It was a very clear morning on the steps of City Hall on Sunday, March 26. But even clearer were the intentions of Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., Bronxites, and fellow New Yorkers that were assembled there to protest Mayor de Blasio’s community-based jail plan.
The rally-goers dismissal of the plan was confirmed in the chants of “Hell no de Blasio!” and “No new jails!” which drowned out the car noise from vehicles exiting the Brooklyn Bridge on that Sunday morning.
The rally’s intent was to drum up public opposition to the citywide jail plan’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, which began on Monday, March 25.
In the case of the Bronx, the ULURP entails a 26-floor jail for 320 Concord Avenue in Mott Haven, which is currently used as an NYPD tow pound.
Diaz and others say the correct site for a new Bronx jail is adjacent to the Bronx County Hall of Justice on East 161st Street. The borough president cited the Lippman Commission report’s findings that jails are best constructed in close proximity to civic centers, which Diaz literally read aloud to protestors.
The BP presented charts that clearly demonstrated that the tow pound site is a half hour from the courthouse by public transit…on a good day.
Additionally, Arline Parks the CEO of Diego Beekman Mutual Housing Association had an elaborate plan to acquire the tow pound in efforts to create a super block of affordable housing and community amenities.
She’s joined Diaz in opposing the jail plan for almost a year now.
“We have been demanding the mayor and City Council change their unjust jail plan for the better part of a year, and we have not heard one word from them, nor seen any meaningful community engagement whatsoever,” Parks said on that Sunday.
She had previously fought to have the Bronx jail site given a separate ULURP, so that it wouldn’t be bundled in and pushed through with the rest of the citywide jail proposals, given it’s unique set of circumstances.
“We should not abandon the principles of criminal justice reform for reasons of political expediency,” she said.
While opposition to how the phase out of Rikers Island is handled is primarily a Bronx matter, Sunday’s demonstration got support from the communities of Chinatown and Kew Gardens, which jumped on board the proverbial train as well.
Diaz also teamed up with fellow borough president Melinda Katz of Queens on Friday, March 8, to pen a scathing letter to de Blasio, criticizing the mayor’s lack of community engagement over Rikers Island planned phase out.
He also joined forces with soon-to-be retired Congressman Jose E. Serrano in fighting the jail.
“It is right in the middle of a residential neighborhood, too far from the local court, and has been controversial since first announced,” Serrano said through a statement.
The congressman has been active in the jail battle since its announcement last February, when he attended a town hall at P.S. 65, which is just two blocks from 320 Concord Avenue.
“Bronx residents and the community of Mott Haven deserve more,” he said.
As the ULURP procedure continues to procede over the following months, Parks is urging civil disobedience to bring awareness in her community’s ongoing struggle to stop the city from “dumping on Mott Haven yet again.”