Solstice Soul Train

FOX 5 NY

By Jennifer Williams

People in Harlem threw on their dancing boots or pulled out their drums as they hopped on board the Solstice Soul Train to spread holiday cheer. This was the second year of the event.

"We we're so excited to bring Make Music New York uptown. Make Music New York celebrates music all over the city on the winter and summer solstice," Carey King, the executive director of Uptown Grand Central, told Fox 5. "We have soul, we have funk, we have a brass band, we have a jazz band, a Latin band, a choir — we have everything to represent all the diversities here in Harlem."

Community leaders were also on hand as the largest tree ever brought to East Harlem was crowned with a star. The ornament was also symbolic of Uptown Grand Central's new initiative "Dubbed in Light" in which 300 to 400 school children, seniors and those with disabilities made their own glow-in-the-dark stars to hang up around the 125th Metro-North stop in East Harlem.

The event  took place on Dec. 21 along 125th Street and ended underneath the Metro-North train tracks.

If you missed out on the Solstice Soul Train, the stars will be on display until Jan. 4 along Metro North and in local businesses.

East Harlem Opioid Overdose Deaths Double Since 2015

The Uptowner

By Katherine Long

During East Harlem’s annual Party on Park festival Sunday, children giggled and screamed inside a bouncy castle, the Department of Transportation passed out free bike helmets and health care workers trained almost 130 people to use the anti-overdose drug Narcan.

“You’re going to do the sternal rub to check whether they’re responsive,” Michelle Gadot, of the Center for Comprehensive Health Practice, told the festivalgoers gathered around her tent, rubbing her knuckles against her chest to demonstrate.

Construction worker Chris Gonzalez, 30, toyed with his blue polypropylene Narcan kit containing two doses of naloxone, rubber gloves, alcohol wipes and an instruction booklet. He was determined to learn how to prevent overdoses, he said.

“When you grow up in this generation, in this environment, you know people who go through things like that,” Gonzalez said. “My mom, my dad, everybody. I got to make sure I know how to save you.”

Nowhere in Manhattan has the opioid crisis hit harder than in East Harlem, where the death rate from overdoses has nearly doubled since 2015, Department of Health data shows. The neighborhood ranks third in the city for opioid-related deaths per 100,000 residents, and 36 East Harlem residents died of opioid overdose last year.

The opioid overdose death rate among East Harlem residents is 50 percent higher than the citywide average. Citywide, the rate of drug overdose deaths has increased for seven consecutive years as the national opioid epidemic continues to rage.

Even as deaths increase, one thing about opioid use in East Harlem hasn’t changed since the 1960s, when musician Lou Reed made 125th Street and Lexington Avenue synonymous with heroin. That corner remains the epicenter of a five-block radius of drug use and sales, officers from the 25th Precinct said at a recent community meeting.

“This is not at all new for East Harlem,” said Gadot. “When I give talks about the opioid epidemic in East Harlem, residents always ask me, ‘Why is this taking precedence in the news now?’”

East Harlem treatment providers are noticing large increases in the number of patients seeking help. Maricella Gilbert, director of the substance abuse treatment facility Greenhope Services for Women, said the number of clients with opioid addiction has increased by around 20 percent over the past five years, with many more attending methadone programs.

The perception in East Harlem is that the current opioid epidemic has only generated national headlines because its primary victims are white, said Carey King, director of the local business association Uptown Grand Central, which sponsored Party on Park.

“Opioids have been in Harlem for a very long time,” she said. “A lot of people are annoyed or really upset that this community has been affected by drugs for so long, but now that it’s the white suburban kids who have the issue, it’s getting all sorts of attention.”

The face of addiction in East Harlem is also changing. In the past, clinics say, they treated more black patients. Now, more of their clients are young whites.

“Almost without fail, they tell me there was an incident in their life – a car accident or something else where they were prescribed opioid pain pills and that’s why they’re sitting in my office,” said Rachel Heyman, director of the Center for Comprehensive Health Practice’s methadone clinic.

Citywide, whites have the highest rate of opioid overdose deaths, but only among black New Yorkers is the rate of heroin overdose deaths increasing, according to the health department.

Answering the question of why East Harlem has been particularly hard-hit means examining the neighborhood’s past. As East Harlem’s urban landscape changed, so have patterns of drug use and sales, said Myles Matthews, an aide to former Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) in the 1970s and 1980s. Back then, he recalled, he begged developers to purchase vacant buildings for rock-bottom prices to keep out drug users.

“It was abandoned! The junkies were stealing all the copper wire and the plumbing and everything,” he said. “You don’t know how many drug dens we had on 110th Street, 125th Street, Lenox Avenue. From river to river, it was drug addiction.”

