Mott Haven jail protesters target plan’s advocate, CM Ayala

Mott Haven jail protesters target plan’s advocate, CM Ayala
Schneps Community News Group/ Alex Mitchell

The Bronx continues to push back against the proposed jail on the site of the NYPD tow pound in Mott Haven on East 141st Street and Concord Avenue.

Protestors occupied the space outside of Councilwoman Diana Ayala’s St. Ann’s Avenue district office on Monday, October 1. Ayala supports the jail siting.

The enraged residents took exception with the councilwoman for allowing Mayor de Blasio to proceed with his Mott Haven jail plan.

Arline Parks, CEO of Diego Beekman Mutual Housing spoke during the rally, venting frustration with the city of New York.

“This is a plan that will do no justice for our community,” Parks said. “We need investments that will keep people within out community out of jail,” she went on to tell the fired-up protestors.

Parks’ frustration with the city is particularly personal.

She, along with the rest of Diego Beekman had originally planned to acquire the tow pound to expand their affordable housing services.

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

Major parts of the redevelopment include converting the NYPD grounds and surrounding block into 533 housing units spread throughout 12 individual buildings.

After the city began eyeing the tow pound for a prison, it invited Diego Beekman to partner with it to create affordable housing on the site as well, according to Parks.

“Any plan that involves putting a jail in our community is one that we want nothing to do with,” Parks said following the protest.

City officials said at a public information meeting that city-arranged affordable housing is now being considered in the most up-to-date version of the jail proposal; both Ayala and Parks both attended the meeting.

Ayala also said she had been long advocating for the Diego Beekman plan.

“I don’t think that the jail and an affordable housing plan have to be mutually exclusive,” the councilwoman said at the meeting.

But right now, Parks and the protestors’ main goal is to have the proposed Mott Haven jail receive its own Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, separate from any housing plan. Currently, its bundled in with a broader ULURP for each of the new, community based jails that would come per de Blasio’s phase out of Rikers Island.

That issue and many more were addressed at a public hearing for the jail at the Bronx County Courthouse on Wednesday, October 3.

Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. organized a scheduled protest prior to the meeting on the steps of the courthouse.

Previously he has joined Congressman Jose E. Serrano in protesting the tow pound jail proposal. The duo even created an ‘Anti Mott Haven Jail Coalition,” teaming up with Parks and other community advocates to oppose the selection of the Mott Haven location.

“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), that this is just not an acceptable location,” Diaz said.