Maria Granville was born and raised in Harlem and said she cannot believe the increase in drug use she sees almost daily right around her block.
“They will sit on our stoops in the middle of the block 123rd, 124th Street, 122nd street and pull out cook and shoot,” Granville said.
Videos and photos provided by people who live in the neighborhood shows exactly that, men and women dealing drugs and openly using needles. Neighbors believe some appear intoxicated. Human waste is also commonly littered on private property. Maria said she remembers scenes like this in the 60’s.
“This is what our children are being exposed to, there are three schools just in this area,” Granville explained.
The issue has many parents in the area concerned for their children’s safety.
“I’m not able to let her go out, all her peers all have freedom to walk around on the Upper West Side, Upper East Side,” said Ila Gupta, who’s lived in the Harlem neighborhood for over a decade.
Every morning park workers clean up hot spots around Marcus Garvey park. On this particular morning, they collected about 50 needles scattered throughout park gardens, shrubs, and behind barriers.
Workers we spoke with said their job here is tough and dangerous. Many times workers said they’re even confronted by users. After a full day it’s not uncommon for workers here to collect over 100 used syringes.
“So Harlem and East Harlem are particularly oversaturated,” said Shawn Hill, co-founder of the Greater Harlem Coalition.
Hill believes the number of treatment facilities in the area could be contributing to the problem. He feels Harlem has a higher number of people seeking help at facilities run by OASAS, New York’s Office of Substance Abuse Services. He believes dealers are praying on that.
“We have dealers, we have users, all converging on this community, that convergence then justifies the addition of more programs,” Hill said.
“We have spoken with residents and community leaders in Harlem regarding their concerns with the activity in this neighborhood. The people using drugs on the street are, for the most part, people who need treatment, not people who are in treatment. To help these people, OASAS has initiated a street level outreach initiative in Harlem," OASAS said in a statement.
Granville said she can’t see herself leaving the only place she’s called home right now, but isn’t completely ruling out the option like others she knows of.
“They don’t want to raise their children in this environment and they shouldn’t have to because the environment shouldn’t exist,” Granville said.