Paterson Press: Anti-drug coalition says heroin use among Paterson teens higher than state and national rates


PATERSON – A survey conducted among students at Kennedy high school in 2014 found that 6.8 percent of them said they had used heroin within the past 30 days, according to the Paterson Coalition Against Substance Abuse.

That percentage is more than three times higher than the national and state average rates for teenage heroin use, according to a professor at Montclair State University who is director of the coalition. New Jersey’s rate is about 2 percent and the national rate is about 2.2 percent, said the professor, Robert J. Reid, from the College of Education and Human Services.

The coalition, which calls itself P-CASA, is getting ready to release a comprehensive report on the survey at Kennedy. P-CASA provided Paterson Press with some of the preliminary findings of its study on Monday after members of the coalition read a news story last week about an increase in positive drug tests at Paterson schools.

“Our hope is that the report and data will allow community members, policy makers, city staff, and other youth serving organizations to have the necessary information and tools to combat the drug and alcohol problem impacting Paterson’s young people,” said Reid in a written statement. “Working together and sharing information can help to create a safer drug-free Paterson.”

The coalition, which is federally-funded, surveyed 737 students at Kennedy in 2014 about their use of substances, including illegal drugs, alcohol and tobacco, Reid said. The questions were based on a survey used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Reid said. The group received parental consent from all teens who participated in the survey, according to the coalition.

About 25 percent of the surveyed students – or 184 of them – said they had used alcohol in the past 30 days, according to the P-CASA report.

Among those students who said they drank alcohol within 30 days, 20 percent, or 37 of them, said they also had taken heroin and 50 percent, or 92, said they had used marijuana, according to the report,

“With the environment and atmosphere we have in the city right now, it’s not surprising to me,” said Kevin Womble, a community activist and member of P-CASA.

Womble said that part of the problem is that too often the parents of Paterson’s youth are themselves involved in the drug trade as users or sellers. “They’re not giving them the morality against it,” said Womble. “The kids are accustomed to being around it.”

“There’s no secret that we have a serious opioid problem not just in Paterson but in the nation,” said Paterson Police Director Jerry Speziale.

LeeAnn Mandrillo, a communications specialist working with the coalition, said the full report will include the teenagers’ input on what factor precipitated their substance use. Under its grants, P-CASA is focusing on Paterson’s 1st Ward. That why the survey was done at Kennedy coalition members said.

School district spokeswoman Terry Corallo said “any indicators denoting a rise in substance abuse is very concerning.”

“Although this particular data is from a survey taken two years ago, we welcome Dr. Reid’s providing us with a full report of the survey’s findings and letting us know if he has any additional recommendations beyond the steps the district currently has in place to help address this issue,” said Corallo.

School board member Errol Kerr called the findings of the P-CASA survey “terrible news.”

Some community activists say the district ought to increase the number of certified student assistance coordinators (also known as SACs). Budget cuts in 2010 resulted in layoffs that helped lower the numbers of SACs in the district had declined from 24 to 11.

Sgt. Dalton Price, a member of P-CASA and part of Paterson’s Community Policing unit, said he has yet to notice widespread signs of heroin use among city youths. “I can’t say whether it’s true or not, but I haven’t seen it,” said Price.

Nancy Grier, a community activist and member of the coalition, said was dismayed by the survey’s findings. “If we have high school kids doing heroin, that a major problem,” Grier said.

North Letter: Liquor sales ordinance adds layer of safety

Regarding “Paterson awaits possible lawsuit after setting new hours for liquor store sales” ( July 26):

At our last meeting, the City Council unanimously adopted an ordinance that will prohibit liquor stores from selling beer and wine between 10 p.m. and 10 a.m. Our hope is that the aforementioned measure will help us drive down crime, similar to the way the Commercial Curfew ordinance has done for the past three years.

Paterson’s economic resurgence is predicated on improving public safety. Our city must be safer before it can become stronger.

The city’s 6th Ward is a prime example of how investment is preceded by street safety. We are experiencing an economic boom in the area and that type of vitality should spread throughout all six Wards.

We are profoundly grateful to all of the community stakeholders who rallied in support of the new law. Their advocacy proves that Paterson is poised for a more promising future.

