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Gramercy Methadone Clinic Shut Out of New East Side Locations

By Amy Zimmer | January 25, 2011 6:13pm | Updated on January 26, 2011 6:17am
Gramercy Park Services is searching for a new location.
Gramercy Park Services is searching for a new location.
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DNAinfo/Della Hasselle

By Amy Zimmer

DNAinfo News Editor

KIPS BAY — For the woman addicted to painkillers after breast enlargement surgery or the psychiatric patient abusing prescription drugs, Gramercy Park Services has been a place for outpatient detox for 40 years, said the facility's manager Raymond Sanchez.

But the methadone clinic on Third Avenue and 21st Street also treats heroin users, which is why several landlords during its search for a new location have broken off negotiations, Sanchez told residents at a Community Board 6 meeting Monday night.

The clinic wants to expand its services to include prescribing medication — a service it cannot currently provide for its detox clients. The state will only give the go-ahead to the clinic to do that if its facility complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Gramercy Park Services cannot renovate its current 3,000-square-foot space, the second floor of a walk-up at 253 Third Ave., to meet accessibility requirements, Sanchez said.

The clinic found a spot near Tudor City on Second Avenue near 42nd Street (which also houses the Consulate General of Israel), but after neighbors presumably approached the building, "The landlord said he didn't want problems," Sanchez said.

The same thing happened after paperwork was started for a space at a space on First Avenue near 19th Street, Sanchez told residents.

"We've had a couple of other locations say the same thing. 'You're bringing people who have heroin problems,'" Sanchez said. Trying to appeal for his clinic's need, he said, "We're all affected by addiction. It could be your family member. It could be your neighbor.

Even though the Tudor City location was nixed, a man who lives there spoke out against the clinic at the community board meeting, saying, "Tudor City is a unique area. We have the United Nations, the Israeli Consulate, an international pre-school.

"It's a big area for tourists," he continued. "I and a lot of people are concerned about what kind of people will be around. The location is a problem as far as Tudor City is concerned."

One community board member responded by asking if he knew there were other such clinics in the area. "This would by no means be the first," she noted.

Sanchez told the board that he'd never had a problem with the community and patients at his clinic.

"We've never had a problem, knock on wood. No violence, no one ever hurt within our area," Sanchez said.

The community board has not taken a position on the clinic's move.

Anicka Kolarik, from City Councilman Dan Garodnick's office, said a group of East Side elected officials sent a letter to the state's Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, which oversees the Gramercy clinic, asking for all the players to "sit down together" and discuss helping the clinic find "an appropriate location in the community."

The letter states: "While we appreciate the need for the important medical services the clinic provides, many community members continue to have questions and concerns that deserve attention and consideration."

The officials also asked for the clinic "to establish and communicate concrete criteria for determining the location of their new facility."

Sanchez told DNAinfo he wished residents were more concerned about the illnesses of the people they treat at the clinic.

"We get people off the drugs that [residents] are worried about, whether they're doctor-prescribed or bought off the streets," said Sanchez. "We treat them. We deal with people who want to get back to work and get their life back."