Rikers Island

Díaz criticizes siting of Rikers replacement in South Bronx

Ruben Díaz Jr. wants a replacement Rikers site closer to the courthouse.

An overhead view of Rikers Island

An overhead view of Rikers Island U.S. Geological Survey

On Aug. 15, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration announced its proposal for the locations of four community-based jails that would replace the Rikers Island jail complex. A jail is planned for each of the four largest boroughs, but the Bronx location at 320 Concord Ave. in Mott Haven has drawn the most criticism. Among those raising concerns are state Sen. José M. Serrano and Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr. Although New York City Councilwoman Diana Ayala, whose district includes the site, has come out in support of the proposal, Diaz contests that the city failed to take local interests into consideration.

Diaz told City & State that the proposed location chosen for the Bronx not only falls short of advancing criminal justice reform but also adversely affects Bronxites. He wants a site that is closer to the Bronx County Courthouse, if not attached, so that defense attorneys and legal aides can have better access to their clients. Considering transportation availability to the jail for family members is also very important, Díaz said.

The proposed location, according to Díaz, would hinder progress in a South Bronx community that has been on the rebound. Mott Haven residents persevered through poverty and soaring crime rates in the past. Now that the neighborhood is turning around, residents fear a new jail is a step backward when previous administrations promised the location would be used for something that created jobs and opportunities.

“Here we have a city that just wants to reward a community by highlighting something negative like building a jail there,” Díaz said. “Look, I agree with the closing of Rikers Island – no mistake about it. Rikers Island is a stain on the soul of the city. I don’t believe that this is the right location.” The proposal still has to clear multiple community hearings before being approved.