The police precinct serving Melrose is about to get a new $68.9 million home.
In June 2014, Mayor de Blasio earmarked this sizeable chunk of change for the construction of a new 40th Precinct stationhouse in the south Bronx as part of his 2015 Executive Budget.
Recently, the funds have been put into action, and preliminary designs of the project have been made public- Bronxites can expect to see a new police headquarters by 2020.
The Bjarke Ingels Group, a Copenhagen and New York-based architecture and building firm, was commissioned by the NYC Department of Construction and Design to build the precinct from the ground up, on a vacant lot owned by the city at the corner of East 149th Street and St.Anns Avenue.
The new building, which some may confuse as an art museum rather than a police precinct, will stand in stark contrast to the current station which sits one mile away in the Mott Haven Historic District at Alexander Avenue and East 138th Street, a building erected in 1923.
From the street, the new building will resemble a stack of bricks criss crossed atop each other, which according to the designer references the rusticated bases of early NYC Police Stations.
Each rectangular block will contain specific elements of the development, and all blocks, program areas, and entrances will be stacked around a central atrium.
The Copenhagan firm’s modern design includes an energy-efficient green roof – a first for any NYPD station – which will be built using non-reflective materials like sandblasted concrete.
The 43,500 square foot structure (over 30,000 s.f. larger than the current building) is set to surpass requirements for LEED Silver certification.
Amenities for officers will include an exercise courtyard, a training area, a climbing wall, and relaxation areas.
Despite all this, the new station isn’t just meant to be innovative – a major goal of the new precinct is to strengthen community policing in an area where the relationship between the community and the police has been strained at best.
The new station will include additions meant to enhance dialogue between the two, including the first ever community meeting room inside a precinct.
The multipurpose room will have it’s own street level entrance and will contain informational kiosks and areas to hold classes and events.
This initiative goes hand-in-hand with the new Neighborhood Community Officer program that the 40th recently began participating in this January, in an effort to bring down high crime rates.
The Neighborhood Officer program assigns two trained community officers to each section of Mott Haven and Melrose, to open a direct line of communication between residents and the local police.
Unfortunately, according to some members of the community, altering the look of the precinct only does so much.
“You can change the appearance of the precinct, but if you don’t change the policing policies nothing will change,” said Ramon Jimenez, of the South Bronx Community Congress. “It’s good to see money being spent for a new precinct, but it’s not just the facade, it’s the type of community policing…you have to change the whole package.”
However, Jimenez feels that there have been positive changes made lately, specifically under NYC Police Commissioner William Bratton.
“I think the door has been pushed open a little bit, and I think there may be some more changes coming,” he said.
Will the new community program and precinct really bring residents and police together? “With extraordinary effort,” said Jimenez.
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who represents the eighth district including Melrose, supports the project, saying it will “support critical enforcement strategies”.
The 40th Precinct command consists of Port Morris, Melrose and Mott Haven.
The future use of the current precinct station has not yet been decided.