June 18, 2019 By Shane O’Brien
The protests against a jail coming to Kew Gardens continue.
A grassroots movement of local residents and community groups will march on Queens Borough Hall this Sunday to protest the planned development of a ‘mega-jail’ in Kew Gardens.
Organized by Queens Residents United and the Community Preservation Coalition, the rally will take place at 1 p.m. and demand that Mayor de Blasio halts plans to build a 27-story jail, housing about 1,400 inmates at 126-02 82nd Ave.
The proposal involves demolishing the dormant Queens Detention Complex and building a 1.3 million square foot facility on the site.
The Kew Gardens jail is part of the Mayor’s multi-pronged plan to close Rikers Island by 2027. The mayor aims to shut down Rikers and develop four new jails—one in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens (Kew Gardens) and the Bronx.
The four community boards in districts where each of the four jails are planned have rejected the proposal, although their opinions are just advisory. On May 14, Community Board 9 unanimously rejected the mayor’s plan by a vote of 28-0.
The rally is being held to re-enforce the message conveyed by the community boards, organizers say. Residents aim to point out how flawed the plan is, according to Aida Vernon, a spokesperson for Queens Residents United. The rally also comes at a time when Queens Borough President Melinda Katz is about to render her advisory opinion.
“These proposed mega-jails do not belong in residential areas, which will bear the environmental and economic burden for decades to come,” Vernon said in a statement.
Queens Residents United assert that Mayor de Blasio’s plan to replace the Rikers Island jail with four ‘vertical jails’ will just replace one failed system with another, costing New York ‘billions’ in the process.
De Blasio’s plan also requires that the city’s inmate population be reduced by roughly 3,000 by 2027—from 7,865 as of March to about 5,000.
The June 23 demonstration follows a similar rally at Borough Hall in April, which drew upwards of 300 protesters who voiced their discontent at the Mayor’s proposal.
Residents now await Queens Borough President Melinda Katz to provide an advisory opinion–along with the borough presidents in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Manhattan.
Katz is expected to announce her decision in coming days, with a deadline set for July 3. Katz has been critical of the plan to build a jail in Kew Gardens and is expected to advise against the proposal.
“The Community Board’s opinion has been made loud and clear,” Katz said in a statement last month. “I continue to have deep concerns with the size, lack of meaningful community engagement and plans to replace one bad institution with another. …I do not foresee a scenario in which I would vote in favor of this proposal.”
The decision as to whether the jail will be built will ultimately be made by the City Council.
Council Member Karen Koslowitz has not come out in opposition to the plan. She views the plan as a done-deal and says that by remaining neutral she still has a seat at the table in shaping it.
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Correction: Headline originally said Saturday, when the event is in fact Sunday