Metro

NYC plowing ahead with public ‘safe injection sites’

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday said his administration is plowing ahead with its controversial plan to set up “safe injection sites” where people can use drugs under medical supervision.

“We have a new administration in Washington, a new administration in Albany. It was the right time to do something on this topic while we … finally have the kind of potential cooperation we needed,” he said during a virtual press conference.

“It’s to save lives, stop people from overdosing who could be saved, and of course in every way help them towards treatment and support,” Hizzoner said of the “overdose prevention centers.”

His comments come the day after Politico reported that the city Department of Health is “moving aggressively” to open the Big Apple’s first two “safe injection” sites. In 2018, the mayor committed to opening four such locations but didn’t provide a timeline.

Implementation of the plan then stalled amid opposition from former President Donald Trump’s administration and a lack of support from ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s team and Republican state lawmakers.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the safe injection sites will be there to “stop people from overdosing who could be saved.”
AP Photo/Richard Drew

According to the latest federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, New York City drug-overdose deaths have surged by 36 percent, The Post reported earlier this month.

About 2,240 people in the Big Apple died from drug overdoses during the 12-month period ending March 31, compared to roughly 1,650 who died in the same period the year before, agency statistics show. 

While the mayor said “there are some real issues to work through [involving the injection sites], particularly with the state and federal government,” he insisted, “It’s an idea whose time has come.

“So we’re not ready to make any specific announcements yet, but it is something we continue to work on energetically,” de Blasio said. “We don’t have the final, specific plan, but I’m very hopeful on this.”

A group of homeless men after buying drugs outside of Penn Station in Manhattan
Drug use is common in the area surrounding Penn Station.
Stephen Yang

He said that in selecting locations for the sites, the city would seek “buy-in” from local City Council members and district attorneys and place them “where the need is greatest.”

“We know the neighborhoods in the city where overdoses have been the biggest problem,” he said. “Having it local to where people are what really matters.

“When it comes to literally life-saving overdose prevention centers, they’ve got to be where people need them, and we know where some of those neighborhoods are, and that’s where the focus should be,” de Blasio said. 

The area surrounding Penn Station is one of the neighborhoods where drug use is common, The Post reported in September. 

Curtis Sliwa
Curtis Sliwa said the supervised injection sites are not a “remedy” to public drug use.
James Keivom

But “we would have a big problem with” putting one of the facilities there, Barbara Blair, president of the Garment District Alliance, told The Post. 

“The reason we have a problem with that is not necessarily because I presume to know how to solve this problem of addiction in the United States of America and what it’s doing to our streets,” she said.

“What I do know, from a neighborhood perspective, is when you literally dump all manner of social services in one neighborhood that is already anchored by transportation hubs that bring in activities of their own that aren’t necessarily having to do with transportation, you create a situation where the neighborhood really gets destroyed.”

 Republican mayoral nominee Curtis Sliwa told The Post the supervised injection sites are not a “remedy” to public drug use because addicts and dealers would congregate outside the locations.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul
Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a bill decriminalizing the possession or sale of hypodermic needles and syringes. 
BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP via Getty Images

“The problem is that all the drug dealers hang out right outside the injection center … because these addicts have to buy the drugs,” he said Tuesday. “So the drug dealers are like vendors just waiting outside or hanging out on the corner.

“So addicts will then roam about that neighborhood shoplifting, stealing, grabbing anything they can sell in order to buy the drug to the dealers,” the Guardian Angels founder added. “That’s not a remedy.”

At Albany’s direction, the NYPD recently directed officers not to intervene when people inject themselves with banned substances.

The instructions came after Gov. Kathy Hochul signed Senate Bill 2523 — a measure that went into effect Oct. 7 and decriminalized the possession or sale of hypodermic needles and syringes. 


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