It’s been just over a week since Mayor De Blasio announced that he would back the proposal to close Rikers Island in favor of bringing smaller jails to the boroughs. The momentum surrounding the proposal begs the question: If this isn’t just a pipe dream, where will those jails be located? The mayor has made it clear that he doesn’t have plans to bring a jail to Staten Island, where he’s already vehemently disliked, but the specifics, on which this plan could be contingent, remain murky.
Of course, the most recent crusade to shutter Rikers is only in its conceptual stages. To do so would require whittling down the inmate population by about half, from about 10,000 to 5,000, which in turn would necessitate reforms in the criminal justice system. (About 85 percent of the population of Rikers are awaiting trial, the Times says.) But even if these changes are made, claiming space for jails in the middle of the city is sure to garner significant pushback from residents and pols alike.
“No one wants to have a jail in their district,” Helen Rosenthal, the council member for the Upper West Side, told the Times.
Other council members surveyed by the paper agree. “No jail in my district, ever,” Andy King, whose district includes the Bronx enclaves of Baychester, Co-op City, Edenwald, Eastchester, Wakefield, and Williamsbridge, said. “I’ll lose my mind if they ever try.”
Three jails already exist in New York City: one in Manhattan’s Civic Center, one in Downtown Brooklyn, and a third that goes unused near the Queens County Court between Kew Gardens and Briarwood. Downtown Brooklyn’s Steve Levin is the only council member who copped to being okay with a jail in his district. The Times reports that Levin would support expanding the Downtown Brooklyn facility.
In the Bronx, the likely neighborhood candidate for a new jail would be Grand Concourse, just east of Yankee Stadium, where the borough’s civil courts are located. The Times notes that local council member Vanessa L. Gibson “hedged” on building a new jail in the district, as did Rafael Salamanca Jr. On another note, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who represents areas of the South Bronx and is not up for re-election, would support a jail.
It was previously reported that the city was eyeing new jail locations near the NYPD police academy in College Point, Queens, and a location near an 800-inmate jail barge moored alongside Hunt’s Point in the Bronx. It was also reported that the city was looking into a location near Arthur Kill in Rossville, Staten Island.
To bring a new jail to any area would require a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), the Times notes, necessitating approval from the local community board, borough president, City Planning Commission, City Council, and mayor. The long string of approvals needed gives even more credence to the words of the leader of the correction officers union. It’s no more than “a fantasy,” he says.