When Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. said that he would continue to make a case why an NYPD tow pound at 320 Concord Avenue in Mott Haven is the wrong location for jail he wasn’t exaggerating.
He teamed up with fellow Borough President Melinda Katz of Queens to send Mayor Bill de Blasio a scathing letter that criticized the city’s jail plan on Friday, March 8.
Specifically, the letter expressed “substantial concerns” regarding the plan, while it also condemned what Diaz and Katz called a lack of community input on scoping from de Blasio’s office, which has faced scrutiny from many Bronx officials for over a year now.
“The affected communities simply were not consulted during the development of the plan,” the letter stated.
According to the city’s plan, the above-grade Bronx tow pound parcel will be be leveled to make way for a 26 story, 1.5 million square foot jail adjacent to the Bruckner Expressway by East 138th Street.
Additionally, the World’s Fair Borough, Queens, would also be getting a 1.9 million square foot facility in Kew Gardens as part of de Blasio’s Rikers Island phase out plan.
“We have emphasized the importance of community input in the development of this and, in particular, the siting and design of any new jails,” the letter also stated, calling the plan ironic due to this community based jail plan lacking input from the residents themselves.
In the case of the Bronx’s anticipated facility, the land at Concord Avenue property had been scoped in previous years, just not by the city.
Diego Beekman Mutual Housing, which manages several properties surrounding the tow yard, had been trying to purchase the city-owned lot to create a super block of affordable housing with a supermarket connected to the complex.
“What we’re saying is the way they went about selecting this site, the fact that this community has already toughed it out and that the community has an actual plan for (this spot), this is just not an acceptable location,” Diaz had previously said.
The borough presidents even referred to Mott Haven as “one of America’s greatest urban success stories.”
Meanwhile, the letter also expressed that there are better sites in the Bronx and Queens to place the two anticipated jails that sit closer to civic centers.
Furthermore, the two BP’s made it clear to the mayor that there’s plenty of time to start the process over since the closure of Rikers is still a decade away.
“There is still opportunity to restart the borough-based jail planning, this time in collaboration with communities while continuing to employ smart criminal justice strategies,” the letter stated.
One site considered and seemingly a more desirable Bronx location was adjacent to the Bronx Hall of Justice on East 161st Street, which Diaz and other city councilmembers such as Raphael Salamanca, Jr. advocated in favor of, citing the Lippman Commission’s findings that jails are better off in close proximity to civil centers such as courthouses.
Diaz and Katz also expressed their support of closing Rikers Island, just in a more collaborative, mutually beneficial way.