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Ocasio-Cortez Criticizes Mayor’s Jail Plan, Calls for ‘No New Jails’

Queens Detention Center Decommissioned in 2002. The building will be demolished and redeveloped under the mayor’s borough-based jail plan (Photo: QueensPost)

Oct. 7, 2019. By Shane O’Brien

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has come out against the Mayor’s borough-based jail plan joining the likes of Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer and the advocacy group No New Jails.

Ocasio-Cortez took to Instagram Wednesday to call on the city council to vote against the proposal or to at least delay the vote scheduled for Oct. 17.

“We shouldn’t be building new jails,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote in the Instagram post. Ocasio-Cortez endorsed a report published in September by No New Jails NYC, a group of activists who want Rikers to close without any new jails being built.

The No New Jails plan involves reducing the prison population to a level where Rikers Island can be closed and no new jails are necessary.

Van Bramer shared her post on Twitter and told the public to read an op-ed he wrote in the Queens Eagle where he expressed a similar sentiment.

The city and most advocates for closing Rikers Island have condemned Ocasio-Cortez and those who share her views.

They argue that the only way to close Rikers Island is through the construction of borough-based jails since the city doesn’t have enough cells to cater to the prison population.

Excluding Rikers, the city only has enough space for 2,100 inmates. There are currently about 7,000 inmates detained across the city.

The city’s plan to shut Rikers and build borough-based jails is close to becoming a reality. The proposal was recently approved by the City Planning Commission and the last step is for it to be passed by the city council, which is voting on it next week.

The Mayor’s office is fighting back against the advocates for No New Jails, concerned that they could topple its plan.

The debate follows Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement in 2017 that he planned to shut down Rikers and replace it with four equal-sized, borough-based jails in Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and the Bronx. The mayor’s proposal would cost around $11 billion, a sum deemed far too high by Ocasio-Cortez and Van Bramer.

The four jails would house a combined total of about 4,000 inmates and de Blasio’s plan calls for reducing the city’s jail population from 7,000 at present to no more than 4,000 by 2026.

No New Jails Group protesting at a hearing in Kew Gardens earlier this year. (Photo: Meghan Sackman)

No New Jails NYC argued in its report that the city’s jail population could be reduced to 3,000 in the same time period. The group is advocating for Rikers to be shut down without any new jails built in its place and said it is possible to do so if the city reduces the jail population to 3,000 inmates.

The group also argues that the city has given no guarantees that Rikers will close if the four borough jails are built.

The group’s slogan is “if they build it, they will fill it,” and they argue that if the city builds jails capable of holding 4,000 inmates, then it will incarcerate 4,000 people.

Van Bramer contends that the mayor’s proposal is a waste of money and that the city would be better closing Rikers, reducing New York’s jail population and investing the money in services to prevent crime without building any new jails.

“The city’s crime rate continues to decrease dramatically, with fewer than 7,000 people held on Rikers; way down from more than 20,000 in the nineties,” Van Bramer wrote. “So why are we spending billions of dollars to build sky-high cages stacked on top of each other?”

However, the mayor’s office said that closing down Rikers without building any new jails was simply not possible. It said that it does not have space for 3,000 inmates in the non-Rikers prisons and that Rikers would have to remain open if no new jails are built.

Alacia Lauer, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office, said that the current New York City jail facilities outside of Rikers Island are not sufficient to hold the city’s entire jail population.

She said that the the city has three active jails outside of Rikers Island–with one in Manhattan, the Bronx and Brooklyn respectively. She said that they are antiquated and lack adequate programming space. She also said that the current Brooklyn jail has no air conditioning and that the decommissioned Queens Detention Center is not fit to hold any prisoners overnight.

The three facilities are capable of holding a combined 2,100 inmates – 900 less than the population No New Jails forecasts and 1,900 less than what the city predicts.

Lauer said in a statement that the city would be permanently closing Rikers Island and would be replacing outdated jails in the boroughs with modern ones.

“The City’s historic decarceration plan to shutter the 11 active city jails, including the eight jails on Rikers Island, and replace them with four safer, more humane facilities in the boroughs is an opportunity to continue the City’s efforts that have fundamentally reshaped our criminal justice system—efforts born out of the lived experiences and hard work of activists across this city,” Lauer said.

The Independent Commission on NYC Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform also said in a statement that it was impossible to house 3,000 inmates when only 2,100 beds were available. It argues that doing so would be illegal and dangerous.

The commission also refutes No New Jails’ slogan that “if they build it, they will fill it.” The commission pointed to Rikers Island, where there are currently about 7,000 empty beds.

It noted that the current borough prisons don’t have units for women, trans or gender non-conforming people, and people with serious mental illnesses and that placing them in an overcrowded jail system would be irresponsible and inhumane.

The commission said that Rikers would have to remain open if the borough-based jails are not built as the city cannot legally or morally cram 3,000 people into 2,100 beds.

Gabriel Sayegh, co-founder of Katal which is part of the #CLOSErikers campaign, said that Ocasio-Cortez’s stance was irresponsible.

Sayegh said that Ocasio-Cortez hadn’t really considered the position she had taken on the borough-based jail proposal.

“She’s obviously a brilliant politician, which leads me to believe that she took a position before fully processing the facts and the implications of the demands,” said Sayegh.

