A group of vocal opponents of the de Blasio administration’s Kew Gardens jail proposal showed up at the Community Board 6 general meeting on Wednesday to drum up community support for a rally against the plan planned for April 13.
Though the jail’s proposed location at 126-02 82nd Ave. falls within the border of Community Board 9, which voted unanimously against it last month, the site is just two blocks south of the Community Board 6 area, which includes Forest Hills and Rego Park.
At the April 11 Board 6 meeting, tensions ran high between antagonistic residents and City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz, who appeared welcome the new members of the board and also spell out her support of the plan.
Koslowitz, who has accepted the new jail as an inevitability, argued that the best outcome is for the neighborhood is to work to force their input into the rest of the process to make the conditions of the plan more favorable to their interests.
“We just knocked a few stories off the building and we intend to go even lower. That’s because I’m sitting at the table. The building was going to be 29 stories. They just lowered it. They were bringing in an infirmary, which wouldn’t have anything to do with the Queens residents. I stopped that,” said Koslowitz.
While all three of the opponents who addressed the community board in the public forum insisted that they wanted criminal justice reform on Rikers Island and merely disagreed with the plan’s execution, other residents in the audience appeared to have different views.
Koslowitz began to say “There is not one person that thinks Rikers Island should stay where it is,” but several audience members loudly interrupted her before she could complete her statement.
“I think so,” one speaker called out.
In response, an animated Joseph Hennessy, the community board’s chair, boomed over the hecklers, forcefully reminding them that they needed to let all speakers have their say “with courtesy and without interruptions.”
During the public forum after Koslowitz’s statement, Forest Hills resident Charlotte Picot argued that the mayor’s multi-borough plan is an ineffective form of criminal justice reform, on top of having a number of adverse environmental effects on Kew Gardens area in particular.
“Massive penitentiaries reflect the failure of imagination rather than a sustainable and equitable division of criminal justice reform,” said Picot. “I ask you, Community Board 6, as our fellow Forest Hills residents and neighbors, please do not let a flawed plan that fails to meet any positive objectives destroy our quality of life.”
While the City Planning Commission certified the ULURP application last week and will begin public review process, the opponents all took a moment in their addresses to encourage residents to attend the rally at 1 p.m. this Saturday, April 13, on the steps of Queens Borough Hall, 120-55 Queens Blvd., Kew Gardens.