Neighbors at Harlem apartment building say overdoses in hallways putting them at risk

Overdoses in hallways pose a risk to Harlem apartment building neighbors, say residents

In New York, landlords are faced with a difficult situation when they encounter drug-related issues in their buildings. The hallways are plagued with overdoses, drug paraphernalia is scattered all around, and despite numerous complaints, no action has been taken for two years. Under such circumstances, going to court seems to be the only option left for the landlords.

In a single Harlem apartment building, the resolution hasn’t been swift. Investigative reporter Tim McNicholas from CBS New York examined how these delays have further endangered the tenants.

Jason Watson takes great pride in showcasing his cherished photographs, capturing moments that warm his heart as he builds a life with his family. However, there are certain images that he prefers not to exhibit – those depicting individuals who have passed out in the lobby of his residence at Bethel Manor Apartments on West 132nd Street. Watson finds it challenging to fully appreciate the joyous moments when such incidents occur in the hallways.

Residents, including Watson, have been expressing their concerns about a particular apartment on the second floor of the building where people have been consistently overdosing for over two years. The NYPD has reported a staggering 241 calls to 911 from this location within the past two years.

“I feel compelled to speak up because I will not tolerate any harm coming to my children or anyone else in this building,” Watson passionately expressed.

According to tenants, they occasionally encounter unconscious strangers in the building, still wearing hospital bands on their wrists. In the staircases, neighbors discover syringes and small capsules that law enforcement sources believe to be “trash cans.” These containers are frequently utilized by individuals to store fentanyl and other hazardous substances, as stated by the DEA.

Watson expressed her frustration, stating that she often found herself accidentally bringing in dirt and debris into her house due to the wheels of her stroller. This posed a potential risk for her baby who would crawl on the floor or her daughter who would sit on it.

According to a recent report by the city’s Health Department, Central Harlem, along with the South Bronx and East Harlem, is still facing the highest rates of fatal overdoses.

“It’s absolutely terrible. I mean, it’s really, really bad,” expressed Emily Gertz.

Gertz collaborates with Harlem United, an organization dedicated to preventing overdoses.

According to Gertz, the combination of poverty, discrimination, and long-term disinvestment in the community has made it extremely challenging for people to succeed, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated these difficulties.

The rise in overdose deaths is affecting the entire city, although some areas are being hit harder than others. Recognizing the urgency of the situation, Brooklyn City Council member Chi Osse took the initiative to introduce a law. This law mandates the health department to provide bars and clubs with free naloxone and training. However, it is important to note that, according to the city’s health department, a significant portion of fatal overdoses (60 percent) occurred in private homes last year.

CBS New York’s Tim McNicholas questioned whether there should be a greater focus on ensuring the availability of Narcan in apartment and condo buildings.

Osse emphasized the importance of implementing legislation that supports the widespread availability of Narcan. He highlighted the need for Narcan to be easily accessible in various locations, such as delis, schools, apartment buildings, and other establishments.

Neighbors are hoping that the property management company, Concord Management of New York, will take action to remove the tenant while Osse focuses on making naloxone more widely available.

One individual expressed frustration with the management’s response, stating that every time they reached out, they received the same answer: “We’re working on it.”

According to court records, Bethel Manor LLC, the owner, has been attempting to remove the neighbor from the property since May 2021. CBS New York reports that the company attributes the delays in court to a “backlog of cases” caused by the pandemic.

We are actively collaborating with all relevant parties to address the situation, ensure a safe living environment at Bethel Manor, and safeguard the well-being of our residents. However, due to the eviction moratorium imposed during the COVID era and the resulting backlog of cases in court, the eviction process for the resident in question has been delayed. We have followed all necessary steps for eviction and are currently awaiting final approval from the court system. We remain optimistic that the eviction will be completed soon, benefiting all the residents residing at Bethel Manor. While eviction is always considered as a last resort, we must prioritize the safety and welfare of all other residents in the building.

The company stated that although a judge had previously ruled in favor of the owner approximately two months ago, they are currently awaiting final approval from the court system.

Jennifer Perez of Bethel Manor LLC emphasized the importance of removing the resident for the well-being of the tenants. “Coming home to a safe environment is crucial for the residents at Bethel Manor,” she stated.

Watson discovers that the capsules are located just outside his back door on the balcony he shares with the apartment. This discovery further reinforces his need to closely monitor his daughter.

According to Watson, she is not aware of what “it” is. She explained that children have a tendency to pick up random objects and put them in their mouths.

It is yet another illustration of a widespread issue that disregards any limits or boundaries.

On Monday afternoon, we contacted the state’s court system to inquire about the eviction warrant. They informed us that the city marshal has not yet completed all the required steps to obtain the warrant.

“The Marshal is required to request a warrant in eviction cases as a standard practice. However, as of this afternoon, there is no record of such a request, according to Al Baker, the communications director of the state Office of Court Administration.”

However, records indicate that shortly after making that statement, and following the CBS New York Investigative Team’s inquiries, the court received fresh documentation from a city marshal to expedite the proceedings.

CBS New York will continue to monitor the process and provide updates on this story as it unfolds.

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