Thursday evening, Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer, Assembly Member Al Taylor, State Senator Brian Benjamin, and other officials joined Harlem community members and elected officials at an emergency rally.
The rally was against the planned conversion of a protected residential brownstone at 730 St. Nicholas Avenue, in the Hamilton Heights / Sugar Hill Historic District, for use as a drug treatment facility.
Community members announced Thursday’s rally after learning that Argus Community, Inc., was beginning work Wednesday on physical renovations to the historic property, to convert it for use as an outpatient methadone clinic. The work was apparently slated to begin despite the fact that neither the city government nor the relevant state agency had yet given approval for the site’s use as such a facility.
“Converting a brownstone on a residential block in a protected historic district into yet another drug treatment facility isn’t fair to this neighborhood, which already hosts more than a fair share of such sites,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “These facilities should be sited after an open, honest conversation about where the need really is. That conversation didn’t happen here, Argus wasn’t up-front about its intentions for this property, and that’s why we’re fighting back.”’
“The opioid crisis has had a tremendous impact on our community and in communities around the nation,” said U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat. “As we work collectively to address this growing national crisis, it remains critical that the community has a say and voice in our efforts to find immediate and long-term solutions on how best to support individuals and families along their journey through treatment and on the road to recovery.”
“Our community has more than our fair share of these kinds of facilities. We believe people need help, and we are happy they want to provide it, but why is it that when these sort of things happen uptown there’s a lack of communication and respect that you do not see in other neighborhoods?” said State Senator Brian Benjamin. “The community has spoken, and I am asking that our city and state health officials listen and not recommend that this project go forward.”
“As both a representative of this community and Chair of the Council’s Health Committee, I strongly support methadone clinics including in this community and elsewhere in the City,” said Council Member Mark Levine. “As such, I have recommended a far more suitable location at the Upper Manhattan Mental Health Center on 145th and Amsterdam, which would be much better fit for the community than the current proposed site on a historically landmarked residential block.”
“While Manhattan Community Board No. 9 acknowledges that resources are needed within Community District 9 to combat the insurgent heroin and opioid addiction, we are adamant about finding the appropriate location and provider who will ensure safety and appropriate accessibility for their clients and the surrounding community,” said Community Board 9 Chair Padmore John. “MCB9 is dedicated to keeping the community fully informed regarding all aspects surrounding the construction and maintenance of this facility.”
The neighborhood is already saturated with transitional housing and drug treatment facilities, with multiple sites (including one operated by Argus itself) located within just a few blocks of 730 St. Nicholas Avenue. Residents and elected officials oppose the conversion of this historic brownstone on a residential block as inappropriate and unnecessary.
Argus originally had told Community Board 9 that the property would be put to a different use, and its current plan to open a methadone clinic is opposed by the community board, the West 147th Street Block Association, and the neighborhood’s city, state, and federal elected representatives.