Signs Don't Stop Drug Use

July 31, 2017


To the Editor:


While reading “RIRA Anti-Pot Campaign Gets Off to a Rocky Start” (June 24), I was simultaneously amused, irritated, and frustrated. The Roosevelt Island Residents Association is clueless when it comes to drug culture and users. RIRA had been “brainstorming signage ideas” for months? News flash #1: Those were wasted months. Drug users hanging out in parks, on streets, and near kids don’t care about signage, except as an invitation for vandalism. Anyone with any drug culture understanding would know that such signs are a joke – an expensive joke. It’s ridiculous to expect four to five guys hanging around outside to suddenly say, “Yo, man, look at those signs. Says we in a drug-free school zone and smoking weed is illegal. Hey, we better get outta here.”


And yet, this seems to be exactly what RIRA thought would happen. Erin Feely-Nahem acknowledged, with apparent surprise, that the signs didn’t have the intended effect. She then voiced a theory: “[They] did not include the educational component, which was to ask for the cooperation of ‘smokers’ within the community, in respecting the idea of staying away from places where children play.” Really? News Flash #2: An “educational component” for persons with nothing better to do than loiter around the street smoking weed is irrelevant. These are the streets of New York City, not some pristine rehab center for upper-class white-collar addicts. 


RIRA is totally out of touch, as evidenced by Feely-Nahem’s additional conclusions that: a) without the “educational component,” the signs might have been “too harsh;” and b) an obstructed message likely encouraged the vandalism. First, the signs weren’t “too harsh.” They were seen as a joke. The smokers laughed. Second, what encouraged the vandalism was the stupidity of the signs to the drug users who didn’t care at all about the message. The drug users thought the signs were funny; to mark them up would be even funnier. 


Here’s how you stop the weed smokers, and it doesn’t take months of brainstorming – You make the area an undesirable location for them to smoke weed. This is done by constant surveillance, a strong police presence, and confrontation by appropriate authorities, including perhaps a citizen watch group empowered by the police to confront smokers. You basically make smoking weed on the Island a big hassle. That is what street smokers do not want. Hassle them. Make smoking weed here a real pain for them. Then, they themselves will get the word out to just go somewhere else. 


Richard Abanes


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