May 16, 2019 By Christian Murray (Updated)
A new poll says that New Yorkers overwhelmingly support the Mayor’s borough-based jail plan, results that are in stark contrast to the two community boards that have voted on the controversial plan so far.
The poll, based on the response of 601 registered voters between April 19-25, found that 59 percent supported closing the Rikers Island jail facilities and opening borough-based jails, with 22 percent voicing strong support.
The contentious plan involves closing Rikers and replacing it with four new jails, one in each borough except Staten Island, by 2027. The plan requires all four sites to be rezoned–including the proposed Kew Gardens facility, which would be 27-stories tall and house about 1,400 inmates.
The survey results, released today by the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, come just two days after Community Board 9 in Kew Gardens unanimously voted down the proposal. Community Board 1 in Brooklyn voted against it on May 8, according to reports.
The community boards in Manhattan and the Bronx have yet to vote on it.
The poll found that 70 percent of respondents believe that family members should be detained at “a borough-based correctional facility located near their families, lawyers and courts,” instead of at Rikers Island, viewed as being in an isolated area.
Jonathan Lippman, chair of the independent commission and the author of a study calling for borough-based jails, said “the results of this poll are just the latest evidence that New Yorkers understand and support the plan to end Rikers and establish a smaller jail system in the boroughs.”
Lippman’s report, titled A More Just New York, became the blueprint for the new jail plan.
“As the City’s plan for borough-based facilities makes its way through the land use process, it’s critical that decision-makers – the community boards, borough presidents, and city council members – understand that New Yorkers back the plan to finally make closing Rikers and transforming our criminal justice system a reality.”
Council Member Karen Koslowitz, who represents Kew Gardens, supports the plan. She argues that the Mayor’s plan is essentially a done deal. She has said that by supporting it, she can play a role in shaping it.
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz announced Wednesday that she is opposed to the plan.
“The Community Board’s opinion has been made loud and clear,” Katz said, reported the Queens Chronicle. “While I look forward to holding a public hearing on the matter, I do not foresee a scenario in which I would vote in favor of this proposal,” she said.
The survey was conducted after the respondents were provided with the following information:
The City has put forth a plan to close the Rikers Island jails and replace them with a system of four borough-based facilities designed to hold a smaller jail population. The City has already reduced the jail population by almost 2,000 people over the last 2 years and has committed to further reducing the population safely via various reforms.
Supporters of the plan say Rikers Island is in terrible condition, excessively isolated, unfit for use and must close. New facilities would be close to families, lawyers and the courts and would include a modern design, providing space for education, health care and reentry planning. The smaller system would also result in long-term cost savings.
Opponents of the plan say that the proposed borough-based jails are too big and do not fit the character of the surrounding neighborhoods, will bring congestion, and would cost too much money to build.
They were then asked:
After learning this new information, would you say that you agree more with SUPPORTERS or OPPONENTS of closing Rikers Island jail?