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)

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

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.

Manhattan DA Candidates Forum: Harlem’s Fair Share

GHC held Manhattan DA Candidates Forum with focus on Harlem’s Fair Share of harm reduction services

Mark your calendars!

On Thursday, February 4th, from 7:00 to 9:00 PM, all 9 candidates for the position of Manhattan DA will appear in The Greater Harlem Coalition’s first Manhattan DA Candidates Forum: Harlem’s Fair Share.

Our moderators will be WPIX 11‘s Magee Hickey and The National Action Network’s Michael A. Hardy, Esq.

Details on how to join the virtual forum and ask questions of the candidates is forthcoming here, at GreaterHarlem.nyc

A Letter to The Mayor from a Greater Harlem Coalition Member

To: The Honorable Mayor DeBlasio

Good afternoon Mr. Mayor, I hope this email finds you and your family all safe and healthy. This is the fourth email I am sending you over the last couple of months. I want to begin this correspondence by saying thank you for all the hard work that you and your staff are doing to help guide our New York City citizens through these harrowing times. I am very sad to hear about the one year old baby being murdered in Bed Sty over the last several days. The uptick in gun violence this year may be an anomaly compared to recent years due to multiple factors, but please understand that us New Yorkers are in need of the protection of good police officers to protect us. I hope that there is not a policy in place that is stopping the police from fighting to get illegal guns off our streets.

As before, the matter I am writing about concerns the rampant, open market heroin sales and use that has infected specifically my block on Malcolm X Boulevard between 123rd and 124th Streets. When I first visited the 28th precinct about 12 months or so ago to alert the police and ask for help, I was noticing only a few strangers walking up and down the block or standing outside in front of my house in the middle of the sidewalk selling bags of heroin to customers while families were walking their kids in strollers up and down the street.  There was no action taken by the police to address this problem for over a year.  My neighbors and I have been seeking help from the narcotics north division as well as from other city officials, but the problem has only gotten worse and worse.  Since the Covid 19 shut down, the heroin problem on this block has spiked exponentially. Now, each and every day, there are up to 20 different drug dealers who have set up our sidewalk as an open air market to sell and use heroin in public. There are addicts and homeless people who are trespassing on my property as well as on the property of my neighbors to buy and use heroin all day long and into the night.  The same drug dealers are working this block like a corporation, beginning work at 9:00 AM until. I came outside this morning to do errands and the first thing I encountered was a man leaning against my front gate, sniffing heroin in front of pedestrians passing by.  This is a disgusting and disgraceful condition that the residents who live here have been abandoned to live  with daily with no help from the police or from the Department of Health or from any other city agencies who are responsible for addressing this matter.  I don’t know who else to ask for help from at this point except from you personally.

They are not hiding but conducting business blatantly with no regard for the people who live here. Not one of these people who loiter daily on this block to sell and use heroin or any other drugs in public lives on this block.  Instead, they come here daily, drink malt liquor in public, throw trash and food waste onto the street, disturb the peace, loiter and ask everyone including myself if they want to buy some dope. What has happened to this block is disgraceful, depressing and very dangerous for the people who live here.  There is nothing on this block except for a corner store, a restaurant, several brownstones, a school and a closed-down church.  These dope dealers have been allowed by law enforcement for months to sell heroin directly in front of the church as well as the school, on camera with no consequence. The only reason our sidewalk is infested with loiterers and drug addicts is because local law enforcement has condoned the use of our block as a safe haven for heroin dealers to conduct open-air business with no consequences.  There was nothing done about this before the pandemic so I question whether this complacency on the part of the police has anything to do with anything else that came after the pandemic including Black Lives Matter protests, anti-protests, the recent spike in homicides, etc.

I understand that our police are under a lot of stress now dealing with gun violence but I am also concerned that our police are conducting some kind of passive strike upon our community in retaliation for community calls for police reform.  I don’t know the current policy of law enforcement when it comes to handling open market heroin sales but I do know that what is going on is definitely illegal.

I know that we are just one block in all the five boroughs, that there are so many other pressings issues on your plate and that we are not “special.” On behalf of my mother, my neighbors and myself, I am nonetheless humbly begging you to please, please, please direct the officers of the 28th precinct and of the narcotics north detective squad to arrest and remove this organization of heroin dealers from off of our block post-haste. We have spoken to and asked for help from city council officials, prosecutors, police officers, etc. with no results. The detectives have pictures of the same people who are destroying the public safety of our block but have yet to do anything about it.  I am hoping that you will assign a mobile police unit to our block for at least a few months until winter in order to stem the increasing tide of outdoor drug activity. We are only two blocks from the precinct but I never see officers walking a beat to remove this problem.  I am honestly afraid that one of the residents on this block will soon become a victim of homicide if nothing is done to control the plague of criminals that has besieged our block.  Please Mr. Mayor, please, I am begging you personally for your help. Thank you in advance.

With all due respect,                                                                                                                            

Mr. Ray Roberts

Malcolm X Boulevard United (MXB)

CBS News: Oversaturation of Harlem has attracted illegal drug sellers

CBS News story on how the Oversaturation of drug clinics in Harlem attracts scores of illegal drug sellers

Last night the co-founder of The Greater Harlem Coalition, the President of MMPCIA, and other concerned residents from our community were featured on CBS News. The article explored how the oversaturation of substance abuse programs in Harlem and East Harlem has attracted scores of illegal drug sellers who prey on the men and women seeking addiction help.

Drug deal W. 124th St between Lenox and ACP

The CBS reporter was shown photographs, and video evidence of how the OASAS licensed programs fail to monitor or supervise their clients before or after treatment, and turn a blind eye to the drug selling and using that is occurring steps from their programs.

Residents complained about how Mayor De Blasio and Governor Cuomo have tolerated the decline in public safety in our community and failed to address it – in sharp contrast to the Mayoral response to complaints from the Upper West Side.

The powerful coverage features a number of our visualizations from the data that prove our claims.

When asked to respond to the issue of oversaturation and our deteriorating quality of life, the Mayor’s Office gave a non-response and avoided addressing the question:

Click here to see the full segment:

Patch: Mayor De Blasio Visits 125th Street

Sunday’s visit by Mayor Bill de Blasio came amid complaints about drug use and filthy sidewalks along East 125th Street during the pandemic.

On Sunday, Mayor Bill DeBlasio visited 125th Street with Council Member Diana Ayala amid complaints about drug use and filthy sidewalks along East 125th Street during the pandemic.

Mayor spoke to Councilwomen Diana Ayala

According to Uptown Grand Central, the mayor brought along:

a powerhouse team made up of the commissioners of @NYCHealthy, @NYCSanitation, @NYCDHS, @NYCHRA and @NYCParks. And to Councilmember @DianaAyalaNYC for leading the charge:

To read more about media reports, click here