Thursday, May 24, 2007

Help save 159th Street!

If there is one street in all of Upper Manhattan which is symbolic of the struggle of local residents to improve their neighborhood it is West 159th. Families on the block between Broadway and Amsterdam have waged a decades-long fight against drugs, crime, substandard housing, and poor schools. A home-grown non-profit, the Community League of W.159th St. (now known as the Community League of the Heights) has helped lead the way. Though residents have seen their share of setbacks over the years, there's no mistaking the steady improvements they have won over time.

But that precarious balance may soon be upset. A social service agency from the Upper West Side, Veritas, Inc., has acquired a property on 159th Street with plans to build an in-patient/out-patient drug addiction treatment center on the site.

Patients and staff at the facility are projected to exceed 200, and the steady stream of substance abuse clients entering and leaving the Veritas facility would transform West 159th Street. Local activists have been vocal about fears for the well-being of children on a block which is currently home to two day care programs and an after-school program, with an elementary school just around the corner.

West 159th Street and the surrounding blocks remain a major open-air market for narcotics, and representatives from the 33rd Police Precinct express concern that the presence of the Veritas facility would complicate their local fight against drugs. Then there's the welfare of the patients themselves--since placing someone struggling with addiction in an area where drugs are available on every corner seems about as wise as taking a diabetic to a candy factory.

Veritas is by all accounts a well-run, well-regarded organization. And there is no doubt that our community's fight against the scourge of drugs must include treatment for addiction as a key strategy. But Veritas serves clients from all over the five boroughs and beyond. It's this influx of hundreds of patients and staff which would undoubtedly transform the character of a fragile street.

Developable land is the rarest of commodities in Upper Manhattan. Does the Veritas plan meet the most pressing needs of the community? No need ranks higher for us than affordable housing--and in fact just such an alternative project has been proposed for the site by none other than the Community League of the Heights.

Veritas’s main funder and regulator is the state Office of Alcoholism & Substance Abuse Services (OASAS). Write to let them know where you stand on this project: Karen Carpenter-Palumbo, Commissioner, NYS OASAS, 1450 Western Ave., Albany, NY 12203. We need to demand that a better location be found for the Veritas project. Now is not the time to jeopardize decades of hard work on 159th Street.


Blogger Sekou Campbell said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is an excellent blog! I am so happy to find it. Please keep posting intelligent articles.

5:29 PM  
Blogger Angelo Ortiz said...

I must preface my comment by saying that i work at a facility where there is an outpatient chemical dependency clinic...

I don't think the neighborhood around 159th (incidentally where I grew up) needs a facility of this type. What's needed are more human services that increase human capital and combat the cycle of poverty (education programs, youth service programs, etc).

4:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does she have an email address to send things to?

10:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does she have an email address to send things to?

10:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I realize this blog is a bit old, but I have just bought an apartment on this block and I am definitely concerned hearing that they have proposed to build a drug rehab clinic on this block. any update on if this is going to happen?

4:05 PM  

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