Opposition to Walnut Ave. drug clinic mounts amid political intrigue


Resistance is stiffening to a proposed methadone clinic – serving as many as 400 addicts – proposed by the not for profit Northpointe Council in the old school district administration building at Walnut Avenue and Sixth Street.

State Rep. John Ceretto, retired City Court judge and state Assembly candidate Angelo Morinello, city block club head Norma Higgs and even Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster have joined the growing chorus questioning the wisdom of putting the large scale drug treatment facility a few blocks removed from the Seneca Niagara Casino and just a short walk from the mighty falls themselves.

In September, Community Development Director Seth Piccirillo said the Walnut Avenue site was the planned location of an Orleans-Niagara Board of Cooperative Education Services (BOCES) training program in September. Piccirillo then said the facility would provide certifications for home aides, licensed nurses and certified nurse’s assistants.

City Councilman Charles Walker sits on Northpointe Council board of directors, as does city Corporation Counsel Craig Johnson Walker said he was aware of Northpointe’s interest in the former school district building in May of last year.

Robert Pascoal, head of the Landlords Association of Greater Niagara and unsuccessful candidate for City Council in last year’s election, published an open letter to Walker on Facebook over the weekend.

Is it true that you sit on the board of Northpointe, the organization that wants to locate a mega methadone clinic, right in the heart of the City of Niagara Falls tourist district, in direct conflict with the 2009 Comprehensive Plan, and that it was your job to open up a dialogue with the people of the City of the City of Niagara Falls over two YEARS AGO?!” Pascoal asked.

The property is owned by the Paladino family’s Ellicott Development, which granted a lease to Northpointe last week,

“As much as people don’t want it in their area, we have an epidemic. It’s unfortunately a growing service that is needed,” Ellicott Development CEO William Paladino told the Niagara Gazette. “We think (Northpointe) does good work in the community and we said we’d stand behind them.”

Morinello said he took his concerns to Ellicott Development founder and one time gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino directly.

“I met with Mr Paladino recently. He indicated to me that should Northpointe Council make a request, he would be agreeable to releasing them from their legally binding lease agreement for the property,” said Morinello, who now practices law privately in Niagara Falls.

Morinello said Paladino believes that an education center, such as the proposed BOCES nurse training center, would better serve the neighborhood’s needs.

As an alternate location for the methadone clinic, Morinello recommended that the city allow the vacant former police station on Hyde Park Boulevard to be offered to the agency.

Norma Higgs wrote in opposition to the drugs treatment center on behalf of the city’s block clubs. To begin with, she said, it makes no sense to put this kind of facility in a residential neighborhood. Planned new housing development nearby and one recently completed project just blocks away the location even more problematic, she added.

“While I am fully aware of the serious heroin addiction problem facing many communities and the nation as a whole, I am writing in opposition to the placement of an outpatient treatment center at this location,” she wrote. A drug treatment center is not the right kind of encouragement to possible tenants. Perception is a powerful force.”

Last week, after news of BOCES interest in the Walnut Avenue property became known, Dyster issued a public statement saying he would rather have the BOCES program at the location rather than the drug clinic.

Although the hot potato issue has been simmering for more than a year, it was the first time the mayor acknowledged it.


This widely circulating flier details the reasons for opposing a heroin clinic on Walnut Avenue, as well as the conflicts of interest on the part of senior city Councilman Charles Walker and Niagara Falls Corporation Counsel Craig Johnson in the scheme.

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