May 15, 2019 By Meghan Sackman
Community Board 9 voted unanimously against the Mayor’s borough based jail plan at last night’s monthly community board meeting.
The board voted 28-0 in support of a seven-page resolution that was fiercely critical of the plan. The resolution described the plan as a “travesty” and the entire process a “farce.”
The contentious plan involves closing Rikers Island and replacing it with four new jails, one in every borough except Staten Island, by 2027. The plan requires the sites to be rezoned–including the Kew Gardens facility–and last night’s vote was part of the ULURP process.
“From the beginning, this administration has been a steamroller; the so-called neighborhood advisory meetings have been a farce,” the resolution states. “The need for community involvement has been consistently ignored by the City.”
The resolution said the plan was “fiscally irresponsible,” noting that it would cost about $30 billion to finance it, at a time when NYCHA Public housing desperately needs funding and there are more than 60,000 homeless.
The resolution noted that the city failed to look at other potential sites in Queens and that it needs to address the culture of violence at Rikers Island, which is the underlying problem.
It said that a jail does not belong in residential communities and that the city should rebuild Rikers Island.
“We are told that Rikers’ buildings are in terrible physical shape and its culture is one of violence. We are told that even if brand-new buildings are built, that Rikers is isolated and difficult to reach. Yet that is the simplest problem to solve–add a stop on the ferry which already passes Rikers; even weekly taxi vouches for friends…It is the culture of violence which really needs to be changed.”
The resolution states that the plan should be thrown out and recreated with more consideration and input from communities.
“While CB9 recognizes the need for prison reform, we believe the City’s borough-based jail plans are inexplicably rushed and ill-considered. A fiscally responsible plan should be created that reflects an honest, complete evaluation of justice reform,” the resolution states.
The vote came after months of protests, including a rally at borough hall, a contentious town hall meeting in April, and a community board vote in March telling the City Planning Commission not to certify the borough-based plan that kicked off the ULURP process.
However, the plan does have supporters, who argue that the borough-based jails will be more accessible to inmates’ families as well as prison staff. Furthermore, some argue that it will make the Department of Corrections more accountable, since the jails are not out of sight and forgotten like on Rikers.
The next step for the plan, as part of the ULURP process, involves the input of Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. She is required to make a non-binding recommendation within 30 days, after holding a public hearing.
The City Planning Commission will then have 60 days to host a public hearing, make some modifications and vote on the plan. The commission will have to explain why it rejected the views of the community board if it votes in favor of de Blasio’s plan.
The City Council will then have 50 days to review it and vote.