Andre Sayegh

Paterson, July 27

Paterson Times: Paterson passes law to regulate hours for liquor stores

The city council unanimously enacted a new ordinance to force liquor stores to stop selling package goods – including beer and wine – after 10 p.m. The measure was heavily lobbied for by local young people and anti-drug advocates.

Liquor stores are prohibited from selling hard liquor after 10 p.m. by state law, but are allowed to sell beer and wine. This ordinance prohibits those stores from selling beer and wine, said advocates and municipal officials. The measure does not force liquor stores to close at 10 p.m., said law director Domenick Stampone on Tuesday night.

Stampone’s law department crafted the ordinance that acknowledges the city lacks the authority to set different hours for different liquor licenses. However, the ordinance invokes the New Jersey Constitution to assert the state government is unfairly constricting municipalities like Paterson from regulating liquor stores. Newark and Jersey City, both with over 150,000 people, have the designation of being first class cities which allows them to regulate hours for liquor businesses.

Both Jersey City and Newark have ordinances that force liquor stores to close at 10 p.m. Newark’s ordinance for example states, “During hours when sales of alcoholic beverages are prohibited the entire licensed premises shall also be closed.” Paterson’s ordinance has no such provision which will allow liquor stores that sell other things such as groceries to remain open.

Some saw the lack of a force close clause as a shortcoming of the ordinance.

“We want a hard close,” said William McKoy, 3rd Ward councilman. He is not getting a hard close. Some council members suggested amending the ordinance that passed on Tuesday night at a later date to incorporate a hard close.

Supporters see the ordinance as a way to reduce access to alcohol for young people while curbing crime and nuisance in neighborhoods. Liquor establishments in the city are magnets for crime, according to a study by Paterson Coalition Against Substance Abuse (P-CASA) which supported the measure.

“Anything goes in Paterson. Anything can no longer go on,” said Kenneth Clayton, pastor of St. Luke’s Baptist Church. “We just want them to stop making money at 10 p.m.”

Sylvia Farrar, a member of the Ceasefire community group, said the measure will save lives. “Please close all the liquor stores at 10 p.m.,” she told the council. Some speakers suggested liquor businesses were selling more than alcohol late at night. There have been cases where liquor stores were mixed up with illegal drugs.

Police raided Hascup’s Liquor Store in Feb. 2016 and seized an assault rifle, machete, and 240 bags of heroin. There was also Euclides Moya, owner of a local liquor store, who was arrested for allegedly unloading 18 kilograms of heroin and 20 kilograms of cocaine from a tractor trailer on 2nd Avenue in Oct. 2015.

Some liquor store owners attended the meeting on Tuesday to voice their opposition against the new law.

“Don’t send the wrong message. We’re not criminals,” said Quilvio Montesino, who owns two liquor businesses in Paterson. “We’re operating legitimate businesses.”

Another liquor business owner, Herbert Cruz, who owns the Gallery Liquors on McBride Avenue, said the measure is redundant. “The old laws should be sufficient. Our problem is enforcing the laws already on the books. We have people selling from back of trucks. Who is going to control them?” asked Cruz. There are also restaurants selling liquor without licenses, said some owners.

Cruz closes his Stoney Road neighborhood shop at 10 p.m. He said business dries up after 10 p.m. anyway. The late closing time for local liquor stores attract people from neighboring towns, whose shops voluntarily close at 10 p.m.

“We want to make sure Paterson is a destination for the right reasons,” said Sayegh. He sponsored the ordinance which was presented by mayor Jose “Joey” Torres.

The city is now waiting for a legal challenge. “I’m hopeful when the legal challenge arrives, we will be given the authority,” said Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large.

Paterson ordinance to force liquor stores to close early gets preliminary approval

The city council unanimously voted to approve a new ordinance that forces liquor businesses that sell package goods to close at 10 p.m. Council members gave preliminary approval to the new law on Tuesday night.

Council members heard from supporters and opponents of the new measure before the vote. Community leaders and residents widely supported the measure arguing it will reduce crime and disturbances in neighborhoods while a small group of liquor establishment owners vehemently opposed it contending the ordinance will put stores out of business.

“This is a low blow to business owners. We’re going to have to close down,” said Quilvio Montesino, who owns two liquor establishments. “This ordinance is going to have a domino effect on a lot of businesses.”

