Ag Secures Agreement To Shut Down Newburgh Drug House

Attorney General Spitzer today announced that he has reached a settlement with the owner of a Newburgh house long utilized by marijuana dealers. The settlement is the latest action in the Attorney General's statewide "Clean Sweep" initiative against neighborhood drug locations.

The two-family house, owned by Lillian G. Harris, is located at 50 Benkard Avenue in the Washington Heights section of Newburgh. Since 1998, various tenants and occupants have operated a marijuana business from 50 Benkard, causing a blight upon the entire neighborhood. Newburgh Police have made numerous arrests leading to conviction for the sale or possession of marijuana at the location.

Last month, the Attorney General's Poughkeepsie Regional Office contacted Harris to request her help in ridding her property of drug dealers. Harris indicated her willingness to cooperate, and signed an agreement earlier this month with the Attorney General at Newburgh Police Headquarters.

"Drug dealers destroy neighborhoods, and landlords who tolerate them must be held accountable," said Spitzer. "But my office will work cooperatively with any landlord who clearly lacks personal involvement in the drug activity, and is prepared to help drive the dealers out. I commend Ms. Harris for resolving to take control of her property. This is a great victory for the residents of Benkard Avenue."

Under the agreement, Harris has agreed to take the following measures at her Benkard Avenue property:

  • Prohibit a former tenant, who was recently evicted, and thirteen individuals known by police to be active in the drug trade from returning to the premises.
  • Comply with all state and local code regulations before allowing occupancy of the property.
  • Secure any portion of the property not lawfully occupied by July 1, 2000, to prevent access by unauthorized persons.
  • Keep the property in good repair, and the exterior and yard free of trash and debris.
  • Report to Newburgh Police any suspicion, observation or information she may receive relating to drug dealing at the property.
  • Act immediately to evict any future tenant who deals drugs or allows others to deal drugs at the property.

Attorney General Spitzer stressed that his Poughkeepsie Regional Office would remain active in the effort to shutter neighborhood drug locations. "I thank the Newburgh Police Department and Building Inspector's Office for their vital assistance and enthusiasm for this initiative," Spitzer stated. "We are working closely with local authorities and community groups to identify other drug-plagued properties in the region."

Newburgh Chief of Police William Bloom stated, "As chief, I have tried to take a creative approach to crime in Newburgh, by coordinating our efforts with other law enforcement agencies. I believe our recent efforts with the Attorney General will improve the quality of life for the residents of Newburgh, and I look forward to continuing the partnership."

The individuals barred from 50 Benkard Ave. under the agreement with Harris are Hevin Green, Krishna Donaldson, Joel Stephenson, Norman Johnson, Sergio Vega, Luis Rivera, Kevin Bliss, Romaine Williams, Jeremy Vesely, Dwight Lewis, Barrington Smith, Mjomo Murray, Andre Cameron, and Frank Harrison.

Today's action is part of a state-wide "Clean Sweep" program aimed at closing down drug houses that plague residential neighborhoods. The initiative does not target law-abiding landlords. Rather, it targets landlords who are remiss in their responsibilities toward their rental properties or landlords who knowingly allow drug activity in their rental units.

In a similar case in Albany earlier this year, the Attorney General filed a "Clean Sweep" lawsuit against a property owner and five drug dealers, seeking an court injunction to force the dealers away from a notorious Albany drug location.

Assistant Attorney General Brian Stettin handled both the Newburgh and Albany "Clean Sweep" cases.