Mott Haven Leaders Sue to Block "Unlawful", "Political" Bronx Jail

Lawsuit accuses Mayor, Council Speaker of circumventing law by railroading plan to put jail in low-income community of color to "score a quick political win"

BRONX, NY (02/12/2020) (readMedia)-- Opponents of a massive new jail in Mott Haven filed a lawsuit this week, accusing Mayor Bill de Blasio and CIty Council Speaker Corey Johnson of breaking the law in order to "score a quick political win" when they rammed through a highly controversial plan to build the jail in a low-income community of color.

The Article 78 lawsuit seeks to block construction of the 20-story jail in the poorest congressional district in the United States, arguing that the City and Council purposely circumvented the law by ignoring alternative sites for the jail, keeping vital information about the siting process from the public, and hiding problems with the jail site in a package of multi-borough land use changes--rather than disclosing the true impact of the Mott Haven project on its own.

"The Mayor and Council Speaker broke the law and rigged the process to saddle a low-income community of color with a jail, plain and simple," said Arline Parks, CEO of Diego Beekman Mutual Housing Association. "The Mayor and Speaker Johnson wanted a headline, and they didn't care what law they had to break or who they had to sacrifice or hurt to get it. Now black and brown people, struggling to save their community after decades of struggling, are getting a huge jail instead of building community wealth, affordable housing and jobs. What the Mayor and Speaker did was outrageous and shameful--and now the Court must block this devastating, illegal, political jail."

Specifically, the lawsuit argues that grouping all four new borough jails into one Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) process was clearly done to circumvent local land use laws. It also contends that the process was illegal because, in order to ram through the project, the City failed to provide a clear and sufficient Environmental Impact Statement.

The City also selected the Mott Haven location without input or support from the impacted neighborhood in Mott Haven, the lawsuit says. In fact, the Mott Haven community supported a mixed-income affordable housing development on the jail site. Numerous elected officials, including Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., backed that plan, as well as an alternative site for the jail next to the Bronx Courthouse, which the suit says was also not appropriately considered.

The petitioners in the suit, Diego Beekman Mutual Housing Association Housing Development Fund Corporation and Walter Nash (Concord Avenue Residents Association President) v. The City of New York, New York City Department of City Planning and New York City Planning Commission, are represented by Adam J. Stein, Matteo J. Rosselli and Jonathan L. Adler of the law firm Stein Adler Dabah & Zelkowitz LLP. You can read the petition here.

Diego Beekman Background:

Diego Beekman Mutual Housing Association (DB) consists of 38 buildings of affordable housing in Mott Haven. DB has been in existence for 45 years and employs 100 workers. Since 2003, DB has been run by a board that consists of residents that includes other professionals with housing experience. DB has had a hugely positive impact on the community since taking over ownership of the development. Management has lowered the levels of gang violence, drugs and addressed public safety issues. DB has spent the last 22 years planning the stability of the complex that has resulted in $150 million in financial investments in capital improvements to the housing stock. DB spent three years gathering input from community residents to form the Diego Beekman Neighborhood Plan, a comprehensive development plan for three underutilized, publicly-owned sites in the community that includes additional affordable housing, youth and senior services community space, economic opportunities, jobs and more to create wealth for the Mott Haven neighborhood.