Mott Haven residents sue city over jail
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BRONX TIMES REPORTER,12 OCTOBER 9-15, 2020 BTR
The NYPD Tow Pound in Mott Haven that would be converted to a jail. Photo by Alex Mitchell
BY WALTER NASH
My family has lived in Mott Haven
for over 75 years.
During this time, we’ve been
fi ghting to break the cycle of crime
our community has faced. Just this
month, a man was murdered directly
in front of the Diego Beekman
This type of crime is an everyday
reality for our community. As a longtime
resident, I can attest to the fact
that until real investment comes, we
will see this cycle continue. Yet the
City is determined to lock us up in this
reality — literally — with a new jail
built in a place where we were hoping
to see a grocery store and other
This is why we had no choice but to
sue the City over their proposed South
Bronx jail site.
Like our fellow advocates in Lower
Manhattan and in Queens, our suit
shows that the jail was approved
through a series of illegal steps at the
expense of a low-income community of
color that is the poorest Congressional
district in the nation.
Many have said that a new jail in the
South Bronx provides an opportunity
for the city to make much-needed community
investments in the area, which
has long been neglected. However, we
have yet to see any of the investments
the administration promised.
The South Bronx has faced systemic
racism and a lack of resources
for decades. Today, the South Bronx
has been disproportionately impacted
by the COVID-19 pandemic, with our
caseload nearly three times as high as
neighborhoods in the Upper East Side
or parts of Manhattan. Yet while the
city faces a debilitating budget crisis,
the administration remains committed
to delivering an $8 billion jail the
community opposes, while punting on
its responsibilities to invest in the community
to create meaningful change.
This is exactly what we mean when
we say that the administration has
ignored us. The administration has
turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to
the community during every step of
Before the administration announced
their plans to build a jail in
the South Bronx, Diego Beekman, an
affordable housing complex located
directly next to the site of the jail, proposed
a plan to tackle disinvestment in
the community, foster economic empowerment,
create housing, and invest
in our community institutions.
This community-led plan is created by
South Bronxites for South Bronxites,
and it refl ects the type of investments
the community needs to thrive.
But the administration rejected the
plan in order to build a jail.
Of course, being ignored by the
City isn’t a new phenomenon. Our
community has been overlooked and
the wishes of my neighbors ignored
for decades. But the City’s decision
to drive forward with this plan underscores
just how unconcerned they
are with process and the community’s
needs, and stands in contrast to the social
and racial justice objectives they
are aiming to address.
While the fate of the City’s plans
to close Rikers remains unclear, with
the recent ruling halting the Lower
Manhattan jail site as an example,
we need to stay the course to ensure
that the will of Mott Haven residents
isn’t once again ignored. We need
real, meaningful investment that can
lift up our neighbors. As we move forward
with the suit, we remain committed
to fi ghting for the future of