After a year and a half of protests, Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. has formally told the city ‘no’ to the proposed jail for Mott Haven on Friday, July 5. He published his official, negative recommendation on Mayor de Blasio’s entire proposal to build borough-based jails in four boroughs, including the construction of a new facility on the site of a current NYPD tow pound at 320 Concord Avenue.
“Throughout this process the city has refused to address the concerns of the Bronx, nor has the administration adequately included our borough in its planning process,” Diaz said upon his disapproval. The concerns that Diaz referenced span the site’s limited transit options from Concord Avenue to the courthouse and the proposed facility being 25-stories tall, which would make it the tallest building in the south Bronx.
“Is this going to be our skyline?” Diaz asked city officials during a land use hearing at the Bronx County Building on Tuesday, June 25.
“Although I adamantly support the closing of Riker’s Island, I must remain steadfast in my opposition to any plan that not only builds a new jail at the wrong location but also refuses to address the legitimate concerns raised by individuals and organizations on all sides of the issue,” he continued.
Diaz had advised the city many times that he recommends placing the facility at the existing Bronx Family Court location, specifically next to its lesser used annex, combining it with an adjacent vacant site next to the Bronx Hall of Justice on East 161st Street; doing so to “construct a modern court and detention facility that meets the needs and concerns of all impacted stakeholders,” he said.
In response to Diaz’s proposed alternative site, the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice deputy director Dana Kaplan said that utilizing the family court site would require the structure to be built even taller and in a more awkward configuration that would create a whole slew of site issues that include line of sight.
Following Diaz’s disapproval, the City Planning Commission held a hearing for the entire borough-based jail proposal on Wednesday, July 10.
At this hearing, citywide speakers addressed the potential new jail facilities that if approved would become active in 2026.
Business owners from Brooklyn, that support the plan as a whole, even blasted the Mott Haven site as inappropriate.
Another powerful testimony came from CEO of Diego Beekman Mutual Housing, Arline Parks.
Her mixed income housing encompasses 38 buildings and 1,238 apartments surrounding the proposed Concord Avenue facility.
Beekman also drafted a proposal to purchase the tow pound land and develop mixed-use real estate that would bring a supermarket and other needed amenities into Mott Haven prior to the jail talks.
She told the committee that the jail would “shamefully create more inequity in the Bronx” while unfairly burdening Mott Haven in the process.
Parks had previously joined Diaz in collaborative opposition efforts to the jail plan, including a rally on the steps of City Hall.
“The Mott Haven community would be better served through a reinvestment of city resources into the surrounding area,” Diaz said.
However, according to critics of the mayor’s borough-based plan, the uniform land use review procedure is expected to move forward this fall.