Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. continues to demonstrate his adamant opposition to the plan to build a 26-story jail in Mott Haven.
Diaz called out the city for what he described as “its lack of any real commitment to community input in its ongoing proposal to build a new jail in the Bronx,” in a letter to Mayor de Blasio on Thursday, April 18.
This is the second letter of desention the borough president has penned about the jail to the mayor in six weeks.
Previosuly, he and fellow borough president Melinda Katz of Queens sent the mayor a scathing letter on his handling of the planned phase out of Rikers Island on Friday, March 8.
This time, Diaz took issue with the administration’s formation of a Design Advisory Group, that is tasked with developing a plan for the current, NYPD-utilized tow pound at 320 Concord Avenue.
That proposed jail site, along with sites in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn, is undergoing a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, despite Diaz’ vehement opposition, which he, along with dozens of protesters, expressed to the mayor on the steps of City Hall on Sunday, March 26.
“The timing of this announcement makes it crystal clear that your administration has no desire to even pretend to take community input into account during the siting process, and in fact views the outcome of the ULURP as a fait accompli,” Diaz wrote.
“Rikers Island must be closed,” Diaz continued. “However, your administration should not abandon the principles of criminal justice reform for reasons of political expediency,” he stated.
The borough president added that the new jail is being built in the wrong location, and should be moved to a site adjacent to the Bronx Hall of Justice.
Along with the letter he sent the city visual maps that outlined the distance from 320 Concord Avenue to the Hall of Justice on East 161st Street while pointing out the limited transit options in the proximity to the Mott Haven spot.
The map highlighted the line of civic centers on East 161st Street, from family courts, to the DA’s Office in addition to others.
Diaz and many other Bronx elected officials support moving the jail to a property adjacent to the Hall of Justice. A report by Judge Jonathan Lippman’s Commission, indicated that the best locations for jail facilities are next to or near civic centers.
“Mott Haven is the wrong location for a new jail in the Bronx. An obviously better location exists for this jail,” Diaz said. “If you truly value community input on this issue you would be wise to recognize this fact,” the borough president continued on.
Community Board 1, which would be the unlucky recipient of the jail focused its Thursday, April 25 meeting around the ongoing debacle.
Arline Parks, the CEO of Diego Beekman Mutual Housing, called out the city for disrupting her group’s own plan for the grounds of 320 Concord Avenue, at the meeting.
Diego-Beekman wanted to acquire the tow pound from NYC to construct a large-scale affordable housing complex that would split the superblock into two sections, providing community amenities such as a supermarket.
Parks and Diego-Beekman presented that plan to CB1 last year on Thursday, May 31, which the board overwhelmly supported.