Will Kew Gardens jail negatively impact crime and property values? Commission study says ‘no’

Queens electeds split on mayor’s plan to bring jail to Kew Gardens
Courtesy of the mayor’s office.

A new study from the Lippman Commission, independent consulting advisers hired by the city, claims that new jails have no impact on property values or crime in the communities they are placed in.

Also known as the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, the consulting group has worked on a plan to implement the closure of Rikers in favor of borough-based jails which has been met with opposition across the city.

Many local residents who oppose the jail slated for Kew Gardens have called on Mayor Bill de Blasio to stand down, claiming it would effect property values and bring crime into the surrounding neighborhoods.

“New York City has made real progress towards the ambitious goal of shutting the notorious jails on Rikers Island with significantly fewer people in jail, low crime rates and newly passed state pretrial reforms,” former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman said. “Yet, to make closing Rikers a reality, establishing a smaller, better-designed and more accessible detention system in the boroughs is a critical next step. While some have understandably voiced concerns around the potential impact detention facilities will have on the surrounding community, this analysis confirms that there is no observable impact on two critical areas of concern: property values and crime rates. As community members and elected officials evaluate the plan to close Rikers and transition to a smaller borough-based system, it is our hope that they will weigh the data and evidence contained in our report.”

The commission examined transactions that saw one- to three-family homes, co-ops, condos and rental units changed hands sourced from the Census and American Community Surveys in 2000, 2009 and 2010. The Queens Detention Complex, which sits on the grounds where the city plans to build a new 1.2-million-square-foot facility, was closed in 2002 and only serves minimal purposes.

Though the commission does not attribute property growth to Brooklyn Detention Complex opened in 2012, they note that it grew by 55 percent in the years to follow. Crime rates did not increase, according to the study.

Photo: More Just NYC

Since the Queens Detention Complex closed prior to the availability of Open Data records, the commission used information from the Historical New York City Crime Data archives. This would have been data gathered by 112th Precinct and would only include felonies.

Crime rates in the 112th were on the decline prior to 2001 and continued on a downward slope throughout to 2018, the study claimed.

Photo: More Just NYC

Aida Vernon, a community activist from Briarwood as a member of Queens Residents United, was not convinced by the study.

“I don’t mean to be disrespectful to the Lippman Commission, but personally I don’t give it much credence,” Vernon told QNS. “We’re continuing to oppose this plan as conceived. There’s no guarantee criminal justice reform can be achieved from it and it’s going to impact neighborhoods.”

Vernon understands the study to be the product of the commission and believes they would use further research to defend their recommendations to the city. She would lend the study more faith had it come from a more independent source.

“Its their idea and they’re constantly trying to justify it,” Vernon said.

Money for the jails should go toward mental health services and education, preventative measures to crime, according to Vernon.

Mara Einstein, another activist from the community, cast doubts on the report’s methodology.

“As a scholar and former marketing executive, I see this for what it is: obfuscation,” Einstein said. “This is comparing apples to oranges. The study looked at the correlation between property values and crime rates, not property values and proximity to a 29-story, 1.2-million-square-foot jail. The research is irrelevant.”

And despite the numbers presented in the study, opposition to the jails continues to grow.

Activists from four of the five boroughs (Staten Island was exempt) scheduled to receive a new jails have merged into one organization calling itself Boroughs United (BU).

BU announced its launch the same day the Lippman Commission released the results of its study, focused its fire on Mayor Bill de Blasio and his claim to being progressive candidate for the 2020 presidential election.

“It’s time for Democrats across the nation to recognize that Bill de Blasio isn’t a real progressive if he’s willing to spend billions of dollars on a regressive plan to build new jails instead of investing in real criminal justice reforms,” said Nancy Kong, spokesperson for BU.“Mayor de Blasio should withdraw his deeply flawed plan and focus on progressive reforms that strengthen communities and protect human rights.”

With no clear price tag on the four new jails, BU claimed that the billions that would go into the jail plan should go toward investing in communities to prevent crime in the first place.

The sentiments of BU echo those of No New Jails NYC, which has organized under the rally cry of, “If they build them, they will fill them.”

You can read the study here.