On the issues that matter in Malone NY (USA)

Harrison Place

Citizen Advocates

Picture of Calvin Luther Martin, PhD

Calvin Luther Martin, PhD

June 6, 2024

Village of Malone

Let me begin by saying: I support Citizen Advocates (CA)! Especially its housing program.

I think CA did a huge service to the village by tearing down a row of god-awful buildings and putting up a stunning apartment/commercial building. The design is breathtaking. 

I hope the Harrison Place concept — the project — is a success.

Taken from the Citizen Advocates website.

What I say, below, is not intended to be a pot-shot at CA (Citizen Advocates) or its Harrison Place project. Rather, what I say alarms and distresses me, and I hope and pray that CA can rise to the issue and fix it — if indeed it is a real issue, which, frankly, I don’t know if it is.  

What I present, below, is an email I sent to Mayor Andrea Dumas and the Village Trustees some days ago. (I am still awaiting the mayor’s response. I assume she has, or will be, discussing this with CA.)

I present my letter (email) in the spirit of community discussion. I place no blame on anyone. We as a community — including me — need to pull together and get a grip on the issues discussed in my letter.

That said, I admit that I don’t have any good answers.

Dear Andrea and Trustees,

I happened to speak to a young woman who has lived in the Harison Place apartments since they opened. I have known this woman for years. (I will keep her name confidential.) She has had drug problems over the years, but finally, she tells me, got “clean” — I believe by the time she moved into Harison Place. (Because of drug problems, her children had been put in foster care. She is hoping to get them back. I believe part of her eagerness to live at Harison Place was to stay clean and demonstrate to DSS that she could be a responsible mother.)
All this by way of context. I asked her how she liked living in her new, Harison Place apartment. Much to my surprise she replied, “It’s awful!” “Oh!” said I, “what’s the matter?” “I am back on drugs,” was her response. “The place is infested with drugs and drug dealing! People are openly dealing out front and back, and in the evening drug dealers roam the halls, knocking on doors, asking if you want drugs!” She went on to say the police are frequently there, and so forth.
She says she’s desperate to move out, because she found she moved into the Hilton Hotel of Drugs — this is my term, not hers — right in downtown Malone. Being hooked on drugs once more, and seeing no escape from the importuning of dealers and users in the building, she sees no hope of re-gaining her children — something she wants more than anything. She knows she’s susceptible to drugs, but had hoped that CA’s Harison Place, with its counseling and other support services — and, presumably, keeping out drug users and dealers — would provide the home and professional environment she yearned for and, she believes, needs.
Ironically, Harison Place has provided just the opposite: easy drugs in a luxury setting. She feels she doesn’t have the confidence or courage or, frankly, ability to tell the “dealers” and “users” to leave her alone. This should be the role of the CA staff: to ensure that vulnerable people like her are not preyed upon. According to her, this is not happening — and CA staff are failing in their duty. 
Is she an outlier? That is, is she an exception in this situation? Is CA still getting its act together in Harison Place? (I know it took St. Joe’s some months to address a similar problem.)
For what it’s worth, I pass this along to you and the trustees. Perhaps there can be some discussion of this at tomorrow’s board meeting.
Best wishes,
Calvin Luther Martin, PhD

4 thoughts on “Harrison Place”

  1. My wife and I are currently tenants of Harrison place and we would love to discuss some things with you. This building needs help desperately and we don’t know what to do to make it happen.
    Editor’s response: Oops! I just now spotted your comment. I’ll send you an email and you can tell me whatever you wish. Again, my apologies.

  2. And this is by no means isolated to Harison Place. With “mixed income” facilities popping up like weeds across the North Country, I can say with some knowledge that this happens not infrequently.

    The Northwoods development in Plattsburgh, for example, was created as a mixed income facility with low-income and assisted income as part of its funding mandate. This past November the complex was raided and 100 grams of Fentanyl and 25 grams of Crack were seized and arrests were made.

    The stark reality is that the North Country is inundated with illegal narcotics, and much of the problem is being brought here from the cities downstate and from out of state. Malone, in particular, is susceptible due to the people coming and going because of the prisons, and drugs and crime in general are on the rise.

    Sadly, many of the “owners” of these facilities are not on-site after business hours, and criminality is given free rein. And these issues are not new. The “Projects” built in major cities during the 60s to 80s to relocate those displaced by the interstate highway system became the breeding grounds for the drug trade, distribution and dependence.

    To think that the trend isn’t transferable to smaller developments is ignorance. And despite the mission of agencies like Citizen Advocates to assist the poor and struggling, it is hamstrung by those who look to exploit these developments for their own gain at the cost of others’ humanity. And even though this is a new building, it seems that the same trends are already starting which lead to the fire which destroyed its predecessor.

    Is there a solution? It’s hard to say. Increasing security with full-time, round the clock, on-site security staff would be a start, but the bleeding hearts could claim, with some legitimacy, class discrimination. And the cost of such a staffing would hamper the efforts of Citizen Advocates to provide low-income dwellings to begin with. But it would act as a constant and first-line deterrent. Many places have “doormen” or lobby staff to create a more safe environment for residents; people who get to know the residents, can report suspicious behavior, while maintaining a friendly and supportive role to residents who do not want criminality near their homes.

    The drug problem, however, is a larger issue than one building and as a community we must act together to clean our town and the region of the blight of illegal narcotics and the people who manufacture and distribute them. And we must support those who want to get clean by providing a community that fosters their recovery.
    Editor’s response: Cogent analysis and well said! Thank you, Lars!

  3. Calvin,
    Bless your heart. Can you be at the board meeting? My hope for your town is it’s citizens do as you do, show up and care.

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