Escape from New York

Jail tower proposed by New York City officials

Development East News Urbanism
80 Centre Street, the site of the proposed jail tower (Courtesy Google Maps)

As part of the plan to close Rikers Island by redistributing inmates to smaller jails across four of the five boroughs, the Daily News reports that city officials are looking to build a 40-story jail tower at 80 Centre Street in Lower Manhattan.

Perkins Eastman, along with 17 subcontractors, has been tapped to redesign the smaller community-oriented jails in each borough and orient the new developments toward a rehabilitative model. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office had released a list of preferred community-chosen locations in each borough back in February, but ran into opposition with their sites in the Bronx.

Now the plan for the Manhattan location appears to have changed as well, as the city is looking to top the nine-story 80 Centre Street with a jail tower that could contain affordable housing.

The initial location in Manhattan, an expansion of the Manhattan Detention Complex at 125 White Street, was deemed infeasible for the number of inmates that would need to be housed. Rikers currently houses 9,000 inmates, but the city is hoping to cut that number to 5,000 through bail and sentencing reform and distribute the population throughout the new sites.

Closing the jail has been the goal of vocal activists for whom the facility embodies gross abuses of the criminal justice system. Mayor de Blasio has recently come to support the push for closure.

If the jail tower moves forward–80 Centre St. is one of two sites under consideration–the 700,000-square-foot Louis J. Lefkowitz State Office Building would be gutted and the preserved facade would serve as the tower’s base. The granite, art deco building is currently home to the marriage bureau, and was completed in 1930 and designed by William Haugaard; according to the city’s official building description, Haugaard kept the building squat to avoid casting shadows on the nearby courthouses and Foley Square.

The jail’s vertical shape would mean that men and women would need to be separated on different floors, as would the hospital area, outdoor space, recreation areas, and classrooms. AN will follow this story up as more details become available.

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