De Blasio’s plan for a borough-based jail system as Rikers replacement moves forward

Posted On Tue, March 26, 2019 By

Posted On Tue, March 26, 2019 By In City Living, Design

Via Wikimedia

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to open four new jails as replacements for the Rikers Island complex has officially entered the public review process. The City Planning Commission on Tuesday certified the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure application from the city’s corrections department to open new facilities in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens as part of the city’s 10-year plan to close Rikers. The rubber stamp from the CPC comes after the project’s draft environmental impact statement, which was released last week, found no significant adverse impacts.

Rendering of the proposed jail in Mott Haven via de Blasio’s office

In June 2017, de Blasio unveiled his proposal to close Rikers in 10 years by gradually reducing the inmate population at Rikers and moving inmates to new facilities in Lower Manhattan, Mott Haven, Downtown Brooklyn, and Kew Gardens. The new jails would be designed to better integrate with the surrounding neighborhood as well as situated closer to court systems, according to the city.

Each of the four jails will feature just over 1,400 beds and between 20,000 and 40,000 square feet of community or retail space. The facilities will also feature education programs, medical screenings, reentry programs, as well as a “dignified admission process,” according to the DOC.

“This nation has a shameful history of locking people up without addressing systemic issues that would improve the lives of incarcerated individuals,” the mayor said in a statement to amNY.

“We’re correcting that wrong by dramatically reducing the number of people in custody, closing the jails on Rikers Island and building new jails that are closer to family and support networks that are so crucial to people’s re-entry into the community.”

Concerns have been raised about the lack of community input from local residents and public officials before starting the public review process. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said the de Blasio administration’s plan to open a new jail at a tow pound on East 141st Street is “the wrong site” as it does not sit next to the borough’s courthouse.

Diaz tweeted last week: “The site they have chosen in Mott Haven is at least 30 minutes away from the Bronx Hall of Justice by public transportation, with transfers. You can’t even make a direct trip between the two. How does this bring court facilities closer together?”

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz joined Diaz this month in criticizing de Blasio for not engaging with the community. In a letter to the mayor earlier this month, the officials wrote: “The irony, however, of unveiling a citywide plan for ‘modern community-based jails’ in the absence of community input is not lost on the boroughs.”

During the hearing on Monday, Commissioner Marisa Lago said because the borough-based jails plan is the first design-build project to go through the ULURP process, there will be a new process to engage stakeholders, run by the city’s Department of Design and Construction (DDC) to oversee public engagement sessions.

And there will also be a 10-member Design Advisory Group composed of representatives from the Department of Correction, the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, DDC, City Planning, the city’s Design Commission, the City Council speaker, and the four borough presidents affected.

With the land use review procedure certified, the city’s plan will now be reviewed by the community boards from each of the sites followed by the borough presidents. The plan will then move on to the Planning Commission for a vote, and if approved will be sent to the City Council.

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