City Announces Plans To Replace Rikers Island

Rikers Island. Image credit: U.S. Geological Survey, conversion to PNG by uploader (Herr Satz).

New borough-based detention facilities will provide on-site support services. On August 15, 2018, the De Blasio administration announced plans for four modern, community-based jails to replace the embattled Rikers Island detention facilities. In 2017, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans to close Rikers Island.

The City is proposing to build facilities in all boroughs except Staten Island. The sites under consideration are 320 Concord Avenue in the Bronx, 275 Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, 80 Centre Street in Manhattan, and 126-02 82nd Avenue in Queens. Each facility will have approximately 1,500 beds. The City needs 6,000 beds to accommodate the average daily population of 5,000 people in jail. The facilities will provide population-specific housing requirements such as those related to safety, health, and mental health. The Bronx site will also include a rezoning of the western part of the site to facilitate the development of a residential building with more than 200-units and ground floor retail.

The City says that the plan aims to integrate the facilities into the surrounding neighborhoods with community space, ground-floor retail, and parking. The facilities will also allow people in jail to remain close to their loved ones. The facilities will offer health, education, visitation, and recreational services with the goal to reintegrate people once they return to their communities.

Before construction can start, the proposal for the facilities has to go through a public review known as the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, or ULURP. The ULURP process includes hearings and recommendations by the local community board, borough president, the City council Commission, and the City Council. Mayor de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson have agreed to consolidate the proposal into a single ULURP process to allow for a more expedited review. An application will be submitted for certification by the end of the year.

The Administration has begun a comprehensive engagement strategy outside of the ULURP process that includes advisory bodies with local elected and neighborhood leaders. These advisory bodies will provide feedback on design, program, neighborhood integration, and tackle a range of quality of life concerns within the neighborhoods where these sites will be located.

The City has held meetings with community groups and local elected officials and conducted focus groups with correctional officers, service providers, defenders, educators, formally detained people and families of justice-involved people, among others. Engagement with the community in the weeks and months ahead will ramp up.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “We’re taking a big step forward in the process of closing Rikers Island and creating a modern community-based jail system that is smaller, safer and fairer. Now we can move full steam ahead on the engagement and planning for our new facilities so we can close Rikers as fast as possible.”

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said, “These new jails will enable this city to close Rikers Island, which I know will help make this city a better place. The new facilities are designed to be safer for both the people incarcerated as well as the staff. The next chapter of criminal justice in New York City is beginning, and I couldn’t be prouder.”

DOC Commissioner Cynthia Brann said, “Closing Rikers and moving into newer, community-based facilities comes down to one thing – and that’s safety. These new jails will have improved interior layouts allowing officers more effective ways to supervise people in detention, and also provide space for quality education, health, and therapeutic programming. As we move forward with this transition, I want the men and women who are currently working on Rikers Island to know that the safer, state-of-the-art facilities you deserve are on the way.”


By: Dorichel Rodriguez (Dorichel is the CityLaw Fellow and New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2017.)

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