By David Brand
A Bronx community board voted unanimously on May 23 to reject the city’s plan to close Rikers Island jails and build four new detention facilities, including one in Mott Haven. The vote came nine days after Queens Community Board 9 voted 28-0 in favor of a resolution opposing the city’s plan to build a 270-foot jail behind the Queens Criminal Courthouse.
Bronx Community Board 1 voted 24-0 in favor of a resolution opposing the plan to build a jail on an NYPD tow lot in Mott Haven, one of four proposed jails located in each borough except Staten Island. The Land Use Committee had approved the resolution on May 16, the Bronx Times reported. A Brooklyn community board voted 17-16 against the jail plan. Each vote is advisory.
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., an outspoken opponent of the plan to build the jail in Mott Haven, reiterated his call for the city to build the detention center near the Bronx Hall of Justice in Melrose. Each of the other three jails will be located near criminal courthouses in the other boroughs.
“Rikers Island must be closed, but the city cannot ignore community input and steamroll neighborhoods through the land use process in order to do so,” Diaz said. “The city has proposed to reconstruct existing facilities in Manhattan and Brooklyn to make their neighborhood jail plan work. There is no reason they cannot follow the same development path and repurpose the outmoded Family Court site and surrounding vacant space to build a jail in The Bronx.”
Diaz and community members say the proposed jail site should instead host a mixed-income housing development. City planners say the site near the courthouse that Diaz proposes is not large enough to accommodate a new jail, however.
Community Board 1 Land Use Committee Chairperson Arline Parks, CEO of the mutual housing companyDiego Beekman, said the city “has continually sidestepped the members of the Mott Haven community” during the planning phase.
“This vote unequivocally tells the city that Mott Haven rejects their plan,” Beekman said. “Now it’s time for Speaker [Corey] Johnson and the city council to stand with a low-income community of color and vote no on this plan.”
Despite resistance from community boards, the plan to close Rikers Island jails and build four new jails is moving full steam ahead, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday in response to a question from the Eagle.
“In the end, the land use process revolves around the City Land Use Commission and the City Council, and the city council members involved have been adamant that it’s the right thing to do,” De Blasio said.
De Blasio said the city is open to shrinking the size of each jail in light of the city’s revised estimate that 4,000 detainees will be housed in city jails by 2026 — down from an initial estimate of 5,000 detainees. There are currently about 7,500 detainees in city jails.
Manhattan Community Board 1 will vote tonight on a resolution opposing the jail.
Correction: A previous version of this article misidentified Arline Parks. We regret the error.