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Take two: Community Board 2 overwhelmingly rejects borough jails plan

The board rejected last month's vote to endorse the plan to close Rikers Island, which included many of the same recommendations, at a heated meeting that was frequently interrupted by protesters opposed to building any new jails on May 8.
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They’re giving it another go.

Community Board 2 put forward a slate of changes they would like to see in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s borough jails plan while rejecting his overall project at a June 12 meeting.

The Downtown board members overwhelmingly passed a largely symbolic motion at their monthly general meeting not to approve Hizzoner’s request to raze Boerum Hill’s House of Detention and rebuild a larger jail in its stead as part of his goal to close the Rikers Island jail complex by 2027 — but nevertheless attached a laundry list of stipulations because the city’s plan does not go far enough, according to one civic honcho.

“The current plan that the city has given us is not sufficient and it should be really reconsidered for what we feel are the future needs,” said Carlton Gordon, the head of the board’s land use committee which devised the demands.

The committee asked for adjustments similar those the civic group previously included in a motion to approve the city proposal, which the full board narrowly rejected at its heated May 8 general meeting that was frequently interrupted by protesters opposing the construction of any new jails.

At the comparatively quiet gathering on Wednesday, the group once again demanded the city cut the proposed new Atlantic Avenue facility’s size in half and reduce its capacity from 1,437 to 875 beds, by taking into account recent and future criminal justice reforms in Albany, moving some incarcerated individuals to a new and separate location for mental health and substance misuse treatment, and by building a jail on Staten Island — the only borough exempt from de Blasio’s scheme.

Officials with the city’s Department of Correction previously said that there weren’t enough jailed Staten Islanders to justify building a separate facility there.

The land use committee fleshed out its original proposal demanding the city expand alternative sentencing programs like the Red Hook Community Justice Center, better train corrections officers, improve conditions at Rikers Island until its closure, and funnel some of the funds for the project toward affordable housing, education, and public programs in the community.

The board missed its official — but purely advisory — chance to vote on the jail, as per the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Process for the new build, when it failed to pass that motion at last month’s general meeting.

Chairman Lenny Singletary told the board that he tapped the land use committee to come up with another recommendation after a conversation with a rep from Borough President Eric Adams’ office. The Beep indicated at his public hearing on the jails last week that he wanted to hear from the board before he plans makes his also purely advisory recommendation on the lockup on July 3.

One board member questioned the effectiveness of making these demands while at the same time rejecting the city’s proposal.

“If you are invited to the party and you don’t have a ticket to get into Coney Island, you don’t get on any of the rides. So you’re standing outside saying no we’re not going in, for whatever reason, and now we’re talking about all the rides inside Coney Island,” said John Dew. “If you’re voting no, what you’re going to say underneath is going to have less value.”

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.
Updated 2:41 pm, June 13, 2019
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Reasonable discourse

Frank from Furter says:
Staten island was removed from the final passed motion. Replaced by a fair share in every borough. The mayor missed an opportunity to get one boro to accept the new jail. There is consensus that Rikers needs to close. Brooklyn doesn't object to a jail at this site but we object to a maga jail that will create the same problems that exist on Rikers now. A reasonably smaller jail would do that..no larger than 20 stories nor more than 850 detainees.
June 13, 8:22 pm
Local from Here says:
What is this consensus that Rikers needs to close? It’s a functional facility but BdB’s REBNY buddies want the island to sell more apartments to oligarchs and drug smugglers, so now there is widespread agreement that it needs to go? No, leave Rikers as it is.
June 13, 9:34 pm
Local from Here says:
Close Rikers down.
June 14, 8:14 am
OGP says:
I understand that he is trying to make an analogy but what the heck is Mr. Dew talking about?
June 14, 12:31 pm
Glenn Krasner from Parkchester, Bronx, NY. says:
I seem to recall that about 5 to 10 years ago that the DOC spent $20 million renovating the Brooklyn House of Detention in Boerum Hill. It does not make any sense to have just spent that large a sum of money on a facility only to raze it for a larger facility. Keep the newly renovated facility as is, and let the overflow of prisoners go to the new larger jails in the other boroughs. It does not make sense to tear it down at this point after having spent all that money.
June 16, 5:31 pm

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