Protesters urge Mayor Adams to stop looming construction of 30-story ‘mega jail’ in Manhattan’s Chinatown

chinatown jail
  • Protesters took to the streets on Sunday to oppose the construction of a 295-foot-tall detention complex in Manhattan’s Chinatown.
  • Former Mayor Bill de Blasio proposed the plan in 2017 as a replacement for Rikers Island, along with three other jails in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.
  • Mayor Eric Adams vowed not to build the jail while campaigning for office, but the plan is scheduled to proceed in two weeks.

Over a hundred protesters held a rally against a 30-story detention complex planned for Manhattan’s Chinatown on Sunday, saying it will tarnish the historic neighborhood.

The construction of a 295-foot tall “mega jail,” is scheduled to begin in two weeks at 125 White St., replacing the current Manhattan Detention Complex — also known as “The Tombs” — that sits next to the Chung Pak senior residence center.

Demonstrators at Sunday’s rally carried signs that read, “No new jails,” “Save our neighborhood” and “Mayor Adams, listen to Chinatown,” according to amNY.

“Mayor Adams, it is not too late to stop this jail and reconsider what criminal justice and criminal reform looks like,” said Democratic district leader Victoria Lee, who also co-founded the nonprofit Welcome to Chinatown.

Former Mayor Bill de Blasio first laid out the plan to close Rikers Island Prison Complex by 2027 and replace it with a jail in every borough except Staten Island, reported amNY. The proposal, which was announced in 2017, has since triggered multiple protests from the local community.

Critics have also referred to the health risks of air pollution that could result from the planned demolition and construction. In July 2019, the New York University Center for the Study of Asian American Health (NYU CSAAH) submitted testimony citing studies that detail the dangers of construction site emissions), including links to lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, early onset dementia and even premature death.

“The impact of long-term demolition, construction and possible relocation on the health of older adults in Chinatown should be taken into consideration,” the center wrote. “Increases in exposure of the elderly to elevated levels of PM from construction sites, even short-term, can not only worsen co-morbidities, including cardiovascular and respiratory disease, but also result in hospitalizations, acute disease episodes, and/or death.”

The construction of the jail is also believed to negatively impact local businesses, which have already suffered losses and been targets of anti-Asian attacks since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mayor Eric Adams had originally promised not to build the jail while campaigning last April. 

“I know it’s possible to solve the problems we are facing in incarceration without the destruction of communities,” he said at the time.

Councilmember Christopher Marte, who led Sunday’s rally alongside Neighbors United Below Canal (NUBC), criticized de Blasio for failing to discontinue the plans, saying, “He chose Chinatown to be in a decade of dust, with the construction of the tallest jail in the world,” Marte said, as per CBS New York.

The NUBC, which represents “thousands of stakeholders in the diverse and unique communities below Canal Street and the surrounding area,” vowed not to give up on their fight.

“We will not go quietly into that dark night,” the group wrote on Twitter. “We will FIGHT this plan to continue #incarcerationforprofit and perpetuate the #businessofpoverty. We will not let #GRAMERCYUSA roll in demolition trucks!”

Featured Image via CBS New York

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