Bronx Leaders Furious as Mayor Moves Ahead with Unjust Jail Plan
de Blasio schedules City Planning vote on plan to burden a low-income community of color in Mott Haven with a massive jail; ignores community concerns
BRONX, NY (03/15/2019) (readMedia)-- Mott Haven leaders slammed Mayor de Blasio's decision yesterday to go ahead with his unjust plan to build a massive jail in a low-income community of color in the Bronx after his administration announced they would begin a land use process to site the jail on March 25.
"We have been demanding the mayor and City Council change their unjust jail plan for the better part of a year, and we have not heard one word from them, nor seen any meaningful community engagement whatsoever," said Diego Beekman Mutual Housing Association CEO Arline Parks. "The fact that the mayor would go ahead with siting a massive jail in a low-income community of color on a piece of land meant for community-based development is the final piece of proof that he doesn't care about our community and people like us. The City clearly does not respect the rights of Mott Haven residents."
Mott Haven leaders launched a campaign last year in reaction to the mayor's jail plan that has since gathered thousands of petition signatures against the Mott Haven site, led to protests at packed community hearings, and garnered the support of a number of elected officials.
Elected officials in support of moving the Bronx jail site also condemned the mayor's decision.
"The City has chosen the wrong site for the jail, despite a much better location existing adjacent to the Bronx Hall of Justice," Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said. "In addition, the city has gone out of its way to not only diminish but outright ignore community input into the siting of the proposed jail in Mott Haven. That is unacceptable. We must close and replace Rikers Island the right way, and that starts with picking the correct site for a new jail in The Bronx."
"The Bronx deserves better than today's announcement," Congressman Jose Serrano said. "We all agree that Rikers Island needs to close, but the City should be working with the local community to develop alternatives in the right way. The currently proposed location was chosen without engaging with local residents, without meeting the stated goals for criminal justice reform in our city, and without considering alternative options. I'm proud to join other elected officials in our borough to once again denounce this terrible decision and implore the de Blasio Administration to reconsider it."
The commission created to plan for the closing of Rikers, chaired by former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, formally advised that new jails should be sited near each borough's courthouse, and, specifically, not in residential areas. Mott Haven is a residential community more than two miles from the Bronx courthouse.
Mott Haven also has a crime rate twice as a high as the rest of the city and experienced a large increase in gun violence in 2018. More than 40 percent of families in Mott Haven live in poverty, and the neighborhood was ranked the worst place in the city for child development.
"We need better schools, more youth programs, more affordable housing, and public safety improvements–not a huge jail," Parks added. "It's clear that Mott Haven is getting the jail because it's politically easier to dump it on us rather than other communities."
In August, Mayor de Blasio announced four borough-based jails as part of a plan to close Rikers Island. The Bronx location – 320 Concord Avenue – is currently an NYPD tow pound. Mott Haven residents have spent years creating a community-based plan to improve their neighborhood, which includes affordable housing and a supermarket on the same site.