CLEVELAND — Sharena Zayed is a Cleveland Slavic Village mother who's concerned her neighborhood could be the leading candidate for the construction of a new Cuyahoga County corrections center.
Zayed, who is also part of neighborhood group Citizens to Bring Back North Broadway, told News 5 she worried a new jail in her residential area would be a safety issue, have an impact on safety, and would potentially put a stop to the key ongoing development of housing and businesses.
“It would totally stop construction of all future projects,” Zayed said. “At the end of the day, who wants to look out of the window of their newly built home and see a jail, what type of imagery is that for children being raised in this community.”
“A lot of our residents are just in fear of their safety because the county jail will be letting people out a different times of the day. It could be in the early morning school hours, it could be when kids are getting out of school.”
News 5 confirmed the more than 40-acre parcel located along I-77, between Fleet and Pershing avenues, is one of five sites under consideration by the Justice Center Executive Steering Committee in the coming months.
Kim Anderson, a lifelong Slavic Village resident, started a petition drive against the usage of her neighborhood for the new jail, collecting several hundred signatures, which will be submitted to county leaders in the coming weeks.
“Nobody was notified, no residents," Anderson said. “The courts are not moving, so there would be 200, give or take a few, transports per day back and forth to the courts downtown and that’s another safety issue.”
“I'm already afraid to let my grandchild ride his bicycle on his own street. The signatures we've collected say hey, we’re afraid too, and we should have at least been notified of the goings-on of the proposed site."
Cleveland council members Rebecca Maurer and Richard Starr said they have yet to be part of jail site selection process, even though the Slavic Village site borders Cleveland wards 5 and 12. Both said they have contacted county leaders, and will be involved in jail site selection process moving forward.
“We are not for this, we never agreed on it, residents never supported it, so why would we support it as leaders,” Starr said.
“And this location is not accessible by public transit, and this means we’re going to have families that are trying to visit loved ones, and they’re going to be stuck walking over a bridge, over I-77," Maurer said.
However, Jeff Appelbaum, with Project Management Consultants, who works to help facilitate the 12-member Steering Committee, said there has been public input into the new jail site selection process.
Appelbaum said his agency and the committee have been transparent during the entire justice center project, posting all meeting notes and information on the steering committee web page.
He pledged there will be even more specific input from residents, business owners and all stakeholders once a leading site for the new $550-million jail project is selected in the next few months.
“We will work very carefully with all stakeholders and the neighborhood involved," Appelbaum said. "They’re obviously going to have issues and concerns, and we’re going to have to address those in design and buffering, in safety and security. There’s going to be public input one way or the other."
Meanwhile, Zayed is hoping the committee will find a new jail building site that is not near a residential area.
“I wonder if the people making the decision to put the jail in this area would want their children’s school to be near a jail? We have to live with the consequences of this decision day in and day out, whatever they may be.”