Methadone clinic’s possible move Downtown comes as surprise

BY CYNTHIA MAGNUS | A methadone treatment clinic, Gramercy Park Services LLC, has received tentative approval from the NYS Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) to relocate to 90 Maiden Lane, according to one source at the agency. Community Board 1 members were surprised to learn just before Thanksgiving of the clinic’s planned move without any public notification.

Catherine McVay-Hughes, C.B. 1 vice chair, said, “No one reached out to C.B. 1 in advance of this plan. We hope at the next C.B. 1 Financial District Committee meeting to get answers to the many questions we have, such as the potential impact on our community.”

Speaker Sheldon Silver said, “At the request of Community Board 1, I asked [OASAS] to make sure that the medical group presents to the board its application to open the proposed methadone clinic on Maiden Lane. The final decision on where to site this clinic should take into consideration input from residents and businesses in the area.”

McVay-Hughes said that the board office received a late call on Nov. 29 from the clinic’s corporate office stating that a representative would give a presentation at the C.B.1 Financial District Committee meeting scheduled for Dec. 7.

The clinic was started 40 years ago at its present 253 Third Avenue location by Dr. Guillermo Seco, now 88, who continues to serve as its medical director. It serves approximately 400 patients weekly with methadone treatment and substance abuse counseling. Sources said Seco sold the business in January 2010 for $70K to Larry Kroll, a psychologist who runs several drug treatment clinics in Illinois.

Richard Harrow is an independent regulatory consultant who assists clients with completing applications to various NYS human services agencies. Harrow said he assisted with the paperwork to get Gramercy Park Medical Group PC transferred from Seco to Kroll in 2010 and renamed as Gramercy Park Services, LLC.

Harrow said a new Downtown location would “not work well for meth patients.” He is concerned that the congestion Downtown, and the occasional street closures surrounding the WTC area could make access to the facility difficult. “When meth patients don’t get their medicine, they get sick,” said Harrow.

Raymond Sanchez, a manager at the Gramercy location said of some patients who know of the impending move, “They’re not too happy, it’s inconvenient for some.”

Kroll said the move is “very tentative” and that renovations on the space had not yet begun in the absence of a signed lease with Metropolitan Corporation for Life Skills, the current lessee at 90 Maiden Lane. Other sources say that some renovations have already begun. The space will have to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, in order to get final OASAS approval.

Metro Corp, which will continue to operate at the address, is an outpatient substance abuse treatment clinic that according to OASAS provides services to homeless and to mentally ill, chemically addicted clients, as well as to criminal justice clients and to HIV/AIDS patients.

Representatives at Metro Corp refused to answer questions about their operations, or about the agreement with Kroll and Gramercy Park Services, which will acquire 6000-7000 square feet of office space at 90 Maiden, double its current space.

According to one source, Bradley Gross, an attorney, acquired Metro Corps several years ago from two physicians who were the former owners.

A Ms. Rhame, Gross’ assistant, said on Nov. 28 that Gross would comment “if he was interested in talking” about the deal with Gramercy Park Services. As of press time Mr. Gross had not responded to phone calls.

Wilbur Weder, chair of the Community Board 6 Health, Senior and Disability Issues Committee, said that there is often misunderstanding when it comes to such centers. “People don’t realize that it may not be people at the meth clinic causing trouble in a neighborhood,” said Weder, adding that the area had had more problems with a nearby homeless shelter.

Weder said that though the Gramercy Park clinic group had earlier this year investigated possible new addresses near their present location, “They never came to us with a final location for moving, and there was never a vote taken [by C.B. 6].”

Councilwoman Margaret Chin said, “The community should have an opportunity to learn more about the treatment center and voice their opinion on the issue. In my experience, these type of treatment centers are conscious of their neighbors and sensitive and receptive to their concerns.”

Several stakeholders have questioned why OASAS failed to communicate with the community sooner. Harrow said, “As far as I know, part of the application to OASAS involves notification to the community board.”

Pat Moore, chair of the C.B. 1 Quality of Life Committee said, “I’m curious as to why we weren’t notified earlier. We just want to know what the issues other neighborhoods have faced and what issues we might face.”

The next C.B. 1 Financial District Committee meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Dec. 7 at 49-51 Chambers Street, 7th floor.