• November 12, 2019
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Queens Chronicle

City Council approves sweeping new jail plan

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Posted: Friday, October 18, 2019 12:32 pm | Updated: 1:23 am, Fri Nov 1, 2019.

The City Council voted Thursday to  "reshape our city" by closing Rikers Island and building four new jails, one in every borough except Staten Island.

The vote was 36-13.

"I am not overstating it when I say this is is one most significant votes of our entire careers," Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan) said during an emotional, 14-minute speech that led up to the historic vote.

"It will reshape our city for years to come."

The plan approved yesteday calls for the demolition of the unused Queens House of Detention in Kew Gardens and replacing it with a 19-story jail by the end of 2026.

In a speech before the vote, Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), whose district covers Kew Gardens, said she had not shared the enthusiasm of others who had made building borough-based jails a high priority. But she — and three other Council members whose districts would be the sites of new jails — agreed to go along after obtaining concessions from City Hall, including a reduction of the bed count from 1,150 per jail to 875.

"Understanding the high likelihood that this proposal would be approved, I made it my priority to sit down at the negotiating table," Koslowitz said before the vote, aiming her remarks at civic groups in Kew Gardens who have steadfastly opposed a new jail. "It was my goal to make a better deal for my community.

"I know that some of you do not understand my position on this proposal. I am confident the future will calm your concerns."

Then she added: "I have been in the City Council for over 20 years. and this is the most difficult proposal that I have ever had come across my desk. 

"I want to emphasize that I would not support this proposal if I believed it would have a negative impact on the community that I love."

Among the sweeteners Koslowitz got for backing the jail plan were renovations to several nearby schools and an upgrade of the kitchen at the Queens Community House's senior center in Kew Gardens. 

Councilmen Bob Holden (D-Middle Village) and Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) were the only members of the Queens delegation to vote no on the plan — though Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), who was out of town yesterday, said via Twitter that he too would have voted no.

Along with Koslowitz, the yes-voters in the Queens delegation were Adrienne Adams (D-Jamaica), Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton), Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans), Paul Vallone (D-Bayside), Peter Koo (D-Flushing), Francisco Moya (D-Corona), Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria), Barry Grondenchik (D-Oakland Gardens), Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows), Daniel Dromm (D-Elmhurst) and Antonio Reynoso (D-Brooklyn, Queens). 

The plan now goes to the mayor's desk, where he is expected to sign it.

The preliminary budget for the plan is $11 billion — $9 billion for the four new jails and $2 billion to repurpose Rikers for other uses. 

But it is unclear if those estimates will be revised downward because of the reduced size of the facilities.

No design or floor plans for the new jails have been made public, not has a timetable for the work been established other than a deadline of seven years. 

Part of the vote on Thursday approved a measure that called for Rikers to be closed and rezoned for other public purposes by Dec. 31, 2026. That change now has to go through a land-use zoning approval process to become law.  


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  • Helton posted at 11:30 am on Thu, Oct 24, 2019.

    Helton Posts: 2

    Reggie said it perfectly. Besides the real estate and property value aspects, the public's safety will be threatened due to the Dope from Park Slope and all of his City Council fellow fools worried about social justice and the rights of criminals - thus the decriminalization of many crimes that calls for the arrest of the perps. Now they are given a desk appearance ticket. Oy!

    This has happened in every city controlled by Democrats and it's happening here. It took 20 years of Giuliani and Bloomberg to make the city safe again. It will take far less time to jeopardize the safety and well being of NYC's residents.

    And you wonder why people are leaving NYC at the first opportunity?

  • livelyreggie posted at 10:28 am on Tue, Oct 22, 2019.

    livelyreggie Posts: 58

    This has nothing to do with the quality of the jails at Rikers Island, or the inability to maintain the existing buildings, etc. This is nothing more than a real quid pro quo, in other words, a payback to the council members who agreed to this huge property and money grab by NYC's disgusting Communist mayor, DeBlasio. We all know what this is truly about. A big developer approached DeBlasio and most likely said they'd like to develop Rikers Island into a luxury community. So DeBlasio, in his inimitable style, readily agreed because it dovetails with his plan to destroy New York City in every conceivable way. He is a disgrace to the City and anyone of the council members who voted along with this plan should not be voted back in. How about the property values of all the homes in the surrounding areas? Don't you think that devalues them substantially? How dare this megalomaniac put prisons in residential neighborhoods!! I can only imagine the sum of money he received for this stunt! Every member of the City Council is a Democrat and this is what you get when you continue to vote in the socialist regime. I hope NYC is happy with their mayor's second term of office. What a shame. Although, perhaps one day DeBlasio will end up in one of those spanky new jails...where he belongs! And not to mention the cost of building all these new jails....but what does he care, it's not his money. So let me get this straight, they'd couldn't renovate Rikers Island for $11 billion?? What a crock. This certainly is going to "re-shape" our city alright!