Borough Based Jails Set to Take First Steps in 2020

Aerial View of Rikers Island Photo Credit: US Geological Survey

The City wastes little time in efforts to shutter Rikers Island and get construction across the boroughs started. Since the latter half of November, the City announced three major developments in the Borough-Based Jails plan. Each announcement is discussed in further detail below. To read more about Borough-Based Jails, read Cityland’s prior coverage here.

Requests for Proposals

On November 8th, 2019, the Department of Design and Construction issued a Notice of Intent regarding the release dates for the Requests for Qualifications. The Request for Qualification is the first step in the two-step procurement process. After submitting a Statement of Qualification during the Request for Qualification process, potential contractors will be selected to make a bid. The second step calls for the selected contractors to submit a bid responsive to the Request for Proposal.  Design and Construction anticipates seven design-build contracts. Three of the contracts will be for necessary early program work in Brooklyn and Queens and the other four will be for the teams that will construct the four borough-based jails themselves.

On November 14, 2019, the Department of Design and Construction announced that the first two borough-based jails Request for Proposals will be issued some time during the first quarter of 2020. The first Requests for Proposal is for the construction of the Queens Garage facility. The second is for dismantling the Brooklyn facility and converting it into a swing space. The swing space will help the Department of Correction make transfers for court appearances during construction.  The announcement was originally made at an Industry Day Event at the Department’s headquarters. Nearly 200 professionals and 122 firms were in attendance. The Request for Proposal schedule can be viewed below.

RFP Schedule Image Credit: Department of Design and Construction

In their press release, the Department of Design and Construction stated “In selecting the Design-Build teams and carrying out a collaborative Design-Build approach to project delivery, DDC is committed to using best practices as defined by the Design-Build Institute of America. In accordance with the Rikers Island Jail Complex Replacement Act of 2018, DDC will utilize a best-value selection that prioritizes design, quality, past performance and qualifications. DDC today also committed to providing stipends to short-listed firms that participate in the Proposal (RFP) process, but are not selected to be awarded a Design-Build contract.”


On November 21, 2019, the Mayor’s office announced that the City will close the Eric M. Taylor Center on Rikers Island in March 2020 and the Brooklyn Detention Complex in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn by the end of January 2020.

These closures are responsive to a jail population projected to fall below 7,000 inmates. In large part, these projections weigh the causation of the state bail reform laws set to take effect in January 2020. The closures will purportedly allow the Department of Correction to concentrate resources, facilitate better conditions, enhance programming and create safer conditions for those in custody and the staff. The City also plans to expand on community support services, such as the new voluntary pre-Trial Atlas program.

The press release also announced that New York City has the lowest rate of incarceration and the lowest rate of crime of any large city in the United States. Mayor Bill de Blasio stated, “With the lowest rate of incarceration of any major city and crime at historic lows, new York is again debunking the notion that you must arrest your way to safety,” and added that “these two closures show that we are making good on our promise to close Rikers island and create a correctional system that is fundamentally smaller, safer and fairer.”

Council Member Donovan Richards, Chair of the Committee of Public Safety, stated, “It is very encouraging to see the de Blasio administration moving quickly on the first step towards achieving this goal by shutting down the first two facilities where detainees suffer some of the worst conditions. There is still much more work to do and I look forward to continuing to push this effort forward until we finally close Rikers Island for good.”

Rikers Island ULURP

On December 2, 2019, the Mayor’s press office announced that the City filed a land use application to change Rikers Island’s city map designation into a public place. This action would officially prohibit the incarceration of individuals on Rikers Island as soon as the borough-based system is expected to be operational. It is important to note that the application itself does not propose any new development or construction on the island. This application will be subject to public review under the Uniform Land Use Review Process (“ULURP”). Future plans for Rikers Island will also be subject to a new planning and public review process.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson stated, “This is a major step for New York City, and shows our deep commitment to closing Rikers Island. We are moving away from the failed policies of mass incarceration and showing the world that Rikers’ days are numbered.”

By: Jason Rogovich (Jason Rogovich is the CityLaw Fellow and New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2019)



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