City Begins Construction on First of Borough-Based Jails in Kew Gardens

Rendering of the new parking garage and community space as part of the Queens jail site in the Borough-Based jails project. Image Credit: DDC

The structure will provide over 600 parking spaces and 25,000 square feet of flexible community space. On June 25, 2021, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the start of construction at one of the City’s four borough-based jails sites in Kew Gardens, Queens. The borough-based jails are part of the City’s controversial solution to shut down Rikers Island and replace the complex with four smaller, locally based jails in Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn. The 866-bed Queens jail will replace the current Queens Detention Complex, which is located adjacent to Queens Borough Hall and the Queens Criminal Courthouse. Construction has started on the parking garage and community space that is part of the Queens jail project. 

The structure will be 105-feet tall, include 25,000 square feet of multi-purpose flexible community space over two stories and include over 600 public parking spots. The structure will be adjacent to the new jail. The structure will be on the west side of the existing parking lot on Union Turnpike between 126th Street to 132nd Street. The east side of the parking lot will remain open during construction to provide parking to the community. 

The parking garage and community space will include a partial planted green roof, on-site stormwater retention and solar panels. The community space portion is expected to qualify for LEED Gold certification due to its environmental sustainability. 

The parking garage and community space are being developed by the design-build team of Hunter Roberts Construction Group with the architecture firms Marvel and Urbahn Architects. The start of construction follows a multi-step public review process that included design workshops, working with community leaders to identify desired design elements including community space use, and workshops to allow advocates and interested parties to provide design input. 

The Department of Design and Construction is overseeing the Borough-Based Jails program and the total project is projected to cost $8.3 billion. In addition to the construction at the Queens site, procurement and early site prep activities are occurring at the Manhattan, Bronx and Brooklyn sites. 

Mayor de Blasio stated, “Today we move one huge step closer to our goal of a fairer and more equitable jail system for all New Yorkers. Closing Rikers Island will make our city stronger and more just, and I’m proud to deliver a system that better reflects this city’s values.”

Department of Design and Construction Commissioner Jamie Torres-Springer stated, “This project is part of a once-in-many-generations opportunity to build a smaller and more humane justice system that includes four facilities grounded in dignity and respect, offering better connections to and space for families, attorneys, courts, medical and mental health care, education, therapeutic programming and service providers. This is a great milestone in the Borough-Based Jails program, and we continue to seek and evaluate candidates for the design-build teams that will create the Program’s other facilities.”

By: Veronica Rose (Veronica is the CityLaw fellow and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2018.)


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