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City poised to fund new $16 million police station in Beechwood

Aug 12, 2020

A sign marking the future location of the police station.
Credit Gino Fanelli/CITY

Construction on a new $16 million Rochester police station on East Main Street in the Beechwood neighborhood could begin in the coming months.

City Council is expected to vote to fund the project on Aug. 18, allowing for construction on the two-story, 21,000-square-foot facility to possibly begin in the fall. Officials envision about $12.6 million in bonds to be issued and the balance coming from the Rochester Police Department’s federal forfeiture funds, police property clerk funds, and a $1 million grant from the New York State Water Quality Improvement Program for an assortment of green infrastructure.

Approved in February 2019, the station, to be erected at East Main and Laura streets, is one of three slated 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.

Currently, outside of RPD headquarters on Exchange Boulevard, there are two stations, both of them on North Clinton Avenue about a mile apart.

But some Beechwood residents have expressed concern about the prospect of a new police station, saying more conversation between police and the neighborhood need to accompany the project.

Gail Ashley is one of them. She has lost track of the number of years she has lived on nearby Grand Avenue, and remembers a different era of policing in the neighborhood.

“Back then, there was a time when police would stop, talk to the kids, play with the ball, we knew them,” Ashley said. “You might see a car come by now and then, but today nobody knows their name, and they only really come when there’s a gun.”

The station will also house the southeast neighborhood service center and a public plaza space.

Resident Adriana Jackson said she supports the police, but is apprehensive about the project. She believes conversations still need to be had on how the police can better engage the area’s youths, particularly Black residents. A police station attached to a service center in the community, she said, could actually worsen relationships.

“Let’s say there is a space there where the community can gather,” Jackson said. “Some people may not want to go there, for the reason that there are police right there.”

In October 2018, the city of Rochester held a public meeting seeking input on the project. Residents asked for amenities like a large community meeting space, and feedback, including from neighborhood associations, was largely positive.

Kyle Crandall, president of the Beechwood Neighborhood Coalition, remains supportive, but echoed wanting more conversations on how the new facility will interact with the community.

“It’s obviously difficult right now, given that we can’t really meet in person and have these conversations,” Crandall said. “I hope in the months going forward, we’ll be able to have more conversations about how exactly the police can better serve the community, and what exactly the needs are.”

Local Black Lives Matter activist group Free the People Roc issued a statement Tuesday calling on residents to contact City Council members and urge them to reject the funding measure.

“In a moment of great change, when we are reevaluating the role of police in our communities, we should not be allocating more funds, more land, and more resources to the Rochester Police Department,” the statement read.

City Council member Mary Lupien, who anticipated being the only lawmaker to vote against funding the project, said she was skeptical of the timing of the vote.

She said she was partly concerned about the city taking on $12.6 million in debt during a time when the pandemic has already taken a fiscal toll, but also worried about getting ahead of the recommendations of the Racial and Structural Equity (RASE) Commission. That commission, a city and county collaboration, is slated to publish recommendations on policing, as well as how to address other socioeconomic issues, in about six months.

“When that report comes out, will it still support the idea of (police stations)?” Lupien asked. “I think with everything going on, it may be a good idea to take a step back and ask if this is really the right time to do this.”

Gino Fanelli is a CITY staff writer. He can be reached at (585) 775-9692 or gino@rochester-citynews.com.