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Local Leaders, Community Groups Urged City Council to Vote “No” to RPD Substation

By Tyronda James

Site of new approved RPD substation. Tyronda James/Minority Reporter Media Group.

Amidst protest, Rochester City Council on Aug. 19 approved a new multimillion dollar substation for the Rochester Police Department at corner of Laura and East Main streets.

On Tuesday, politicians, concerned members of the neighborhood and community groups including Free the People Roc spoke out against the project.  

Shirley Thompson, representing the Police Accountability Board Alliance said it firmly opposes the proposed legislation. 

“Like communities all across our country. Rochester is in a moment of crisis. As residents are left without jobs, food, childcare, housing and money due to the pandemic, it is unconscionable to invest $16 million dollars for increased policing capabilities, Thompson said. 

“This proposal has resulted in people being displaced from their homes to make space for construction of a police station. We demand that City Council immediately vote NO on Introductory No. 314 and 315.” 

Vote No!” supporters voiced. However, the vote was approved that evening 6-3, with Councilmembers Jacklyn Ortiz, Mary Lupien and Jose Peo voting against. 

The approved legislation 

  • Int. No. 314 Bond Ordinance of the City of Rochester, New York authorizing the issuance of $12.5 million in bonds to finance a portion of the costs of the Rochester Police Department Goodman Section and South Neighborhood Service Center project 4 
  • Int. No. 315 Authorizing an agreement and funding for the Rochester Police Department Goodman Section and Southeast Neighborhood Service Center Project

“Building a police compound in a community space will only serve to alienate residents, not to mention the households already displaced by this action over the past year and the disruption brought to their lives,” Thompson said. 

“We demand that Rochester City Council instead invest in resources such as rent/mortgage relief, assistance with utilities and food to families who are in need, and free city-wide Wi-Fi for students returning to school. We demand bold leadership that recognizes this moment of crisis as an opportunity to step in and address the urgent needs of the community. Further investing in policing at the expense of Rochester residents in the middle of a pandemic in the middle of local and national protests that have called into question,” Thompson said.

“The role that police play in keeping us safe is unacceptable. Council city must vote no. City council must stop financing the Locust Club’s Agenda.” 

The project will receive $1 million in funding from the New York State Water Quality Improvement Program, as well another $975,000 from the sale of bonds. 

Monroe County legislator Rachel Barnhart said resources and capital dollars should not buy buildings but be put to better use. “These buildings aren’t going to make us safer. They’re not going to make our community better. They’re not going to address mental health, housing, education, jobs, and our quality of life. It’s just a building and it’s not fiscally responsible. This is not a good use of our money.”

Rochester activist Ayana McCuller said this is a blatant disregard of the real needs of the community.

“We need more jobs, housing, food, healthcare and not more police and prisons. This project is tone deaf, oppressive … and simply unjust. Rochester needs a refund, not a neighborhood service center staffed by only six civilians and 92 gun toting cops.” said McCuller. “Now is the moment to start investing directly into the people and institutions that can bring real lasting change.”