Neighbors push back against plans for west side methadone clinic

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)A plan to establish a new methadone clinic on Virginia Street, on the city’s west side, is drawing neighbors’ anger and frustration because they say, it’s been kept a secret from them.

“I was not notified of this. I live 500 feet away. It’s a completely bad idea,” said neighbor John Shepard.

On Wednesday evening, at the insistence of neighbors, block club members and local business owners, representatives of Hispanics United of Buffalo held a community meeting to talk about its plan to establish the methadone clinic in its building at 254 Virginia.

Reporters were not allowed inside, but neighbors shared details of the meeting after it ended. They said they learned the clinic would serve approximately 200 patients each week.

“There has been zero community outreach or community engagement until tonight. Tonight is the very first public meeting that has been held,” said Jonathan White, president of the Allentown Association.

“They started out on the wrong foot, and they put a sour pill in everybody’s mouth on this situation,” said Fillmore District Councilman David Franczyk.

Franczyk is asking the city’s law department to investigate.

“I, as a Council member, am going to file a resolution about this asking a lot of questions,” Franczyk said. “Were the proper public hearings held? What jurisdiction, if any, does the city have over this process? No notice was given to the city, of any kind.”

Franczyk and neighbors say, a location in a commercialized area, such as in one of the existing health care buildings on Niagara Street just four blocks away, would be more appropriate.

They argue that a residential neighborhood is no place for a clinic serving that volume of patients, all of whom are trying to overcome powerful drug addictions.

“They sometimes have mental issues, they sometimes have awareness issues,” said White. “And our experience has been that they are disruptive; they can be loud; they can be threatening to children. We had an incident just last year, where we had individuals who were saying very, very disturbing things to women who were walking by a clinic. And so our concern is, in a residential neighborhood those elements would be magnified.”

“This neighborhood used to be like the wild west. With heroin dealers, the 10th Street Gang. And finally, the neighborhood’s stabilized. Property values are going up. And the neighborhood is peaceful and quiet,” Shepard said.

“Homeowners are fighting, they kicked out the drug dealers. They’re fighting the slumlords and kicking them out. Property value is appreciating. It’s a wonderful neighborhood to live in. And all of a sudden, you drop this bomb. Why would you do that?” asked Franczyk. “It’s getting better every day, so don’t just knock everything down with one fell swoop, with something that causes a lot of concern and fear and trepidation.”

Franczyk says HUB’s executive director agreed to hold off on opening the clinic. In the meantime, he plans to pursue the investigation, on the city’s end.

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