State denies Project Esteem’s bid to open

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The state’s decision to block a new drug and alcohol treatment center from opening on Mermaid Avenue is being widely applauded in Coney Island this week.

The New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) had many reasons to deny Project Esteem’s debut at 3114 Mermaid Avenue.

City Councilmember Domenic Recchia, State Senator Diane Savino, Assemblymember Alec Brook−Krasny and Rep. Jerrold Nadler all joined with Community Board 13 in opposing the application.

Last week at the United Community Baptist Church, a packed house of concerned citizens and members of the Coney Island Homeowners and Residents Association, made clear their unequivocal opposition to the plan just a couple of days before OASAS was set to render its decision.

“We have to show force,” local resident Sarah Kennedy said. “It’s not for our children, it’s for those rich people who don’t want the neighbors to know what’s going on.”

Project Esteem’s opponents have maintained all along that the site staked out at 3114 Mermaid Avenue − sandwiched between a pharmacy and residential housing − is no place for an outpatient drug and alcoholism treatment program.

“I told them we are not going to accept this,” Recchia told his constituents. “Put it somewhere else, don’t put it next to houses.”

If there were any room for doubt, opponents −− led by local community organizer Queenie Huling −− said that they were prepared to take their case all the way to Albany.

“Coney Island may have been weak, but we’re strong now,” Huling said.

“If they do certify it, we’ve got to come up with a plan B, C, D, and F all the way to Z,” local activist and CB 13 member Ronald Stewart declared.

With the denial of Project Esteem’s application, attention now shifts to what will become of the vacant four−story building at 3114 Mermaid Avenue.

Dr. Oleg Gutnik, leader of the Project Esteem design team, declined to comment.

Caryn Isaacs said that she worked with Dr. Gutnik on an alternative plan to Project Esteem called Coney Be Well whose goal would be to “promote healthy lifestyles for our community through culturally sensitive, integrated prevention programs.”

Some of the features the program would offer include health screenings, health education, nutrition counseling, a relaxation medical spa and outdoor garden.

At last week’s meeting, Recchia complained that the Project Esteem design team had attempted to circumnavigate the will of the people in Coney Island.

“Project Esteem went outside the district to try and get support from other elected officials,” he said.

Updated 3:32 pm, October 19, 2011
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