Meeting with Congress Member Adriano Espaillat

Last week members of The Greater Harlem Coalition met with our Congress Member Adriano Espaillat in Chaiwali to discuss how we could work together to address the oversaturation of methadone clinics in Harlem and East Harlem.

The Congress Member had to pass a Mount Sinai ambulance tending to a man who appeared to be unconscious on the steps of a nearby stoop, and a number of drug dealers in order to reach the restaurant from his vehicle which dropped him off north of 125th Street. Congress Member Espaillat understands that our community is oversaturated with 6 large methadone programs in a compact area. He argued that we should focus on removing one, in order to have an impact and to be able to assess desaturation.

At the end of our hour long meeting, Congress Member Espaillat said that he would reach out to OASAS Commissioner Sanchez, and discuss what could be done to remove one of the 6 clinics.

As a follow-up, we sent the Congress Member this list of the 6 clinics which attract drug dealers to our community.

We await word on his progress regarding this approach.

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.

GHC member’s letter to OASAS and DOMH on their merger

@keith4taylor, candidate for NYC Councilmember for District 9, posted letter to @NYOASAS and @NYSOMH to ask to reduce density of drug treatment centers in Halrem.

As we posted on 27 Dec, there is a 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.

One of the candidate running for NYC Council of District 9, Keith Taylor @Taylor4Harlem, has submitted this public statement, which echo our sentiment that the newly merged department must urgently reverse its practice of oversaturating neighborhoods of color with drug treatment facilities.

My name is Dr. Keith Taylor, and I am currently running to be elected as the next New York City Councilmember of District 9, which covers parts of East, West and most of Central Harlem. As Harlem’s City Council representative, I will fight for the reduction of substance use program capacities and other facilities related to addiction, mental health, and homelessness within East and Central Harlem. While government and private treatment providers have a responsibility to provide vulnerable New Yorkers with effective, small-scale, addiction rehabilitation, mental health, and homelessness services, they should be located in all New York neighborhoods to serve the local populations in need. Large-scale substance abuse programs operating in East and Central Harlem have long been detrimental to the safety and quality of life of Harlem residents.  Specifically, the daily presence of illegal drug dealers on our streets is driven by the concentrated number of vulnerable patients who attend the disproportionately large outpatient substance use programs in East and Central Harlem. 
As a long-term resident and community activist, I am committed to the safety, health, and well-being of all Harlem residents, small business owners, guests, and visitors.  Because of this, as a Central Harlem’s City Council representative I will fight for an immediate moratorium on new or expanded chemical dependency treatment programs in our community, a 20% reduction in OASAS-certified opioid treatment capacities, and for a fair share of harm reduction facilities to be located in each district where there is a need.  Every New York neighborhood must take on its fair share of these programs and Harlem needs relief from the disproportionate burden that it has struggled under.
The practice of oversaturating East and Central Harlem with ineffectively monitored drug treatment programs that cater largely to non-Harlem residents is a form of medical redlining, and one I will fight to end. I will fight so that Harlem is no longer routinely chosen for addiction program locations out of proportion to our community’s population, drug-related death rates, or addiction rates. The practice of substance abuse oversaturation undermines the economic vitality and public safety of East and Central Harlem. 
Best Regards,
Dr. Keith Taylor

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.

The Power of Wealth to Resist Fair Share

While the Greater Harlem Coalition’s focus is not housing, this pair of paragraphs highlighted a parallel issue (affordable housing):

Rezone More Affluent Neighborhoods

One of the biggest criticisms of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s affordable housing plan has been its focus on asking lower-income neighborhoods to shoulder the load of new construction in the city, which, critics say, has led to the displacement of longtime residents.

“The system we have allows mainly rich, white neighborhoods to opt out of things, and to say ‘we don’t want that,’ but forces Black, brown and immigrant neighborhoods to take these things on,” said Barika Williams, the executive director of the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, a coalition of housing organizations.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/10/realestate/housing-plan-new-york-mayor.html

Patch: Results so far of Mayor’s Recent Visit to 125th Street

Thanks to concerns you have passionately made to our Mayor, elected officials have taken some actions to mitigate the unacceptable quality of life issues on 125th street and its vicinity.

(Update since this post below. Patch reported on Dec 29 that East Harlem 125th Street conditions have improved, but work remains)

Harlem neighbors,

Thanks to concerns you have passionately made to our Mayor, elected officials have taken some actions to mitigate the unacceptable quality of life issues on 125th Street and vicinity.

At the Community Board 11 meeting 3 days ago, NYC Council Member Diana Ayala’s aide updated us on the outcome of the Mayor’s 125th Street visit, as reported by Patch on Nov 10 this year.

  1. 125th street will be power washed everyday unless temperature drops below freezing point;
  2. Increased density of police officers plus homeless services agents patrolling the 125th Street area. Subsequently, a few minor arrests were made related to sale of drugs such as K2;
  3. Requested lighting on the sidewalks to improve safety and discourage loitering around the former Pathmark site under construction on 125th between Third Ave. and Lexington;
  4. NYC Council member Diana Ayala created a working group to meet with relevant agencies to tackle this problem on an on-going basis. This group first met on Dec 15. OASAS (Office of Addiction Support and Services) graced us with an appearance at the meeting at the requests by Senator Brian Benjamin and Assembly member Robert Rodriguez. Sadly, OASAS’ mere presence was considered a victory of sort due to its years of refusal to engage with Harlem officials and the GHC.

In the same meeting, Community Board 11 Vice Chair Xavier Santiago announced that at the next full board meeting on Jan. 26, CB11 intends to review and approve a resolution to formally request government agencies to reduce the number of harm reduction services in East Harlem. Please be sure to join us on Jan 26 at 8pm by registering here.

Your voices have made a significant impact in drawing officials’ attention and led to some tactical actions. Keep up the “good noise” to bring attention to the entrenched issue in Harlem and to call for a sustainable long term plan.

How can you make your noise heard?

  • Forward this post to your network
  • Like GHC on Facebook and twitter to get updates from us
  • Attend community board meetings
  • Become a community board member by submitting an application before Feb 1st here

Read some of the letters GHC and our members have sent to elected officials:

Manhattan Times: Oversaturation in Harlem

Barbara Askins, 125th St. BID

November 2019, Manhattan Times interviewed Barbara Askins, Greater Harlem Coalition member and President and CEO of the 125th Street BID (125th Street Business Improvement District), and Nilsa Orama, Chair of Community Board 11 (East Harlem), who both complained about the dense concentration of harm reduction facilities in a confined area on 125th Street and argued that community boards should have more say in where drug treatment centers get placed.

“Shawn Hill, Co-founder of the Greater Harlem Coalition (GHC), argued that 75 percent of patients in Harlem’s opioid programs are not Harlem residents. The advocacy group … seeks to have a moratorium on additional or expanded addiction and substance abuse programs or facilities in Harlem.

See the full article here.

GHC Letter to NYS Attorney General – No Response

Read the letter a Greater Harlem Coalition member wrote to the New York State Attorney General, Letitia James, who has still not replied.

You can tweet her at: @NewYorkStateAG and email her at: https://ag.ny.gov/contact-attorney-general-letitia-james