2018-08-22 / Features

City Gets Ready To Expand Prison System Throughout Boroughs

BY RICHARD GENTILVISO

The revamping of New York City prisons plans for new jails in four of the five boroughs.

The announcement by Mayor Bill de Blasio on August 15 proposes renovations at three facilities: the Brooklyn House of Detention (275 Atlantic Avenue), the Manhattan House of Detention also known as “The Tombs” (80 Centre Street) and the Queens House of Detention (126-02 82nd Ave. in Kew Gardens, closed in 2002) and a new construction in the Bronx (320 Concord Avenue). Staten Island is not a part of the plan.

“Closing Rikers Island and opening community based facilities is not only beneficial for New York City’s corrections officers and incarcerated population, but also beneficial for the Kew Gardens community,” said Council Member Karen Koslowitz in the Mayor’s August 15 press release.

Each facility contains approximately 1,500 beds to meet the 6,000-bed threshold for the average daily population of 5,000 inmates. Current borough-based facilities have a combined capacity of only 2,400.

A plan to reduce the jail population to 5,000 is underway, having dropped the population 13 percent, to about 8,200 from an average 9,400 in June 2017.

Each borough facility is designed to be integrated into surrounding neighborhoods with community space, retail and parking, while promoting safety and support for both the corrections officers working and inmates residing within them.

“These new jails will have improved interior layouts allowing officers more effective ways to supervise people in detention, and also provide for quality education, health and therapeutic programming,” said city Department of Correction (DOC) Commissioner Cynthia Brann.

The proposal must first go through a public review under the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) necessitating hearings and recommendations from local community boards, four of the five borough presidents, the City Council and the City Planning Commission. The de Blasio administration is also seeking to reach out to community groups and local elected officials for feedback on the plan.

Last February, Mayor de Blasio and Speaker of the City Council Corey Johnson agreed to consolidate the proposal to renovate and/or construct jails in Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens into a single ULURP process and it is expected that an application will be submitted for certification by the end of the year.

“The new facility in Kew Gardens will bring significant economic development and provide hundreds of new parking spaces for the community. I look forward to taking the next steps in opening community-based facilities,” said Koslowitz in the release.

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