STATEMENT FROM NYC COUNCIL MEMBER RAFAEL SALAMANCA, JR
CHAIRMAN, NYC COUNCIL COMMITTEE ON LAND USE
COUNCIL CHAMBERS, CITY HALL
NYC COUNCIL STATED MEETING
My decision today is one that I did not take lightly. The application being voted on will have a vital impact on the way we approach the issue of criminal justice as a city. A significant step in fulfilling the criminal justice reform we have set out to achieve is eradicating the horrific history Rikers Island has had on our constituents. As I have said repeatedly, Rikers NEEDS to shut down if we are ever going to attain a more just system for communities like mine who have been burdened with the legacy of a repressive method to policing.
While there should be no debate on the closure of Rikers, the course the administration has taken to get there has lacked the critical feedback of community stakeholders in the Bronx. Whereas the city followed the recommendations of the Lippman commission to build borough-based jails at the locations of existing detention centers near county courthouses in three of the four boroughs, the administration cited a location that is more than two and a half miles away from the Bronx courthouse. The response from the community and elected officials, alike, was immediate in their opposition to the location. Nevertheless, the administration moved forward with their plans, leaving many in the South Bronx wondering if a commitment to ‘meaningful community engagement’ was a convenient bullet point on a presentation.
Additionally, the community’s dissatisfaction with the new borough-based plan extends to the broken promises of previous administrations to keep the Vernon C. Bain Correctional Center, otherwise known as the Barge, operating. Asking our community to accept a brand new jail without closing the Barge firstis wholly unacceptable and disingenuous to Bronxities. I have given the administration numerous opportunities at public hearings to address this concern relating to the Barge, but have been vastly disappointed each time at not even hearing the most preliminary estimated timeline to sinking the boat.
Even without citing the other issues that have originated from Council hearings over the last two months, I CANNOT vote in favor of The Bronx actions on this landuse application in its current form. The administration cannot simply ignore the valid concerns of the community and expect us to accept this decision. I implore Mayor de Blasio to continue exploring all siting options near the Bronx County Courthouse where it belongs, and once and for all, SINK.THE.BARGE!