Last week, the Zoning Board of Adjustment approved the Kensington Hospital methadone clinic’s move from its current location in the hospital to 2100 N. Front St. on the border of East Kensington.
Community members had voted 54-8 against the move at a joint public meeting of three community organizations (East Kensington Neighbors Association, Hope Street Neighbors for Better Living and Norris Square Civic Association) last November.
However, the hospital later worked with NSCA on a public safety plan and community partnership agreement, according to Plan Philly, and the group changed its position. EKNA members continue to oppose the proposal.
The hospital’s public safety plan includes provisions for a guard during business hours and security rounds at night, surveillance cameras, cleanliness and maintenance and “appropriate lighting in the evening,” as well as a promise to crack down on loitering.
The NSCA’s letter of support to the zoning board states an intent to create a Norris Square Community Advisory Board, which will comprise representatives from Kensington Hospital and community organizations as well as nearby residents and business owners, to monitor the clinic.
EKNA leaders met with Kensington Hospital once to review the safety plan, EKNA President Clare Dych said.
“Our job is to represent what the neighborhood wanted,” Dych said in a phone interview Monday. “We reiterated that they had voted against it, so we weren’t in a position to conduct any kind of side deals. It didn’t seem appropriate to go against the spirit of the vote in closed-door meeting.”
Dych stressed that EKNA is not opposed to methadone treatment.
“It’s providing a service that is necessary to the community,” she said. “We just don’t think this is the way to go about it.”
EKNA members had concerns about inadequate waiting room space for the increased patient load, inconsistencies in what they were told about the hours of operation and patient load and the fact that the clinic would be located in a residential area where “there aren’t many eyes on the street,” and questions about whether the hospital would adhere to the promised safety protocols.
“There are a number of families with young children [in the area],” she said. “It’s pretty well known that methadone clinics have problems with loitering, and nothing expressed to us that they had adequate plans in place for controlling the proposed increased patient load.”
Dych said EKNA was exploring their options to appeal the decision.
“It’s not over yet,” she said. “The dissatisfaction expressed with the 54-8 vote has not gone away. Citizens will be looking at a response through the appropriate channels.”
Neighbors who are concerned about the clinic should contact EKNA, Dych said. ••