5 people overdose as Bill de Blasio's legal shooting galleries for addicts open in NYC

5 people overdose as Bill de Blasio's legal shooting galleries for addicts open in NYC
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (L) launched the country's first legal shooting galleries Tuesday (Scott Heins/Getty Images, Twitter/@peterhaskell880)

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio launched the country's first legal shooting galleries Tuesday morning, November 30, calling them safe havens for drug addicts shortly before five people overdosed at one of the clinics on opening day.

The 60-year-old Democrat, who has just four weeks left in office, touted the so-called "Overdose Prevention Centers" in a statement, saying they were a "safe and effective way to address the opioid crisis." He added, "I’m proud to show cities in this country that after decades of failure, a smarter approach is possible." The nonprofit-run centers, New York Harm Reduction Educators on E 126th Street in Harlem and Washington Heights’ CORNER Project on W 180th Street, were opened to the public on Tuesday, the New York Post reported.


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That said, the East Harlem site recorded five overdoses after 85 users injected drugs laced with fentanyl including heroin on Tuesday. “We have had some overdoses today,” Kailin See, senior director of programs at New York Harm Reduction Educators, told The Post. “They survived,” she added.  

While the Washington Heights CORNER Project barred press from visiting the site or speaking to staff, the owner of a nearby business said he saw someone being taken away in an ambulance. “I think what they’re doing is they’re promoting this which is awful,” said the business owner, who spoke condition of anonymity citing concerns that his shop would be vandalized. According to the Health Department, the two Manhattan locations were chosen based on “health need and depth of program experience" and are expected to provide clean needles and social services while users must bring their own drugs, per The Post.


More than 2,000 New Yorkers died of drug overdoses last year, which was the highest number since the city started recording the data in 2000. The most common drug involved in the fatalities was opioids. Then, between and January and March this year, nearly 600 people lost their lives due to addiction. A study undertaken by the city health department found that the newly opened sites could save up to 130 people a year.

De Blasio had attempted to push the controversial proposal to open a total of four sites before but was prevented by then Governor Andrew Cuomo and then President Donald Trump, both of whom opposed the plan. Meanwhile, City Council Minority Leader Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island) was skeptical about the program’s effectiveness. “British Columbia has led North America in safe injection sites, all while crossing overdose death milestones every month. How anyone can see this as a solution to a serious problem is beyond me, never mind the concerns of the neighbors,” Borelli told The Post Tuesday.


Republican Rep Nicole Malliotakis, whose district includes Staten Island and parts of southern Brooklyn, urged the Justice Department to block the sites as they would violate the federal Controlled Substances Act. Malliotakis urged US Attorney General Merrick Garland Tuesday to “take swift action to enforce federal law," citing a January 2021 ruling by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals that it was a federal crime for a supervised injection site run by a Philadelphia nonprofit to allow illegal drug use at its location.

“Instead of focusing on the root cause of the drug epidemic, Mayor de Blasio is enabling drug cartels that continue to break our laws, smuggle illegal drugs over our border, and prey on our children,” Malliotakis said. “Crime and fentanyl use are at record highs because of open borders, botched bail reform, and anti-police policies that keep releasing criminal drug dealers back onto our streets. Opening taxpayer-funded heroin shooting galleries is not a proper solution. These centers not only encourage drug use but they will further deteriorate our quality of life,” she added. According to The Post, De Blasio has "largely turned a blind eye" to the drug crisis in major city hubs like the Garment District and the Triangle Plaza Hub in the Bronx.

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