By Madina Toure
Elected officials whose districts include College Point are speaking out against a possible plan by the de Blasio administration to put a new jail in the neighborhood, although the administration says nothing is set in stone.
DNAinfo reported last week that the city is considering a $7 billion plan that would transfer inmates out of Rikers Island and into renovated detention centers and two new jails in locations throughout the five boroughs.
One of the locations that the city is allegedly considering for a new jail is the space next to the Police Academy in College Point, DNAinfo said. The other site being explored is land in the Hunts Point section of the South Bronx, next to a jail barge known as the Vernon C. Bain Center, which would allegedly be closed under the plan.
The de Blasio administration said that when it is looking at how to improve the jail system, a range of locations are provided to show the challenges in identifying realistic sites, insisting that just because a location has been mentioned, that does not necessarily mean it is a possible spot for a jail.
“Creating a culture of safety in our jails is our top priority—today, not a year from now,” Monica Klein, deputy press secretary for the de Blasio administration, said. “While the city continues to examine whether Rikers Island’s closure is feasible, our focus today remains on reform of the correctional system that will make our jails safer now and into the future—whether at Rikers or elsewhere.”
In February, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan) proposed a plan that would involve a commission that would look into ways to reduce the population at Rikers Island with the end goal of shutting down the complex. Mayor Bill de Blasio has said it would be logistically difficult to close Rikers Island and he wants to focus on reforming the corrections system.
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said he has no further details about the plan other than what has already been reported.
“I don’t know what sort of twisted logic the mayor’s implying to put these neighborhood jails throughout the entire city in various neighborhoods, but I would imagine that every single neighborhood is going to fight this tooth and nail,” Avella said. “The simple logistics of having up to 2,000 detainees in each one of these locations plus the financial cost of building facilities and the transporting back and forth just makes this proposal absurd.”
He said he received a couple of emails from his constituents about the jail, but he expects the complaints to increase as the news begins to sink in.
“I’m sure the outcry against the proposal will increase exponentially as time goes on…The rest of us consider this a joke but he may be serious,” he said. “This is the type of proposal that makes people say ‘one-term mayor.’”
State Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz (D-Flushing) said given that College Point is landlocked and congested, the proposal is “ludricous.”
“It’s been growing by leaps and bounds over the last number of years and the (College Point) Corporate Park specifically has become a convenient dumping ground for new development and relocation of Willets Point businesses,” Simanowitz said.
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour