Updated April 1, 9:55 a.m.
Land near the NYPD Academy in College Point could be developed into a new prison under a plan that the city is exploring to systematically shut down Rikers Island’s correctional facilities, according to a report published on Thursday.
Citing sources within City Hall, DNAinfo reported on Thursday that various officials are “quietly” considering four possible sites in the outer boroughs to develop two jails — each housing as many as 2,000 inmates — to potentially replace Rikers Island.
Not surprisingly, the news drew the ire of local officials who vowed that they would never support a jail in the neighborhood.
When contacted by QNS, Community Board 7 Land Use Committee Chairperson Chuck Apelian seemed to suggest City Hall’s concerns were true in that a new jail in College Point wouldn’t be accepted by anyone in the neighborhood.
“It’s my opinion that the community board and the neighborhood would never support a jail in College Point,” he said.
City Councilman Paul Vallone was also adamantly opposed to any prisons in College Point.
“Any attempt by the city to target College Point for a proposed jail site will be met by fierce and complete opposition,” he said in a statement to QNS. “We have taken the steps to turn College Point around by working with the residents, small businesses, the corporate park and the cultural, civic and sports associations to bring a new renaissance to the neighborhood. The days of broken promises and dumping grounds are over for College Point.”
Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz and state Senator Tony Avella also issued statements saying they, too, would oppose a College Point jail.
“It’s outrageous that the city would even think about burdening the College Point community yet again with another large-scale development, let alone proposing that it be a jail that would house 2,000 criminals,” Avella said. “I’m appalled that while we’re protecting the mayor’s back in Albany, he’s going behind our back to hurt our community.”
“College Point Corporate Park has become a convenient dumping ground for large-scale development and relocations, a burden borne by our residents,” Simanowitz said. “Moreover, this plan blatantly ignores public safety and quality-of-life issues.”
Along with the site adjacent to the College Point academy, the report identified land in the Bronx next to the Vernon C. Bain Center, a jail housing 800 prisoners on a moored barge, as another potential prison site. Two unidentified properties in Brooklyn are also on the radar.
The new prisons would be developed with the intent of replacing the facilities at Rikers Island, which have come under fire in recent months from city officials over conditions and prisoner treatment. But the ideas being considered are both costly and time-consuming; initial estimates indicate that it could cost $7 billion and take up to three decades to build new jails, renovate existing prisons and shutter Rikers Island.
The proposal, as the report indicated, runs counter to previous public statements that Mayor Bill de Blasio made in opposition to closing Rikers Island. The mayor has stated he would like to reduce Rikers’ population by 25 percent, from 10,000 to 7,500.
A source close to the Mayor’s Office did not confirm or deny the report, but indicated that the office was trying to determine the basis of the DNA Info report.
“It’s possible” the reporter “saw something where the city was exploring ways to move kids off Rikers, which is something we have to make [the] best efforts to do under the Nunez settlement,” the source said, referring to a federal court mandate for reforming Rikers Island.
Any plan to construct a jail in a neighborhood would fall under the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP), which allows for public hearings on such proposals. A source cited in the DNAinfo report said City Hall officials are “terrified” of such a process considering the likelihood that the vast majority of residents would vehemently oppose new jails in their neighborhoods.