Kew Gardens jail opponents file legal challenge against plan to close Rikers Island


Queens opponents of the contested Kew Gardens jail have joined the list of groups across the city who are mounting legal challenges against the borough-based jail plan.

Queens Residents United (QRU) and the Community Preservation Coalition (CPC) jointly filed an article 78 petition in New York County Supreme Court on Feb. 18 that challenges the city’s plan to replace the Rikers Island detention complex with four borough-based jail facilities.

The lawsuit alleges that the government did not follow its own laws and procedures conceiving and approving its plan to replace Rikers. It seeks to reverse the land-use approvals for the borough-based jail system in Queens, the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan.

“The process for planning the borough-based jail system was fatally flawed from the outset,” said Joseph Faraldo, spokesperson for QNU. “They improperly combined the land-use review for four massive borough-based jails into a single, one-size-fits-all proposal to accelerate approvals and avoid meaningful public discussion and debate over the scope, cost and implementation of these projects.”

The petition, references the reversal of the Inwood rezoning, as a precedent where a large-scale land use ruling was overturned in Supreme Court after the judge found that the city had not followed the City Environmental Quality Review (CEQR) process.

In the case of the borough-based jail plan, it argues that the city improperly used the CEQR processed designed to address an individual site to “to ram through a Frankenstein-stitched, one size fits all proposal” in four different sites.

It argues that the city’s Environmental Assessment Statement was not rigorous enough in projecting the future of the city’s detainee population. It also says the environmental review process did not sufficiently explore alternatives to closing the Rikers facility. 

The City Council approved its sweeping $9 billion land use plan in October, setting it up to close Rikers Island by 2026.

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