Activists blast DOC commish

“Department of Corrections is offering us the same wrapping, different bow, but we still say no,” a crowd of approximately 100 angry community activists chanted at a meeting with the DOC commissioner on May 28 at Mothers on the Move.

Community in Unity, a coalition of Bronx organizations that opposes the addition of a local jail, prepared a surprise visit for commissioner Martin Horn in response to his plan to split up the group through a series of separate meetings.

“He was attempting to divide the coalition and the community who have stood steadfast against his push for a new jail,” Community in Unity member Carlos Sabater said.

Unfortunately for Horn, his strategy failed miserably. The groups joined together to present the commissioner with a strict agenda, which purposely limited his ability for comment.

“We already had rebuttals to all the new incentives he was going to present to the community,” coalition member Lisa Ortega said.

The group addressed what they felt were Horn’s unjustified attempts to construct a $375 million, 2,004-bed jail along an 11-acre waterfront property in Oak Point.  Although the community took credit for DOC’s decision to scrap those plans, Horn stated that legal difficulties with the waterfront tract resulted in the plan withdrawal. 

Now the coalition is warning the community of a new plan that calls for a 1,500 bed jail to be built across the street from the New Fulton Fish Market.  As of now, the City owns the lot, meaning that agencies, including the City Planning Commission must give permission for a jail to be built at the location.

Concluding the meeting, the group asked Horn only one question – if he would sign a pledge in support of the community’s demand to stop his mission to build a new city jail.

He declined.  “So we told him, ‘Please leave and have a nice day,’” Ortega said.

At a more subdued meeting on June 4, at Community Board 2, Horn presented a preliminary plan of eliminating the current barge jail from the waters off Hunts Point to construct a new 1,500-bed jail, raised above the existing parking lot.

While CB 2 district manager John Robert said there was a great deal of opposition, “it wasn’t a slam dunk.”

Congressman Jose Serrano, who does not want to hear of any new plans, supports the community’s efforts.  “The symbolism of building a new jail shows a lack of faith in our community,” he said.

Department of Corrections, Oak Point Jail, Mothers on the Move, Community in Unity, Martin Horn, Hunts Point, Bronx

More from Around NYC