Neighbors upset with New York City bookstore for giving out Narcan kits

Neighbors upset with New York City bookstore for giving out Narcan kits

NEW YORK -- An East Village bookstore is facing eviction.

The notice from the landlord cites one of the reasons being that they are administering Narcan. The state has authorized the shop to do so, but some neighbors told CBS New York on Tuesday it's hurting the community.

Nearly 1,000 naloxone -- also known as Narcan -- kits have been given out since 2021 at the Bluestockings Cooperative Bookstore, according to the state Department of Health.

The store also offers free 15-minute trainings, and hands out personal hygiene products, food and water.

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Raquel Espasande, owner-worker of Bluestockings Cooperative Bookstore, said they and other owner-workers have saved others several times.

"We keep us safe and we protect each other," Espasande said.

Back in August, the Suffolk Street shop got a surprise visit from the Department of Health following complaints from the community. Neighbors say the opioid overdose prevention program has prompted people struggling with drug addiction to congregate there 24/7, adding it has led to defecation on the streets, noise and violence.

"They give them those drugs and no sooner do they take them the drug traffickers are on them selling them drugs," East Village resident Maddine Insalaco said.

Neighbors told CBS New York they have called 911 and 311 many times.

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The Department of Health found the Narcan program is "not causing quality-of-life issues" and that the area "has been a drug distribution and purchase hub for many decades."

Some long-time residents disagree.

"This is an extraordinarily complex problem and they are farming out a solution to bookstores that have no qualification," Insalaco said.

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The landlord recently sent an eviction notice citing the store for violating its lease, in part, by "distributing free food, encouraging crowds to congregate," which has lead to "unknown third parties are harassing tenants, engaging in fights."

It also said the "unauthorized use of the premises as a 'medical facility' has also created a nuisance."

"We are not doing anything that actually violates our lease," Espasande said. "One of our greatest assets is we are a space where everyone can feel safe."

The landlord did not get back to CBS New York, but his lawyer and the store owners both said they are trying to avoid court action.

CBS New York asked the Department of Health what its response was to neighbors' requests for a longer-term solution. A spokesperson did not answer that question, but said, in part, that opioid overdoses are a public health crisis and programs like these are "a cornerstone response to reducing overdose deaths."

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