Benedetto, Gjonaj, TNCAP say ‘no’ to 2800 Bruckner drug plan

Benedetto, Gjonaj, TNCAP say ‘no’ to 2800 Bruckner drug plan
Photo by Fernando Justiniano

Assemblyman Michael Benedetto and Councilman Mark Gjonaj sent a joint letter to Albany opposing a proposed drug treatment facility at 2800 Bruckner Boulevard.

Miracle City recently announced its intent to operate a state-licensed 822 behavioral treatment counseling service at the Throggs Neck building, which has been the subject of local protests. Another rally is set for this Saturday, May 18 at noon.

They plan to lease 50 percent of one floor in the stand-alone 2-story office building.

As an 822 program, regulated by the NYS Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, Miracle City would be providing counseling services to clients afflicted with eating and drinking disorders, and drug addictions.

Even though a representative of Miracle City indicated its current application does not include dispensing any narcotics, it could do so at a later date by filing additional paperwork to the proper regulating governmental agencies, community leaders learned.

Benedetto and Gjonaj’s letter to OASAS Commissioner Arlene Gonzalez-Sanchez, addressed a number of concerns about the nature and location of the facility.

They cited the facility’s remote location on a one-way street as a major factor for their disapproval. The area’s poor transportation options and its proximity to a neighborhood comprised entirely of one-, two- and three-family homes, elementary schools and churches, where paramount in withholding their support.

“A program called These Our Treasures, a neighbor of the proposed clinic that works with special needs children ages 3 to 5, could be in jeopardy if the application is approved,” the letter stated.

Benedetto and Gjonaj also noted that the area has several drug treatment programs already actively operating in the area, including the Montefiore Wellness Center on Waters Place.

Montefiore’s facility provides psychiatric staff and dispenses medication, according to the letter.

“Another factor that concerns us, is the community’s limited police resources,” the legislators said.

It described the 45th Precinct as having the smallest police force in the Bronx and the largest geographical coverage area of any precinct in the city. Benedetto and Gjonaj added that “whenever a squad car is dispatched to this location, other sectors will be left in peril by the thinned police coverage.”

Meanwhile, the plan to acquire an 822 program license and not have an on-site psychiatrist at the facility has raised objections from the Throggs Neck Community Action Partnership, a local substance abuse prevention program.

Th organization wrote to Senator Alessandra Biaggi, expressing that they believe a treatment facility in Throggs Neck would be beneficial, if done the right way.

“Many people who suffer from a substance use disorder also suffer from a mental health disorder,” the letter pointed out. “Without the diagnosis or support of mental health treatment, this scenario is the perfect storm for someone to ‘relapse,’” it continued.

The TNCAP letter also advised the senator that quality alcohol and substance abuse programs “should also offer psychiatric evaluations and treatment as necessary, on site.”

It also said that licensed facilities should also have accrued years of credibility and reputation prior to an expansion such as this.

“There is a need to provide treatment to our community, but we kindly suggest you explore other options,” the letter concluded.

An individual with years of drug counseling experience sized up the Miracle City plan very simply: without a psychiatrist on the premises this plan is nothing more than a real estate deal, referring to the big bucks the property owner will receive from the state in rent.

Biaggi has not taken a formal stance on the facility as of press time.

“I am fielding comments and concerns from the community regarding 2800 Bruckner Boulevard,” she said.

“I am committed to both the public safety of my constituents, as well as addressing the opioid crisis that plagues our community,” she concluded.