Some Northeast Philly Residents Really Don’t Want a Methadone Clinic in Their Hood
There are a lot of people in Northeast Philadelphia who could do without a methadone clinic on the 7900 block of Frankford Avenue. They held a public protest against it last Tuesday, and then a public meeting last night in the auditorium at Lincoln High School. About 750 concerned citizens and a few area politicians were on hand. Not one was vocally in favor of the project.
The get-together began a little after 6pm and while billed as a meeting to, as Mayfair Civic Association President Joe DeFelice put it from the podium, inform the citizens on the facts surrounding a potential drug abuse clinic in their neighborhood, it came off more like a rally to do whatever it takes to preserve the “nice neighborhood,” as one politician put it, that is Holmesburg.
It was the first and last time you’re going to see a bipartisan coalition, anywhere, this month. Those in attendance included State Rep. Mike McGeehan, State Rep. Kevin Boyle, State Senator Mike Stack, State Rep. Mark Cohen, City Councilwoman Joan Krajewski and Karen Grumankin, representing Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, who’s currently residing in the Washington garbage heap, doing the debt ceiling baby fight jig.
Krajewski was the first to speak, and she told the story of the potential clinic’s infantile stages, which she found out about in a Valentine’s Day email. When she heard about the permit posted on the window at 7900 Frankford read “Medical clinic,” she thought little of it. She’d heard rumors of the space passing out narcotic treatments, but nothing official.
It wasn’t until this summer, July 1, that she and other area pols became aware the applicant was Healing Way. The private company (the owners of which, said Boyle, have a background in “Cash for Gold” stores) got the property through a C2 permit, which allows a mixed use of small lots and does not require a zoning board hearing.
Dennis Kulp, who owns the property (and did not attend the meeting) has been telling anyone who asked that he wasn’t aware his tenants were readying to distribute methadone. He says he’s since offered the owners of Healing Way $100,000 to break their lease. They’ve refused.
Plenty of those on stage rallied those in the audience with awesome sound bites, like when Sen. Stack said there was “no way in hell” they’re moving a clinic into his neighborhood. Or when he said there may be a time and place for methadone treatment but, “I know one thing, it’s not here. It’s not anywhere around here…waiting in lines, in nice neighborhoods like this, that’s not the right use of methadone.”
Or when Rep. Boyle said he’d “fight like hell” against the clinic’s opening because that part of the northeast is a “safe, stable neighborhood where people can feel free to walk around, raise their family.” He also said there are already methadone clinics on Frankford Avenue, under the El, where people could go. He said Kulp was “duped” by the owners of Healing Way.
Every time a politician gave a showstopping pull quote, the guy sitting behind me screamed and clapped with his full strength, sending small gusts of wind to the back of my head. Rep. Boyle admitted he loved applause, and stopped several times during his speeches if he heard a slow clap with the potential to snowball.
Over the two hours, many in the audience became more angry, some cried over what was being proposed for their neighborhood, and one man toward the front screamed, “They’re [the owners of Healing Way] gonna need some healing!”
That guy behind me twice vocalized that Section 8 Housing was responsible for the potential clinic. “Get rid of the section 8 housing!” he screamed. When it was mentioned the clinic would not receive public funds, but those using its services would probably be on Medicaid, he said, over several gasps and private conversations, “They’re getting funds. We’re paying for it!”
The second time he screamed about the problem of public housing projects, hands cupped around his mouth, it was during a lull and everyone heard. A few people turned around to see who made the comment, and he shrugged. “What? No one wants to answer it,” he said, then repeated the same thing to his son: “No one’s answering that.”
Later on, he yelled: “Put it in front of Nutter’s house!”
One girl in her early 20s told her friend she planned on standing outside the methadone clinic all day with cartons of eggs, pelting those who arrived for treatment.
Then it was time for the Q&A portion, which were read on stage off cards taken from audience members. The first few questions were rhetorical, including one which asked whether or not “drug addicts” will be “riding the SEPTA bus with our children.”
Finally, a question was asked by, it was read, someone currently in treatment. “If the clinic is run correctly, will it still be opposed?”
“One-hundred percent,” said Boyle to applause.