Take two: Community Board 2 overwhelmingly rejects borough jails plan

Community Board 2 narrowly votes not to approve mayor’s House of D expansion
Photo by Kevin Duggan

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 kdugg[email protected]glocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.
Community Board 2 passed a largely symbolic motion to reject the mayor's borough jail plan while attaching a host of recommendations on how the city should change its project at its monthly general meeting on June 12.
Photo by Kevin Duggan