Oct. 15, 2019 By Shane O’Brien
The size of the proposed new jail in Kew Gardens has been reduced yet again as the City Council prepares to vote on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to shut down Rikers Island and replace it with four borough-based jails by 2026.
The proposed jail at 182-02 82nd Ave. will be reduced from 27 stories to 19 stories, according to Alacia Lauer, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office.
The jail’s proposed height will now be reduced by 75 feet to 195 feet. The jail was originally slated to be 270 feet tall.
The jail will be designed for 886 inmates and will incorporate segregated housing for men and women, according to Michael Cohen, Communications Director for Council Member Karen Koslowitz. Of the 886 cells, 150 have been designated to hold women.
The jail’s capacity has been reduced by almost half since the plans were first announced.
The mayor’s plan called for a jail capable of housing 1,437 inmates as recently as June. These figures were then then revised down to 1,150 and were then lowered again to 1,000 inmates over the summer.
Lauer said that the mayor’s office was preparing for the lowest jail population in New York City in more than 100 years and that the proposed borough-based jails have been reduced as a result.
“We are now planning for a system with the fewest number of people in jail in over a century. Thanks to the tireless work of many justice system partners and advocates, the borough-based facilities can be smaller while still providing space and programming opportunities for people detained or working in the facilities,” Lauer said.
All four proposed borough-based jails have been reduced to reflect New York’s shrinking jail population, Lauer said. Jails in Queens and the Bronx will stand at 195 feet, while jails in Brooklyn and Manhattan will both stand at 295 feet.
The mayor’s office says the cost to build the new jails will be $8.7 billion.
Council Member Karen Koslowitz, who has long advocated for a drastically smaller jail in Kew Gardens, said that the reduction came after months of discussions with the mayor’s office.
“The last several months I have been adamant that the proposed size of the borough based jail in Kew Gardens needed to be significantly reduced,” Koslowitz said. “As a result of difficult negotiations with the Administration I am pleased to have reduced the height of the facility by close to 100 feet, and cut the number of beds that the facility will house nearly in half.”
The reduction comes after mayor’s office announced a revised forecast for the city’s 2026 jail population on Monday. De Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson announced that the city’s jail population would be reduced to 3,300 by the time the borough-based jails in Queens, Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx were finished.
The mayor’s office had recently forecast that it would house 4,000 inmates by 2026 and predicted that it would hold 5,000 inmates when the proposals were first put forward in 2017.
The City Council is set to vote on the mayor’s plan on Thursday as part of the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). The City Council vote is essentially the last stage of the ULURP process, since the plan was passed by the City Planning Commission by a 9-3 vote.