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City Moves to Replace Rikers Island with Community-Based Jails

The City Council agreed to begin a public review process  to transfer Rikers' inmates to smaller borough-based jails
Rikers Island, BK Reader
Photo credit: AP

The city continues to push forward on its plan to shutter Rikers Island. Mayor de Blasio and Council Speaker Corey Johnson announced on Wednesday an agreement that will start a public review process of proposed sites for smaller jails in Brooklyn, Manhattan, the Bronx and Queens. These sites combined are estimated to provide space for 5,000 detainees which would allow relocating 56 percent of the current Rikers Island population to smaller facilities in the boroughs.

"This agreement marks a huge step forward on our path to closing Rikers Island," said Mayor de Blasio. "In partnership with the city council, we can now move ahead with creating a borough-based jail system that's smaller, safer and fairer."

Since first announcing plans to close Rikers Island in March 2017, the city has worked with a contractor to identify sites that could replace the jails on Rikers Island, to develop a plan to maximize the capacity at each of the sites, and to design jails that best meet the needs of inmates, staff and communities. As the existing borough-based facilities have the capacity to house only approximately 2,300 people, there is no immediate way to close Rikers Island safely, said de Blasio.

The four sites to hold new, modified or renovated facilities include the Brooklyn Detention Center on Atlantic Avenue in Downtown Brooklyn, as well as the Manhattan Detention Center, the Queens Detention Center and the NYPD Tow Pound in the Bronx.

All sites will still need to go through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) process which includes hearings and recommendations by the local community board, borough president, the city council and the City Planning Commission. The new agreement aims to consolidate the proposal to renovate, expand or construct jails into a single ULURP process to allow for a more expedited review.

"It is essential that we close Rikers as quickly as possible. We must ensure our justice system reflects our commitment to safety, justice, and fairness for all - a standard we cannot in good conscience say we currently meet," said Brooklyn Councilmember Stephen Levin representing the 33rd District. "We understand that the boroughs, including Brooklyn, will be an important part of the solution, and I look forward to engaging with the community on what form that may take."

A comprehensive public engagement process with local communities and stakeholder to incorporate the feedback and needs of communities will accompany the planning process, while the city will also conduct environmental reviews to ensure these projects will not have an adverse effect on the surrounding communities.

The see the complete roadmap to closing Rikers, go here.