A newly formed grassroots coalition is sounding an alarm about a south Bronx community facing what they feel is a ‘crisis’ of drug abuse that’s harming their neighborhood.
Seeing a rampant uptick in heroin addicts in the residential area around Melrose and in ‘the Hub’ itself, the Take Back the Hub Committee held a rally on Saturday, October 13 to draw attention to the situation and send out a clarion call to those who can help.
The coalition believes that the Hub has become an epicenter of drug use with children and adults not only walking past addicts and their urine-stained cardboard box encampments, but also having to contend with discarded used syringes and their orange caps and piles of human feces left behind on streets by the addicts.
They rally called on elected officials including Mayor de Blasio, Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and Councilman Rafael Salamanca Jr. to do something about the problem.
The issues include school children that are apprehensive to walk to school or into the subway because of the problems, as well as an incident in which an 82-year-old woman who was sitting on her porch on East 150th Street was sexually assaulted, said coalition member Marty Rogers.
Rogers said that since the mayor decided to close off an abandoned rail spur near Westchester and St. Ann’s avenues, a place where heroin addicts used to live and congregate, called ‘the hole’ by those in the community, the addicts migrated into the community between East 145th and East 157th streets.
“These are hardcore folks, and while they can go to shelters, they cannot go to shelters high,” said Rogers of the situation, adding that while he feels compassion for the addicts, preparations should have been made for housing and services before ‘the hole’ was cleared.
“Even if they had a couple of trailers with restrooms and shower facilities” it would have been helpful, said Rogers, adding that in the meantime some of the streets around East 149th Street and also in St. Mary’s Park have become ‘shooting galleries.’
Councilman Salamanca’s is aware of the issue, as is the borough president.
“I share the same frustrations and grave concerns of the residents around the Hub,” said Salamanca, adding he met with coalition members on Friday, October 12. “Together with the Third Avenue BID, Acacia Network, NYPD and other community leaders and healthcare providers, we are working to address the rampant opioid use in the area.”
The councilman added: “The Bronx Opioid Collective we formed this year and the $500,000 funds I secured to fight the opioid epidemic are hopeful steps we’ve taken to end this crisis.”
A spokesman for the borough president said they are in regular contact with the police, the BID and local elected officials about the issue.
“People there need help, and our office is involved in efforts to make that happen,” said the spokesman.
Representatives from the Third Avenue Business Improvement District weren’t available for comment as of press time.