  Rather the relocation  appears to be soley for the benefit of the hospital’s profit maximization.

We will Not Stop Here

Many of you participated in the very active chat with more than 200 questions and comments for Mount Sinai.  A copy of this chat will be sent to the Mount Sinai participants to give them the opportunity to respond.

If you have any follow-up questions, feel free to reach out to Brad Beckstrom the public relations person who led the Mount Sinai presentation and let us know what response you get (or don’t) so we can encourage follow-up and accountability: brad.beckstrom@mssm.edu. For questions related to the CARES program, contact the program director: shilpa.taufique@mountsinai.org 

To see some sample of the > 200 questions and comments in the chat:

New Facility on 158 West 124 Street

  • Why was this location chosen?
  • Do you have a community advisory board/committee?
  • I am curious to hear how this facility was initially approved. Was it a city decision? What is Mt Sinai’s strategy for expansion in the community, and has it already been approved? Thank you.
  • What is the security plans for outside the building and surrounding areas?
  • Can you please speak to the ways in which you plan to make the facility culturally acceptable to this key community, while maintaining your security personnel on site
  • What assurance is there that medication assisted treatment (MAT) patients will not eventually be supported at this location?
  • What percentage of your patients are from areas outside of Harlem?
  • Can you tell us the breakdown as far as what percentage of patients will be HIV vs behavioral health care?
  • You say there will be no drug treatment, service for other concerns; the background history of these participants is DRUG USE; thereby some form of drug treatment will be carried out.

CARES program:

  • Are you not concerned that you are bringing vulnerable people who may have addiction issues into an already over-saturated drug clinic area, with so much illegal drug dealing?
  • St. Lukes/Columbia Univ area seems to get a different level of attention than Central Harlem

Existing Facilities on 132 W 125 Street and 103 E 125 Street

Quality of life

  • Do any of you panelists live on a street with three drug treatment centers?
  • If you are such a good neighbor, why are you over saturating our community when you could locate these substance clinics in upper east side?
  • The residents here are sick and tired of the dope addicts and drug dealers your enterprises have brought to our neighborhood. 123rd 124th streets on MXB.  We had to create a block association because of the influence of your dope clinics. I personally want you out of here but I am willing to listen….every single day they shooting a heroin on my block!! this doesn’t help my community
  • Dope addicts and drug dealers have overrun our neighborhood. I have been calling the police, taking pictures, putting my family’s lives in danger, walking through throngs of dope addicts for over two years mostly, but this has been going on for over a decade.

Security

  • I agree that [under the new plan,] you seem to have great security in your facilities, but the you’re causing serious problems for the rest of the neighborhood since your jurisdiction is only your property line.
  • Sounds like you have great security in your facilities, but the you’re causing serious problems for us. Because your facilities attract all these folks that become an easy target for drug dealers and since they cannot linger around your facility they end up in front of our cafe and wreck havoc. I spend all day every single day trying to move high out of their minds people, spitting, pissing, and throwing garbage all over the place. What do you say or do about that?
  • What will be the ratio of security staff to patients and how will the clinic prevent the clients from congregating in large groups on the block
  • How many blocks around your facility will your security firm cover? If you cannot cover more than your perimeter, then you must reduce methadone capacity in Harlem

Update on the New 158 W 124th St Mt Sinai Facility

Happy Dr. King Day! GHC is pleased to report that Mt Sinai will not include a methadone clinic in the new 158 W 124th Street facility. It is a SIGNIFICANT WIN for us. However, #Harlem remains oversaturated and we won’t stop fighting for Harlem!

Happy Dr King Day!

Last Thursday, Jan 14th 2021, the Coalition and our allies, more than 200 of us, turned out on Zoom to listen to Mount Sinai obfuscate and filibuster especially, around the issue of their patients loitering after receiving treatment. In spite of Mount Sinai’s less than forthright engagement with the community,

it’s important to note that that we learned of one significant win: they changed their minds about putting addiction services in their new 158 W 124th Street building. 

While this does not square with their insistence that CARES (a program for high school students with behavioral health and substance abuse issues) will also be located in this new facility, we are celebrating Mount Sinai’s reversal after two and a half years of protesting and organizing.  Although, this is not the complete abandonment we want, it is a victory to be celebrated nonetheless!

