BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — It’s a smell that hits you as you walk down Broadway near Myrtle Avenue — a burning, chemical odor that permeates the busy intersection on the border of Bedford-Stuyvesant and Bushwick, residents say.
The use of synthetic marijuana, or K2, has become so rampant at the intersection that many have taken to calling it the epicenter of the drug's “epidemic.”
Activity is spilling over from the commercial strip onto Bed-Stuy’s nearby residential blocks, according to locals.
“It’s always been a busy area, but this is a persistent, daily occurrence that’s has only appeared within the past year or so,” said Lindsay Foehrenbach, 38, who has lived close to the intersection for 11 years.
“I picked up my kids from day care yesterday and stopped in the community garden, and people are in there enjoying the garden but directly on the other side of the fence, two guys are smoking with absolutely no reservations.”
Locals complain that K2 users have migrated onto neighboring streets like Stuyvesant Avenue, often finding them laid out in front of their homes or smoking outside their windows.
Foehrenbach has called police numerous times, she said, adding that she’s felt the need to call an ambulance at least twice.
“I saw this young man, maybe in his early 20s, walk out into traffic and lean into the side of a tractor-trailer truck making a turn onto Stuyvesant Avenue,” she said.
“I had to pull him out of the street, he was going to get killed. He was completely out of his mind.”
In July 2015, the city’s health department raised concerns about an increase in the number of emergency room admissions as a result of K2, with nearly 1,200 visits.
Since then, there’s been an 85 percent dip in K2-related emergency visits, officials said in May.
Synthetic marijuana contains chemicals made in laboratories sprayed onto dry leaves, according to the New York City Health Department.
The chemicals vary from packet to packet, officials said, and side effects can include extreme anxiety, confusion, paranoia, hallucinations, seizures and vomiting.
Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation in October to ban the sale of K2, giving the city more power to shut down the stores that peddle the product.
It’s often found in bodegas and smoke shops, locals said, and stores caught selling can have their license to sell tobacco revoked or have their shops shut down under the city’s nuisance law.
At a recent community council meeting, Deputy Inspector Scott Henderson of the 81st Precinct, which covers Broadway and Myrtle Avenue, addressed K2 concerns from residents.
Officers are aware of nearby stores that reportedly sell the drug, and executed search warrants at the shops this year, he said.
There is a civil court case pending under the nuisance abatement law to shutter the offending stores, Henderson added.
Officers patrol the area during their tours, he said, and have issued hundreds of summonses in connection with synthetic marijuana.
During a recent traffic stop, men from Georgia who were staying in a Bronx shelter informed him they had come to the area because they'd been informed Myrtle and Broadway was the best place to find K2, the deputy inspector said.
“We are aware of it. It is problematic for us. We do a lot of work there, but as much as we take somebody off the corner, there’s someone else coming right along looking to purchase,” Henderson said.
The intersection has long been a problem, with elected officials and community groups in Bushwick calling for efforts to improve the area's conditions.
Locals have also complained about an increase in panhandling and homelessness at the intersection, as well as individuals urinating and defecating on the streets and sidewalks.
Officers from the 81st Precinct recently worked to clean up the corner where there was a homeless encampment, Henderson said, acknowledging that work is continuing.
Neighbors said they still find packaging for K2 littering the sidewalks, with brands like Green Giant or Black Mamba.
When Trevor Tyrrell leaves his home before 8 a.m., he said he smells the odor, and alleged drug activity occurs all hours of the day, with people “acting erratically.”
“I’ve seen people smoking it, walking through the streets seemingly oblivious to traffic, yelling at passersby, people passed out everywhere. It can make people pretty belligerent,” said Tyrrell, 39.
“Not only is it a quality-of-life issue for the people who are subjected to it, but the people who are using it need to be helped and that’s just not happening either.”
Some business owners on Broadway said users even roll up the drug inside and outside their stores, but that patrols have helped in easing the activity.
But one longtime resident who declined to be named said he’s on the busy commercial strip every day, and K2 use is unceasing.
“I’ve lived here for more than 20 years, and it’s terrible now,” he said. “It’s an epidemic, every borough, every ‘hood. Just look at the people on the corner, they look like zombies.”