Shut Down Rikers And The Mayor’s Jail Plan, Community Demands

Originally published in Bklyner. on September 24, 2018.


PARK SLOPE – The diverse group of Brooklynites packed into the auditorium of PS 133 Thursday night shared two opinions—they all wanted both Rikers Island and the Mayor’s borough-based jail plan shut down.

Mayor Bill de Blasio committed in 2017 to close the jails on Rikers Island by 2027 and replace them with four new/renovated “modern and humane” borough-based jails in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens.

The plan includes demolishing the existing 800-bed Brooklyn Detention Center at 275 Atlantic Avenue and replacing it with a 1,510-bed facility with ground-floor retail, community space, and parking. The floor area ratio (FAR) for the new building would increase from 3.5 to 20, allowing the currently 216 feet tall building to soar up to 430 feet. The “community-based” centers will make the jail system “fairer, safer, and more efficient,” according to the city.

“I think that we can very safely say that we should not be considering going from 800 people in a building to 1,500 people because that seems to defy the actual intent and mission of what you’re talking about doing—making a smaller system more efficient and making it better,” Senator Velmanette Montgomery said at the start of the three-hour meeting.

“I’m happy to see that the constituents have come out to make their voices heard. That’s what we need,” she added noting that she would have preferred that community engagement occurred earlier in the process. Montgomery, Senator Brian Kavanaugh, and Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon have penned a letter to the city requesting that the current scope of work be withdrawn and a new one developed that considers and implements the feedback collected from the public scoping meetings.

“That is basically why we are here. It’s to support what we believe is the community’s desire to be engaged in the discussion around actually improving what goes on in any facility so that we can reduce the violence, reduce hopefully the need for more and more and more cells, because we’re going to build a criminal justice system that incorporates alternatives to incarceration along with a more efficient and better system of jails,” Montgomery said.

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