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Harlem neighbors worry illegal smoke shop possibly opening next to day care center

Harlem neighbors worry illegal smoke shop is going next to day care center
Harlem neighbors worry illegal smoke shop is going next to day care center 01:58

NEW YORK -- A group of Harlem neighbors spoke out Monday about what they believe will soon be an illegal smoke shop next to a day care center. 

"We're not having this," said Tiffany Fulton, executive director of Silent Voices United, Inc. "We have enough smoke shops in our community, but we will not have them near our day care centers."

The group gathered outside a shuttered barbershop to call attention to potential plans to turn it into a smoke shop between a beauty salon and Heaven's Tiny Tots.

Fulton spent part of the morning speaking with the property owner, who claimed no knowledge of the plans. Neighbors said they were told it would be everything from a chocolate shop to a mobile phone repair place.

Without confirmation of exactly what the location will be, the landlord said all he approved was a convenience store. But neighbors grew concerned over new decor on the ceiling that they can see from outside. 

Decals depict a pipe with the words "High Vibes" as well as a skull emblazoned with a marijuana leaf.

Previously, the spot was a barbershop owned by Big Russ, who said he left for a larger location, and it is under new leadership.

Heaven's Tiny Tots has been at the location serving kids ages 3 to 5 since 2018. The center's leaders fear the effect of excess smoke wafting their way.

"We have a wonderful partnership when it comes to parents and our school providing the best education for our kids," said Phyllis Evans, the owner's mother. "We are against a smoke shop opening next door to our beautiful location."

Recently, neighbors successfully protested the proposed opening of a shelter in an apartment building across the street.

"We have a day care center here and a park directly across the street, mind you, not even 100 feet away from the shelter they were trying to implement, is an example of destruction of a community of color," said neighbor Ruth McDaniels.

"We want to stop this before it opens," added Fulton. "That's why we're here. We didn't want to wait for it to open. We want to stop it before it opens."

Council Member Yusef Salaam sent his district manager Shanny Hererra with a statement promising to take necessary measures to enforce regulation.

Have a story idea or tip in Harlem? Email Jessi by CLICKING HERE.

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