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Concerns raised over health of seniors near proposed Manhattan jail


Rendering of a proposed jail at 124-125 White St. in Manhattan. Photo Credit: Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice

Toxic dust and noise from Mayor de Blasio’s Manhattan jail development plan could hurt fragile seniors living nearby, a group of community advocates who oppose the construction say.

Hizzoner has proposed building four new jails to replace the troubled Rikers Island complex, including a high-rise detention facility at 125 White St.

Construction of the new Manhattan detention complex could “exacerbate the level of air pollution” and increase noise levels that “could have adverse physiological and psychological effects” on older New Yorkers living nearby, according to a letter six community groups sent Thursday to Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Councilwoman Margaret Chin.

The groups cited testimony on the plan submitted by the NYU Center for the Study of Asian American Health, which told City Planning officials last month that “the impact of long-term demolition, construction and possible relocation on the health of older adults in Chinatown should be taken into consideration.”

“Elderly residents are especially vulnerable to spikes in contaminants and increased exposure regularly results in hospitalizations, acute disease episodes or even death. Evidence also suggests that the noise levels associated with a major construction work such as the proposed jail could have adverse physiological and psychological effects,” the groups told Johnson and Chin.

The two Democratic council members will have significant sway over the future of the project, which must go through the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure. The Council must approve the jails before they can be built and the body typically defers to the local member repping the district where projects are located, who is Chin.

“From the beginning, Council Member Chin has been deeply concerned about potential impacts of construction on the surrounding community, especially the senior residents of the Chung Pak senior housing building, which sits next to the center,” Chin spokesman Rush Perez said. “We agree: the Administration must also prioritize the health and safety of these seniors, and create a strong plan to properly mitigate the impacts of construction on the most vulnerable residents.”

Johnson spokeswoman Jennifer Fermino added: “As we go through this process, the Council will be engaging with the community to hear all of their concerns and working relentlessly to address them."

The City Planning Commission is expected to take up the proposed jails next month.

Rikers is expected to close by 2026 after the city spends $8.7 billion building the four replacement jails in every borough except Staten Island.

De Blasio has said constructing the news jails will make the city’s criminal justice system fairer and safer.

“As we go through this process, the Council will be engaging with the community to hear all of their concerns and working relentlessly to address them,” Johnson spokeswoman Jennifer Fermino said.