Garment District still fraying around the margins with public drug users on the streets

Blatant, daylight drug use continues to haunt the Garment District, locals say, to the detriment of all involved.

Back on June 1, amNewYork Metro reported on the ongoing sidewalk drug use that Midtown locals firmly state is having a negative impact on the quality of life of business owners, pedestrians, and the drug users themselves. While some landlords in the area say things have slightly improved since then, they feel that the issue continues to be prevalent.

“It’s pretty rampant. They [the drug users] go into the sheds, and then they disappear for a while. I’m sure cops do what they can,” one area worker said.

A landlord near the corner West 38th Street and 7th Avenue explained things have slightly improved since early June, however, he also believes this is due to him being proactive. The landlord told amNewYork Metro that his building came to terms with garbage collecting so that they no longer place trash on the sidewalk, which the property owner believes eliminates cover for users.

Photo by Dean Moses

Landlords and business owners continue to point to Housing Works, a local non-profit which distributes needles for HIV and AIDS prevention as a contributing factor. They also say a construction shed has swiftly become a hotspot for drug users—both as an area to conceal drug use and allow addicts to panhandle to support their addiction.

Housing Works is a proponent of overdose prevention centers, and are firm believers in providing a safe space to use with a properly funded 24/7 service, which would lessen syringe litter.

One landlord suggested that Housing Works hold off distributing needles for one week to see if there would be a change in drug users loitering in the area. The nonprofit, however, said that will cause far more harm. 

“The fact is, if users are not able to get new supplies, they will reuse what they have and other more serious issues will be unleashed in the area, such as new infections of HIV, Hepatitis, or other blood borne pathogens. Also, if one distributor of supplies shuts down, people can still get syringes from pharmacies and other programs across New York City, but those who don’t will be at greater risk of reusing needles. Housing Works’ harm reduction program provides syringe litter clean up, and offers program services as well as the promotion of other area social services,” Max Sepulveda said, managing director of harm reduction services, Housing Works. “Our goal is to create effective collaborations with other businesses and programs in the area to improve the health outcome of disenfranchised populations and keep people safe.

Sepulveda assures that Housing Works is available to assist any business or landlord in the area with syringe litter. However business owners feel that this issue will continue. 

“It makes business very, very hard. They are drinking, doing drugs. I called the police four times yesterday, but they come back like half an hour later,” Sam from Day-to-Day Textile said, a fabric store neighboring the construction shed on West 38th Street and 7th. “It has happened since they built the shed.”

Sam from Day-to-Day TextilePhoto by Dean Moses

A construction worker who didn’t want to be named said that it also affects the workers themselves.

“I was just complaining about it. I see guys passed out all the time,” the worker said, sharing how the constant sight of inebriated individuals has an mental and emotional toll on himself and other workers.

Photo by Dean Moses

It isn’t just those working and living in the community who are suffering, but also those struggling with addiction and mental health issues.

Fellow New Yorikers are left to literally writhe on the sidewalk and scream out as foot traffic passes them by, leaving many to wonder why people are left to suffer in the midst of one of the country’s largest tourist hubs — and whether the area’s quality of life can truly be restored if anyone is left behind.

According to a city hall spokesperson, “In order to tackle the overdose crisis in our city, we are working with our partners across government as well as the small business community to connect people with services and make sure our public spaces and business corridors are safe and enjoyable for all New Yorkers.”

Photo by Dean Moses