Montesino said the ordinance will wipe out businesses in the business curfew areas. In curfew areas businesses of all types are forced to close at midnight. He said liquor store owners “went through hell” to secure approvals and licenses to run their shops.

“The safety of our people is more important than profit,” said Kenneth Clayton, pastor of the St. Luke Baptist Church. He is also the president of the Paterson NAACP.

Clayton was among a diverse group of religious leaders to express their support for closing down liquor stores at 10 p.m.

“We know even closing businesses at hotspots has been a tremendous help,” added John Alger, pastor of the Madison Avenue Christian Reformed Church. He said the area of East 25th Street off 10th Avenue has benefited from peace and quiet that came about as a result of the business curfew ordinance passed in 2014.

Alger said closing liquor stores at 10 p.m. will deter people from surrounding communities from coming into Paterson late at night for alcohol.

“There’s got to be a change. I’m tired of coming out of my house and seeing that liquor store open,” said imam Al-Hajj Ibrahim Hanif of the Masjid Salahuddin speaking of a liquor store on Broadway.

“If somebody wants liquor they can buy it before 10 p.m.,” said city resident Sabrina Nealy. She said liquor stores allow late night gathering that often result in fights disturbances. Another city resident Stewart Stimson said gatherings outside of a liquor store at 89 Market Street forces him to cross the street walking home following a day of work for fear of violence.

The most moving testimony came from young people which likely resulted in the unanimous vote.

Shamya Winstead, 17, a student at Eastside High School, was outside when a fatal shooting took place at the Moya liquor store on 10th Avenue. “I was right there. I had just come out of the store,” she said. “It took for that shooting to happen for it to close down,” she told the council. “A life should not have to be given for action to be put in place.”

Winstead said there’s another liquor store on 10th Avenue that is a magnet for loiterers. There were similar testimonies shared by young people.

Raheem Smallwood of the Municipal Alliance Prevention Program, who brought the young people to the meeting, said school age children who live close to liquor stores cannot sleep at night due the disturbances.

1 in 4 Paterson youth drank alcohol in the past 30 days, according to a study conducted by the Paterson Coalition Against Substance Abuse (P-CASA). “Kids in our city are accessing drugs and alcohol at a high rate,” David Lardier, data specialist with the group, told council members last week. He blames easy access.

The coalition’s data forced mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ administration and the council to put forth the measure.

There’s also the cost associated with having liquor stores open after 10.m. Paterson has 197 liquor establishments. Many of these establishments are magnets for crime. For example, there were 512 calls for service to the Paterson Police Department for liquor store issues after 10 p.m. from Dec. 2016 through January 2017, according to the group.

Lardier estimates these calls cost taxpayers $15.84 million per year.

The measure will not require the stores to close at 10 p.m.; however, it is presumed that liquor stores will close because they will not be able to sell any alcoholic beverages after 10 p.m.

“If it doesn’t require them to close at 10 p.m. the ordinance is a waste of time,” said Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large. He pointed out the ordinances in Newark and Jersey City are specific in stating stores must close.

“Don’t be flim-flammed and bamboozled. This is a political trump to score points,” added William McKoy, 3rd Ward councilman. Torres, who has been charged with theft and other corruption offenses, is attempting to make himself relevant by pushing for action on popular issues, according to political observers.

The indicted mayor is running for re-election less than a year from now. His administration is challenging the state’s first-class city statute that allows municipalities with population of over 150,000 people to regulate the different liquor licenses and set closing hours.

Newark and Jersey City have ordinances that force liquor stores to close at 10 p.m. Both are cities of the first-class. In other words, Paterson has no authority to set closing hours for distribution or “D” licenses.

“We do anticipate a strong challenge,” said law director Domenick Stampone. He is confident a court challenge will result in a victory for the city.

“This will be a start,” said council president Ruby Cotton. She said liquor stores closed at 10 p.m. prior to the 1981. She said this was changed to allow liquor stores to remain open beyond 10 p.m.

“Almost 30 years later, now you see the impact it has had on our community,” said Cotton.

“This legislation is long overdue. I want to adjust the attitude that Paterson is a city where anything goes. Tonight, we’re sending a strong message that is not going to happen in Paterson,” added Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman, sponsor of the measure.

