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City Planning approves Mott Haven jail, other sites

City Planning approves Mott Haven jail, three other sites

Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. during a jail hearing on Tuesday, June 25.
Bronx Times
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City officials agreed to go through with its plan to construct a $2 billion, 24-story jail in Mott Haven, along with other jail sites in Queens, Manhattan and Brooklyn.

The City Planning Commission voted to approve the land use procedure for Mayor de Blasio’s year and a half long effort to phase out Rikers Island by shifting the burden on to a borough-based jail system on Tuesday, September 3.

The CPC vote was 9 to 3, with the agency’s Bronx, Queens and Staten Island representatives casting the dissenting votes.

The full block Bronx prison site is currently an NYPD tow pound at 320 Concord Avenue, the former grounds of Lincoln Hospital, off Bruckner Boulevard.

With an anticipated new address of 745 E. 141st Street, the jail’s current design includes a layout of 1, 440 inmate beds along with an adjacent affordable housing complex that will have 31,000 feet of community space on its ground floor and below ground parking for 575 vehicles, explained the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice deputy director Dana Kaplan.

While the closure of Rikers Island has been widely supported in the political arena, the approved, Bronx jail’s replacement location has been been sharply criticized by many local elected officials, activists and residents.

The elevated plot of land is surrounded by schools, some auto body shops and by Diego Beekman Mutual Housing’s extensive, housing campus that provides affordable rentals for one thousand residents spread across 38 rehabbed buildings.

Prior to the jail proposal which was announced in February, 2018, Beekman along with its CEO Alrine Parks aimed to purchase the tow pound from the city to expand its housing while also bringing in community amenities such as a sorely-needed supermarket in an area often discribed as a food desert.

Beekman sued the city over its proposed use of the site, rallying the support of Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. and Congressman Jose E. Serrano, whom protested the jail with Parks publically on multiple occasions. “It is unfortunate that the City Planning Commission has declined to listen to the serious concerns of the people of my borough, and has instead chosen to move forward with a plan to close Rikers Island that builds a new jail in the wrong place,” Diaz said upon the news of the CPC vote.

The right place, according to Diaz is adjacent to the Bronx Hall of Justice on East 161st Street.

Specifically, next to a lesser-used annex of the Bronx family court facility, combining that with an adjacent vacant site next to the Bronx Hall of Justice on East 161st Street; doing so to “construct a modern court and detention facility that meets the needs and concerns of all impacted stakeholde­rs,” he said.

In response to Diaz’s proposed alternative site, Kaplan said that utilizing the family court site would require the structure to be built even taller and in an awkward configuration that would create a whole slew of site issues that include an unobstructed line of sight.

Opponents of the jail also criticized the city saying that it bundled all of the proposed facilities into one uniform land use review procedure (ULURP) for the sake of political expediency.

“The administration has weaponized the land use process against the Bronx in order to protect their plans to build a new jail on the wrong site,” the borough president said.

The city council also voted on the jail plan on Thursday, September 5.

Although the Bronx Times Reporter went to press prior to said hearing, that vote is essentially a formality, according to sources, because Councilwoman Diana Ayala, the area’s representative, supports the project.

The city’s new prison facilities are expected to be completed by 2026, according to the city.

Updated 2:30 pm, September 4, 2019
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