Diaz, Serrano create ‘anti jail’ coalition

Mayor selects Mott Haven tow yard for borough’s new jail
Community News Group/ Alex Mitchell

The Bronx isn’t giving up on blocking Mayor Bill de Blasio’s jail proposal for an NYPD tow pound at 320 Concord Avenue in Mott Haven anytime soon.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. and Congressman Jose E. Serrano joined Bronx community groups and social justice advocates forming ‘Justice for the Bronx,’ a coalition to stop the Mott Haven jail.

The political duo previously joined in a massive protest in front of the NYPD tow pound that would be converted into a jail if the mayor has his way, on Tuesday, May 1.

Diaz, who supports the closure of Rikers Island is aware that a community somewhere in the Bronx will have to host the jail, but he along with many others believe it should be somewhere else.

“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 stated after the protest.

The plan Diaz is referring to came from a fellow protest speaker, Alrine Parks, CEO of local affordable housing provider Diego Beekman Mutual Housing Association.

Non-profit Diego Beekman Mutual Housing for years has been formulating an expansion plan that included the acquisition of the pound on East 141st Street and Concord Avenue.

Being part of a larger, neighborhood revitalization, representatives from Diego Beekman presented their affordable housing and development pitch to Community Board 1 on Thursday, May 31.

The proposed plan would split the superblock containing the current tow pound into two halves, creating two distinct blocks, while expanding adjacent Wales Avenue as a vehicular street that would run through the new development down into East 141st Street.

Major parts of the redevelopment include converting the tow pound grounds and surrounding block into 533 housing units spread throughout 12 individual buildings on the lot.

The plan also calls for a three-story light-manufacturing plant in addition to a supermarket with a rooftop parking deck.

“Instead of rewarding the people of Mott Haven for their hard work, Mayor de Blasio is punishing them,” Parks said.

During that same CB1 meeting, Councilman Rafael Salamanca, Jr. addressed the issue of the jail, advocating that Mott Haven is not the right spot.

“The Lippman report indicates that best locations for jails are connected to civic centers which is why the courthouse is the right location, nobody wants a jail in their district but it is the right thing to do,” Salamanca told residents.

To back up his sentiment, the councilman mentioned that he agreed to put a supervised injection facility in his district because it was the proper location, saying that same type of logic should be applied when placing the jail next to the courthouse.

The Independent Commission on NYC Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform also specifically advised new jails should not be placed ‘in residential areas’. The ‘tow pound jail’ would also put three jails within two miles of one another in the south Bronx, something else that Salamanca has adamantly opposed.

A public hearing will be held at the Bronx County Courthouse regarding the proposal on Thursday, October 3.

“The Justice for the Bronx coalition is standing up for the people of the Bronx who are afterthoughts to the mayor and his administration,” said Parks. “Together, we will fight this jail and win.”