NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A plan to replace Rikers Island with smaller jails around the city is getting more pushback, especially in the communities set to house those facilities.
On Saturday, Queens residents wanted to make their voices heard and keep the prisons out of their neighborhoods.
The city’s plan would build a new correction facility on 82nd Avenue, next to Queens County Criminal Court.
“Don’t sell us out. Don’t sell us out,” residents chanted.
It is one of four proposed borough based jails – the others in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan – that would reportedly cost more than $10 billion.
Last year, Bill de Blasio said these would replace the facilities on Rikers, as part of the mayor’s ongoing effort to reform the city’s correction system.
“The population at Rikers is down 21 percent since 2013,” de Blasio said with pride last year.
Some critics of the plan prefer the idea of renovating Rikers Island, rather than closing it.
“Is this a land-grab for waterfront development? Yes,” Andrea Crawford said.
“You should at least look at what it would cost to rebuild Rikers and I don’t buy that it’s too isolated,” Dominick Pistone of the Kew Gardens Civic Association said.
Piston added squeezing in beds for more than 1,400 inmates in the Queens community would overwhelm the neighborhood – warning that the only place for a prison yard may be on the roof top.
“We raised the issue of where will be recreation, we raised the issue of how do you evacuate a 29-story building if there is a problem,” Pistone said.
Supporters of the plan say the renderings of the new building are not final and the number of floors for the Queens jail could be 26 or less.
Some residents say putting these jails in the boroughs next to courthouses makes sense; making it easier to visit arrested family members.
“Whatever they do I’m pretty sure they’ll do it the right way,” Julio Castro claimed.
The project is in the land use review process, which allows for public input – something Saturday’s demonstrators say has been lacking.
The next hearing on the Queens jail is set for April 24 at 7 p.m.
The meeting’s sponsor, Community Board 9, unanimously voted to reject the jail proposal 34 votes to zero last month.