Cops hauled a Brooklyn Heights councilman away in cuffs on Wednesday after he refused to step out of a busy street while protesting for the release of a city report on a controversial treatment for opioid addicts.
Police arrested Stephen Levin amid the demonstration where he demanded the publication of a Department of Health study on so-called safe-consumption sites — polarizing facilities that offer addicts a secure place to use drugs under the supervision of doctors standing by to provide care, which some medical studies show are proven to reduce overdoses.
“Safe-consumption sites save lives and we need to do everything that we can as a city to demonstrate that we are committed to ending overdoses and fighting the opioid crisis with new and innovative ways to expand access to treatment,” Levin said moments before New York’s Finest arrested him for civil disobedience, according to his chief of staff.
Hygiene-agency leaders launched the study in 2016 after Council set aside $100,000 in taxpayer funds to examine the pros and cons of opening the spaces — which have yet to arrive in any U.S. city, but have opened in other countries including Canada.
And after officials failed to release their findings last month as promised following months of back-and-forth over the study, according to a Politico report, advocates of the safe-injection sites took to the Manhattan streets near City Hall to demand Mayor DeBlasio share the results once and for all, according to Levin’s chief of staff Jonathan Boucher.
“It’s been almost two years now since it’s preparation. We, along with the advocates, believe the mayor has been stalling on this,” he said. “We’re getting a number of statements that ‘it’s coming out soon,’ but it hasn’t.”
Authorities arrested 11 other protestors with Levin, who Boucher said has friends that struggled with and overcame addiction, whose battles inspired his passion for addressing the issue.
“It’s something that he’s always cared deeply about,” the chief of staff said.
In March, Mayor DeBlasio pledged to allocate an additional $22 million to his so-called Healing NYC initiative to combat the opioid epidemic, after setting aside $38 million to launch the program in 2017.
Roughly 1,075 of the 1,300 drug-overdose deaths citywide in 2016 involved opioid use — more than the number of fatalities from car crashes and murders that year combined — according to statistics from the mayor’s office.
And it’s not the first occasion Levin butted heads with New York’s Finest while attempting to make a political statement.
The last time cops cuffed the pol was likely back in 2013, when he protested the state’s plan to close Cobble Hill’s Long Island College Hospital, which eventually sold to a developer that is now building residential towers in its place.
A rep for Levin couldn’t immediately provide information on what charges he faces, but months after police arrested the councilman for disorderly conduct at the previous demonstration, a judge dismissed his charges on the condition he stay out of jail for six months, according to a report at the time.