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.
“It is vital for you and your conference to recognize that a disproportionately high density of methadone clinics in East Harlem has held us back from achieving the same kind of positive growth seen in many other neighborhoods,” the organization said in a letter addressed to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.
There are nine methadone clinics in Harlem and East Harlem — which account for more than a third of all clinics in Manhattan. Six of the clinics are within 500 feet of a church or school, according to the group.
Last summer, the Harlem Neighborhood Block Association and Congressional candidate Clyde Williams urged politicians to pass the same bill.
“Our community has called of passage of this legislation to sensibly regulate methadone clinics, but Albany has not listened,” said Holley Drakeford, of NEHMA. “We continue to bear an unfair burden that more affluent neighborhoods would never have to worry about. That must change now.”
Heastie’s spokesman did not respond to questions about the letter or his stance for the legislation.
East Harlem representative Robert Rodriguez, who is a member of the Mental Health Committee, said the legislation is a priority.
“We are going to try to push it out,” he said. “We’re expecting a significant amount of opposition from the State and the City because it limits what they can do.”
Rodriguez is open to working with state officials to find a way to pass the bill, with the goal of establishing some sort of rational planning policy around siting that alleviates oversaturation, he added.
He and Staten Island Assemblyman Matthew Titone, who introduced the bill, are currently looking for a politician to sponsor the bill in the State Senate.