New York City will shutter notorious prison complex Rikers Island a year earlier than expected, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday.
The mayor pledged to close the island by 2026—instead of the previously anticipated 2027—in an effort that will replace the facility with a new jail in every borough expect for Staten Island at a cost of $8.7 billion from the city’s 10-year capital plan.
“We have reduced the timeline for construction by one year and we’re now aiming for 2026,” be Blasio said during a budget briefing. “We believe this investment will be, not necessarily once and for all, but once and for a long time, and it’s something the City will not have to invest in again thereafter for generations.”
The change is possible because of a $7.7 billion boost to the Department of Corrections in the capital plan, and comes as the city’s borough-based jails plan lumbers through the Uniform Land Use Review Process. Locals have crammed into community board meetings across the boroughs to debate the plan, which has drawn both community ire and praise from criminal justice reform advocates.
The controversial undertaking is part of a broader strategy to slash the city’s jail population of detainees—last year, there were some 8,200 detainees, the lowest number in three decades—the new facilities will house a total of 5,750 beds, or approximately 1,440 beds per site, as the city works to continue that trend.
Once community boards have weighed in on the plan with non-binding, advisory votes, the proposal will move on to seek approval from the City Planning Commission and finally to the City Council for a vote before the facilities can be built.