Another battle in the war over Mayor de Blasio’s proposed Mott Haven jail was fought this week.
Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. joined Congressman Jose E. Serrano 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.
Also speaking and leading the fight was Alrine Parks, vice chair and CEO of Diego Beekman Mutual Housing.
Diego Beekman has acted as a saving grace for Mott Haven, providing affordable housing to the community and beginning its economic resurgence over recent years.
Parks had been eyeing the rubble-strewn square block for an affordable housing development, for over two years.
She paraphrased a portion of the Declaration of Independence to start the protest and showcased renderings of the housing development she envisioned, prominently displayed behind her.
“Mott Haven community residents are endowed by our creator with inalienable rights, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, the right of public safety, education, and quality of life, above all of these things, economic vitality,” Parks exclaimed.
Diaz then took to the microphone explaining that while criminal justice reform is needed, this isn’t the way to go about it. “Make no mistake about it, Rikers Island is a stain on the soul of New York City and we all agree that it must be closed,” Diaz told protestors.
“This is not about Rikers Island and its closure. What we’re saying here today collectively, Mr. Mayor this is not the site,” he added.
Johnnie Johnson a board member of Diego Beekman and lifetime resident of the area talked about the drop in crime she’s seen in the past four years.
“As soon as we took over, began fixing the buildings, it’s become beautiful now, we can breathe now,” said Johnson.
“Property values are going to go way down, who’s going to want to buy something over here?” She feared if the jail were to be built.
Johnson also mentioned that many residents approached her saying they would likely move if the jail is built, including herself.
“Everybody is scared of this, they’re terrified, it’s sad,” Johnson said.
Courtney McGowan and Ronald Leslie live on Concord Avenue and would literally face the jail if built.
“My three-year-old daughter Annastasia just started going to school, I would like my daughter to not pass a jail and criminals on her way there everyday,” said Leslie.
Their next door neighbor Wally Nash called Concord Avenue his home since his birthday on November 21, 1944. Wally pointed to Annastasia saying “doesn’t she deserve better?”
Diaz 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.