Read a more detailed recap of the discussion in the Town Hall here and a recording of the meeting here.

We will not stop here.

Next, we will take our momentum on to the Manhattan District Attorney Candidate Forum (DA Forum) on Thursday, February 4th , 7 PM.

Join our next event, the Manhattan DA Forum on February 4th

The theme of the forum is Harlem’s Fair Share. Click on the flyer above to register and get more info.

We will end this with a quote from MLK:

NY Govt Wants to Hear Your Views on Pending Merger of Dept of Addiction Services and Dept of Mental Health

@NYOASAS and @NYSOHM are on a listening tour. Pls send your views to @NYGovCuomo! This is the chance to help build a more effective @NYOASAS and stop the issue of oversaturation
#greaterharlem #redliningharlem
#inequity
#oversaturation

There is an imminent plan at NY State to merge OASAS (Department of Addiction Services and Supports) and DOMH (Department of Mental Health). To this end, the departments are accepting public statements to understand best ways forward.

Let’s take advantage of this unique opportunity to help the government create a more effective Addiction Services for New York State. Submit a statement here

Or, you can just write to @NYSOASAS and @NYGovCuomo on twitter.

Tell them OASAS must do a better job in (1) preventing a neighborhood from being oversaturated with drug treatment facilities and (2) monitoring the impact of drug treatment centers on the nearby areas.

See more detail of the announcements below:

Governor Cuomo’s announcement of merger of DOMH and OASAS. Click on the image to learn more

Your statements don’t have to be lengthy or exhaustive.  A simple, heartfelt request from you is sufficient.  As we always say, they can’t read our minds.  We need to tell them what Harlem wants them to do.

GHC member’s letter to drug treatment centers demanding safety

one of our members wrote a letter detailing safety and quality of life issues observed on the streets of Harlem associated with drug treatment clinics and asked CEOs of Harlem United, Mount Sinai, START, and Odyssey House for a concrete plan to mitigate these issues

As many others have done, one of our members wrote a letter to CEOs of Harlem United, Mount Sinai, START, and Odyssey House for a concrete plan to mitigate safety and quality of life issues observed on the streets of Harlem surrounding these drug treatment clinics.

This letter called out specific areas of concerns including Marcus Garvey Park and areas on 125th Street crossed with Lexington Avenue, Park Avenue, and Lenox Avenue.

The last paragraph of the letter particularly resonates with our shared sentiment:

Image extract of 2020 letter
Extract of the letter that asked for a plan from CEO of drug treatment clinics

How can you help? tell Governor Andrew Cuomo and State Senator Brian Benjamin on Twitter to stop oversaturating Harlem with socially undesirable harm reduction services.

Download the entire letter here:

Pain Medication: Cause/Effect

With the recent NY Times article on the depths of corruption at Perdue Pharma and their willingness to promote painkiller addiction for profit, I thought it would be interesting to show our visualization of the ‘legal’ drugs proscribed in Manhattan (the data does not break down any finer than this).

You can see that OxyCodone was the second most commonly administered drug, after methadone.

Cause. Effect.

Uptowner: GHC’s case against Mount Sinai Expansion in Harlem

November 2019, the Uptowner quoted multiple GHC members critical of Mount Sinai’s plan to expand in Harlem on West 124 Street.

Community Leaders, Residents Say Proposed Clinic Overloads Harlem

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Advocates and residents have grown frustrated with Mount Sinai’s plan to open an outpatient clinic in 2021, bringing approximately 2,400 clients with histories of addiction and mental illness to West 124th Street. Neighborhood groups and tenants have taken to the streets in protest.

“It’s not that Mount Sinai is trying to do horrible things,” says Shawn Hill, co-founder of The Greater Harlem Coalition, created last year to combat the clinic. “We just cannot bring any more vulnerable people into our neighborhood that are susceptible to the illegal drug trade.”

Continue reading the post here

The City vs. Upstate

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While the opioid crisis is often discussed as an urban phenomenon, over the last decade, upstate New York has been far more adversely impacted than New York City.