A series of news coverage of GHC after the safe injection site was installed in Dec 2021

Despite our years of complaints about the excessive number of drug treatment programs and harm reduction programs in Harlem, the government doubled down and added the Nation’s first safe injection site in Harlem on 126th Street without community inputs. We participated in a protest for Fair Share (see more about the protest in this page and our video) and below are some of the ensuing news coverage related to the topic:

1. WNYC interviewed GHC members during the protest:

https://www.wnyc.org/story/harlem-residents-push-back-against-opioid-clinics-after-data-shows-most-are-used-non-residents/

2. PBS News Hour coverage of site injection site and the issue of oversaturation

3. Gothamist in-depth coverage of the over-saturation conditions in Harlem

https://gothamist.com/news/harlem-residents-protest-against-opioid-clinics-after-data-shows-most-are-used-non-residents

4. Black News Channel’s interview of our founder

5. CBS Interviewed our founder

https://newyork.cbslocal.com/2021/12/11/protest-against-supervised-injection-centers-in-east-harlem/?amp

6. NY Post’s report on the rally. Sadly, the Post distorted our intent in the title. We protested to ask for Fair Share. The protest does not target the safe injection site.

https://nypost.com/2021/12/11/hundreharlem-residents-rally-against-new-legal-shooting-gallery-in-neighborhoodds-rally-against-drug-programs-in-harlem/

7. Urban Omnibus issued a detailed research article about the conditions in Harlem

https://urbanomnibus.net/2021/12/unjust-treatment/?printpage=true

8. Patch reports first safe injection site in East Harlem and interviewed our Founder

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/supervised-injection-site-opens-in-harlem-in-historic-move/ar-AARj3w7

9. Audacy.com reports Al Sharpton’s concerns of oversaturation of Harlem

https://www.audacy.com/1010wins/news/local/rev-al-sharptons-group-to-protest-de-blasios-safe-injection-sites-we-cannot-be-complacent

10. New York Times’ first reporting of the safe injection site quoting our members:

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/30/nyregion/supervised-injection-sites-nyc.html

11. Washington Post’s coverage quoting our members:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2021/11/30/drugs-supervised-consumption/

Documentary of conditions in Harlem

A film crew commissioned by CGTN channel interviewed GHC and MMPCIA to understand the conditions in Harlem

Greater Harlem Coalition’s response to Mayor de Blasio’s announcement establishing supervised consumption sites in East Harlem and Washington Heights

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 1, 2021

Contact: Syderia Asberry-Chresfield, 917-674-3313, syderia@aol.com

It is not for Greater Harlem Coalition (GHC) to comment on which form of harm reduction programs in Harlem best help patients with substance dependency recovery, be it methadone clinics, needle exchanges, or supervised consumption sites.

What is outrageous to GHC is that the government is doubling down on its inequitable history of over-concentrating drug treatment and harm reduction programs in Harlem despite years of community objections. The decades-long practice of placing socially burdensome municipal services in this black and brown neighborhood has led to nearly 20% of the city’s drug treatment facilities being located in East and Central Harlem, a small district with only 3.5% of NYC’s population. 

This concentration has drawn drug dealers to the district, creating a range of quality-of-life issues. Adding a supervised injection site in Harlem, and not other districts, will only exacerbate the problem. Harlem residents, our children and our minority-owned small businesses will again bear the costs that come with excessive concentration of these programs.  At the core, disproportionately packing Harlem with these programs constitutes a violation of our children and families’ civil rights to a healthful living environment. Before considering opening a supervised consumption site as a solution of the quality of life issues in Harlem, the city and the state must first reduce the excessive concentration of harm reduction programs in Harlem and add high quality drug treatment programs in other parts of New York that have been defunded by the previous New York Governor.

To be clear, GHC supports small scale, effective harm reduction programs located throughout all New York City neighborhoods. However, we strongly object to continually packing these facilities into Harlem when addiction transcends race, class, and geography. 

