An unhappy evening of ‘metha-drone’

The May­fair meet­ing at­trac­ted a big crowd. Politi­cians, res­id­ents and civic lead­ers re­peated the same mes­sage: A planned meth­adone clin­ic isn’t wel­come.

Susan Potts-Nulty holds a “No Meth­adone Clin­ic” sign at Lin­coln High School about the pro­posed Meth­adone Clin­ic on the 7900 block of Frank­ford Ave. on Tues­day, Ju­ly 26. Kev­in Cook/for the Times

The 800 people who crowded in­to Ab­ra­ham Lin­coln High School’s aud­it­or­i­um last week knew what loc­al elec­ted of­fi­cials and civic lead­ers were go­ing to say about a pro­posed meth­adone clin­ic at 7900 Frank­ford Ave.

The politicos and act­iv­ists strongly op­pose an ef­fort by an out­fit called Heal­ing Way to dis­pense the power­ful drug meth­adone to ad­dicts look­ing to kick the habit.

The May­fair and Holmes­burg res­id­ents were hop­ing to hear from the build­ing own­er who leased the prop­erty and one of the at­tor­neys af­fil­i­ated with Heal­ing Way.

May­fair Civic As­so­ci­ation pres­id­ent Joe De­Fe­lice an­nounced to the crowd that Den­nis Kulp, own­er/broker at RE/MAX East­ern and own­er of the Frank­ford Av­en­ue prop­erty, left him a voice mail mes­sage say­ing his at­tor­ney ad­vised him not to at­tend.

“Booooooooo,” the crowd re­spon­ded.

De­Fe­lice went on to say that Carl Primavera, a zon­ing law­yer whose firm ob­tained the per­mits for Heal­ing Way from the city De­part­ment of Li­censes and In­spec­tions, did not re­turn his phone call.

The civic lead­er was hope­ful the at­tor­ney would make an un­an­nounced ap­pear­ance.

“Carl?” De­Fe­lice called out, get­ting no re­sponse.

The people who at­ten­ded the Ju­ly 26 meet­ing signed pe­ti­tions op­pos­ing the 4,830-square-foot clin­ic and left with the un­der­stand­ing that the next big date in the saga will be Wed­nes­day, Aug. 31.

City Coun­cil­wo­man Joan Kra­jew­ski has called for a hear­ing in front of the Zon­ing Board of Ad­just­ment. The ses­sion is set for 1 p.m. at 1515 Arch St., 18th floor.

The coun­cil­wo­man is pay­ing for a bus to trans­port neigh­bors.

Kra­jew­ski and oth­ers are dis­mayed that the people be­hind Heal­ing Way did not alert the com­munity of their plans.

“They were very sneaky,” she said.

The coun­cil­wo­man told res­id­ents that the ZBA might not be able to re­voke the per­mits be­cause the prop­erty is zoned C-2, which al­lows for a meth­adone clin­ic as long as there are no overnight stays.

Still, the op­er­at­ors will have some ex­plain­ing to do.

“We’ll know ex­actly who they are,” Kra­jew­ski said.

De­Fe­lice and Holmes­burg Civic As­so­ci­ation pres­id­ent Fred Moore co-hos­ted the two-hour meet­ing.

Join­ing Kra­jew­ski on stage were state Reps. Kev­in Boyle and Mike McGee­han, state Sen. Mike Stack and Kar­en Gur­mankin, an aide to U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz.

State Rep. Mark Co­hen, whose le­gis­lat­ive dis­trict is a good dis­tance from the pro­posed site, was also in at­tend­ance. The Demo­crat­ic minor­ity-party chair­man of the Hu­man Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, he joined the oth­ers on stage to de­clare his op­pos­i­tion.

A bunch of can­did­ates in Novem­ber’s mu­ni­cip­al elec­tion also at­ten­ded to voice their op­pos­i­tion.

There was no mi­cro­phone for neigh­bors to ar­gue for or against the clin­ic, though they were able to write ques­tions and com­ments on in­dex cards that were read by the two civic lead­ers.

A bunch of North­east com­munity groups have also weighed in against the clin­ic, which would be on the north­w­est corner of Frank­ford Av­en­ue and Dec­atur Street. They in­clude the May­fair Busi­ness As­so­ci­ation, May­fair Com­munity De­vel­op­ment Cor­por­a­tion and Friends of Sum­mer­dale Civic As­so­ci­ation.

Be­fore open­ing, the clin­ic must be ap­proved by state and fed­er­al of­fi­cials.

