What to Know
Neighbors in Harlem are upset about a planned methadone clinic being opened inside a $4.3 million building
Argus Community Incorporated is planning to open the drug treatment center at 147th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue
Residents are planning to hold a community rally Thursday night
When a home at 147th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue in Harlem sold for $4.3 million last August, no one knew it would be become a methadone clinic. Now neighbors are protesting.
"The normal thing to do is notify someone," said Rodney Gray, who owns the building next door. "But they never so much as even sent a letter to let me know what was going on here."
Argus Community Incorporated only recently told neighbors at a recent community board meeting that the building would be used for drug treatment, counseling, relapse prevention, assisted treatment and random toxicology, according to neighbors.
Residents say they know what that means: they're terrified their quiet, residential block will soon face the same issues that other areas of Harlem, like 125th Street and Park Avenue, faced when meth clinics moved there. Litter, loitering and overall safety are just a few of their concerns.
"You know what's going to happen if you have a methadone clinic," said Carolyn Brown. "Everyone knows."
"I think everyone should be concerned," said Lula Urquhart.
But Richard Weiss, president of Argus, disputed the characterization that the plan for the facility was rushed through in secrecy. He told News 4 Thursday that they visited Rep. Adriano Espaillat at the end of 2016 and told him about their plans, and he did not oppose it. When they went to the community board, they felt welcomed and were even asked about conducting Narcan training.
In the subsequent four to five visits to community board meetings after purchasing the building, Argus has been made to feel welcome at all of them, Weiss said. No one from the block association approached Argus until recently, and the the community board never indicated there was resistance from the block association.
Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer said in a statement to News 4, "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."
"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," she said.
Weiss, however, reiterated that Argus has gone to two recent meetings with the block association after learning of its existence, and things got very heated. He said it's "absolutely false" that they didn't try to reach out to the block association and residents; Argus assumed the community board and its president, John Padmore, was passing along the information to residents the entire time.
"I did nothing undercover," he said. "I went over and above what was required of me. I thought that's what good neighbors do."
Gray and his neighbors plan to hold a community rally Thursday night at 5:30 at 730 St. Nicholas Avenue to protest and let the city and elected officials know they are unhappy with the proposal. They say they understand the city needs drug treatment facilities, but they just don't think they should be in residential areas like theirs.
"People from different areas who we aren't familiar with or even recognize, to be here at different hours of the day while they wait to get services is kind of scary and uncomfortable," said Osiris Stephen.