“You’re blowing smoke at us and expecting us to see clouds.”
“You’re talking first about your clients, and not about the neighborhood, of which APT is a part.”
Hill neighbors offered an evening of comments like those Tuesday night to an official from the APT Foundation.
Having received an earful last month from two dozen speakers at a City Hall hearing, APT sent Kathy Eggert, the director of its Congress Avenue clinic, to meet neighbors at the monthly Hill North Community Management Team meeting.
There, in the basement community room of the Wilson branch library, she heard about unaddressed quality-of-life problems caused by APT clients leaving the clinic on nearby Congress Avenue.
Eggert said she found the meeting positive, and vowed to come to each monthly meeting of the Hill North Community Management Team until a solution is worked out.
The team members voted to form a committee of their members, devoted specifically to the APT issue, to help accomplish precisely that purpose.
Under pressure from constituents following a killing near the site on Congress, overdoses on the Green, and the daily dealing with APT clients wandering the streets near Congress Avenue and engaging in unwholesome activities including defecating on neighbors’ property after exiting APT, alders last month were able to address APT staff directly. (Click here for a story exploring the pros and cons of APT’s unique methadone model.)
Tuesday night the conversation continued with the nearest APT neighbors like Lynda Wilson and Dora Brown, both of whom emerged from last month’s larger discussion skeptical of APT’s promises.
“All the green spaces have been taken over” by APT clients, said Wilson. “What do we do to reclaim our neighborhood?”
“Those APT people were admonishing us,” said Brown of last month’s City Hall meeting. She is a molecular biologist now retired after 39 years of service with the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. With irritation, she added: “I understand [the science of the treatment]. But those people have a responsibility. We need to address this. There’s no quality of life.”
Leslie Radcliffe suggested one approach might be to infuse the green spaces in the community —particularly the park on Arch Street and White Chapel’s prayer garden on White Street — with positive behaviors, like people going in as a group to play cards.
That was small comfort to longtime residents like Brown, who remember quieter days before the growth of APT’s methadone clinic. “I’m impatient,” she told Eggert. “We’re being completely ignored as a community.”
Eggert said APT CEO Lynn Madden and other officials have been meeting with alders. The conversation is ongoing.
“I acknowledge your concern and frustration,” said city government Community Services Administrator Dakibu Muley, who was also in attendance.
“The mayor is committed to a solution,” said Alder Hurt.
“Some problems are bigger than APT,” said Eggert. “People with homelessness, others with serious medical conditions. [But] I recognize some of our patients are not good neighbors.”
Brown said Eggert’s generally quiet attendance, mainly to listen, reflected a lack of a sense of urgency. “You should know the history . We were promised not to disrupt the life of the community!”
Then it was the turn of Pastor Chip Anderson of the Community Presbyterian Church on Davenport Avenue to weigh in: “There is history. You focused on your clients, not the neighborhood. We don’t have a safe neighborhood. Safe corners to walk to. We think about the drug abusers because, yes, they’re our neighbors. You need to start by thinking you’re in a neighborhood where people live. The wounds are decades deep. You’re not going to address them by first talking about your clients.”
Landlord Kampton Singh offered to clarify the group’s position to Eggert: “We have no issue with the APT Foundation [work], but with the loitering” and other quality of life issues.
As its last order of business of the evening, the management team organized committees, one of which is devoted specifically to focusing on APT Foundation issues. Both Wilson and Brown signed up for the committee.
Eggert is also going to the Downtown/Wooster Square Management team meeting next week.
“It’s a complex issue. We’re in the neighborhood. We need to partner and find solutions,” she said.