Kulp, the build­ing own­er, wrote a let­ter to Dr. Eli Avila, sec­ret­ary of the state De­part­ment of Health, stat­ing his op­pos­i­tion to a per­mit to op­er­ate, cit­ing a lack of trans­par­ency by Heal­ing Way and the neg­at­ive ef­fect it would have on the com­munity.

It was back in March that Kulp agreed to lease space for a med­ic­al fa­cil­ity. The build­ing also in­cludes Re/MAX of­fices, an elec­tric­al sup­ply com­pany and 11 apart­ments.

“At the time, there was no men­tion that the prop­erty would be used as a meth­adone clin­ic,” Kulp wrote to Avila.

Heal­ing Way has hired con­tract­ors who have put about $100,000 in renov­a­tions in­to the build­ing. Kulp is will­ing to re­fund the cost of renov­a­tions and lease pay­ments, but the of­fer has not been ac­cep­ted.

In his let­ter to health de­part­ment of­fi­cials, Stack noted that the loc­a­tion — a former bar — is close to schools, churches and day-care cen­ters.

In 1999, the state passed a law pro­hib­it­ing meth­adone clin­ics from open­ing with­in 500 feet of a school, play­ground, church, park, house or child-care cen­ter.

However, in 2007, a fed­er­al ap­peals court ruled that the law was un­con­sti­tu­tion­al be­cause it vi­ol­ated the Amer­ic­ans with Dis­ab­il­it­ies Act. The Pub­lic In­terest Law Cen­ter of Phil­adelphia ar­gued the case against the state law.

Moore, the Holmes­burg Civic As­so­ci­ation pres­id­ent for the last 10 years, wor­ries that riders on the SEPTA Route 66 bus would en­counter clin­ic pa­tients.

In ad­di­tion, he be­lieves the city’s defin­i­tion of med­ic­al fa­cil­ity is too broad, al­low­ing everything from a dent­ist to an abor­tion clin­ic. Also, he ques­tions Heal­ing Way’s qual­i­fic­a­tions. The own­ers are said to run a Cen­ter City cash-for-gold busi­ness.

“A pawn shop is go­ing to run a meth­adone clin­ic?” he asked.

Boyle, whose dis­trict in­cludes the pro­posed clin­ic, called on May­or Mi­chael Nut­ter to get in­volved in the is­sue.

The law­maker said an es­tim­ated 500 to 750 people are ex­pec­ted at the clin­ic each day, adding that the neigh­bor­hood can’t handle it.

“There’s ab­so­lutely no park­ing,” he said.

Boyle said sim­il­ar treat­ment fa­cil­it­ies are a couple of miles away, and an­oth­er is not needed. He poin­ted to Frank­ford as a neigh­bor­hood that has gone “down­hill big time” due, in part, to a high num­ber of treat­ment fa­cil­it­ies.

“The North­east says no to this meth­adone clin­ic,” he said.

The prop­erty has been va­cant since a 2008 shoot­ing out­side of the Last Call bar. McGee­han said it makes no sense to re­place a nuis­ance bar with a meth­adone clin­ic.

“Are you crazy?” he asked.

Op­pos­i­tion to the clin­ic has been an easy sell in the sur­round­ing neigh­bor­hoods.

Donny Smith, of Tu­dor Street, col­lec­ted pe­ti­tions at a re­cent Pennypack Park Mu­sic Fest­iv­al con­cert. “There are enough meth­adone clin­ics already,” he said. “We don’t want one on Frank­ford Av­en­ue.”

Pete Mc­Der­mott, who grew up on Shelmire Av­en­ue and lives on Long­shore Av­en­ue, thinks meth­adone clin­ics don’t be­long in res­id­en­tial and com­mer­cial areas. Mc­Der­mott said North­east res­id­ents have a repu­ta­tion as be­ing com­pla­cent, but he was happy to see the large turnout at the meet­ing.

“It’s great that people came out one night, but we need every res­id­ent not to lay off the gas ped­al,” he said.

Paul Cos­tello, a Vista Street res­id­ent who heads the Ta­cony/Holmes­burg/ Up­per May­fair Town Watch, views the clin­ic as hav­ing the po­ten­tial to neg­at­ively im­pact the neigh­bor­hood in a big way.

“It will add more blight and crime,” he said.

Milt Mar­telack, of Aldine Street, pre­dicts that qual­ity of life will go down and crime will go up if the clin­ic opens. He is op­tim­ist­ic the doors will re­main closed.

“This was a heck of a turnout,” he said of the meet­ing. “It will be the com­munity that is go­ing to shut this down.” ••

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­

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