In New York City, there are numerous other districts with similar or higher overdose rates, but have fewer such programs. There are several districts with only slightly lower overdose rates, but have no drug treatment programs at all. Data obtained through FOIL has shown that although Manhattan has about 20% of the city’s population, 40% of the city’s drug treatment capacity certified by OASAS (Office of Addiction Services and Support) is located in Manhattan, and half of that is in East and Central Harlem. To see the underlying data, refer to the letter sent to OASAS here.

One can only explain this continuous pattern of unfair distribution of municipal facilities as a perpetuation of the systems of oppression that many local, state and national politicians purport to be fighting.  

Lastly, the siting of the Nation’s first formal supervised consumpiton site without public consultation with Harlem’s residents is an in-your-face demonstration of how the political establishment in New York City continues to ignore the opinions of communities of color for the benefit of wealthier and often whiter neighborhoods. (see letter from community board 11)

The Greater Harlem Coalition, representing 120+ local Harlem organizations, requests that the mayor and the governor reduce the capacity of drug treatment programs in Harlem in a way that is consistent with the fair share principle as drafted by the city council in 2017. The redistribution would greatly help improve the quality of life issues in Harlem and improve accessibility of healthcare for all patients in New York City.

We call on our elected officials to join us in asking the mayor and the governor to take immediate actions.

###

The Greater Harlem Coalition is comprised of the following tenant groups, block associations,  faith-based organizations, schools, small businesses, cultural institutions, and not-for-profits in Harlem & East Harlem. Visit us at greaterharlem.nyc and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

BLOCK ASSOCIATIONS 

100 Block Association of West 118th Street 100-168 West 121st Street Resident Block  Association 
118 Street Block Association 
120th Street Block Association 
124 East 117th Street Tenants Association  
128th Street Block Association 
1775 Houses Tenants Association 97-98 Lexington & Park Ave. Neighbors A. Philip Randolph Square Neighborhood Alliance 
A.K. Houses Tenants Association 
Dorrence Brooks Property Owners & Residents Association 
LenoxFive 127th Street Block Association 
Mirada Home Owners Association
Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association 
Neighbors United of West 132nd Street  Block Association 
New 123rd Street Block Association (Lenox  - 7th) 
Sugar Hill Concerned Neighbors Group 
West 119th Block Association 
West 121st Street Block Association 
West Graham Court Residents Council 
Hamilton Terrace Block Association 
Harlem Neighborhood Block Association 
Lenox to 5th 124th Street Block Association
126th Street Block Association West 130th Street Homeowners Association West 132nd Street Block Association West 135th Street Block Association West 136th Street Block Association
The Melrose Committee for Change 
Harlem East Block Association 
Madison Avenue HDFC 
181 East 119th Street Tenants Association 
Central Park North Block Association

SMALL BUSINESSES 
 
314 - Pizza, Pasta & Wine Bar 
Chaiwali 
Chocolat Restaurant & Bar 
Columbus Distributors 
Compass Realty 
DR3J Consultants 
Edward Jones 
Elaine Perry Associates 
Eye Cycle 
Freeland Liqour 
Gastiaburo + Stella Real Estate 
Ginjan Cafe 
Hakimian Organization 
Halstead Manhattan 
Harlem Lofts 
Harlem Properties Inc. 
Harlem Shake 
Harlem Wine Gallery 
HarlemHome 
HarlemHoopz 
Il Cafe Latte 1 
Il Cafe Latte 2 
Indian Summer Harlem 
Jacqueline Allmond Cuisine INC Le Petit Parisien 
Lido 
Malcolm Pharmacy 
Paris Blues Jazz Club 
R. Kenyatta Punter and Associates Rubys Vintage 
SottoCasa Pizzeria 
T.H.E. Works 
Upholstery Lab 
Uptown Townhouse 
Valeries Signature Salon 
Wynn Optics 
USA Deli & Grocery 
MoHo Dance 
Harlem American 
Virgo Hardware 
Clay 
Asberry and Associates, LLC 
D and D Enterprise 
CentralCasting Solutions LLC 
Pativity, LLC 
Covington Realty Services 
Super Nice Coffee and Bakery 
Gold Appraisal 
Carthage Advisors 
Experience Harlem 
L.A. Sweets NY 
Nouvelle Home Improvements 
Space Management Design 
H M Art And Home Decor 
The Monkey Cup 
  
