Staten Island Business Paints 'Please Don’t Sell Heroin On This Stoop' On Front Door

Staten Island Business Paints 'Please Don’t Sell Heroin On This Stoop' On Front Door

By Keri Blakinger 10/17/16

"If Staten Island is the heroin capital of New York City, this street is the heroin capital of Staten Island.”

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Staten Island Business Paints 'Please Don’t Sell Heroin On This Stoop' On Front Door
Photo: via YouTube

A Staten Island business is drawing attention for its unique attempt to ward off drug dealers. In the middle of a region plagued by a spike in heroin use, a Tompkinsville store owner had his door painted with the request: “Please don’t sell heroin on this stoop.” 

Gary Nieves Jr. asked local artist Alexis Scott to paint the plea across the front of Cobra Sun Studios after he got sick of watching drug deals outside in broad daylight, according to the Staten Island Advance.

“On any given day, anywhere from 12 to 20 heroin dealers just on this block,” the building’s landlord, Jeff Gjeshbitraj, told CBS. 

Although Gjeshbitraj described the warning as “slightly effective,” the backlash was swift. The day after the blunt message went up on the blood red door, a pile of drug paraphernalia appeared on the step. 

“There were a bunch of needles just to show, you know, ‘This is our stoop, this is our neighborhood,’” Gjeshbitraj said.

But despite local drug users’ disdain, the door has drawn accolades from concerned lawmakers. “I praise the people who did this, and shining a light on that heroin is being sold in front of their home,” said U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan (R-N.Y.).

“I grew up here. I’ve lived my entire life here. The shame is opening the newspaper every day or seeing one of your reports, and seeing another young person from Staten Island died,” said Donovan.

The outer New York City borough has been a ground zero for the ongoing opiate epidemic. “It’s getting worse and worse,” Gjeshbitraj said. 

By the beginning of October, the island had seen at least 71 overdose deaths in 2016, according to District Attorney Michael E. McMahon.

And Nieves’ business, near the drug-infested Tompkinsville Park, is in a particularly problematic location. "If Staten Island is the heroin capital of New York City, this street is the heroin capital of Staten Island,” Gjeshbitraj said. 

Despite the menacing pile of sharps that appeared outside the freshly painted door, plans are already in the works for a follow-up piece. Slated to go up next week, Scott will paint a large mural on the iron gate covering the first floor. 

The specifics aren’t hammered out yet, but it’ll have something to do with the drug problem. 

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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