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Neighborhood Leaders Unveil Plans for Fighting K2

By Eddie Small | August 12, 2015 7:32pm
 The Roberto Clemente Plaza is scheduled to open in September 2016, and the plaza's taskforce is already working to make sure K2 does not become a problem for the area.
The Roberto Clemente Plaza is scheduled to open in September 2016, and the plaza's taskforce is already working to make sure K2 does not become a problem for the area.
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Garrison Architects

THE BRONX — A group of South Bronx leaders and a state senator recently unveiled plans to combat the sale and use of synthetic marijuana called K2 in the borough.

The impetus for community leaders in the South Bronx coming together was a glamorous new plaza set to arrive in The Hub by next September.

The group has zeroed in on K2 as a potential problem for the Roberto Clemente Plaza, a space between 148th and 149th Streets along Third Avenue that will contain flowers, benches and food and may also host events like salsa lessons and film screenings.

Although the plaza is not open in The Hub yet, the Roberto Clemente Plaza Taskforce has already developed an action plan for combating the drug and ensuring that it does not take over what is supposed to be a positive new amenity for the community.

"We want to make sure that any issues that we can identify now, we start to work toward finding solutions to those challenges," said Michael Brady, director of special projects at SoBRO, which will be managing the roughly $15-20 million plaza. "And K2 came up as one."

Brady emphasized that this issue was broader than just the Roberto Clemente Plaza and that the plan is meant to help fight synthetic marijuana throughout the borough.

Rev. Dr. Patricia Sealy, pastor at the Mott Haven Reformed Church and a member of the task force, stressed that the group was mainly interested in fighting the drug because it has been harming neighborhood residents.

"When the plaza comes, that’s one thing," she said, "but the drug is a dangerous drug, and it's impacting the lives in the community. That‘s the primary concern."

K2 is one of many names for synthetic marijuana products, which are also known as black mamba, Yucatan fire and skunk, according to the New York City Health Department.

The drug can lead to hallucinations, paranoia and confusion among its users and has been associated with a range of health problems including kidney failure and heart attacks, according to the Health Department.

The action plan that the task force has put together calls for identifying and boycotting local businesses that sell synthetic marijuana, organizing a town hall meeting about the drug, and reaching out to and providing services for Bronxites in The Hub who are using drugs.

"We can’t scoff at the idea of putting something beautiful here, saying, 'Well, it's just going to cause more problems,'" Brady said. "Well, let's be proactive. Let’s get ahead of the problem so we can start to transform our communities and give our residents something they deserve."

Action against K2 is being planned at the state level as well.

State Sen. Jeff Klein intends to introduce new legislation that would strengthen the penalties for selling synthetic marijuana in the wake of sales of the drug leading to almost 700 emergency room visits at Bronx hospitals in recent months, according to his office.

The law would make selling more than 16 ounces of synthetic marijuana a Class C felony punishable by up to 5.5 years in prison and cause store owners to lose their liquor, tobacco and lottery licenses if they are caught selling the drug three times.

"The Bronx is becoming the K2 capital of New York City," Klein said in a statement. "Synthetic marijuana is dangerous and poses a very real public health threat to New Yorkers, their families and children."