Lawmakers bring drug fight to playground
Seek more prison time for dealers targeting kids
Playgrounds have become a new front in the war on drugs.
Two Brooklyn lawmakers – state Sen. Marty Golden and Assemblyman Joseph Lentol – are both pushing legislation that would put drug dealers behind bars for longer periods of time if they are convicted of selling narcotics in a playground or in a park.
Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-southwest Brooklyn) is the sponsor of a bill recently passed by the senate 56-3 to increase penalties for the sale of controlled substances in playgrounds and parks.
“Parks and playgrounds should be about swings, slides, and fields – not drugs,” Golden said.
Lentol (D-North Brooklyn), who is sponsoring similar legislation in the assembly, held a hearing last week on the rising use of prescription drugs and heroin.
The scourge of drugs has affected young people throughout New York State, Lentol said. The hearing included round-table discussions by physicians, drug policy experts and law enforcement officials all exploring solutions to the crisis. Prevention measures, treatment options and possible legislation were all on the table.
Golden served on the Joint Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction, which recently held hearings at several locations throughout the state and then issued a report outlining the seriousness of the prescription drug war that communities are facing.
“As we continue to learn of the prescription drug and heroin crisis in Brooklyn, Staten Island and throughout our city and state, we must advance the laws so to keep the dealers and the drugs away from our children,” Golden said.
Under current laws, people who sell drugs on school grounds or at day care centers are hit with stiff penalties. The bill Golden and Lentol are pushing would amend the law to impose the same types of harsh penalties against suspects in cases where the drug sales are taking place in playgrounds and parks.
One Bay Ridge mother sitting on a bench in Russell Pederson Park in Bay Ridge on Monday morning said she thinks the legislation is good idea. “Absolutely, we have to keep these animals away from our kids. They sell anywhere. They don’t care,” she said as she gently rocked her baby’s stroller.
The death of Academy Award winner Philip Seymour Hoffman in February shed light on a hidden problem of drug abuse, according to Golden. The actor-director died from an overdose of a lethal mixture of heroin, cocaine and other drugs.
“Drugs are still a scourge on our community,” Golden told the Brooklyn Eagle in a recent interview. “People are selling heroin to 14 year olds. And once you take it, you’re hooked. It’s very addictive.”
Golden co-sponsored a town hall at PS 170 in Bay Ridge in February with the Arab-American Association of New York and the Yemeni-American Association of New York and to raise public awareness of the growing problem.
Golden said that part of the problem is that heroin is relatively cheap and is therefore affordable to young people. “You can buy a ‘nickel bag’ for as little as $5 or $10. That’s cheaper than a pack of cigarettes,” he told the Eagle.
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