Council members fret about vagueness of $8.7 billion de Blasio plan for new jails to replace Rikers Island
City Council members griped Thursday that they’re flying blind as they consider Mayor de Blasio’s plan to replace Rikers Island — which besides costing $8.7 billion would also mark a big change in the city’s approach to criminal justice.
De Blasio administration officials are offering too little information about when and how inmates would be moved from Rikers to the four new jails, in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan, said City Councilman Keith Powers (D-Manhattan), who leads the council’s Criminal Justice Committee.
“There are communities here obviously concerned about what the plans are in their district," Powers said before more than 300 people at the first City Council hearing on de Blasio’s plan.
“I think it’s a little unfair for us not to have information about what phasing will be like and what the plan will look like .... We’re here at a land use hearing to talk about this and we don’t have clarity on which of these districts will get the facilities in what order.”
“I think it’s a little unfair for us not to have information about what phasing will be like and what the plan will look like,” said Powers.
Another council member wondered why the plan’s estimated $8.7 billion cost was staying level even though de Blasio administration officials have lowered the new jails’ estimated population from 6,000 to 4,000.
“Now that the population has been reduced to 4,000, what is the updated estimated cost of construction? Is there any particular reason why that figure remains the same (now) that the population has decreased?" asked Council member Adrienne Adams (D-Brooklyn), chair of the Landmarks, Public Sitting, and Maritime Uses subcommittee
Jamie TorresSpringer, first deputy commissioner of city Department of Design and Construction, had no answer to Adams’ question. “The estimate that informed that budget is based on the place that we’re at,” TorresSpringer said, explaining that the official design has not yet been conceptualized.
The City Council is following up on the Planning Commission’s approval under the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, which requires rezoning the addresses of the proposed jails — 60 Centre St. in Lower Manhattan, 275 Atlantic Ave. on Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, 126-02 82nd Ave. in Kew Gardens, Queens, and 320 Concord Ave. in Mott Haven, the Bronx.
Some of the locations are controversial. Bronx Borough President Reuben Diaz Jr. has complained the Mott Haven jail would be too far from the borough’s court complex, and Manhattan Chinatown residents are worried that the borough’s jail will share a wall with a senior citizen center.
“I think in the coming weeks we’re going to have a lot of work to do," said Council Member Margaret Chin (D-Manhattan), referring to concerns over the jail buildings’ heights, locations and community impact. “We have to get these answers and we have to get these commitments before we recommend.”