Greater Harlem Coalition’s response to Mayor de Blasio’s announcement establishing supervised injection 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 recover, be it methadone clinics, needle exchanges, or supervised injection 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 injection 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 as in reality 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 systemic racism that many local, state and national politicians purport to be fighting.  

Lastly, the siting of the Nation’s first formal supervised injection 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.

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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 

A Letter to AG James (October 2021)

Attorney General James,

We understand that your office will play an important role in deciding how the opioid settlement money should be spent.  As residents of Harlem (124th between Adam Clayton Powell and Lenox), we have experienced an intense degradation in the quality of life in the neighborhood.  The increased draw of vulnerable people to the high-density methadone clinics has created a massive pool of vulnerable people for drug dealers to prey upon.  In addition to the vulnerable population, the dealers attract addicts who are not seeking help, and the problem is exacerbated.  Drug deals are done in the open, drug use is in the open, and the resulting loitering has led to a level of filth from trash, urination, defecation, and rat infestations that we have only ever witnessed in the most desperate parts of 3rd world countries.  Given the over-saturation of methadone clinics in Harlem (19% of the city’s methadone clinics are located in Harlem; 75% of the patients commute in from as far away as Staten Island), we would like to see several things happen with the settlement money.  

First, new smaller facilities should be opened elsewhere in the city to allow patients the support they need closer to home.  Simultaneously, the concentration of methadone clinics should be reduced by at least two thirds in order to more appropriately align with the actual local need.  Moreover, the capacity of individual clinics should be cut way down so that no one location provides a rich pool of targets for drug dealers.

Second, rather than offering methadone, the remaining clinics should offer treatments like naltrexone or buprenorphine that don’t require patients to travel to clinics on a daily basis for treatment.  Taking it a step further, methadone should be offered only as a last resort to avoid building up a concentration of vulnerable people upon whom drug dealers prey.

Third, there should be money invested in a professional support team for and daily cleaning of the 125th St & Lenox corridor.  Lenox between 123rd and 126th is a safety and hygiene hazard.  The local community has essentially been abandoned to deal with a density of mental health and addiction patients who pose a threat at all hours of the day and who leave trash everywhere.

Thank you for your consideration,

Kate and Dustin Rubenstein

Letter to AG James on Use of Opioid Settlement Funds (October 2021)

Dear Attorney General James.

I am writing to add my voice to the many you have heard asking you to use funds from the opioid settlement to address the problem of disproportionate distribution of drug treatment centers that is so negatively affecting the already vulnerable neighborhood of Harlem. 

As you know, over 75% of the people being treated in Harlem commute (6 days a week) from other areas that do not provide access to treatment. This is detrimental to health outcomes for the patients and to the quality of life in our neighborhood. And the problem keeps getting worse, with providers continuing to expand facilities and establish new ones, all in this same area. I have lived here only 10 years, but even in that short time, there has been a significant deterioration in the quality of life.

The funds could be used to redestribute drug treatment facilities more appropriately and constructively. An independent committee that evaluates density of service vs. density of LOCAL need could be established to pinpoint which areas are underserved (Staten Island, for example), and suggest capacities for those. These numbers could then be used to determine whether a provider is granted permission to expand or establish new facilities in any given area, and to move facilities out of places where they are excessive. Financial incentives could be offered to offset the additional cost to providers of moving facilities into new and, likely, more expensive areas, including legal fees to respond to NIMBY lawsuits.

Funds could also be used to help patients afford less burdensome alternatives to methadone.

Finally, as we wait for the density to decrease through these measures, funds could be used to increase sanitation, including more trash cans and more frequent pick-up, and to create a team of mobile social workers and drug counselors, who could walk the areas around the treatment centers to offer follow-up help to patients, as well as to the un-treated addicts who flock here to buy the drugs that are so readily available on the street  —  dealers know where the facilities are and come here to prey on this concentration of the vulnerable population of patients who are trying to get clean.

Thank you for all you do!

Best,

Kate Neuman

https://ag.ny.gov/livestream/attorney-general-james-continues-statewide-healny-tour-deliver-money-cities-and-7

Letter to NY Attorney General James – October 2021

Dear Attorney James,

I would like to start by saying that you are a hero at a time when heroes are so desperately needed.  I support you making citizens responsible for paying their fair share of taxes, even when these powerful individuals try to hide behind organizations.  Thank you for pursuing accountability for what is fair and just.  I really appreciate and admire having the buck stop here.

