Photo provided by the office of Councilman Costa Constantinides
Costa Constantinides unveils the Renewable Rikers Act

Following a panel discussion and petition that he helmed last week, Councilman Costa Constantinides unveiled a suite of three bills Monday that would kickstart the process of transforming Rikers Island into a renewable energy hub.

Constantinides, the Chair of the Committee on Environmental Protection, has responded to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 10-year plan to close Rikers by pushing to use the 413-acre tract as site for solar power and a wastewater treatment plant as a form of environmental justice. And he doesn’t want to waste any time putting his plan into action.

“We need to begin the conversation about what it can be now. We need to be planning now. As we’re getting facilities closed on Rikers Island, we need to start to implement what we’re talking about. We can begin that renewable future now,” said Constantinides at the Renewable Rikers panel discussion last Thursday.

The centerpiece Renewable Rikers Act is a bill that would transfer control of the island from the New York City Department of Correction to the Department of Environmental Protection, setting Constantinides designs in motion before the prison population has been exported from the island.

A second piece of legislation would study the renewable energy capacity on the island, and a third bill will assess how much wastewater can be diverted to the island, with the goal of closing several aging treatment facilities in northern Queens, the South Bronx and Upper Manhattan.

The environment studies aim at helping New York City reach its 1,000 megawatt solar capacity pledge by 2030–enough energy to power 250,000 homes. It would also help the city follow the parameters of the Climate Mobilization Act, a carbon reduction package the city passed in April.

“These bills are a downpayment for a brighter future for this island — one that actually serves New York communities instead of tearing them apart,” said Constantinides.

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