DEP Announces Rikers Island Feasibility Study for Green Infrastructure Uses

Rikers Island. Image Credit: NYC DEP.

On February 3, 2022, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced the Rikers Island Feasibility Study, which will determine the capacity for wastewater and organics processing on Rikers Island after the Corrections facilities are shut down.

The Department of Corrections facilities on Rikers Island are set to close in 2027, at which time the island will be transferred from the Department of Corrections to the Department of Citywide Administrative Services. As part of the process in determining how the island should be used after the jail is closed, in early 2021 the City Council passed several bills to ensure that environmentally conscious and regenerative uses of Rikers Island would be considered. Local Law 31 of 2021 requires DEP to conduct a feasibility study to assess the possibility of constructing a consolidated Wastewater Resource Recovery Facility on Rikers Island. 

Currently, DEP operates fourteen Wastewater Resource Recovery Facilities citywide, which treat over 1.3 billion gallons of water daily. There are four Upper East River facilities – Hunt’s Point, Wards Island, Bowery Bay, and Tallman Island – which are almost a century old. Due to their age and use, upgrades are necessary but costly; the four facilities are all high energy consumers located on waterfront properties in the Bronx, Queens and Randall’s Island. 

The feasibility study would assess outcomes of consolidating these four facilities into a brand new, state-of-the-art facility on Rikers Island. The study will evaluate the benefits versus the cost of upgrading current infrastructure or building one new, modern facility as well as economic, environmental and social benefits, opportunities and impacts. To read more about the study, click here

The feasibility study also helps advance the City’s goals of greenhouse gas reduction, carbon neutrality, energy efficiency and how to meet the challenges of stresses on infrastructure from increasing populations and climate change. 

The engineering firm Jacobs will assist with the study, whose contract runs from April 2022 to October 2023. DEP aims to keep open communication with advocates and community members during this process, with a formal outreach process about the study to begin in spring 2022. 

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


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