Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice, along with the Van Alen Institute, released a set of guidelines to decentralize Rikers Island and improve city jails in every borough. The “Justice in Design” report outlines recommendations for healthier jails, including interior and exterior design elements, greater amenities, and ways to better integrate the jail with the surrounding neighborhood. As one of the first steps to permanently closing Rikers, these new justice hubs, or decentralized borough-based jails, would be tailored to the needs of detainees, officers, lawyers, visitors and community members.
In April, Mayor de Blasio announced his support of closing the jail complex on Rikers Island after protests and calls from activists and public officials. In a proposal released Thursday, the mayor says closing Rikers will take at least ten years and will require a big decline in the number of inmates there, a drop in crime rates and significant funding. As the New York Times reported, according to the city’s 51-page report, in order to close Rikers within a decade, the population at the complex needs to drop to 5,000. Currently, the daily population is about 9,400, much lower than the average of 20,000 inmates the prison held during the 1990s.
A 1938 photo showing the Women’s House of Detention south of the Jefferson Market Courthouse, via NYPL
The past week has been full of news about Rikers Island and Mayor de Blasio’s announcement that the notorious prison will be closed and replaced with smaller facilities throughout the boroughs. Ideas for re-use of its 413 acres have included commercial, residential and mixed-use properties; academic centers; sports and recreation facilities; a convention center; or an expansion of nearby LaGuardia airport. And while anything final is estimated to be a decade away, this isn’t the first prison in NYC to be adaptively reused. From a health spa to a production studio to a housing development, 6sqft explores the new lives of seven past prisons.
On Friday 6sqft reported Mayor Bill De Blasio’s announcement that the Rikers Island jail complex will be closed, following a report by the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform. “New York City has always been better than Rikers Island,” said the mayor when he announced the decision. The report also included ideas for the future of a post-jail Rikers. One such idea suggests that the island be used for the expansion of nearby LaGuardia Airport, raising the possibility of a new runway and additional terminal space, according to USA Today. “The Island is uniquely positioned to accommodate an expanded LaGuardia Airport that would reduce delays and could serve as many as 12 million more passengers annually,” the report states.
Photo: Seth Wenig (AP) courtesy of Van Alen Institute.
A blue-ribbon commission has recommended that Rikers Island be closed and replaced with several smaller facilities based on a study of the storied jail’s future according to the Daily News. The panel, led by former New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, has been studying the the troubled 10-jail facility for more than a year. Mr. Lippman and the Speaker of the City Council, Melissa Mark-Viverito, will officially announce the findings on Sunday. A member of the commission said that recommendations include supervised release of some detainees, new smaller jails across the city and an overhaul of the bail system as part of a transition that would take 10 years to complete. According to a recent New York Times report, Mayor de Blasio has shifted his position on the issue and will be announcing his support for a closure plan, possibly at a news conference Friday.
Curtis + Ginsberg Architects’ “city blocks”
The 413-acre plot of city-owned land, most of it landfill, that makes up Rikers Island is known more for its impenetrable prison than its waterfront property and breathtaking city views. Recently City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito called for the closing of the jail complex, reports Crains, calling it an “ineffective, inefficient,” symbol of outdated policies and approach to criminal justice. An independent commission headed by Jonathan Lippman, the state’s former top judge, is creating a blueprint for accomplishing the prison’s closing. There is significant opposition to the idea, though others, from Gov. Andrew Cuomo to the New York Times editorial board are behind it.
Photo via G Captain
Thanks to “Law & Order” and “Orange Is the New Black,” we all think we’re experts on the local prison system. But there’s a lot more to incarceration than Elliot Stabler’s interrogation room and the Litchfield Penitentiary. For example, we bet you didn’t know there’s a giant floating barge in the East River that is home to 800 prisoners?
The Vernon C. Bain Center is a 47,326-ton jail barge used by the New York City Department of Corrections, located near Hunts Point in the Bronx just one mile west of the SUNY Maritime College. It was built in 1992 in New Orleans for $161 million as a means to curb overcrowding at Rikers Island. In the past, it’s been a facility for traditional inmates and juveniles, but today it’s used as a temporary holding and processing center.