Bronx Political Round-up: City Proposes South Bronx Jail

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De Blasio, Ayala Push Bronx Jail on Concord Avenue

Bronx elected officials and South Bronx residents were taken by surprise by Mayor de Blasio’s announcement the NYPD tow pound at 320 Concord Avenue will be the home of one of four new city jails to replace the aging Rikers Island jail complex. City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and area councilwoman Diana Ayala endorsed the project. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. ripped the announcement.

“Where is the transparency when you annouce that you are placing a new jail in a community, and then you want community and my input,” asked Diaz rhetorically.

Wednesday’s announcement also succeeded in drawing the ire of Councilman Rev. Ruben Diaz, Sr., who claimed that he was blindsided. Assemblyman Marco Crespo also expressed displeasure at City Hall’s surprise announcement. A City Hall source said that CM Ayala said that she only learned of the Concord Avenue site in the last week or so.

In a phone interview, a livid CM Diaz told The Bronx Chronicle called the decision “a slap in the face of Bronx elected officials.” He said that de Blasio was being disingenuous claiming that the city’s record low arrests being behind the need to close the massive Rikers Island jail complex. “Arrests are down because he has tied the hands of police. People can expose themselves. People can smoke marijuana in public. Forget me, but people can [defecate] in the street and nothing can happen,” said Rev. Diaz.

Rafael Salamanca, the chairman of the Council’s Land Use committee limited his criticism to the South Bronx being a prime example of a community that has historically taken on more than its fair share. “Not only do we have a growing juvenile detention center in the middle of one of our busiest commercial hubs, but we also have the Vernon C. Bain Center, a relic from the crack epidemic of the 1980’s and 1990’s,” he said in a statement.

“While the Vernon C. Bain Center, or ‘The Boat’, was supposed to be temporary, it has been anchored on the waterfront of Hunts Point for more than twenty-five years. “For residents, it’s a symbol of embarrassment. For outsiders, it symbolizes that the South Bronx is dangerous, disparate and not worthy of investment. I can’t stand for that,” he added.

On Thursday, Rep. Jose Serrano weighed in. “I strongly support the effort to close Rikers’, but that process cannot take place at the expense of community input and participation in the siting of such a facility. Far too often, the South Bronx is used to deal with negative problems that other areas of New York City do not want to deal with. Waste transfer stations, sewage treatment plants, industrial/commercial facilities that generate increased truck traffic- all seem to be located in the South Bronx disproportionately when compared to the rest of the City. Once again it appears the South Bronx has been selected to bear an unnecessary burden on behalf of the City.

“It is also important to note that twelve years ago, the City attempted to build a jail at Oak Point in the South Bronx. Those plans were eventually abandoned in the face of universal opposition from local residents, community groups, and elected officials.“This ‘process’ already seems to be fundamentally flawed. There should be equity and fairness in the jail placement process- and that means looking throughout our borough- not just in the South Bronx,” noted Serrano in his statement.

Morrisania-area Assemblyman Michael Blake called the closed-door decision “disrespectful.” “It is a sign that according to City Hall that communities of color are not deserving of respect and that more jail cells should come here instead of helping children understand stem cells,” said Blake in a statement.

During the City Hall news conference, Speaker Johnson apologized for failing to reach out and consult with Bronx officials. One insider wasn’t buying the belated spin coming out of City Hall. “”The mayor is trying to undermine the process,” the source told The Bronx Chronicle.

Mayor de Blasio is counting on the Council tradition of respecting and assenting to the affected councilmember in ULURP matters. A City Hall spokesperson reportedly said, “we have the votes.”

80AD, 32SD County Committees Meet Tonight to Nominate Special Elex Candidates

Governor Andrew Cuomo recently set April 24 as the date for special elections to fill eleven legislative vacancies, eight in the Assembly and three in the Senate. Former Mark Gjonaj chief of staff Nathalia Fernandez is likely to win the coveted nomination at tonight’s 80th Assembly District county committee convention at Maestro’s Caterers on Bronxdale Avenue. Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda will finally secure the designation from the 32 SD CC to run to fill ex-State Senator Ruben Diaz’s vacancy. Tonight’s designation of Ms. Fernandez and Assemblyman Sepulveda just about assures that they will win the special election because both districts are overwhelmingly Democratic strongholds.

The Bronx Republican Party is supporting Patrick Deliances, an African American college professor, for the 32SD seat. Deliances previously ran against CM Salamancha for city council. Gene DeFrancis, a registered independent, is the GOP candidate running in the 80th AD. A founder of the Allerton Avenue Merchant Association, DeFrancis is a US Navy vet, an actor and a long-time community servant said a party spokesman.

Mark Gjonaj and Rev. Ruben Diaz were elected to the City Council last November and took office on January 1.

Where In The World Is Michael Blake?
According to his public schedule, which was released late Thursday afternoon, Assemblyman and DNC Vice chairman Michael Blake will be in Atlanta speaking to Georgia Democrats at the Fulton County Democratic Party’s Blue Heart Affair tonight at 6:30 PM. The Democratic party shindig takes place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel at Atlanta Airport.

Where The Pols Are

February 15

8:30 PM – Mayor Bill de Blasio holds a media availability with Police Commissioner O’Neill and officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation regarding a plot to bomb a Bronx school. One Police Plaza, Manhattan.

February 16

8:30 AM – Public Advocate Letitia James makes remarks at the Royal U Home Care Facility Ribbon Cutting Celebration. 6317 14th Avenue, Brooklyn.

In the afternoon, Public Advocate James travels to Albany, NY to participate in the New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators 47th Annual Legislative Conference.

February 17-19

The New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators 47th Annual Legislative Conference, Albany, NY.

Robert Press contributed to this report.

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