While politicians debate its future, here’s a chance to learn about the past and present of New York City’s most notorious jail complex.

Retired NYC Correction Department Director Thomas McCarthy will present “Rikers: Once the Island of the Unwanted, Now Just the Unwanted Island,” at the Greater Astoria Historical Society’s Long Island City headquarters on Monday, June 5, at 7 p.m. After the lecture, GAHS Executive Director Bob Singleton will lead an open discussion on the subject.

McCarthy — a former reporter, feature writer, columnist, and editor at various local newspapers who was also once the spokesperson for the Queens District Attorney’s Office – will cover Rikers Island from its days as a New Amsterdam outback to its present state as a penitentiary and purported hotbed of inmate-on-inmate and inmate-guard violence.

Dutch immigrant Abraham Rycken (also written as “Rycke” in some correspondence, while some historians argue that the family name was actually “van Rycken”) allegedly bought the entire 100-acre-plus island, which lies off Northwestern Queens near LaGuardia Airport, in 1664. His descendants sold it to the city in 1884.

Basically unused for the next few decades, the island got its first lockup in 1932; it also grew to more than 400 acres, thanks to landfill. Currently, the property has 10 jails that house an estimated 10,000 convicts and arrestees awaiting trial. It’s also the workplace for a staff of about 9,000 correction officers and 1,500 civilians.

Earlier this year, Mayor Bill de Blasio expressed his desire to shutter and demolish the entire incarceration complex within 10 years. Since the announcement, the subject has been the topic of much debate at City Hall, but no closure plans are currently being considered.

Admission is $5.

Image: Rikers Island New York City Department of Correction

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David Waxman June 02, 2017 / 03:31PM
And where will all of the prisoners go? Certainly not in Mayor DeBlasio's neighborhood. What does he care? Just so long as he gets the hundreds of thousands of dollars every month for renting out his two houses.
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