Rikers Island’s Closure and What Comes After

Established in 1932, the sprawling facilities at Rikers Island span over 400 acres of land between Queens and the Bronx, averaging a daily population of 10,000 inmates. The average annual cost to New York City taxpayers to house one person there for a year is over $200,000. Its reputation includes a litany of abuse allegations and sits at the center of many heated debates across the state of New York regarding the faults of the prison industrial complex.

In June of 2017, Mayor Bill De Blasio announced the intention to close the sprawling prison complex within the next ten years, once its inmate population is reduced to a manageable 5,000, but what comes after? For the island itself, there are no apparent discussions regarding what the empty space will become, but the countdown still has another eight years if other circumstances do not force the prison’s closure at an earlier date. Developers and lawmakers alike may speculate until then. As for what replaces Rikers Island’s operations, De Blasio’s plan keeps the matter small but local.

What Is Replacing Rikers Island, and What Does This Mean for Many NYC Boroughs?

The current intention, once Rikers Island closes its doors, is to turn its hundreds of acres of penal sprawl into smaller, separate facilities in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. As of June 2019, we know that these new facilities will serve as “civic assets.” The City of New York wants each borough to benefit from the building and running of these new jails, and it hopes to accomplish this through multiple intended features and plans:

  • Borough-based jails would keep detainees close to home. This gives them easier access to support systems by reducing commute time and cost for lawyers, family, advocates, and more.  
  • The jails are intended to integrate with the local architecture and community. For example, the plans for the Brooklyn location would house inmates and staff, as well as space for programming and recreation on the upper floors, with the ground floor open for local businesses and commerce. Therefore, space remains for local communities to continue to benefit from the location.
  • These facilities are smaller and easier to manage. Rikers will close when the population is reduced to a max of 5,000 inmates, and these will be divided among four locations. Smaller populations require fewer staff and facilities to run, especially measured against Rikers’ current, gargantuan staff that currently rivals the number of inmates in number. 

Another key trait to each of these jails will be that the city wishes for each design to benefit their location specifically. A jail for Brooklyn will provide what the community there most calls for: a layout that serves the needs of inmates and civilians alike, but the Manhattan location may take a completely different form. Today, New York City looks to determine more definitively what each borough needs through local construction firms and other community experts. 

Want to Be Part of the Solution? NYC Issues an RFI.

The City of New York has released a request for information, or RFI. They want to engage with local industry experts, especially construction companies, in determining the needs of each community, and they need input from the people who know them and have had a hand in building them. Their goal is to be the “owner of choice for design-build firms,” they say, and they are looking for those that have experience in developing and handling these larger, more complex projects. 

From firms like yours, they want to hear what will bring these plans to fruition efficiently, on time, and on budget, without sacrificing safety or quality. 

Firms and individual parties that would like to answer the RFI, or would like more information on the individual projects, please call CIS 800-247-1727 or email us at info@cisleads.com.

 

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