Sayegh said the city defeated a challenge from liquor stores on business curfew and will do the same with this measure.

Final vote on the ordinance is scheduled for July 25th, 2017.

Paterson Times: Paterson ordinance calls for early closure of liquor stores

Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ administration has presented an ordinance to the city council seeking to impose early closing hours on liquor businesses that sell package goods.

Under the proposed ordinance, liquor stores would close at 10 p.m. Currently, state law prohibits the sale of hard liquor after 10 p.m.; however, this does not prevent the liquor stores from selling wine and beer, according to city officials.

Torres’ proposed measure puts Paterson in line with closing hours in Newark and Jersey City. Both of the bigger cities require liquor stores to close at 10 p.m.

Newark and Jersey City are cities of the first-class – have more than 150,000 people – that allows them to regulate business hours for alcoholic establishments.

“We’re not considered a city of the first class,” said council president Ruby Cotton. Paterson is home to 147,000 people, according to the U.S. Census. She worried the city will lose in court when business owners challenge the new ordinance.

Paterson’s “unofficial” population count exceeds 150,000 people, said business administrator Nellie Pou and councilman Andre Sayegh.

“I’m sure we can withstand a challenge,” said Sayegh citing the recent victory over liquor businesses that challenged the business curfew ordinance that forces them to close in certain designated zones at midnight.

The ordinance recognizes the municipality is not a city of the first class; the city argues it is deriving its authority to regulate business hours of liquor stores from the New Jersey Constitution.

“The constitution of the state of New Jersey provides that the legislature shall not pass private, special, or local laws regulating the internal affairs of town and counties,” reads the ordinance. Preference given to cities with population over 150,000 people to regulate hours for liquor businesses makes it a “special law,” argues the ordinance.

“We’d be in essence getting ourselves into constitutional litigation,” said city attorney Ben-David Seligman.

Council members needed more discussion before supporting the ordinance. Alex Mendez, councilman at-large, needed more time. Maritza Davila, councilwoman at-large, warned of the possible backlash from liquor store owners.

“Now, it’s going to make it worse. This is to get businesses out of business. This is it,” said Quilvio Montesino, who owns two liquor establishments. He said the hardest hit will be those businesses that are in the designated hotspot business curfew zones.

“We’re pretty much saying here, black and white, we’re looking to close down liquor businesses,” said Davila. Some of the proponents of the ordinance said the intent is not close down liquor stores, but to stop them from selling package goods after 10 p.m.

The Paterson Coalition Against Substance Abuse (P-CASA) and the Paterson Municipal Alliance Prevention Program both support the measure.

David Lardier, data specialist with the Paterson Coalition Against Substance Abuse, told the council on Thursday night the reduction in hours for liquor store will reduce access to alcohol for youngsters.

“Kids in our city are accessing drugs and alcohol at a high rate,” said Lardier. 1 in 4 Paterson youth drank alcohol in the past 30 days, according to his group. 60-percent of young people said the liquor or beer was bought from a liquor store, according to information the group handed to council members on Thursday night.

Luis Velez, 5th Ward councilman, said both groups should consider lobbying for better enforcement of liquor laws that will prevent selling to minors.

Paterson has 197 liquor establishments. Many of these establishments are magnets for crime, according to Lardier’s group. For example, there were 512 calls for service to the Paterson Police Department for liquor store issues after 10 p.m. from Dec. 2016 through January 2017, according to the group.

Lardier estimates these calls cost taxpayers $15.84 million per year. The problem is exacerbated by people from surrounding communities coming in to purchase liquor.

“We’re seeing people from outside of the city coming in purchasing because their towns close liquor stores at 10 p.m.,” said Lardier. There’s also the problem of unscrupulous liquor store operators.

“We have a bunch of liquor stores that still sell hard liquor after 10 p.m.,” added Tenee Joyner, program coordinator for the Paterson Municipal Alliance Prevention Program.

Some liquor stores are also grocery stores that attract youngsters, said Michael Jackson, 1st Ward councilman. “There’s a lot of young children affected. They sell lemonheads and also vodka,” said Jackson.

The council will consider the new measure for a vote on Tuesday night.