NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Construction recently started on replacing Rikers Island with four borough-based jails in New York City.

But many residents who have opposed the idea from the beginning are appealing to the mayoral candidates to stop the project.

READ MORE: Here’s How The Plan To Close Rikers Island Is Supposed To Work

As CBS2’s Christina Fan reported Friday, an angry crowd of protestors gathered in front of the construction site near Queens Borough Hall, fighting to stop the building of the city’s newest jail.

“Today we have one voice, that is stop building the Kew Gardens jail!” said Queens resident Donghui Zang.

Back in 2019, the city voted to close the notorious Rikers Island and replace the complex with four smaller, borough-based jails. Protestors say the city ignored overwhelming opposition from local residents, selecting a location in Queens that’s near homes and businesses.

“Closing Rikers Island is wrongheaded and dangerous,” one person said.

“We need to protect the safety of the public. This is ridiculous what is going on,” said another.

“Mega-jails should not be in residential areas. It’s a danger for the community,” Queens resident David Rem said.

READ MORE: New York Lawmakers Pushing ‘Treatment Not Jails Act’ — More Comprehensive Support For Those In Legal System

Protestors say they aren’t against criminal justice reform, but they believe it’s better to renovate Rikers than spend $8.3 billion on new facilities. They hope the next mayor will agree.

“Bottom line is, there is no money for community jails,” said Republican mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa.

While Sliwa supports keeping Rikers, his rival, Democratic candidate Eric Adams, agrees with shutting it down. But his spokesperson told Fan in a statement that Adams “has concerns about the cost, location and scope of some of the new jail facilities.”

“It’s never a done deal, because whoever wants to get elected in November has to hear from their own community, has to hear from their own districts,” said community organizer Phil Wong. “If they don’t care about residents and constituents in their own district, they do not deserve my vote.”

Closing Rikers will also shrink inmate capacity from a population of about 5,800 to 3,300.

Protesters fear fewer cells could mean more violent criminals on the streets.

MORE NEWS: Rikers Island Closure Could Be Delayed After Judge Rules City Can’t Tear Down Manhattan Detention Complex, Build New Jail

CBS2’s Christina Fan contributed to this report.

CBSNewYork Team