The borough based jails in the news

Mark your calendars: There is another rally against the jail this Saturday, March 12, 1p at Columbus Park on the Worth Street side. And in the meantime, a couple of citywide news outlets have weighed in.

The Post ran an opinion piece yesterday arguing that the jails should not be built. Yes, they do it in their own special Post way (Nicole Gelinas is from the Manhattan Institute) but any argument works for me, including that the jails are going to cost more than $10 billion and that Rikers should be redeveloped as a more humane jail. And she argued that:

“This isn’t just NIMBYism. Community boards saw through the nonsense of what the city proposed. Jails belong in a nice neighborhood like Kew Gardens, the de Blasio administration said, so that inmates can “integrate” themselves into the community. Hmm, no, not if they’re in jail.

On the other hand, jails belong in a struggling neighborhood like Mott Haven, the administration said, so that area residents can more easily visit their locked-up relatives. As Arline Parks, an activist local resident, told me in 2019, it is “racist” to assume black men from the neighborhood will continue to go to jail and sends a terrible message to young boys.”

The Commercial Observer has an explainer on the jail — no news there, but a good overview if you need a refresh.

And because I went diving for the Times’ editorial on their support of the borough based jails I uncovered the last time neighbors were protesting jail construction in Chinatown: in 1982. (You can find the story here on the Times Machine.) The story covered the vote of the Board of Estimate, a body that no longer exists, when Carol Bellamy was the City Council president, serving in a role that no longer exists, and Ed Koch was mayor.

The hearing and vote was over the $71 million construction of the 500-cell jail on White Street, what would be come the companion tower just north of the Tombs, which was then the Men’s House of Detention and was being renovated at the time.

“Schoolchildren crowded in the rear of the hearing room cheered as a parade of politicians, civic leaders -and some of their classmates – urged a vote against the plan. ‘Dear Mayor Koch,’ 11-year-old Sylvia Tong read earnestly, facing the aides to board members who sat behind the dais in the room on the second floor of City Hall. ‘My classmates and I do not think that another jail should be built so close to our playground.'”

It continued: “Nora Wong, executive director of the Chinatown Manpower Project, said that in ‘our very impressive, huge demonstration’ two weeks ago, when about 12,000 of the area’s residents marched to City Hall in protest, they had been calling for ‘day care centers, schools, housing, jobs, and not for a jail.'”

And here we are, 40 years later and not much has changed.


1 Comment

  1. the chinatown jail plan is terrible. sign of too much $ in government looking for ways to spend.

    chinatown residents have sufferred mightily during covid and asian violence. now the city wants to ram a 2nd Jail in!