A protest against the construction of a 40-story jail in Manhattan’s Chinatown has resulted in the arrest of some prominent Asian American advocates.
On the third consecutive day of protests Wednesday morning, protestors gathered on Baxter Street to block construction trucks from beginning demolition work.
“Shame! Shame! Shame! Chinatown not for sale! People First! No new Jail,” chanted the protesters.
— Evelyn Yang (@EvelynYang) April 13, 2022
Evelyn Yang, the wife of former U.S. presidential and New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang, was among the 10 demonstrators arrested for civil disobedience.
In a tweet written after she was released, Yang called out Mayor Eric Adams, who had vowed, while he was running for office against her husband, not to build the jail.
“Arrested today protesting the $2B megajail. Spent time in my cell thinking about how we can’t expect others to stand up for us if we don’t first stand up for ourselves,” Yang wrote.
“This jail is ‘institutionalized hate’ against Chinatown in @NYCMayor’s own words. Keep your promise #NoNewJails.”
This is what the #megajail looks like, to be built in #Chinatown unless @NYCMayor halts the project, and takes meaningful steps to examine alternatives, and takes into consideration that the plan was made in 2017. And this is 2022. Literally every idea needs to be paused, rethink pic.twitter.com/QJxq0Eyl6y
— Neighbors United Below Canal (@NUBCanal) April 3, 2022
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.
The 295-foot-tall Manhattan jail, set to be the world’s tallest jail, will replace the existing Manhattan Detention Complex — a pair of buildings known as “The Tombs” — in its location at 125 White St.
The planned jail has drawn backlash over concerns of air and noise pollution that could affect the health of elderly residents of the adjacent Chung Pak senior center.
Critics say the construction would also affect businesses, congest traffic and destabilize the peace of the historic Chinatown neighborhood and that the finished jail would serve as a towering reminder of anti-Asian hate crimes, which continue to plague the city.
1/ I was arrested today as I stood arm-in-arm with the Chinatown community to block the erection of construction fences at the site of the Manhattan Detention Complex. These fences represent the 1st physical step toward building the world’s tallest jail in the heart of Chinatown. pic.twitter.com/4x2WxXVkpC
— Grace Lee 李榮恩 (@graceleefornyc) April 13, 2022
The other nine protesters arrested on Wednesday include state Assembly candidate Grace Lee, Howard Huie, Irving Lee, Jack Liang, Jan Lee, Jillian McManemin, Victoria Lee and state Senator candidate Vittoria Fariello.
The Neighbors United Below Canal (NUBC), which represents “thousands of stakeholders in the diverse and unique communities below Canal Street and the surrounding area,” is leading the effort to abort the construction.
“Today co-founders of NUBC led a protest that resulted in 10 people getting arrested for civil disobedience,” the group said in a tweet. “We sat on Baxter St. to prevent trucks from unloading fence materials that would encircle the two Chinatown jails. We are all safe. But we are outraged that it [has] come to this.”
A spokesperson with Adams’ office said construction will proceed.
“This administration will always follow the law, and the law says the jails on Rikers Island must close on time. To follow the law and protect the safety of the community and all involved in this project, this work is proceeding,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
“We have engaged deeply with the community every step of the way, and we are committed to continuing to work with them to limit the disruption of this project.”