Walter Nash, in front of his boarded up home on Concord Avenue. Photo: Alex Krales.

Construction of new Bronx jail may be damaging nearby homes

Home is not so sweet for residents of a Mott Haven street, who say they are being forced to move out because their modest row houses are collapsing all around them, as the result of construction on the new borough-based jail across the street.

Homeowners and renters on Concord Avenue between 141st and 142nd streets are boarding up and heading out, to avoid the worst.

Walter Nash has lived at 327 Concord Avenue since 1964. His foster father built the row house in 1936, while in the Merchant Marine. Now, nearly 60 years later, the house is slated for demolition. 

“It’s weird. They are going to build the new Rikers Island in the old Lincoln hospital,” said Nash, 77, standing in front of the house he boarded up four months ago, before moving in with his older brother in Harlem to escape the hazards of living at home.

Most recently, the site of the new jail served as a 4.5 acre lot for the NYPD to tow delinquent vehicles. Nash and his neighbors say the city has broken a promise it made, to monitor area houses for structural problems that construction of the jail could cause.  

327 Concord Avenue in ruins as the result of nearby construction of a new borough-based jail, according to the homeowner. Photo: Alex Krales.

“They are supposed to put sensors on all the houses, but they don’t,” he said.

In an email to The Herald, a spokesman for the city’s Department of Design and Construction contested the homeowner’s account and the timeline, pointing out an October 2022 Google image of the home, and saying it was compromised before construction on the jail began. He added that “none of the other buildings on either side show any damage. The building at 327 Concord Avenue has a long history of structural issues and a vacate order because the rear of the building is collapsing and open to the elements. Meanwhile, the adjacent buildings are OK. The work across the street absolutely did not cause that damage.”

However, Nash’s next-door neighbor at 325 Concord Avenue, Nancy Clark, said she, too, has experienced similar problems since the construction began. The situation has become too dire to continue living in the house she has been in since 2007 and raised her daughter, she said.

“The vibration when they built the foundation was especially bad,” said Clark. The construction “shakes the wall and the windows. Sometimes, I’m afraid they are gonna fall out.”

Five schools are located within a block of the site. None of the five have responded to requests for comment from the Herald. A Department of Education spokesperson said the issue is a “a state and local matter,” that the department would not comment on.

Ashley Perdomo, 18, has lived a few houses down from Nash and Clark since she was born.

“We feel the vibrations in the house,” said Perdomo. “My mom gets worried and asks if we are ok.” 

Construction began in October 2022. The city’s plan is to demolish the decrepit jail on Rikers Island and replace it with much smaller lockups in The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan, that it says will be more humane for inmates, and will not impose problems on a community with high rates of violent crime. The jail barge moored off the East River in Hunts Point, with nearly 1,000 inmates, would also be shuttered once a new borough jail is built. 

The foundation of the new jail was laid in anticipation of the City issuing a design and build permit, said Ian Michaels of the Department of Design and Construction, even though community organizations have expressed concern about the negative effect a new jail and its ancillary programs could have in Mott Haven.

Sonia Taylor, who lives around the block from the construction site, said the structural problems Concord Avenue residents are dealing with are just more frustration for a neighborhood that fought hard against a new jail. 

“Residents have helped with the struggle for decades to ensure a better quality of life, and this is setting us back,” said Taylor. “The jail location is horrible because there are schools and shelters in their area.”

Mott Haven resident and community activist Ramona Ferreyra, who served as community liaison for the mayor’s office’s proposed borough-based jails, said replacing the jail on Rikers is paramount, saying it “will be better for all members of our community and those that come in contact with the criminal justice system.”

According to the Design and Construction department, the jail is in the initial phase of excavation and sewer work, with street closures continuing on 142nd Street between Concord & Wales Ave. Construction is expected to be finished in 2027.

The spokesman for the Department of Construction added that the homeowners and renters on Concord Avenue have all been informed of a website they can use to register any issues, and that the residents whose complaints are mentioned in this story have not made complaints the department can respond to.

Nash has joined the Diego Beekman Mutual Housing Association in filing a lawsuit against the city, arguing that the site had been slated for affordable housing to serve low-income residents, before the city announced plans for a jail.

Editor’s note: The original story has been updated on Aug. 16, adding a comment by the New York City Department of Design and Construction, responding to homeowners’ complaints.

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