With redevelopment came treatment centers. East Harlem has been a hub for opioid treatment services since the ’70s and early ‘80s. But with the facilities came loitering and neighborhood blight, even as patients received life-saving treatment.

“The methadone clinic literally destroyed the east side of 125th,” said former community board chair David Givens. “When I was chair, we asked several times for the clinics to be evicted.”

Many in the neighborhood argue that the concentration of substance abuse services in East Harlem exacerbates the crisis they’re meant to treat. For years, locals have argued against placing more opioid-related services in East Harlem. Last week, the Mt. Morris Community Improvement Association unanimously opposed a Mount Sinai proposal to locate another treatment clinic near Marcus Garvey Park. And in Central Harlem, Manhattan Community Board 10 declared a moratorium on new substance abuse services as far back as 2008.

“Opioids are an American problem, and white people are susceptible, too,” said Shawn Hill, who works with the block association. “And yet we don’t situate facilities to support those people in middle-class neighborhoods. Opioid treatment facilities aren’t on Wall Street. They’re in East Harlem.”

As grim as the drug scene of the ‘70s was, Matthews and others said drug use in the area is no better, despite East Harlem’s growing cachet among real estate developers.

Cecile Charlier, who has lived across the street from Marcus Garvey Park for 20 years, said that her block has turned into an “open-air drug market. people sitting on the sidewalk across the street from me, and openly selling drugs.” Her 14-year-old granddaughter circumvents the park on the way home from school.

Charlier has written to the police three times about drug sales, but from her living room window, she still sees people exchanging cash for glassine bags of powder.

In Manhattan, arrest rates for drug possession have fallen by nearly half in the past 10 years, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office said. And some of those arrested for drug possession in Northern Manhattan may never see the inside of a jail: A new pilot program gives them the opportunity to seek treatment instead of going to court. Anti-overdose trainings and free Narcan kits are also part of the campaign to end overdose deaths.

At Party on Park, shadows lengthened in the afternoon sun as organizers packed up tents, flags and balloons. But a crowd remained at Gadot’s tent for nearly an hour after the festival officially ended, waiting to receive Narcan kits.

Kareem Rahim, 75 and Arkil Shakur Killbrew, 69, were among the latecomers. They met while serving time together at Auburn Correctional Facility. Killbrew, a volunteer culinary instructor at the Henry J. Carter Specialty Hospital, said he wanted to get trained to help East Harlem.

“I might see somebody, anybody, overdose,” he said. “I’m a part of my community.”

Concerns in East Harlem over next phase of Second Ave. Subway

NY1

By Ruschell Boone

Many in East Harlem are ready for the convenience of having a Second Avenue Subway line ... RanDe Rogers owns a restaurant,and he was one of the many residents who took their concerns to a public meeting on the Second Avenue Subway expansion plan.Phase 2 of the plan will add new stations at 106th and 116th streets on Second Avenue, and connect to the Lexington Avenue line at 125th Street ...

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority held a meeting in East Harlem Tuesday night to answer questions about the next phase of the Second Avenue Subway.

Phase Two would extend the line from 96th Street up to 125th Street.

Preliminary engineering on the project is already underway, along with an environmental review.

At the meeting, the MTA acknowledged that the expansion won't come cheap or easy.

People who live and work in the area say they're concerned about the effect construction could have on the community.

"We have a lot of minorities and a lot of mom-and-pop stores and it's concerning to me that they are going to be displaced," said one meeting attendee.

"We lived a very close to where phase one was and we saw how the businesses were inconvenienced and really the hardship that a lot of the residents had because of the digging so hopefully there was a learning curve in phase 1 so they can avoid a lot of those pitfalls in phase two," said another attendee.

The first section of the Second Avenue Subway opened on January 1, 2017 after nearly 10 years of construction.

It's not clear when work on Phase Two will begin.

Proposed East Harlem Sanitation Depot Stirs Question of Fairness

Proposed East Harlem Sanitation Depot Stirs Question of Fairness

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

By Melanie Grayce West

A city plan to place a sanitation depot in a corner of East Harlem has local residents crying foul over what is the fair share of city services to shoulder and how much the city should spend on their facilities.

At issue is a crumbling New York City Department of Sanitation garage on East 99th Street that needs to be moved. The city says it has studied multiple sites in East Harlem and settled on a location nearly 30 blocks north on a midblock parcel at East 127th Street and Third Avenue.