NOT FOR PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS 
Ask Ascend Virtual Assistance 
Advocates 4 The Community 
ATAPE Group, LLC 
CIVITAS 
Ephesus SDA Church 
Friendly Hands Ministry 
Friends of the Harriett Tubman Monument Future Giants Organization 
Greater Calvary Baptist Church 
Harlem Arts Foundation 
Harlem Business Alliance 
Harlem Lacrosse 
Harlem Park to Park 
MXB United 
New York Council for Housing Development  Fund Companies, Inc. 
Open Hands Legal Services 
Progressives Educating New Yorkers, Inc. Sayers and Doers 
Silicon Harlem 
Union Settlement House 
United New Church of Christ 
Uptown Democratic Club 
StreetSquash 
Silent Procession Nyc4pr 
AAPI for Change 
Harlem Link Charter School 

WCBS Opioid Injection Site Coverage

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A New York City proposal to curb drug-related deaths would allow drug use at select overdose prevention sites.

One of the main areas of interest is Harlem, but neighbors believe encouraging injections will only make the problem worse.

Syderia Asberry-Chresfield has lived in her Harlem brownstone for more than 30 years. These days, she is considering leaving for good, as drugs inundate her neighborhood.

“We have 22 schools within a two block radius of these methadone clinics,” Asberry-Chresfield said. “This is normalizing behavior for our children. There’s nothing normal about this.”

Co-founder of the Greater Harlem Coalition, Asberry-Chresfield is on a mission to reduce the number of treatment facilities in the area. She says the programs are bringing users, and their dealers, from other areas.

But according to Dr. Chinazo Cunningham, New York City’s Executive Deputy Commissioner of Mental Hygiene, more services are the answer, in the form of overdose prevention sites, where users can inject their drugs under nurse supervision.

“This is bringing people inside, giving them a safe environment and then linking them to other treatment,” said Cunningham. “Treating people with dignity and respect, reducing their harms and then ultimately linking them to care.”

New York City reports that, in 2020, more people died from overdoses than any other year in history. January to September of last year saw nearly the same death toll as all of 2019.

The areas with the highest overdose rates were Harlem, the South Bronx and Staten Island

“COVID has made many things worse, including overdose deaths… we know that people were isolated and so that if people did overdose, there was nobody around them to give them Naloxone and call 911. We also know that people’s mental health symptoms got worse,” Cunningham said.

But Asberry-Chresfield saw something else happen, too.

“While we were inside,” she said, “everybody else was outside. And they weren’t just outside. They were outside claiming their territory.”

Asberry-Chresfield says increased police patrols have had minimal effect, because laws are not strict enough on drug dealers.

As New York City weighs whether overdose prevention sites would help clean up the streets, decisionmakers are also weighing their legality.

“It’s similar to the way that cannabis remains illegal, right? And in this country, obviously, the states, you know, local authorities have moved forward because of the need,” Cunningham said. “And so we see that sort of similarly in terms of the need has never been greater than it is now. People are dying. We have to do something.”

“I totally get it,” said Asberry-Chresfield. “And a friend of mine just lost her daughter, and I went to the funeral over the weekend and it was terrible. And I totally understand… but it’s just not the answer.”

The city’s still exploring the best option for combatting the overdose crisis and various impacts on communities such as Harlem. The mayor says he wants buy-in from the neighborhoods being considered before any overdose prevention site opens.

Gale Brewer’s Press Conference and GHC

Nck Garber from Patch.com covered the Times Square press conference held by Borough President Gale Brewer to address the distribution of opioid settlement funds by AG James.

GHC was at the press conference, standing with Gale Brewer, and hope that AG James will not simply pack programs in Harlem and East Harlem.

Also in attendance Sunday were leaders of the Greater Harlem Coalition, a neighborhood group pushing to reduce the number of opioid treatment centers in the neighborhood.

