Protesters decry jail proposal/Mayor announces inmate plan for 161st Street

Protesters decry jail proposal/Mayor announces inmate plan for 161st Street
City Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson joins Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner and students to protest the proposed courthouse jail
Community News Group/ Alex Mitchell

A community’s anger reached the boiling point when another potential site for the Bronx’s new jail facility was announced.

In addition to the NYPD tow pound in Mott Haven, a second site, adjacent to the Bronx Criminal Court and Hall of Justice Complex on 161st Street is now in contention.

Needless to say, Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson along with her constituents have expressed resounding opposition to the plan.

A large group of students from the Bronx School of Law, Government, and Justice along with others, joined Gibson in a protest outside the courthouse on Thursday, May 10.

If this site is chosen, students of the high school would be literally attending class in the jail’s shadow.

“In a perfect world I get it and it does make sense to put the jail next to the court, the challenge is we don’t have a perfect world,” said Gibson. “If it were not for the schools, libraries and the residents that live around here, to me it would be more of a positive conversation to have,” she added.

Other concerns expressed during the rally were the senior communities that sit in close proximity as well as the 161st Street Business Improvement District.

The BID’s executive director, Cary Goodman also took to the megaphone in opposition to the proposal.

He reminded everyone that at the mayor’s town hall meeting, held just one month ago at the Bronx School of Law, Government, and Justice, there was no mention about putting a jail on East 161st Street.

“None of the participants at the town hall even brought the jail up,” said Gibson. “I think because it’s still in analysis and the planning phase is why the mayor didn’t want to bring it up, there really is no final detail,” she added.

Goodman urged the mayor to return and confront the community on the jail issue as he lead the crowd in a chant, “We want the mayor!”

Gibson mentioned that between seven and eight potential sites are being considered for the Bronx jail, only two (the courthouse and Mott Haven) have been made public at the moment.

Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark expressed support of the courthouse location, citing the court’s close proximity as well as the reduction of transportation costs as major considerations.

Councilman Rafael Salamanca Jr. also expressed his support for siting the jail next to the courthouse rather than the tow pound in Mott Haven.

“If we put the new jail at the proposed tow pound site, that would put three jails within a three mile radius, placing an undue burden on these communities,” said Salamanca.

Both Gibson and Salamanca are in agreement that the location of the new jail will also impact the planned phase out of the Vernon C. Bain jail barge in Hunts Point.

“These conversations tie in very closely. The challenge we will have as a borough is figuring out when the barge will close,” said Gibson. “I firmly believe that the barge is going to remain open as we build out a new facility. There are anywhere from 500 to 600 detainees on the barge today, they need to go somewhere and no other borough will take them if they’re from the Bronx,” she added.

For the time being, a decision from Mayor de Blasio on the final location is still in deliberation.

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