Bronx residents are suing the city to force four jails set to replace Rikers Island to go through separate land use review processes. The suit is the first in a cadre of threatened lawsuits to stymie plans for a new jail in every borough except for Staten Island.
Currently, the city has lumped all four facilities into one Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) to expedite the process. But the jail proposed for the Mott Haven section of the south Bronx is the only site where a jail would be erected on land that wasn’t already devoted to housing detainees on what’s currently a tow pound for the New York Police Department.
Locals contend that the complicated project deserves its own review process, and now, residents of the Diego Beekman houses across the street from the proposed jail are suing the city to try and force its hand.
“It would set a dangerous precedent that would undermine the purpose and efficacy of ULURP, and instead allow the City to run away with a citywide project without site-specific consideration, in contravention of the mandates of the City Charter,” the suit reads, which was recently filed in state supreme court.
Bronx Community Board 1 unanimously voted against the 26-story jail in May, and locals and elected officials have pushed for the city to consider another site. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. has urged the officials to explore erecting the jail at 900 Sheridan Avenue—where Bronx Family Court is currently located—next door to the Bronx Hall of Justice.
“There is a perfectly valid alternative site for the proposed Bronx jail ... yet the city has blatantly refused to give this location any consideration,” Diaz Jr. argues. “In the interest of political expediency the administration has chosen the wrong site for its proposed jail.”
A spokesperson for City Hall says the city is mulling input on the plan, but is staunch its it commitment to shutter Rikers Island by 2026.
“The Mayor is committed to ending the days of mass incarceration in New York City and creating a smaller, safer, fairer justice system,” said Laura Feyer, a mayoral spokesperson. “We’ve been engaging with surrounding communities for each proposed site for months and are taking their feedback into account, but nothing will derail us from our mission to close Rikers Island.”
The Bronx Borough President is hosting a June 25 hearing to gather additional input on the proposed Mott Haven jail at 851 Grand Concourse at 6:30 p.m.