Shawn Hill, one of the coalition’s founders, said the group “wholeheartedly” supports Brewer’s proposals. Another leader, Joshua Clennon, told Patch that the group wants the city to expand the use of the addiction drug buprenorphine to lower-income patients and create a redistribution plan for methadone clinics to reduce Harlem’s “over-saturation.”

Below is the Borough President’s letter:

Patch.com Reports on Harlem Oversaturation Pushback

Nick Garber posted: Drug Clinics Face Scrutiny In Harlem As Residents Push Back on Patch.com on March 24, 2021 and examined the “tax revolt” and a new community board resolution aim to stop the placement of drug treatment clinics in Harlem, citing safety concerns.

The influx of clients into Harlem each day has given rise to open drug use, discarded needles and filthy sidewalks, according to neighborhood advocates.

The piece examined Maria Granville’s Tax Revolt project and the work in CB11 to implement a moratorium on new substance use programs in East Harlem.

To read the full article, please see:

https://patch.com/new-york/harlem/drug-clinics-face-scrutiny-harlem-residents-push-back

Harlem Battles an Increasing Rate of Opioid Injections

“I was born and raised in Harlem,” says Maria Granville, “and I have never seen anything this bad.” begins an article by Karina Tsui on medium: https://medium.com/labor-new-york/a-community-battles-with-increasing-rates-of-open-opioid-injections-9cea139c963c

Granville, a board member at Harlem’s Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association, which is dedicated to revitalizing and preserving the neighborhood, is referring to a spike in open drug injections in the neighborhood. “Heroin use was pervasive, but we did not see hypodermic needles on the streets,” she recalls. “We did not see human feces on the streets.”

Earlier this month, the 64-year-old joined over 200 Harlem residents and local business workers to protest what they say is an oversaturation of opioid treatment facilities in the area, which has given rise to open drug use and exchange on the streets. Residents held up signs reading “Harlem Is Not A Dumping Ground!” and “Needle-Free Streets!” as they paraded across 125th Street.

Columbia University Journalists Cover Harlem Protest

“We are fed up,” said Laurent Delly, a Harlem resident and active community member. “Something needs to be done because enough is enough. I can not keep walking down my street and seeing people shooting up left and right.”

Columbia University journalism student Lucy Keller covered community members who protested on October 8th that only 24 percent of patients in Harlem opioid treatment programs are Harlem residents. The other 76 percent of patients travel to Harlem from other parts of the city because many New York City zip codes have no available opioid treatment programs.

“The issue is not that there are clinics,” said Ali Diini, a Democratic candidate running for State Senate District 30 in Harlem. “The issue is that they are clustered here in Harlem.”

The article “Harlem Residents Protest to Demand Action For Safer Streets” can be read in its entirety here:

https://medium.com/columbiajourn/harlem-residents-protest-to-demand-action-for-safer-streets-4c41df6327a3

Coverage of Harlem’s Substance Use Program Oversaturation on NY1

Edric Robinson for NY1 published a piece on Oct. 09, 2021 regarding Harlem’s burden from hosting too many substance use programs in a residential community.

The article entitled: Harlem residents say area is oversaturated with treatment facilities, causing rise in drug use begins with an interview with Maria Granville:

Maria Granville was born and raised in Harlem and said she cannot believe the increase in drug use she sees almost daily right around her block.

“They will sit on our stoops in the middle of the block 123rd, 124th Street, 122nd street and pull out cook and shoot,” Granville said.

Videos and photos provided by people who live in the neighborhood shows exactly that, men and women dealing drugs and openly using needles. Neighbors believe some appear intoxicated. Human waste is also commonly littered on private property. Maria said she remembers scenes like this in the 60’s.

“This is what our children are being exposed to, there are three schools just in this area,” Granville explained.

The issue has many parents in the area concerned for their children’s safety.

To see the video and/or read the transcript:

https://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/public-safety/2021/10/09/harlem-residents-say-their-neighborhood-is-oversaturated-with-treatment-families#

Op-Ed Published on worsening conditions in Harlem

Greater Harlem Coalition has published this Op-Ed on New York Daily News describing the impact of excessive number of methadone clinics in Harlem. Please help forward to your neighbors and elected officials to raise awareness

Although the opioid epidemic led to a 200% increase in overdose deaths in New York State from 2010-17, even before the sharp rise last year during the COVID pandemic, medical strategies to address Substance Use Disorder (SUD) haven’t substantially changed in decades. In New York City, the state Department of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS) relies on approximately 70 Opioid Treatment Programs (OTPs) that primarily dispense methadone.

