NEW YORK (09/05/2019) (readMedia)-- Council Member Rafael Salamanca Jr., the Chair of the City Council's powerful Land Use Committee, announced his opposition today to the City's controversial proposed jail site in the Bronx.
The plan to build a jail in Mott Haven -- a low-income community of color -- has faced steep opposition from elected officials and community members from its initial proposal last year. Bronx Community Board 1 voted unanimously against the jail proposal and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. rejected the plan, stating that the City has not listened to community concerns and that the jail should be sited next to the Bronx Family Court instead. Rep. Jose Serrano and other elected officials representing the Bronx have also demanded the plan be scrapped.
Today, Council Member Salamanca joined the opposition to the Mott Haven site, testifying at a Council Land Use Committee hearing that he supported closing Riker's Island and ending its abuses, but was frustrated by the selection of a tow-pound site in Mott Haven previously meant for affordable housing, which is two-and-a-half miles away from the Bronx's courthouse facilities. Salamanca also noted that the City's plan to use the site was contradictory to the recommendations of the Lippman Commission, which recommended the new jails be placed in proximity to the courthouse, and not be built in residential areas.
Salamanca then called on the Mayor and City Council to listen to the concerns of the South Bronx community in Mott Haven and build the new jail on a site next to the courthouse.
"Despite a pledge to have meaningful community engagement, the details surrounding the Bronx jail has felt more like a one-sided conversation, truly meant to check off a box. It is clear the proposed location is not the right one for the community," Council Member Salmanca said at the hearing. "The administration picked a site that is located 2.5 miles from the Bronx courthouse and has been discussed as an area for large-scale affordable housing development."
Opponents of the controversial plan to build a massive jail in the South Bronx vowed this week to fight the project in the City Council following a City Planning Commission vote. They praised Salamanca's opposition to the Mott Haven proposal.
"Council Member Salamanca is standing up for the Bronx and our community-now it's the Council's turn," said Arline
Parks, CEO of Diego Beekman. "The City Council must do what's right and stop this unjust plan to build a massive jail in a low-income community of color."
Mott Haven community leaders also filed a lawsuit against the City earlier this year, charging that the City broke the law by packaging four new proposed borough jail sites into one land use proposal, instead of individually. The lawsuit also accuses the de Blasio Administration of putting political expediency over the needs of the Mott Haven community.
An analysis of the Bronx jail proposal also found that the City misled and misinformed the public by presenting inaccurate renderings and details of the plan which made the jail appear smaller than it is.