New York’s City Planning Commission certified an application on Monday that would rezone Rikers Island as a public space. The application launched the beginning of the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) for the conversion, which would ban jails from operating on the 400-acre island after December 31, 2026. The application is just one step involved in the controversial plan to replace Rikers with four borough-based jails, which was approved by the City Council in October.
“By guaranteeing that Rikers will never again be used for incarceration, we’re charting a new course forward for the Island and the people of New York City,” Mayor de Blasio said in a statement, “Though mass incarceration may not have started here, we’ll do all we can to make sure it ends here.”
The proposal was filed by the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice and the Department of Corrections and is solely focused on changing the mapping of the island to end its use as a jail. Any further plans for development and construction will require new review processes as necessary.
As Rikers falls under the jurisdiction of Queens Community Board 1, the community board and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz will oversee map changes as part of the seven-month ULURP process. Because Rikers Island is technically within Bronx borough boundaries, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. will have the option to offer input on the plan as well.
“This City map change will bring Rikers back to the public, and no longer be used to incarcerate individuals,” Council Member Margaret S. chin stated. “The future of Rikers must be decided by the people, and I commend the City for beginning a participatory planning process to ensure that any uses for this space reflect the needs and input of all New Yorkers.”
Florence Koulouris, the district manager of Queens Community Board 1, expects the board to hold a public hearing before January 21. She stressed the importance of educating locals and community members on what the map change entails.
Director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, Elizabeth Glazer, stated that the filing “is another step forward in our commitment to build smaller, safer, and fairer justice system,” and that “New Yorkers are witnessing proof of how our city is turning from a model of safety that relies primarily on enforcement and incarceration to one that relies on building on community strength and partnership.”