A new front has opened in the war against the city’s attempt to build a 26-story jail atop an NYPD tow pound at 320 Concord Avenue in Mott Haven.
No New Jails, a citywide opponent to Mayor de Blasio’s community based jail initiative hosted an open-air discussion at Hunts Point’s community center, The Point of 940 Garrison Avenue on Sunday, April 7.
Except for a few city-executed scoping sessions and meetings by Community Board 1, this is one of the first public sit down discussions about the jail, rather than previously held protests.
The discussion focused around the question, “What does safety mean to you?,” regarding the south Bronx community and its needs.
A spokesperson for No New Jails said that the purpose of the meeting and listening session was to raise local awareness of what’s going on with the city’s jail plan, criticizing the city for a lack of information on its proceedings.
Some residents called on the city to do more to meet the ‘safety’ needs of education, clean air and affordable housing rather than investing $11 billion into a jail facility that would end up being an obtrusive skyscraper in the south Bronx.
A panel of community speakers assembled for the meeting, many sharing experiences of what it was like to have family members incarcerated.
The group has publicly supported the closure of Rikers Island, but like some Bronx elected officials and community leaders No New Jails believes that the Mott Haven jail is an inappropriate alternative.
That same spokesperson explained that 80 percent of Rikers inmates are there pre-trail, noting that the group focuses on bail reform as well.
“We need to do away with Rikers but don’t stop there,” said Mott Haven resident Myra Hernández,
She reiterated the organization’s key talking points that the Bronx should be focusing on living-wage jobs, clean air, mental health, and public health care over a new jail facility.
The group is also pushing to have Rikers depopulated as an alternative to adding new jails around the city.
Currently, the tow yard jail is in the midst of a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure along with three other facilities citywide.
No New Jails is also pushing the city to show more open transparency and to encourage community voices in opposition to be heard, the spokesperson said.
Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. has committed to doing everything in his power to prevent the jail from being built at that site while Arline Parks, the CEO of Diego Beekman Mutual Housing has threatened legal action to block the city’s plan.