Elected officials, local groups, residents rally before public hearing at Bronx Courthouse
(The Bronx) – Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. and dozens of community members rallied today outside the public hearing for Mayor de Blasio’s proposed Bronx jail site, united in opposition to the unjust plan.
Mott Haven residents and leaders spent years fighting gangs and drugs, bringing the neighborhood to the brink of a turnaround—only to have the City propose a jail in the middle of their residential community. The new jail – at 320 Concord Avenue – would also kill a community-based plan to continue recent progress by building affordable housing and a supermarket on the site.
“The Mott Haven community was neglected for decades by City Hall as gangs and crime ran rampant. Now, after the people of Mott Haven fought and clawed to get their neighborhood to the brink of a turnaround, Mayor de Blasio wants to punish us with a jail and add to inequality in our borough,” said Arline Parks, CEO of local affordable housing provider Diego Beekman Mutual Housing Association. “We will show up to hearings about the jail. We will show up at the City Council. We will show up at City Hall. We will not let the City burden another low-income community of color.”
After the rally, dozens of jail opponents testified against the site at the public hearing.
“I unequivocally support the closure of Rikers Island. However, this is the wrong site to build a new jail, period,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “The administration must come to the table and engage with the community in a meaningful way as part of a process that better meets the stated goals of jail reform and restorative justice that this city seeks to support. Presenting this site as a fait accompli has the potential to undermine necessary reforms to the criminal justice system.”
“While I fully support the closure of Rikers Island, the site selection process for the new Bronx Borough jail has been fatally flawed from the beginning by the lack of community inclusion in the site selection process. The Mayor’s decision to build a new jail in the middle of a growing working-class neighborhood, and his refusal to take the community’s concerns into account, are deeply disappointing. Once again, the Bronx is being unfairly burdened with facilities that other communities are not asked to house. The South Bronx is already home to too many of these projects and is doing its fair share of housing the City’s prison system through the Vernon C. Bain Correctional Center in Hunts Point and the Horizon Juvenile Detention Center in Mott Haven. There is no reason whatsoever why our working families should bear the burden of another prison. I am proud to join this coalition as a Founding Member to, in unity, urge the De Blasio Administration to stand on the side of the people. The Mott Haven community deserves the opportunity to implement an economic and affordable development plan centered on the needs of its families,” said Congressman Jose E. Serrano.
“Our communities need jobs and schools not prisons and lack of answers. It is disrespectful that a decision of this magnitude of proposing to open a new jail in the South Bronx was made behind closed doors by current and former elected officials and their staff. We still await the qualitative and quantitative reasons for why a jail needs to be placed in The Bronx given that Mayor de Blasio’s staff’s presentations have conveyed that there is sufficient capacity in the other proposed locations throughout the city. We demand transparency. It is essential that community residents are fully and thoroughly engaged in the process of closing Rikers Island where we focus on Alternatives To Incarceration, de-escalation training of Correction Officers and providing resources to address root challenges in communities before someone is incarcerated in the first place,” said Assembly Member Michael Blake.
Numerous criminal justice and social justice organizations have called for the City’s new jails to be located as close as possible to the courthouses in each borough to reduce transportation times for inmates, families, and attorneys; to ensure a more efficient criminal justice process, and for public safety reasons. The Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform specifically advised that new jails should not be placed “in residential areas”. The Bronx site is the only proposed site in the four boroughs not close to a courthouse.