Bronx Jail Opponents Demand City Planning Commissioner Recuse Himself From Vote on Controversial Jail Project

Commissioner Burney, a de Blasio appointee, was part of the CIty's task force which created the jail plan--and is now set to cast a key vote

BRONX, NY (07/15/2019) (readMedia)-- Opponents of the CIty's controversial plan to build a massive jail in a residential Bronx community are demanding that new City Planning Commission (CPC) board member David Burney -- who sat on the task force Mayor de Blasio assembled to plan the closure of Rikers -- recuse himself from a key vote on the project, citing conflict of interest.

"How can an architect of the City's controversial jail plan now be trusted to objectively vote on that same plan," asked Arline Parks, CEO of Diego Beekman and a leading opponent of the Mott Haven jail. "This is just more evidence that the de Blasio administration's plan to burden a low-income community of color with a jail has been rigged from the beginning. From ignoring community concerns to combining four separate jail sites into one land use process, the de Blasio administration's willingness to game the system in order to achieve its own political goals is appalling."

This latest controversy follows rejections of the overall jail plan by four community boards and two borough presidents. Opponents argue that the City has repeatedly chosen political expediency over meaningful engagement with the affected communities.

"You cannot objectively evaluate a project you were involved in planning," said Adam Stein of Stein Adler Dabah & Zelkowitz LLP, who is representing Mott Haven residents in their lawsuit to stop the City's jail plans. "Commissioner Burney must recuse himself from this vote if the City wishes to pursue and fair process."

David Burney was appointed to the Commision by de Blasio himself and approved by the City Council in March. The CPC's vote will come within 60 days of a July 10 public hearing. The Commission has the power to forward the proposal on in the land use process to the City Council, or to reject it, forcing the City to restart the process or change their plans and resubmit.