Community Board 11 – Moratorium on Additional Addiction Programs in East Harlem

Community Board 11 will discuss a proposed moratorium on new or expanded substance use programs in East Harlem at their February 16th full board meeting. Check the CB11 calendar page:

http://www.cb11m.org/pmcalendar/

for the February 16th meeting. Click on Full Board and scroll down to Register to Attend (note that as of writing this post, this option is not yet available, so please check back).

We are hoping you’ll be able to keep the chat lively with questions and testimony on how you, your family, your business, or your children have been affected by the oversaturation of substance use programs in East Harlem and the resulting illegal drug dealing marketplace that surrounds them.

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:

(Jan 14) Greater Harlem Coalition 2021 Townhall

Speaker will include our three founders: Syderia Asberry-Chresfield, Carolyn Brown, Shawn Hill. Guest speaker is Mount Sinai

14 Jan 2021 ( 7-830 pm)

Register to join the meeting here

Help us Help Harlem

Greater Harlem Coalition has accomplished a lot in 2020. But much remains to be done. Would you volunteer to fight for better quality of life in Harlem?

All backgrounds are welcome. We are especially seeking help from those with experience in law, social media, community coordination, and web development.

  • Legal advisor: Help with our strategy to challenge government agency’s approval of drug treatment capacities and adult homeless shelters located in Harlem
  • Election year strategist: Help with communications with public officials and election candidates. Help write related posts on social media and extract relevant info from media. Help develop strategies to influence the race for Manhattan DA, City Council, Senate in Harlem, NYC Mayor…etc.
  • Event coordinator: Help coordinate upcoming events and zoom meetings, e.g. district attorney forum, Harlem walk through with election candidates…,etc.
  • Harlem advocate: Work directly with our members, which are businesses, community organizations, and block associations, to increase their engagement. Help identify and escalate quality of life issues. Also, recruit new member organizations and raise funds when possible.  Liaisons will be assigned a region in Harlem, so pick a district you are passionate about
  • Social media outreach manager: Recruit new members on social media and develop social media strategy in general. Help create graphics for social media and help with fund raising
  • Website manager: Help with content management. Help improve the navigation and look and feel of the website. Programming or css experience not necessary but can be helpful. Help create graphics for social media

Look back of 2020:

Mayor visit with Council member Ayala
Letters of complaints from GHC and others prompted Mayor to examine the quality of life issues on 125th street

(read more)

Interview of our founders by CBS News

(read more)

Proximity of drug treatment facilities to schools in Harlem

(read more)

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.

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: