Escape From New York

New York City releases final plans to close and replace Rikers Island

East News Urbanism
Rendering of the proposed Queens jail location. (Courtesy NYC Mayor’s Office)

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has released its final selection of sites for the four borough-based jails that will replace the notorious prison on Rikers Island. At an under-the-radar mayoral press conference yesterday, the city released its 56-page draft plan (available here) which includes the final locations, number of beds, amenities, zoning restrictions, and other materials necessary for the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) to proceed.

The final selection comes eight months after the city tapped Perkins Eastman to analyze and design alternative sites to the centralized Rikers complex. There had been some back-and-forth with the community in each of the four boroughs over where these 1,500-bed jails would be built (Staten Island is sitting this one out). According to the draft plan, the city will move ahead with its backup plan for the Bronx after failing to secure its preferred site adjacent to the Bronx Hall of Justice and will build a 26-story jail on an NYPD-owned tow pound at 320 Concord Avenue. The city will push ahead with plans for a 40-story jail tower in Tribeca at 80 Centre Street, currently home to the Marriage Bureau.

Brooklyn’s proposed jail at 275 Atlantic Avenue, currently the site of the Brooklyn House of Detention, could also be built out up to 40 stories. The Queens location, 126-02 82nd Avenue in Kew Gardens (formerly the Queens House of Detention) would reach up to 29 stories.

As the draft report fleshes out, each new jail will be designed to integrate with the surrounding community and will include ground-level retail and community facilities, and the Bronx location may contain up to 234 residences, including affordable units. Hundreds of new accessory parking spots will be included at each location, and the Queens jail will open their lots up to the public.

As for the jails themselves, the 6,000 beds will accommodate the 5,000 prisoners expected by 2027, when the phase-in of the new facilities will be fully implemented. Rikers’s current population has been consistently falling and was pegged at just under 8,500 in May of 2018–the administration and jail reform advocates are hoping to keep slashing away at that number through a combination of bail reform, expedited trial wait times, increased access to legal representation, and reduced incarceration for lower level offenses.

While the move to close Rikers was lauded by politicians and civil rights activists alike, the community in all four locations must still weigh in on the plan before the project can begin the Uniform Land Use Review Procedures (ULURP) process in mid-2019. The city will be holding a series of workshops to solicit feedback before advancing its plan. According to the report, public meetings on the draft report will be held as follows:

Borough of Brooklyn, September 20, 2018, 6:00 PM
P.S. 133 William A. Butler School 610 Baltic Street, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11217

Borough of Queens, September 26, 2018, 6:00 PM
Queens Borough Hall 120-55 Queens Boulevard, Kew Gardens, N.Y. 11424

Borough of Manhattan, September 27, 2018, 6:00 PM
Manhattan Municipal Building 1 Centre Street, New York, N.Y. 10007

Borough of the Bronx, October 3, 2018, 6:00 PM
Bronx County Courthouse 851 Grand Concourse, Bronx, N.Y. 10451

Design details for each jail are currently sparse, and will likely be forthcoming as the final sites are locked down.

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