When officials from the state Dormitory Authority announced plans for a cannabis dispensary on 125th Street in Harlem last year, the local community pushed back, fearful the store could lead to an increase in crime and congestion.
With the state standing its ground, the 125th Street Business Improvement District escalated the fight this week, filing a lawsuit that cited “a process shrouded in secrecy and a naked and intentional attempt to avoid community opposition.”
“I consider it to be insulting,” said C. Virginia Fields, a board member of the 125th Street BID. “I consider it to be a level of arrogance.”
Under state regulations, a dispensary may not be located within 500 feet of school grounds or a community facility.
What You Need To Know
- The 125th Street Business Improvement District filed a lawsuit this week seeking to block a planned cannabis dispensary from opening
- The state Dormitory Authority announced the location in December, but the project has stalled in the face of community opposition
- The lawsuit says the state didn’t provide proper notice to the community and is located too close to school and community facilities
- Several candidates for the local City Council seat oppose the dispensary location, while incumbent Kristen Richardson Jordan declined to comment
The lawsuit argues several nearby facilities fit that category: One building on the block holds school suspension hearings for public school students and a drop-in center for homeless youth, while Touro College holds an after-school enrichment program for high school students just a few doors down from the planned location.
In another twist, the building’s owner also owns a nearby smoke shop that’s been targeted for selling weed illegally, and was the site of a recent murder.
Candidates for the local City Council seat have mostly sided with the business group.
While the incumbent Councilwoman Kristen Richardson Jordan declined comment Thursday, her opponents have criticized the state.
“When we found out about it, the train was on the track. It was rolling, and we found out by word of mouth, ‘Hey, this is happening,’” said Assemblyman Al Taylor, who currently represents an adjoining district and is challenging Richardson Jordan for her council seat. “The state didn’t talk to the elected officials. They didn’t have a conversation with the communities. I think it’s a slap in the face.”
Inez Dickens is the assemblywoman representing the district and also a candidate for the council seat. “These store owners are not against a dispensary being brought to Harlem,” she said. “It’s at that location, with the amount of saturation that’s in that same area.”
Yusef Salaam, one of the wrongly imprisoned Central Park Five, is also running for City Council.
His campaign said in a statement: “We need to have local input from communities on the location of these stores, which is why Yusef supports the lawsuit and opposes the location of this dispensary.”
State officials from the Dormitory Authority and the Office of Cannabis Management had no comment on the lawsuit. But for now, the project appears to be at a standstill, with no licensee having been identified to operate the store.
“The BID’s position all along has been location,” Fields said. “That is not the right location for a marijuana dispensary.”