DeBlasio Favors Idea of Moving Rikers' Inmates to Shuttered Queens Jail
Mayor Bill de Blasio likes the idea of using a now closed Queens jail as a place to house the prisoners from Rikers Island when it closes.
On Monday, October 2, de Blasio's spokeswoman Natalie Grybauskas told the Daily News that de Blasio supports the Queens Detention complex, which has already been backed by eleven borough City Council members, to be used as a replacement jail site.
She said, “Expanding and reopening the Queens Detention Center would be an ideal first step and we have already started to take a hard look at this site to determine its feasibility.”
Despite promises to have Rikers shut down within the next ten years, the mayor has not given his opinion on any replacement jail sites until now.
Grybauskas said, “The Mayor is committed to closing Rikers Island. For that to happen, we need to continue to reduce the jail population, and we need courageous elected officials and community leaders to help locate potential neighborhood-based jail sites. We thank these Queens officials for their role in this process.”
According to The Daily News, “The Queens pols sent a letter to de Blasio earlier Monday asking him to use the detention center site in Kew Gardens, behind the borough's courthouse. The jail there was shuttered 15 years ago after decades of holding detainees. The group includes Elizabeth Crowley, the chair of the criminal justice committee, and Karen Koslowitz, whose district the site is in. A commission headed by former chief judge Jonathan Lippman, which recommended shutting down the troubled jail complex on Rikers Island, said there should be smaller jails in each borough, near their courthouses. Council members representing court sites in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx have said they'd be open to creating or expanding jails to make way for violence-plagued Rikers to close.”
The earlier idea, which led to much opposition, of using Staten Island as the location of the new jail has been ruled out by de Blasio.
The member of the Queens Council said that the Kew Gardens sites “for many years operated with little incident to the surrounding community” and reopening it would “avoid the fraught process of placing community jails in residential neighborhoods throughout the borough.”
The city jail population will still need to be nearly cut in half in order to close Rikers. Even with the opening of a new jail site, the number of inmates will still have to go from close to 10,000 down to around 5,500.
The now shuttered Queens Detention Center has received a lot of support for its reopening to replace Rikers Island.