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Methadone Clinic Drops Bid to Move Downtown Following Local Opposition

By Julie Shapiro | December 9, 2011 9:45am | Updated on December 9, 2011 10:53am

FINANCIAL DISTRICT — A proposed methadone clinic has dropped its plan to move to the Financial District after facing strong opposition from the community, its owner said Friday.

"It's in everyone's best interests if we look elsewhere," said Ronald J. Vlasaty, chief operating officer of Gramercy Park Services, the clinic's owner.

The community opposition — including a petition with hundreds of signatures and a unanimous vote against the project at Community Board 1's Financial District Committee Wednesday night — was not the only reason Gramercy Park Services scrapped the plan, but "that certainly had a lot to do with it," Vlasaty said.

"The community is entitled to their concern, and we listened to them," Vlasaty said. "We tried to explain the services we would offer. That's all we could do — present our information to them."

Ro Sheffe, chairman of CB1's Financial District Committee, was glad to hear of Vlasaty's decision.

"It's just not the right place, not the right time, for something like this, in what is now a residential community," Sheffe said.

The proposed clinic at 90 Maiden Lane had already received preliminary approval from the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, but after listening to community feedback, the state asked Gramercy Park Services not to move forward, a spokeswoman said.

"We heard the concerns expressed by the community regarding the proposed move by Gramercy Park to 90 Maiden Lane," the agency said in a statement, first reported by the Tribeca Trib

"We have requested that Gramercy Park withdraw their application for this move, and Gramercy has agreed to comply with OASAS’s request."

Vlasaty, however, said he made the decision to scrap the move independently.

"I have not heard that," Vlasaty said of the state's withdrawal of support. "This decision came from us." 

Gramercy Park Services has operated a methadone clinic at 253 Third Ave. for more than 40 years but has to move because the building is not handicap-accessible.

The clinic has had trouble finding a new location because its landlords are reluctant to sign leases and residents often express concerns about a rise in drug-related crime.

Raymond Sanchez, the manager of the Third Avenue facility, said he was frustrated that the clinic is having so much trouble finding a new home.

"Nobody wants it in their neighborhood," Sanchez said. "They know the need is there, but [they say], 'I don't want it in my neighborhood.'"