Raucous chants of “we will fight and we will win” opened a town hall meeting about Mayor de Blasio’s unsettling plan to build a jail at 320 Concord Avenue in Mott Haven.
The mayor released a plan to construct a jail on the vacant parcel that currently is used as a NYPD police pound and was the former site of Lincoln Hospital.
The meeting’s packed venue, P.S. 65, sits two blocks from where the jail would be built, one of the many issues that residents took exception to.
The noticable absence of several local elected city officials, including Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., Councilman Raphael Salamanca or anyone from the mayor’s office, contributed to the community feeling slighted in their struggle to have their voices heard.
“It’s insulting to us,” said Mott Haven lifetime resident Hector Cortez. “We voted for them, shouldn’t they be here to listen to our issues?” he exclaimed.
Residents fear that the construction of a jail would inadvertently erase decades of hard work and triumph for the Mott Haven community.
“We’ve done so much to build up this community. Years ago you couldn’t catch a cab around here,” said Sonia Taylor, who has lived a majority of her life in the Mott Haven area. “A jail would devastate all that we’ve done for women and the entire community,” she added.
Residents also expressed concern over the jail’s close proximity to the Diego Beekman houses.
The Mott Haven community had been eyeing the rubble-strewn square block for an affordable housing development, for over two years.
“I had been an active participant in the Diego Beekman plan. I told the mayor that the community had a very robust meeting on what the community wanted to see more of,” Councilwoman Diana Ayala told residents at the meeting.
Needless to say a jail was not on their list.
Ayala also mentioned the possibility of an alternate location for a jail that the city needs to build because it plans to close the Rikers Island facilities.
Jassen Cintron has lived close to the Beekman housing his entire life. “As a community we want to focus on kids and their education,” he said. “Having a jail in the community is not what we want kids to see or grow up around,” he added.
When Cintron spoke at the town hall he encouraged residents to stick together and unite to defeat the issue at hand.
He also recounted that while growing up in the neighborhood there was an element of shame and embarrassment in telling people that you had grown up in the Bronx, but he and his family stayed.
“Now we’re proud of where we are from, we haven’t had a meeting like this in 20 years, things are changing, we watch out for each other, we break bread with each other,” Cintron said.
While residents are in agreement with the inmate reduction initiative and the permanent shutting of Rikers Island, they are demanding greater support from all their elected representatives as well.
Alrine Parks, vice chair and CEO of Diego Beekman Mutual Housing concluded the town hall by exclaiming “What do we have to do to get NYC to stop dumping in Mott Haven?”
Community Board 1 voted down the proposed jail by an overwhelming majority.
The fate of the Mott Haven jail is still undecided as the community continues their organized opposition.