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What’s Next for Goodman Section Station After City Council Puts Funding on Hold?

Patti Singer
pattisinger@minorityreporter.net

City Council put a hold on funding for the Rochester Police Department station on East Main Street. File photo

City Council reversed course when it repealed legislation that would have funded the new Goodman Section for the Rochester Police Department Goodman Section and the Southeast Neighborhood Service Center.

In August, council voted 6-3 to approve the issuance of bonds for what was to be the first of five proposed police section offices and service centers that would bring police back into neighbhorhoods.

Then the public learned of the in-custody death of Daniel Prude. Council president Loretta Scott and council members Mary Lupien and Mitch Gruber introduced legislation to stop the bonding for the station. Lupien represents the East District where the station would be located.

“This was a very difficult last two months for this legislation because there was so much change,” Gruber said before the vote. “I don’t want to take away from the fact that there was really a good and robust process that took place over well more than five years.”

Lupien voted against the station in August, as did former council member Jackie Ortiz and Jose Peo.

On Sept. 15, council voted 7-1 to put the station on hold. Peo was the lone dissenter. (Ortiz resigned after being sworn in as commissioner at the Board of Elections. Her seat has not yet been filled.)

“My reasons for voting against it last month, and I said it at the council meeting, was we need to set the standard that we vote with the council person for that district,” said Peo, who represents the Northwest District.

After the vote passed and it appeared the Goodman section would go forward, Peo said the neighbors said thank you.

He said his vote on Sept. 15 to continue with the station acknowledged that neighborhood support. “The citizens of the Southeast and the community association spoke up in favor of it.”

In other moves related to the aftermath of Daniel Prude’s death, City Council also:

  • Moved funding for Family and Victim Services from the Police Department to the Department of Recreation and Youth Services. “This is the right thing to do,” said council vice-president Willie Lightfoot, who is chair of the Public Safety Committee. “I think it will help us meet greater needs of our citizens, especially those that have crisis issues.” He said council had been working on shifting the Family Crisis Intervention Team (FACIT) and the Victims Assistance Unit and was not solely a result of recent events. “This is us doing what was right. The timing was right. Everything came together.”
  • Allocated $100,000 and hired Andrew Celli Jr. to do an independent investigation into the internal communication, processes and procedures related to the death of Daniel Prude while in police custody. Celli and his firm represent City Council in its appeal related to the Police Accountability Board. The legislation authorizing the money for the investigation states that Celli will act “wholly independent of the City Council,” that council will not instruct him, and that he will issue a public report. Council also has engaged former Corporation Counsel Linda Kingsley on a pro bono basis. Council is scheduled to introduce more legislation related to the independent investigation.

As for the Goodman Section station and Southeast Neighborhood Service Center, Peo said after the Sept. 15 meeting that he voted no for the same reasons six council members voted yes a month earlier.

“We still need community policing, we still need a new building to revamp what policing looks like in our neighborhoods, we still need a community center for our neighborhoods, we still need a service center more centrally located in our neighborhoods.”

Peo said some council members may have felt pressure to vote against the station. He said when the community around the proposed station supported it, that should be respected. “In my opinion, what the Southeast wants in their district, they should have.”

The site has been cleared, and now there is concern that it will lie fallow. Peo said that only the bonding was repealed.

“There will be a building built,” he said, but the date is uncertain.

Who it houses also is unclear as City Council and different advocacy groups are likely to use this as a way to start to reimagine public safety and community needs.

“We all have this focus on the police part, but we’re missing the other two parts, which is that community service center centrally located and the community center for people to gather and learn about what the city has to offer and to hold community meetings. That space is absolutely necessary.”

During the council meeting, Gruber said he wanted council to challenge itself to find the right solution for the space and to show the neighborhood that the five-plus years of work already dedicated to the station was not wasted.

Lupien said there are many services that could be housed. “I look forward to the process of engaging the community and determining what the best use of that space will be.”