On that site—now a car dealership and a parking lot—the city would build an open-air sanitation depot that would funnel garbage trucks onto streets adjacent to a popular park, schools, churches, a new high-tech cancer treatment center and the future location of a mixed-use development that will include the Harlem African Burial Ground Memorial.

“People feel like we’re being dumped on,” said Hallia Baker, secretary for the Harlem Neighborhood Block Association, one of several groups that oppose both the location of the planned sanitation depot and its design. “They feel like there is environmental racism.”

Battle Over Where to Put Sanitation Garages Reaches East Harlem

Battle Over Where to Put Sanitation Garages Reaches East Harlem

NY1

By Michael Scotto

NY1 VIDEO: A new front has erupted in the long-running battle over where to place city sanitation garages. This time the fight is in East Harlem, where residents say their community is becoming a dumping ground for unwanted city facilities. NY1's Michael Scotto reports.

City Using East Harlem as 'Dumping Ground' for Sanitation Site, Locals Say

City Using East Harlem as 'Dumping Ground' for Sanitation Site, Locals Say

DNAinfo

By Dart Clark

EAST HARLEM -- Locals blasted a city proposal to relocate a crumbling sanitation garage to the heart of Harlem, saying the city is using the neighborhood as a “dumping ground” for the unpopular plan.

On Tuesday, Community Board 11 once again reviewed a proposal from the city’s Department of Sanitation to relocate the current sanitation garage at East 99th Street and First Avenue to East 127th Street and Third Avenue.

The community board was nearly unanimous in voting against the relocation plan, after previously calling it a "piece of garbage proposal."  

Residents and community board members said the community would be overburdened with trash, as the proposed site sits a few blocks from another sanitation facility on 131st Street and Park Avenue that houses dump trucks from Central Harlem.  

“I just feel like our community has been the dumping ground for deleterious city projects,” said resident and business owner RanDe Rogers

East Harlem Quality-of-Life Problems Cripple Businesses

East Harlem Quality-of-Life Problems Cripple Businesses

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

By Melanie Grace West

The change in season isn’t just bringing warmer weather to East Harlem it is exacerbating persistent quality-of-life problems that alarm residents and decimate businesses.

Just ask Folasade Sade Tyler, who has run a small business for about a year selling skin-care products and cosmetics at the intersection of Lexington Avenue and 125th Street, a block from the Harlem Metro North station and steps from upscale new and planned commercial and residential developments.

Men, she said, who live in a shelter on nearby Randall’s Island regularly ride the M35 bus and congregate outside her glass storefront, smoking, fighting and sometimes exposing themselves to passersby.

“It’s the most dangerous block I’ve ever been on, especially for a business,” said Ms. Tyler, who has operated stores in different parts of Harlem, where she has lived for nearly 25 years. “There’s no one that seems to care what’s going on.”

NYC residents blast de Blasio plan to move sanitation garage

NYC residents blast de Blasio plan to move sanitation garage

THE DAILY NEWS

By Erin Durkin

East Harlem residents are blasting a de Blasio administration plan to move a sanitation garage used to store dump trucks to 127th St. and Third Ave.

They complain that the site is just a few blocks away from an existing garage on 131st St. and near two schools. Sanitation plans to move from a garage on 99th St.

“The new garage would expose thousands of nearby students, park visitors, and other community members to truck fumes and loud noise. This would exacerbate air quality problems that have already made children in East Harlem more susceptible to asthma than others across the city,” the New Harlem East Merchants Association wrote in a letter to Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia.

E. Harlem Restaurant Week Tackles 'Tough Task' of Lifting Area's Dining Rep

E. Harlem Restaurant Week Tackles 'Tough Task' of Lifting Area's Dining Rep

DNAinfo

By Gustavo Solis

EAST HARLEM — It's not easy to promote fine dining in a neighborhood better known for synthetic marijuana abuse, but small businesses on the east side of 125th Street are trying to change that with their first ever Uptown Restaurant Week.

“It’s a tough task ahead of us, but I always say we can build a mountain with one rock at a time,” said Gregory Barrett of the Uptown Wine Pantry.

The $8 food and drink specials may help.
 

East Harlem Group Wants Albany to Prioritize Anti-Methadone Clinic Bill

East Harlem Group Wants Albany to Prioritize Anti-Methadone Clinic Bill

DNAinfo

By Gustavo Solis

EAST HARLEM — As the legislative session kicks off in Albany, a group of El Barrio business owners want lawmakers to prioritize a bill limiting methadone clinics in the neighborhood.

The bill — A 0307 — would limit any new clinic from opening within 500 feet of a school, park, or church. It has been sitting in theMental Health Committee since 2012 and the New Harlem East Merchants Association thinks it’s time to move the bill along.