Plan to Turn $4.3 Harlem Building Into Drug Treatment Facility Is Thwarted

What to Know

  • Neighbors in Harlem are cheering the city and state's rejection of a drug treatment facility that was set to open in a $4 million townhouse
  • Argus Community Incorporated had planned to open the methadone clinic at 147th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue
  • After city and state officials denied the center a license, neighbors cheered the decision

After weeks of heated protest, a Harlem community has convinced the city and the state to block a drug treatment clinic from opening in a multi-million dollar brownstone.

Argus Community Incorporated bought the building at 147th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue for $4.3 million last August, but neighbors said no one knew it would be become a methadone clinic. Then Argus told residents at a community board meeting in May that the building would be used for drug treatment, counseling, relapse prevention, assisted treatment and random toxicology.

"People were really angry because they realized the whole neighborhood would change, and this strip is such a beautiful, iconic area of Harlem," said Carolyn Brown of the Sugar Hill Concerned Neighbors Group. "Who would want to live next to a methadone clinic?" 

Residents demanded public meetings that became heated and emotional. When officials announced Friday the methadone clinic would not be granted a license to open at the Harlem site, people cheered.

"I am relieved," said Arthur Spears, who owns a home just a few doors away. "It's oversaturated, and they shouldn't do it in residential areas." 

Nearby grocery store owner John Estevez agreed, saying his biggest concern is "going from a neighborhood backwards." 

Amid the celebration there are still remaining questions of what will become of the building, and where the planned drug treatment facility will go.

Resident Heather Haase said of the protesters, "What they're worried about is there's going to be people who use drugs in this neighborhood. They need to wake up -- there are people who use drugs already in this neighborhood, and they are not getting the treatment they need." 

But state senator Brian Benjamin said, "We believe Harlem has more than its fair share of these facilities, and they should be spread around the city in a fair and equitable manner." 

Richard Weiss, president of Argus, has previously said that he was transparent with the community about their plans for the building all along, and was even made to feel welcome by the community board. 

"I did nothing undercover," he said. "I went over and above what was required of me. I thought that's what good neighbors do." 

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