National Institutes of Health research shows that opioid treatment is most successful when it is available locally, but OASAS data on the distribution and attendance of treatment programs in New York City show a systemic overconcentration of OTPs in majority Black and Brown neighborhoods. Harlem is particularly oversaturated, with eight OTPs in a five-block radius of 125th St. and Park Ave. More than 75% of patients being treated in Harlem live elsewhere and commute into the neighborhood from elsewhere in the city, and even from Long Island and Upstate New York. Since successful treatment negatively correlates with distance from a treatment site, OASAS’s decision to concentrate treatment centers in Harlem is clearly not based on patient welfare.

Profit margins, instead, seems to be the major factor that has led to Harlem becoming the city’s “methadone hub,” primarily through three OTP providers: Mount Sinai (which absorbed Beth Israel’s many OTPs during their merger), Kaleidoscope and START, who benefit from Harlem’s relatively inexpensive real estate. And given the economic and political advantages that accrue from expanding an existing facility, OTP capacity in Harlem has continued to increase over the years, leading social services to refer more patients to Harlem, leading to more increases, and so on, with full approval from OASAS.

This hyper-concentration of drug treatment resources in Harlem unfairly burdens the patients who have to travel up to six days a week to get their medication. It also burdens area residents and businesses. Along much of 125th St., used needles lie in gutters and on the sidewalks; people nod out and use doorways as toilets. Drug dealers operate openly, taking advantage of this concentration of vulnerable patients. Small businesses suffer from a lack of foot traffic and high rates of shoplifting. Restaurants note that customers often report being uncomfortable and do not return. New businesses are reluctant to open in the neighborhood when they see the street drug dealing and use.

And Mount Sinai is now planning to relocate its CARES program, an education program for at-risk kids (with mental and addiction issues), from Morningside Heights into the middle of this methadone hub — another decision that seems unlikely to benefit the clients.

Some believe that this kind of oversaturation is part of Harlem’s identity. In reality, the neighborhood’s history of compassion for people who are working through difficulties is being exploited. OASAS and Mount Sinai’s relentless concentration of treatment facilities in this neighborhood of color is simply medical redlining. Wealthier and frequently whiter communities are rarely asked to shoulder their fair share of vulnerable OTP patients.

It’s past time that this problem be addressed. While the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act currently under consideration at the federal level would increase Medicaid reimbursement for helping those struggling with drug abuse and make alternative forms of treatment more readily available, it is expected to do little to alleviate Harlem’s burden unless more direct actions are taken.

New York State must take responsibility for the oversaturation and adopt measures to address it without further delay.

First, to allow a systematic assessment of whether treatment programs are being fairly situated, OASAS should publish data on addiction and overdose rates, capacities, services, locations of drug treatment centers in each district, and audit reports and verified complaints should be made publicly and easily available.

Then, the state should move OTPs that exceed the demonstrable need of the neighborhood into other, less serviced, neighborhoods in each renewal cycle. When homeless shelters or environmental hazards are unfairly clustered in relatively poor and powerless parts of the city, we call it racism.

Input from community organizations, local government officials and government agents such as police and social workers regarding the impact of OTPs on their neighborhoods should also be made public and included when considering license renewal.

And more weight in OTP placement decisions should be given to New York City officials. The mayor’s office and the City Council, in turn, must commit to redressing this inequity.

If the officials of New York State and New York City are committed to rooting out systemic racism, they must also commit to distributing social services equitably. No community should be asked to do more than its fair share — or allowed to do less — regardless of its economic, political or racial make-up. We should have tremendous compassion for those struggling with drug addiction, and part of that compassion should be ensuring that services designed to help them are close to their homes.

Hill and Asberry-Chresfield are founders of The Greater Harlem Coalition, a grassroots organization focused on improving quality of life.