May 02, 2018

Councilmember Levin Joins Activists in Civil Disobedience to Voice Anger on NYC Mayor's Silence on SCS to Prevent Overdose Deaths

Councilmember Levin Joins Activists in Civil Disobedience to Voice Anger on NYC Mayor's Silence on SCS to Prevent Overdose Deaths

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Councilmember Levin Joins Activists in Civil Disobedience to Voice Anger on NYC Mayor's Silence on SCS to Prevent Overdose Deaths

After a lengthy campaign to demonstrate the need for Safer Consumption Spaces (SCS), activists are getting arrested to signify the lives lost in New York and why the city needs SCS now.

Contact: Mika De Roo, 347-585-6051, m.deroo@housingworks.org

Jasmine Budnella, 720-480-5262, jasmine@vocal-ny.org

Melissa Moore, 646-470-2827, mmoore@drugpolicy.org 

Photos & video from today’s action (Credit: Mikola De Roo for Housing Works)

City Councilmember Stephen Levin and 10 activists were arrested for blocking traffic on Broadway outside City Hall following a rally demanding that the Mayor release the long overdue Safer Consumption Spaces (SCS) feasibility study and come out in support of SCS in the midst of a catastrophic overdose epidemic impacting the City.

“There is a path we can take where fewer of our neighbors,  our friends, and our family members lose their lives,” said Council Member Stephen Levin, Chair of the General Welfare Committee. “That path is through a serious commitment to harm reduction and safer consumption spaces in particular. The drug war has failed. In its wake is a public health crisis of tremendous proportion. We have a tool that is proven to increase access to treatment and reduce fatal overdoses. We can take action today. Nearly two years ago, the Council commissioned a study on safer consumption spaces. Today, our message to the administration is simple—release the study. Every seven hours, another New Yorker loses their life to a drug overdose. Time is not on our side—act now.”

"Mayor de Blasio's current stalling on  on SCS doesn't support his claims that 'we can’t arrest our way out of this' and that the city is using every tool at its disposal to address the overdose crisis. What we need is bold leadership to address the opioid and overdose crises through innovative strategies like SCS, to reduce criminalization, and to end racial disparities," said Housing Works President & CEO Charles King. "Instead, the Mayor has been a major obstruction in the release of the study, which was commissioned in 2016 and completed in December; the only movement on the issue made by the administration was last-minute 'research,' including a late April trip by the NYPD to Toronto’s pop-up safer consumption spaces, and the Mayor’s public admission that what is 'complex' about the issue is managing law enforcement. The Mayor’s lack of action has contributed to over 1,500 preventable overdose deaths in NYC since the study was commissioned."

“I see more people dying of overdose than ever before. It’s a crisis and either the Mayor is too afraid to act or he just doesn’t care,” said Asia Betancourt, Community Leader at VOCAL-NY. “The scientific evidence around SCS is clear—it saves lives and connects people to care. Why can’t he prioritize our lives over these political games?” 

“In a moment when New York State's overdose crisis continues to grow—with overdose deaths killing more New Yorkers than traffic accidents, homicides, and suicide combined—we need bold thinking and action,” said Kassandra Frederique, New York State director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “If we want to save lives, reduce criminalization, and end racial disparities, we need comprehensive, innovative, and forward-thinking approaches like safer consumption spaces. New York is in a unique position to step up and implement innovative drug policies rooted in science, compassion, and public health as we did with syringe exchanges before. It is time for Mayor de Blasio to take action to save lives immediately."

Details: For over three months, activists and advocates have held actions and teach-ins, attended town halls, rallied elected officials in support, and met with City Hall to urge Mayor de Blasio to release the feasibility study commissioned by the City Council in 2016. The Mayor has repeatedly stated that SCS are very “complex,” with his recent statements suggesting his concern on this issue lies with managing law enforcement Mayor de Blasio has not spoken publicly about the significant body of research showing SCS to be a profoundly successful public health intervention that have the potential to save thousands of lives.

As the Mayor delays, New Yorkers are dying of overdose at a concerning rate: 1,374 people died of overdose in New York City in 2016, and our city is on track for an increase in 2017, marking the 6th year of increases.

A wide array of public figures vocally support safer consumption spaces and have called on the Mayor to not only release the feasibility study but also implement them immediately in NYC: former Mayor David Dinkins, one of Mayor de Blasio’s mentors;  City Council Speaker Corey Johnson; Council Member Stephen Levin, Chair of the General Welfare Committee; Council Member Diana Ayala, Chair of the Mental Health, Disabilities, and Addiction Committee; Council Member Mark Levine, Chair of the Health Committee Former Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields; and the New York Times Editorial Board. Additionally, key NYC officials have signaled their support, with Health Commissioner Dr. Bassett stating, "I think the public health literature is clear" and NYPD Commissioner O’Neill stating, “This is about the sanctity of human life, keeping people safe, making sure that people stay alive.”

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