Mayor selects Mott Haven tow yard for borough’s new jail

Mayor selects Mott Haven tow yard for borough’s new jail
Vice chair and CEO of Diego Beekman Mutual Housing Alrine Parks joins Congressman Jose E. Serrano and Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. in protest of the Mott Haven jail proposal.
Community News Group/ Alex Mitchell

After months of waiting, the verdict is in on the chosen location of the new jail to come to the Bronx.

An NYPD tow pound at 320 Concord Avenue in Mott Haven will be converted to a jail in upcoming years according to a release from the mayor’s office.

All part of de Blasio’s push to phase out Rikers Island, the Bronx was made aware in February that a new jail’s construction in the borough was mandatory.

The whereabouts had remained negotiable for some time.

A vacant lot adjacent to the Bronx Criminal Court and Hall of Justice Complex, two vacant properties in close proximity to the Bronx Criminal Court, the parking lot of the Vernon C. Bain jail barge in Hunts Point and the Bronx Psychiatric Center on Waters Place had also been considered by the administration.

The conditions for selecting a site had to satisfy three criteria: the land must be city controlled and in close proximity to both the Bronx Courthouse as well as mass transit.

However, the newly selected ‘tow pound’ site, the former Lincoln Hospital site, hasn’t sat well with Bronx officials.

Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. joined Congressman Jose E. Serrano in a massive protest in front of the NYPD tow pound on Tuesday, May 1.

“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.

That plan he referred to was an expansion of non-profit Diego Beekman Mutual Housing that included the acquisition of said tow pound.

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 thru street that would run through the new development down into East 141st Street.

Major parts of the redevelopment included converting the tow pound grounds and surrounding block into 533 housing units spread throughout 12 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.

During that same CB 1 meeting, Councilman Rafael Salamanca Jr. addressed the issue of the new jail, advocating that Mott Haven is not the right spot.

“The Lippman report indicates that the best location for a jail is near civic centers, which is why the courthouse is the right location, nobody wants a jail in their district,” Salamanca told residents.

The councilman also stated that constructing a jail on the tow pound site would place three jails within two miles of each another in the south Bronx.

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. “Everybody is scared of this, they’re terrified, it’s sad,” Johnson said.

Johnson also mentioned that many residents approached her saying they would likely move if the jail is built, including herself.

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