The opening of a controversial alcohol and substance abuse clinic could be kaput.
According to Community Board 13 Chair Marion Cleaver, the facility, dubbed Project Esteem, needs a letter of support from the community board in order to treat recovering alcoholics and drug addicts in a new building at 3114 Mermaid Avenue.
The board was approached twice over the summer by the center’s design team, which is led by Dr. Oleg Gutnik, a Sheepshead Bay-based gynecologist, but on both occasions, the community board declined to write a letter of support to the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS).
“They cannot proceed with alcohol and substance abuse without a letter of support from us,” Cleaver explained at the community board’s meeting last week at Coney Island Hospital. “We have not given support although we were asked to several times.”
Instead, board members voted to write a letter in opposition to the clinic, which is billed as a “medically supervised chemical dependency outpatient service.” They were spurned to do so when dozens of Coney Island residents packed the board’s meeting to express their concerns about the facility.
Residents say it’s “inappropriate” to have a drug and alcohol treatment clinic in a residential neighborhood. The facility would be housed in a four-story building sandwiched between a row of homes and a pharmacy.
“We strongly feel that it’s inappropriate to open such a building in a neighborhood that is residential,” said Joan Corney.
Queenie Huling, who lives three doors away from the building, expressed concern about the possibility of recovering addicts coming into the community.
“You’re going to have these strangers coming to the neighborhood. This is something that this community doesn’t need,” said Huling, who is president of the Sea Beach Home Association and Coney Island’s representative for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now’s (ACORN) Political Action Committee.
A representative for Project Esteem spoke during the Community Board 13 meeting but declined to reveal his name to a reporter. He said the center would provide counseling services. It would not distribute drugs or needles or allow patients to loiter outside the building.
Residents are also angry that the building was constructed with no involvement from locals.
“We want to know how that building came up and why the community wasn’t involved at all,” said Coney Island resident Sarah Kennedy. “We want input.”
“This is a residential community,” Huling said. “Why would anyone put up this four-story building for a program like that and not notify the community? We are opposing that and we’re going to fight it.”
Cleaver said the building was constructed as of right so the developer wasn’t required to seek the community board’s input.
There’s also the question of who would utilize the clinic.
“It’s targeted for Ukrainians and Russians. Something is wrong,” Corney said.
“The primary target population is Eastern Europeans so it definitely belongs in Brighton Beach – not Coney Island,” Huling said.
“I think it’s wrong to come in as say we’re targeting a specific population rather than the whole community,” said Community Board 13 member Brian Gotlieb. “Drug problems are not specific to any group. It affects all of us.”
—with Joe Maniscalco
©2008 Community News Group
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