UNIVERSITY DISTRICT (WIVB) — To the chant of “No to Hopewell” and “Not in our community. Not in University,” residents gathered in protest of the new Hopewell Center, which provides opioid addiction services to those who need it.

Hopewell Center LLC announced it would be putting the new location in the Cleve-Hill Plaza on Kensington Avenue in April. Residents who live nearby say they were not consulted in the planning process. They found out the facility was coming to their neighborhood after the plans were approved by New York State. On Saturday, many neighbors gathered with signs and marched in protest of bringing this center to their neighborhood.

“We’re not just talking, we’re walking as well. We did not make the decision for the clinic to be placed here. Someone else did who we elected into office,” Howard Henry, chaplain for the Judges Row Block Club, said.

Henry has lived in the neighborhood for more than three decades and his neighbor Shawn Fagan has lived there for 21 years. They both attended the demonstration at the plaza to voice their concerns about traffic, safety and noise caused by the center.

“We’re not against people getting help. We’re really not. But we weren’t informed about anything,” Fagan added.

Local officials also felt blindsided by this decision. Council Member Rasheed N.C. Wyatt, who represents the University District, said he was never involved in the planning process and this decision came from Albany.

“It’s unfair that this happened and was approved without any input from the residents,” Council Member Wyatt said.

He also added that he has hosted community meetings with neighbors and representatives from Hopewell Center, but he feels the residents’ concerns were not heard by the facility’s representatives.

Hopewell Center is a subsidiary of Seneca Holdings, which is owned by Seneca Nation, according to a press release sent to News 4. The center also said they will be providing transportation for patients who need extra assistance, which includes members of the Seneca Nation.

“The Office of Substance Abuse Services says they want people to be treated in their neighborhoods. Well, bringing folks from Cattaraugus County off of the reservation to Buffalo is not treating those folks in their neighborhood,” Council Member Wyatt said.

Hopewell Center says this facility will serve any resident in need of addiction services. According to Erie County and the Erie County Opiate Epidemic Task Force, 286 people died from opioid related incidents in 2021, which was an increase from 246 deaths in the previous year.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) says there are four substance abuse treatment facilities with in two miles of the Cleve-Hill plaza already. Residents say there does not need to be an additional center along Kensington Avenue. Hopewell Center says there are only three other treatment facilities and the Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo that provide similar services.

Some residents are concerned about security. Roxanne Young says she lives right across the street from the proposed site and is concerned for her and her family’s safety.

“If we can’t get the safety and the protection this community needs, then they will have to find some place else to go,” Young said.

Erie County Legislature Chairwoman April Baskin says this is another example of racial injustice on the East Side because neighbors and community members were not involved in the planning process.

“This abrupt placement that has left the community with such confusion. There’s just a certain comfort level that this will just be tolerated and move forward. I’m proud of the residents for saying no,” Chairwoman Baskin said.

Hopewell Center issued a statement to News 4 and said in part:

We are confident that the Hopewell Center will be an asset to the Cleve-Hill Plaza, the surrounding neighborhood, and most importantly will save lives.

Hopewell Center

If you are in need of immediate addiction services, you can contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Hotline at 1-800-662-4357. To find an addiction treatment facility near you, visit the SAMSHA website or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website.

Full statement from Hopewell Center can be found below:

Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.