Mott Haven enraged over jail proposal

Mott Haven enraged over jail proposal
The NYPD Tow Pound in Mott Haven that would be converted to a jail.
Community News Group/ Alex Mitchell

A new jail for the south Bronx is all but confirmed by Mayor de Blasio’s office.

The city hosted an informational session about the site on Concord Avenue and East 141st Street that’s currently used as an NYPD tow yard on Tuesday, September 18.

City officials explained the mayor’s plan to move forward with a jail for Mott Haven by citing current jail and crime stats and initiatives prior to getting into the nitty-gritty details that nobody in the area wanted to hear.

The current plan is to convert the tow pound into two distinct sections, one being the jail and the other a 31,000 square feet affordable housing complex adjacent to the jail.

The mayor’s plan was similar to non-profit housing advocate organization Diego Beekman’s plan of splitting the superblock into two city blocks. The extensive affordable housing plan and community space would be adjacent to Concord Avenue, the side of property that directly faces residental homes.

Other possible additions to the site included an arraignment court so that inmates wouldn’t have to be transported to other Bronx courthouses.

City officials had said that a major reason for selecting a site would be its close proximity to courthouses, which this site is not.

Currently, the jail has not entered a design phase.

What started as an informational session quickly turned into an anger-fuelled community meeting at Betances Community Center East 146th Street.

The Diego Beekman community feels ripped off by the city. “You stole our plan!” is what Beekman’s CEO Arline Parks yelled to representatives from the mayor’s office during the public hearing. Parks brought along an entourage of Diego Beekman residents to express her sentiment of frustration and neglect.

“Every time we try to get up on our feet the city knocks us back down,” one Beekman resident said at the meeting.

“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 in the area also criticized a lack of transparency, citing that they weren’t even informed about the informational meeting.

Safety is also a concern to the neighborhood. Some fear between the jail and numerous homeless shelters in the surrounding area that they’re going to now be living in danger.

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.

Other concerns expressed by residents were: the jail’s close proximity to three neighboring schools, its effect on property values as well as car insurance, and many other quality of life issues.

Courtney McGowan and Ronald Leslie live on Concord Avenue and would literally face the jail if its 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.

The next public hearing for the jail will be on Thursday, October 3 at the Bronx County Courthouse.

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