HP rallies to stop new jails

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Although local residents stopped one jail from being built in their community, they have yet to lock up a victory to keep a jail out of the south Bronx. 

“Our community has said no to a new jail once before and will continue to do so,” Congressman Jose Serrano said in opposition to a fresh proposal from the city to build a jail in the south Bronx.

Community Board 2 district manager John Robert said he recently received the “newly revised” plan from the Department of Corrections. Surprisingly, there was barely anything new about it.

Robert said the letter simply stated the DOC’s decision to move the proposed jail away from the Oak Point site to another location in the south Bronx.

“And I’m sure it will be in Hunts Point,” he added.

The $375 million project planned for the 11-acre waterfront parcel received vast public scrutiny after the DOC announced the plan in April of 2006.

Unfortunately, Serrano said the community’s resistance is falling on deaf ears.

“What these officials seem to believe is that if they just get the details of the proposal right, community opposition will melt away,” he said. “That’s not the case.

Robert said the addition of a jail is simply a waste of space.

“The few boards that have space are the ones in the south near the water,” he explained. “I just think there’s a better use of land.”

For years now the DOC has argued that building a jail in the Bronx is essential for not only the inmates to have updated facilities, but also for the families who are forced to travel through Queens to visit their imprisoned loved ones.

Robert evaluated Riker’s differently. “I think the Bronx has a disproportionate amount of inmates,” he said.

So while Robert continues to oppose the idea of building a new facility in the Bronx, he said he understands Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s request for each borough be as self-sufficient as possible.

“Everything should be depending on your population,” he explained. He added that based on his knowledge on the issue, it appears the Bronx has no choice but to come up with land for the jail.

Serrano, however, isn’t giving in.

“We will not accept a new jail in the south Bronx of any size or design,” he said defiantly. “We’ve borne the burden of hosting much of the city’s infrastructure, facilities and heavy industries for years, and we’ve had enough.”

Serrano said he also feels that building a new jail shows a lack of faith in the borough’s community.

“The Bronx is on the rise. Our community is building for a better future – a more positive and hope-filled future,” he assured.

Robert said he’s currently planning a town hall meeting to gather more facts and gage the neighborhood’s response to alternate jail plans.

“We’re going to invite the DOC over to hear their plan and tell them what we think,” he said.

Already making up his mind on the issue, Serrano stated, “We are fighting for hope. We are fighting against pessimism. We will not stop fighting a new jail.”

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