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Queens Chronicle

Katz in State of the Borough: close Rikers, ‘overhaul’ jails

Boro President uses her annual address to talk up achievements

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Posted: Friday, January 25, 2019 4:35 pm | Updated: 12:22 pm, Thu Jan 31, 2019.

Borough President Melinda Katz on Friday backed Mayor de Blasio’s plan to close the jails at Rikers — but came up short of endorsing the construction of a new 30-story lockup on Queens Boulevard to replace it.

Katz, who announced last month that she is running for Queens district attorney, chose what may be her final State of the Borough address to call for an end to the current jail system.

“Let me be clear,” she said for emphasis.

“I have been, and I remain, a strong supporter of closing Rikers Island. 

“It is a moral imperative that we overhaul our city’s jail system ... And closing Rikers is an intergral part of that.”

However, the borough president said, she is “deeply disturbed” that people in the Kew Gardens neighborhood have not had “meaningful community engagement and input.” 

The highly controversial plan to erect a 1.9-million-square-foot jail behind the Criminal Court building big enough to hold 1,500 inmates is a hot-button issue in the upcoming DA’s race.

Community groups in Queens as well as the other boroughs fear City Hall is preparing to ride roughshod over them in the next few weeks when the plans for new jails here, in Manhattan and the Bronx come up for approval by the City Planning Commission.  

“The absence of community input is not lost on the boroughs,” Katz told more than 2,000 people at LaGuardia Community College, including a large group of city administration and elected officials. “Certainly not here in Queens.”

She called for the city to “start anew” and come up with a better plan.

“There’s still plenty of time to do it the right way,” she said.

The State of the Borough address is traditionally a guided tour of improvements, or  promised improvements, to schools, parks and housing around the borough. This years’ 45-minute-plus speech did not disappoint.

Perhaps the biggest applause lines of the morning came when Katz said she is pressing the Port Authority and others at JFK Airport to hire more residents from the surrounding neighborhoods in Southeast Queens.

“In order to be successful, we need to hire local, have a path to union apprenticeship programs and have ample opportunity for second-chance employment.” she said.

“Ideally, we want every single good-paying job created at our airports filled by Queens residents.

As well, Katz led an emotional tribute too to the borough’s Vietnam veterans who, after years of promises, saw her break ground last month on a monument in Elmhurst. The monument will carry the names of more than 350  soldiers from Queens who were killed in the fighting there.

“I remember wintnessing the betrayal and despair that you and your brothers felt coming home to what felt like an ungrateful nation,” she told a group of about 20 men from Chapter 32 of the Vietnam Veterans of America, whom she’d asked to stand. “Welcome home.”

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1 comment:

  • Buster57 posted at 6:02 pm on Mon, Jan 28, 2019.

    Buster57 Posts: 39

    Seriously?? THIS IS DISGUSTING!! There is nothing wrong with Rikers Island! Renovate it if that will make the inmates happy. The (mis)management and the problems will know quadruple as there will be FOUR prisons (& why isn't Staten Island getting one)? Please don't say more jobs, blah blah blah. That's bull$hit. Ms Katz, I implore you to understand how shutting Rikers is not the solution.