Like No New Jails, #CLOSErikers calls for the city to reduce the jail population to 3,000 by 2026. However, Sayegh said that the plan to replace the aging borough jails was almost as important as the plan to close Rikers.

“I don’t think anyone in their right mind would look at the existing conditions inside the [existing] borough jails and argue that people should be detained there, even people charged with very serious offences,” Sayegh said.

Sayegh said that Rikers remaining open and the borough jails remaining in their current condition was the “worst-case” scenario for the #CLOSErikers campaign.

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Talk to this Child, Chirlane

Keep them in Rikers and add 1,000 more floors to house the criminally insane mentally ill. Read this story: On Oct. 11, 2019
A 6-year-old boy was assaulted by an emotionally disturbed homeless man right outside his grandfather’s Kew Gardens home yesterday. The boy was standing in the driveway of the home near Metropolitan Avenue and Lefferts Boulevard just before 5 p.m. on Thursday when a 35-year-old homeless man randomly attacked him. The man, Laurance Gendreau- who has a history of mental illness, was walking in the area when he suddenly picked up the boy and threw him on the ground, police said.The boy landed on his face and was taken to Cohen Children’s Medical Center for a facial contusion and hemorrhaging to the brain, according to the police. How is Chirlene’s NYC Thrive working? The Billions wasted on NYC Thrive and she was never elected. Criminals, mentally ill do not assimilate into society, they prey upon it. Ship them upstate where there is plenty of land.


This is just another trick by $developers$.
The No New Jails people are blocking their dream of closing down Rikers so they can develop it.
They hatched this “No New Jails” campaign as appeasement.
Once Rikers closes, and crime escalates, the new jails will be built anyway.

Prison Protestor

Even a broken clock is right twice a day which how AOC is. She has so many grandiose ideas but this is somewhat good. No new jails, repair the ones we have and properly place mentally ill in hospitals not jails. What is more of a mystery is so many dislike or despise deBLOWsio but some how he got elected twice. Who voted this guy if nobody likes him and is approval ratings are so low?


AOC is in the pocket of big money.
Think about what is going on. Developers want Rikers Island closed so they can make $$$. What is blocking this? Communities who do not want jails of Rikers inmates.
So developers started the “No New Jails” movement.
They know damned good and well that once the prison closes and crime escalates we will have to get new jails anyway.
The issue here is the closing of Rikers. And that MUST be stopped.

Rikers Property Crime

And DeBozo never discusses what happens with the Rikers Island Property? Will DeBozo along with his cronyism developer friends build high priced condos? All at the taxpayer’s expense and while we are living next to a prison. The prison population is not high; there is a High amount of criminals and that require incarceration. If you can’t do the Time; don’t do the Crime


For once I agree with her! DeBozo has gone unhinged with this one. 11 billion??? Not to mention that he will be gone in two years and this mess will be someone else’s problem, and ours too! We have crumbling, over crowded schools and kids on wait lists to get into elementary schools in their own neighborhoods, but we should be building hi rise buildings for prisoners??? How are we not building more schools or paying NYC teachers better to attract better qualified educators?? Why is he constantly pandering and investing time and money into the lowest levels of society hoping they will turn around when he totally gives up on those who are trying to succeed and make this city a better place?? He should be impeached!

learn from history

we had a prison population of 20,000 during the last big recession(late 80’s-early 90’s)….when the next inevitable recession hits(22 trillion in debt…grossly overvalued stocks and real estate) in the next two or three years, where will we put all of these dangerous violent criminals? we used to average well over 2,000 murders a year…that’s not even enough jail space to hold just the murderers…why do people no longer have even basic common sense anymore?

Gardens Watcher

Exactly the point I was going to post. Except I don’t think it will take 2 to 3 years for the next recession.

No to Kew Gardens Jail

Learn from history and garden watcher- Are you one and the same individual? These very posts appear on Sunnyside Post in the very same order. A poster over on that stream pointed out your flawed post. Murderers and prisoners with longer the a year sentence are not suppose to be incarcerated in the city jails they’re suppose to be housed in state prisons. Obviously you’re a Fox News viewer, uninformed and spreading misinformation.

wrong again

they only go upstate after they are convicted….they spend multiple years going thru the trial process while they are housed at Rikers and commute back and forth for their court appearances….20k+ was our jail population during the last big recession…that is a fact….apparently math never got in the way of a CNN viewer….stop living in progressive narratives…they are only narratives…that is not reality….the rest of us cant cry to mom and dad and have them buy a house in Kingston for us so we can bail on this city…


Wrong again, that is an appropriate posting tag for you. You obviously didn’t see the word “suppose” in the post posted by no to Kew gardens jail. They’re right you are obviously a Fox News viewer.


Have you noticed the power of brainwashing by Fox News? Their viewers are taught to invoke the name of news outlets like CNN and MSNBC when someone mentions Fox. Fox News has publicly stated and sworn before judges when arguing court cases on numerous occasions that they are owned by News Corp an entertainment company, therefore they are entertainment and have no obligation to provide viewers with accurate news and information. They are entertainment and opinion. That’s their lawyers words not mine but yet some people still use them as a source of news.

silly me

what does 20,000+ inmates during the last big recession have to do with FOX news…our jail population is going to soar in the next couple of years…recession is inevitable…the business cycle still exists…we need places to house these criminals….4,000 spots for 20,000 inmates just doesn’t work out….20,000>4,000 …thank you to my third grade teacher for helping me understand greater than and less than

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