The reason I am writing you today is that my neighborhood, Harlem, needs your support.  I have been living in Harlem for 16 years and am raising my two children 14 and 11 here.  For the last 5 years or so things have been getting worse.  Stepping around people under scaffolding while they’re ‘waiting for their man’ on our way to the morning school bus.  Being careful of certain corners, deli’s where dealers are hanging out.  Planning paths to and from my house that feel safe.  When I was enlightened a few years ago to the fact that Harlem contains an overabundance of rehabilitation clinics it was like an epiphany.  Suddenly this pressure and fear I was experiencing at almost every corner of my neighborhood had a reason.  I know that these clinics support much more rehabilitation than just Harlem residents.  Approximately 3 out of every 4 people seeking support from these clinics commutes to my neighborhood for these services.  That brings a lot of strangers and a lot of struggling strangers to my community.  Along with individuals seeking treatment, this also brings much more drug dealing commerce to my local community.   Rehabilitation is a difficult business, but Harlem is being set up to fail.  Rehabilitation needs community effort and accountability.  Local people need to support their own neighbors and help lift them up.  That’s what makes a community.  Westchester needs to support their own population of struggling users and so does Park Avenue.  The people who call Park Slope home need to have a place to treat their local population struggling with drugs.  One needs local, community support and LOCAL ACCOUNTABILITY to help rehabilitate local people, your neighbors.  Harlem cannot and should not be expected to support the drugs struggles of this entire city and beyond.

Between Wednesday, October 6th and Thursday, October 14th at least five children were shot within blocks from my house.  Children.  All of them under 18.  I have heard it is probably gang, probably drug related.  I guess that means targeted.  I guess that means I can take a deep breath and hope my children don’t get caught in the crossfire as I walk through this war zone.  These children need opportunities outside of the drug trade.  Please help us help Harlem be the vibrant, colorful, diverse and SAFE community for all of its taxpaying residents.
Please let me know how I can support these efforts.

Sally Brackett

Letter Sent to The Commissioner of OASAS (April 27, 2021)

Testimony to NYC Racial Justice Commission (October 2021)

Testimony to NYC Racial Justice Commission

  1. Unfair displacement of local residents in gentrifying neighborhoods

Overview

Due to the high real estate prices in New York City, residents from neighborhoods of color, such as Harlem, are often exposed to risk of displacement and homelessness. To protect these residents and to help preserve their culture, the government must offer incentives and implement governance that will ensure residents’ access to quality affordable housing in their neighborhood. 

Recommendation

  1. To prevent displacement of residents or homelessness, city charter must mandate a greater proportion of affordable housing must be set aside for local residents of districts at risk of gentrification. For example, buildings in these gentrifying districts can increase the required percentage of affordable units reserved for local residents from 40% to 80% 
  1. Too often “affordable housing” is not really affordable to the local residents. City charter must require that building height associated with zoning and tax incentives associated with Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) ensure adequate supply of deeply affordable housing units for residents with low AMI (Average median income), if there is such a need. To enable this, for example, the city can develop its own AMI scale tailored to specific neighborhoods and their various AMIs.
  1. Overall, the city does not have sufficient deeply affordable housing units and since the majority of the residents who need such housing are residents of color, they are exposed to the risk of homelessness. Every few years, the city charter should require a holistic review if current Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) and zoning regulations are (1) providing sufficient incentives to build adequate housing units in all districts (2) helping to reduce reduce racial segregation of New York City’s population
  1. The majority of residents in NYCHA housing are people of color. The severe deterioration of the living conditions in NYCHA housing over the last decade means children of color are disadvantaged relative to their wealthier counterparts. Too often they are exposed to lead paint, coaches, rats, contaminated water, polluted air, leading to poor health. For example, the rate of asthma of children in NYCHA housing is significantly higher than their counterparts. So NYC charter must mandate a sustainable maintenance plan for NYCHA housing. 
  1. Irreversible over-concentration of social services and supportive housing

Overview

Social justice means fairly distributing social burden as well as social goods, so that no one district is over-burdened with the less desirable elements of maintaining the health of our society, such as garbage trucks, waste treatment plants, homeless shelters, and drug treatment facilities. While all these services are critical, concentration of them in one district would unfairly disadvantage that district’s residents. It is the government’s role, then,  to counter such oversaturation and to address any tendency toward it.

Over the past decades, inadequate government oversight and/or attempts to provide services at a lower cost have led to an excessive concentration of adult-only homeless shelters and drug treatment clinics in East Harlem and Central Harlem. As of 2019, East and Central Harlem host 14% of NYC’s  adult-only homeless shelter population and 18% of its methadone patients. East Harlem is the most impacted; East Harlem has 1.5% of NYC’s population but hosts 14% of NYC’s methadone patients and 10% of NYC’s adult-only homeless shelters. Even if homelessness and drug use were more prevalent in East Harlem than in other neighborhoods, such disproportionate allocation would be multiple times beyond what East Harlem needs, not a mere 20-30% more. East Harlem also has the highest concentration of NYCHA housing in NYC’s 59 districts.

