Dec. 5, 2019 By Allison Griffin
The City began the land use process Monday to ensure that Rikers Island never houses another inmate again after the facility closes at the end of 2026.
The Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, the Department of Correction and the Speaker of the City Council filed a land use application to change Rikers designation on the official city map to a public place, marking the first step in the Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP).
The application submitted Monday is solely focused on the mapping of Rikers to change its use from a jail facility to a public place.
“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,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “We’re making good on our promise to close Rikers once and for all.”
The proposed mapping action does not open the door to development. Any future plans will require a new planning and public review process, including a separate approval for and environmental review process as necessary.
The infamous Rikers Island facility will be shuttered at the end of 2026 and inmates will be housed in four borough-based jails, including a controversial facility that will built in Kew Gardens. This plan was approved under a separate ULURP by the council in October despite all four community boards where the jails will be constructed rejecting it.
The plan’s success hinges on declining levels of incarceration.
The number of people currently in city jails is around 7,000, the lowest figure since the late 1970s. However, the new borough-based jails can only hold 3,444 inmates altogether. The Mayor’s Office said the City remains on course for a reduced jail population of no more than 3,300 by 2026 when Rikers closes.
The City is moving forward with planning for the four new jails. Last month, it sent out the first Requests for Qualifications (RFQ) to begin the process of selecting the Design-Build teams that will construct the jails.
One of the fist RFQs includes the creation of a new parking garage at the Queens site in Kew Gardens.
The new Kew Gardens jail will replace the decommissioned detention facility at 182-02 82nd Ave. It will rise 19 stories and house 886 inmates. It was reduced in size from the original plan, which called for a 27-story building with 1,437 inmates.