Drug Treatment Center Eyeing 79th Street Location

By Lindsay Armstrong on May 20, 2014 8:39am 

 Safe Harbor, which maintains a residential facility in the Hamptons, wants to open a center on the UES.
Safe Harbor, which maintains a residential facility in the Hamptons, wants to open a center on the UES.
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DNAinfo/Lindsay Armstrong

UPPER EAST SIDE — A high-end Hamptons-based addiction treatment center looking to open in the neighborhood because many of its patients hail from the area was ripped by locals fearful that it would bring methadone-seeking clients to the facility.

Safe Harbor Retreat — a group that currently maintains a residential drug treatment facility in East Hampton that costs $50,000 for a 30-day stay — went before Community Board 8’s Health and Social Services Committee last week to discuss the possibility of opening an outpatient treatment center at 435 E. 79th St.

The Hamptons location serves many patients who have homes on the Upper East Side and who have asked for a local center to serve their post-rehab needs, officials from the center said.

But residents slammed the proposal at the meeting last Thursday, noting the building's history as the site of a grisly murder and worrying it would provide methadone to patients,

At the meeting, locals referenced a 2008 murder that occured at the 13-story building in which a man fatally stabbed his therapist in her ground-floor office, where the facility is looking to open.

Several residents also expressed concerns that the center would distribute methadone, an opioid used to treat heroin addiction, to some patients.   

However, David Evans, a legislative and regulatory consultant who represented Safe Harbor Retreat at the meeting, flatly denied this.

“We don’t do opiate replacement treatment,” he said. “We’re not licensed for that and we just don’t do it.”

Harriet Rasch, who has lived across the street from the building for 21 years, was one of about 40 residents who attended the meeting in opposition to the plan.

“They said there will be 37 patients, but I think that if it's successful, that could easily double or triple,” Rasch noted. “What they said and what they will do will probably be two different things.”

Fliers from the East 79th Street Neighborhood Association also appeared in the area, urging people to attend last week's meeting.

“The East 79th Street Neighborhood Association opposes a drug addiction or any other large outpatient facility to be located in a residential building far from mass transit with a great many citywide patients daily commuting back and forth,” the flier read.

Safe Harbor Retreat has received initial approval from the state to open an Upper East Side center based on the fact that there is a need in the area, Evans explained. However, it must file a more detailed application and receive a second approval before it can actually open.

He added that the facility is exploring other potential addresses as it works through the state approval process.

However, Safe Harbor will remain focused on the Upper East Side, Evans said.

“We’re setting this up because people have asked us to,” he said. “They want after-care from their experience in our residential program, and the Upper East Side is where most of them live.”

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