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Activists urge Council to vote no on new police station


Activists and community representatives gathered Tuesday at the East Main Street site of a proposed $16 million police station and urged Rochester City Council members to vote down funding for the project.

Their call came just hours before the City Council was scheduled to vote on that funding. Tuesday evening, Council members will vote on issuing $12.6 million in bonds and accepting a $1 million green infrastructure grant from the New York State Water Quality Improvement Program to cover the costs of building the station. They’ll also vote on directing money to the project from the Rochester Police Department’s federal forfeiture funds and police property clerk funds. Construction is scheduled to begin in the fall.

“This is not a good use of our money,” said County Legislator Rachel Barnhart, who represents the Beechwood neighborhood. “We can put the brakes on, we can decide to put our resources elsewhere, we can decide to put capital dollars elsewhere.”

Richard Alston has lived on Hayward Avenue, a stone's throw away from the new police station, since the early 1970s. - PHOTO BY GINO FANELLI
  • Richard Alston has lived on Hayward Avenue, a stone's throw away from the new police station, since the early 1970s.
City Council held a public hearing on the project in 2018 and most of the responses it received at that time were relatively positive. The station is one of three to be built around the city, with the other two planned for Genesee Street and Lake Avenue. The idea behind them is to improve police-community relations by having more stations in more neighborhoods.

Opponents argue that during the pandemic and amid ongoing strife over policing, now is not the time to build a new police station and Beechwood is not the place for it.

“As a parent and as a resident, this is the biggest slap in the face to me,” said Shawn Smith, a resident of the Beechwood neighborhood. “You cut all of my children’s teachers in this area, and instead decided to further police us and further victimize us?”

City Council is likely to approve the funds, at least partly because the city has already spent money to acquire properties. Councilmember Mary Lupien is currently the only member who has publicly stated she’ll vote against the measure.

Councilmember Mitch Gruber took to Facebook last week to defend the project, arguing the Southeast Quadrant Neighborhood Service Center, which will be housed at the site, will be a benefit to the community. Advocates did not buy it.

“No matter how often these councilmembers go on Facebook to try and justify why they’re voting for this substation, it is not enough, it is not an excuse,” said Stevie Vargas from Citizen Action. “Who do you serve? Do you serve the interest of those who want to retain power, or do you serve the interest of the people?”

Vargas said if Council members approve the funding for the station, the fight is not over.

“The people are here today to tell you to postpone this vote, and if you will not postpone this vote, to vote no,” Vargas said. “Because if you vote yes, we will remember, we will be at your doorstep, we will call you out, we will vote you out.”

Gino Fanelli is a CITY staff writer. He can be reached at (585) 775-9692 or [email protected].