Unib “Shaw” Shaida, who owns an auto repair shop on Frelinghuysen Avenue, Newark, and residents Teresa Wright and Barbara Terry stand next to a sign preventing drug dealers and addicts from loitering on Frelinghuysen Avenue in the city’s South Ward. The trio are part of a coalition of neighbors protesting against a new drug treatment facility proposed for the region. (Dan Ivers / NJ Advance Media)
NEWARK – The signs say “Bus stop instead of drug stop”, “No drug dealers” and “Don’t step on me”.
Time and again, Unib “Shaw” Shaida and his Metro Auto Service crew have trudged out of their business to post them along Frelinghuysen Avenue to prevent the constant parade of hustlers, prostitutes and drug addicts from loitering in the area. Finally, the signs are missing and life in this deserted strip of the southern district goes on as usual.
“We’re in a turf war,” said Shaida.
Now, however, he and a coalition of neighbors have teamed up in hopes of preventing another drug treatment center from moving to the area, which they believe would exacerbate the already grave problems.
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Willie Jetti, the president of a newly formed neighborhood group known as the Community Awareness Project, said he and others saw the impact as similar facilities – including at least half a dozen halfway houses and methadone clinics – that new addicts and attract the dealers who serve you.
“It’s like vultures feeding on prey,” he said. “We have people pooping in front of our houses, people using drugs outside of our homes. It’s all because the clinic is here, and that attracts a crowd that is undesirable.”
The new center, slated for a package at 19-33 Fenwick Street, appeared before the zoning board in October looking for a deviation that would allow it to set up a business. The applicant’s contact information, Greenbranch Recovery, could not be found immediately.
Although residents said they only found out about the hearing two days earlier, they rounded up a large enough group of supporters to postpone a decision until a meeting this Thursday. This time, they plan to fill two school buses with residents to let the authorities know that they have had enough.
“We’re a dump over here. We’re a dump for the drug addicts, for the dealers, the garbage. Everything,” said Teresa Wright, who has lived in the neighborhood for 32 years.
The battle comes just as a glimmer of hope began to glow for the long impoverished area near the Elizabeth border between Newark Liberty International Airport and Weequahic Park.
The Port Authority is seeking a $ 1.5 billion extension of the PATH rail line to the nearby airport, which will include a new train station in the South Ward, which advocates bringing much-needed jobs and economic activity to the area.
South Ward City Councilor John Sharpe James, a strong supporter of the proposed extension, said he was opposed to the new treatment center despite admitting that there could be few officials to stop it other than officials from the Zoning would be asked to ponder the long plight. Be neighbors.
“We can’t stop this type of transaction, you are selling this property to a private individual,” he said. “But if your use is not conducive to the community and the community is against it, we’ll get involved there.”
Residents like Jetti say they recognize the needs of both drug addicts and treatment owners who want to help them. Still, he hopes that he and his neighbors will also be heard.
“It’s just too much for us,” he said. “Sure, your business will flourish, but at what cost?”
Dan Ivers can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @DanIversNJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook.