Harlem Leaders Not High On Cannabis Shop By Apollo Theater

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Apollo Theater Harlem
Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York City Photo: Shutterstock


Harlem – The Apollo Theater is known for its tough crowds to first-time performers — and so, apparently are the merchants around the fabled venue.

Harlem business leaders are booing Gov. Kathy Hochul and state regulators off the stage for proposing a cannabis store to open across the street from the famous theater on West 125th Street.

The 125th Street Business Improvement District has launched a change.org petition in a bid to stop the state-licensed marijuana dispensary from setting up in the commercial district, saying it will worsen the quality of life for merchants and residents in the area.

The site, located at 248 W. 125th St., was selected by the Hochul-controlled state Dormitory Authority. The agency has been scouring sites for the first 28 cannabis licensees and 8 not-for-profit groups. The Apollo sits at 253 W. 125th.

“Please sign this petition to Governor Kathy Hochul opposing the first cannabis dispensary in the State of New York to be located at 248 West 125th Street across from the World Famous Apollo Theater,” the 125th Street Bid said in its petition.

The petition is a bid to stop the state-licensed marijuana dispensary from setting up in the commercial district.

“We are urging the Governor to reconsider….. We do not have a problem with one coming to Harlem. 125th Street is not the right block. We want the Governor to understand the challenges we continue to face. Currently, 125th Street requires significant resources to keep it clean and safe.”

Weed is not the type of business the Harlem BID wants to cultivate for its brand, the merchants said, while also complaining they weren’t consulted.

“The announcement was made without significant community outreach. Considerable opposition to the 125th Street location is developing as more organizations (including the Community Boards) and residents learn of the Governor’s decision,” the petition said.

The 125th Street BID petition says merchants are grappling with “extensive shoplifting” in the post-pandemic era, with one shop owner spending $1.2 million on private security and having a cannabis shop won’t help matters.

It pointed to other violent crimes that have occurred on the famed block.

  • “A shooting in front of a smoke shop. When one gang member saw another one in that shop he pulled out his weapon and started shooting. Innocent people on the sidewalk were shot, employees quit because of fear,” the petition said.
  • There was a shooting across from where the proposed marijuana dispensary would be located. “One gang member encountered another gang member and started shooting, causing people on the street to run into stores, fearing for their lives. One person was shot in the leg,” the petition said.
  • A shooting and murder happened near the Apollo when a group attacked a person carrying drugs, trying to take the drugs from him. He fought to keep his drugs and was shot and killed in broad daylight next to the Apollo, the petition said.
  • A 125th Street BID sanitation worker was caught in a crossfire shooting while cleaning the street. “He has not been able to return to work,” the petition said.

One Harlem resident complained, “The cannabis shop on 125th Street will be the Smoke Shop on steroids.”

“The community’s fear is understandable and real,” the pro-business group said.

Other complaints include: drug use in the vestibule of businesses and bank ATM. Banks on 125th Street close their ATM’s early and some do not open them at night anymore.

There’s also more homeless and mentally ill individuals on the street and an increase in graffiti and illegal street vending, according to the business group.

Aaron Ghitelman, a spokesman for the state Office of Cannabis Management, responded, “The Office of Cannabis Management deeply appreciates feedback from community members and looks forward to continuing discussions with local stakeholders. Once open, these legal, regulated businesses will begin operations and make meaningful impacts in their communities.”

Meanwhile, Mayor Eric Adams, during a press conference Thursday where he focused on cracking down on unlicensed weed shops, suggested the legal pot store by the Apollo would be a good thing.

“You smoke a joint, you get munchies, you go to the bodega and get something to eat,” Hizzoner quipped of the budding impact on other merchants.

Still, critics say the roll-out of New York’s legal pre-roll sellers is turning into a bad trip.

One recent study claimed there are “likely tens of thousands of illicit cannabis businesses” currently operating out of bodegas, smoke shops and other storefronts in New York City — with some pop-up shops selling bad or dangerously tainted weed, a new study reveals.

The Post even discovered three unlicensed cannabis shop in sleepy Kew Gardens.

A recent survey conducted by Upper West Side Councilwoman Gale Brewer’s office revealed that 26 of the 61 bodegas, delis and smoke shops checked were illicit cannabis sellers.