Recommendation

To reverse decades of systemic racism, the NYC government must redistribute these services to other districts by making these requirements in city charter:. 

  1. All placements and, importantly, expansion of individual homeless shelters should go through community board approval, and data should be presented to demonstrate that the specific district’s residents, rather than the whole of New York City, have such a need. Prior to such approval, the government and the district must assess whether similar funds can be used to offer homeless individuals better options, such as rent vouchers. 
  2. Similarly, all placements and, importantly, expansion of individual drug treatment centers should go through community board approval, and data should be presented to demonstrate that the specific district’s residents, rather than the whole of New York City, have such a need. Prior to such approval, the government and the district must also assess whether similar funds over multiple years can be used to pay for better forms of treatment, such as buprenorphine. Related to drug treatment centers, City charter must require:
    1. Siting and expansion of drug treatment centers must also undergo a public Need Assessment Review conducted by experts. This is the practice in other states but not in New York (see Tennessee, South Carolina, Connecticut, Virginia). This assessment would counter private interest’s  tendency to oversaturate neighborhoods of color that offer lower real estate costs.
    2. Providers must implement Neighborhood Engagement Plans to ensure regular and transparent processes and governance in addressing neighborhood residents’ concerns about the facilities’ impact on the neighborhood’s quality of life.  The effectiveness of the provider in addressing neighborhood concerns must factor into the granting of any contract renewal  (see Arizona, Virginia)
  3. Zoning reform is required:
    1. A specific zone should be set aside for out-patient opioid dispensing facilities due to the high risk of diversion of opioid into the neighborhood, which can attract drug dealers. In contrast, liquor stores and night clubs are regulated by such zoning restrictions
    2. Zoning law in NYC focuses on height and form of building and insufficiently on the specific use of land. Holistic city plans with specification of land usage can be leveraged to distribute social services fairly.
  4. At least once in a decade, the city needs to conduct a holistic and transparent review of social services needed by each district and determine whether certain districts have an excessive concentration of one type of social services or a combination of social services. This assessment should use a data driven approach which should include the original residence districts of currently homeless people and incarcerated individuals.
  5. New York City must commit to processes that will not only reverse the existing conditions that are the result of decades of systemic racism, but also offset the great damage that has been done. For example, such districts should receive a disproportionate amount of funding for education, needle pick-up, and sanitation.

Urgent – Please Stop the DOE CARES program from being relocated to Harlem at West 124th Street (October 5, 2021)

Dear Chancellor Porter,

I am reaching out to you as there is a grave injustice about to be done to numerous Harlem children who go to different public and charter schools in the city who live/go to school in Central and South Harlem.  In the past three years, there has been an explosion of drug peddlers, users, people with severe mental health issues roaming the streets near and around 124th and Lenox Ave. This is because this neighborhood is being redlined by our elected officials and numerous providers.  Over 75% of its current patients come from outside Harlem from as far as Staten Island, New Jersey, and Westchester.  Our residential community has been inundated and no amount of pushback has been effective in stopping this expansion. 

Our children in Harlem are being exposed on a daily basis to drug peddlers and addicts and patients from substance use clinics/ needle exchange programs.  I cannot tell you enough about how bad it is and am appealing to you that you come to our neighborhood to see this for yourself and how bad an impact it would have on young developing minds to see this normalized in their daily lives. 

I am attaching a few photos so you will see a sample of how openly drug addicts shoot up just outside the school and across the street in full view of the students at Harlem Village Academy elementary school (74 West 124th Street) without any fear.  

We in our community would like you to come and see it for yourself before you allow this horrible transgression of adding the CARES program that Mount Sinai wants to house on the very same block where there are three such drug clinics.  The over-saturation and the fact that Mount Sinai wants to add 600+ additional patients with mental health issues to this already oversaturated area by mid-2022 to a new facility they are building despite strong opposition from our community is truly alarming.  

I do hope you will choose to be involved and include in that decision steps to stop Mount Sinai and OASAS from relocating their CARES program (an NYC DOE program) into this neighborhood.

Sincerely,


(Pictures taken outside Harlem Village Academies (elementary) at 74 West 124th Street at the time of their school dismissal in full view of students and parents and one opposite their high school at the Marcus Garvey Park entrance in Harlem)

GHC Letter to Congress Member Espaillat Regarding Opioid Settlement Funds

Dear Congress Member Espaillat,

The Greater Harlem Coalition is very concerned about how settlement monies from the opioid lawsuits will be spent in our community.  

In particular, we would like to hear how you envision using the monies that AG James has discussed to reduce the current oversaturation of large drug programs in Harlem and East Harlem that attract the dealers and users who commute into our community every day to sell and buy.

best, 

Shawn Hill

Co-Founder

Greater Harlem Coalition

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:

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