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City Council backpedals on a new East Main Street police station

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Three weeks after voting to approve a $12.6 million funding request from Mayor Lovely Warren for the construction of a new police station on East Main Street, the City Council now appears poised to repeal the measure.

Loretta Scott, president of the City Council, announced Friday that she and two other lawmakers had introduced legislation to claw back the financing, and three of their colleagues signaled their support, giving them the necessary votes.

“Much has changed in our community since we met in August to discuss this project,” City Council President Loretta C. Scott said in a statement. “We learned of and saw the gruesome video of Daniel Prude’s death in March. This coupled with the recent retirements and voluntary demotions of the entire RPD command staff, has led the council to reconsider the appropriateness of the project at this time.”

Rochester has witnessed near nightly mass demonstrations since news of the death of Prude became public last week. Most of the protests have culminated at the Public Safety Building downtown, the headquarters of the Rochester Police Department, with cries for defunding the department.

Council passed the funding legislation on Aug. 18 by a vote of 6-to-3 over protests from residents and elected officials representing the Beechwood neighborhood.

Complaints ranged from the cost of the station during a pandemic that has smashed a gaping hole in municipal budgets to the optics of investing in police amid a national movement calling to re-envision policing and scale back police department budgets.
Richard Alston has lived on Hayward Avenue, near the location for the new police station, since the early 1970s. - PHOTO BY GINO FANELLI
  • PHOTO BY GINO FANELLI
  • Richard Alston has lived on Hayward Avenue, near the location for the new police station, since the early 1970s.
The 21,000-square foot station was projected to cost $16 million, and the funding legislation authorized the city to borrow $12.6 million.



Erecting the station was part of a multiyear plan of the Warren administration to re-establish neighborhood police stations as a way of repairing tensions between police and residents in some sections of the city.

Scott was one of the six city lawmakers to vote for the funding in August. Her legislation to repeal that vote was co-sponsored by another initial supporter,  Councilmember Mitch Gruber.

“The vote last month was the culmination of more than five years of planning to create a five-section model of policing in Rochester," Gruber said. "Since the vote, we learned of the tragic death of Daniel Prude while in police custody that occurred in March. This has caused a breach of trust in the community that makes it critical to repeal last month’s legislation, hold off on bonding for these dollars, and reassess the long-term plan."

Four other City Council members — Malik Evans, Willie Lightfoot, Mary Lupien, and Jose Peo — said Friday they would vote to repeal, giving Council the votes it needs to undo the legislation.

“I am incredibly grateful that we as a Council can reevaluate this project, at this critical time we need to take a pause and engage our community about ways to reimagine public safety for all in Rochester,” said Councilmember Mary Lupien, one of the three lawmakers to oppose the original funding measure.

David Andreatta is CITY's editor. He can be reached at dandreatta@rochester-citynews.com.