Aug. 15, 2018 By Tara Law
The mayor’s office has released the first details about plans for four borough-based jails, which includes the redevelopment and expansion of the former Queens Detention Complex in Kew Gardens.
The overhaul would significantly expand the size of the facility at 126-01 82nd Ave., which closed in 2002. The existing building is 497,600 square feet and housed about 500 inmates; the new facility would be 1,910,000 square feet and house 1,510 inmates.
The jail reopening is part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to close the troubled Rikers Island jail facility and shift the city’s jail inmates to smaller jail facilities. The mayor’s office plans for the four facilities to offer 6,040 beds, which would accommodate the roughly 5,000 people in detention daily.
The three jails in the other boroughs will be entirely new. The Mayor’s office says that it is considering constructing these facilities at 275 Atlantic Ave. in Brooklyn; 80 Centre Street in Manhattan; and at 320 Concord Ave. in the Bronx.
“We’re taking a big step forward in the process of closing Rikers Island and creating a modern community-based jail system that is smaller, safer and fairer,” de Blasio said today. “Now we can move full steam ahead on the engagement and planning for our new facilities so we can close Rikers as fast as possible.”
The mayor’s office says that the smaller facilities would be safer and enable inmates to maintain contact with their families and communities, and to have better access to their legal representatives and the court system. The new facilities would also give inmates increased access to rehabilitative and reentry services, as well as to more sunlight and outdoor space.
The Kew Gardens facility would also offer a centralized care area for inmates with an infirmary and a maternity ward.
The new development would offer parking for visitors to the jail and for the general public. A total of 429 parking spaces would be available within the detention facility, and the public would have access to an adjacent above-ground parking lot with 676 public spaces at the northwest of the property.
A community space would also be constructed along 126th Street, the mayor’s office said.
The city has not yet an anticipated a completion date or an estimate of the length of the construction period, but it would need to seek zoning changes in order to expand the existing facility.
The mayor’s office said that the city would need to make an amendment to the zoning text to modify the “requirements for bulk” such as the floor area, height and setback, as well as the parking requirement. The city would seek a special permit to de-map 82nd Ave. between 126th Street and 132nd Street.
The plans for opening the facility have provoked controversy in the community since the mayor first announced that he was considering reopening the facility this fall.
Councilmember Karen Koslowitz, who had previously expressed concerns about the project, released a statement in support of the proposal in February.
In February, Koslowitz’s special advisor Howard Pollack said that her support of the jail is contingent upon the city closing the homeless shelter housed inside a Comfort Inn at 123-28 82nd Ave.
In her statement today, Koslowitz said that the facility could have a positive impact on the surrounding community.
“Closing Rikers Island and opening community based facilities is not only beneficial for New York City’s corrections officers and incarcerated population, but also beneficial for the Kew Gardens community,” Koslowitz said. “The new facility in Kew Gardens will bring significant economic development, and provide hundreds of new parking spaces for the community. I look forward to taking the next steps in opening community based facilities.”