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New York, New York- Mayor, Bill de Blasio, recently announced a $8.3 billion budget to construct small, contemporary, humane jails in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx in an effort to replace the jails located on Rikers Island. The construction projects stand as the first significant activity in the Borough-Based Jails Program.
A garage and a community space will be built at the program’s Queen site. The 105-foot structure will encompass a two-level, 25,000 square foot community room in addition to over 600 public parking spots. Construction will take place on the west side of an already existing parking lot at Union Turnpike between 126th Street and 132nd Street. The east side of the parking lot will remain open during renovations while the Queens Detention Complex will undergo demolition. The upcoming Queens jail will span the east side of the parking lot and the former detention complex location. The 886-bed jail will have a maximum height of 195 feet and female detainees will be housed in a distinct, separate facility among the jail.
The garage and community center will encompass a partially planted green roof, solar panels, and on-site stormwater retention to minimize the impact on the environment. The project may qualify for Parksmart certification; the only certification program which praises sustainable garages.
The Queens parking garage and community space is being designed by Hunter Roberts Construction Group and architecture firms Marvel and Urbahn Architects. New York City is encouraging participation in the jails program by minority and women owned business enterprises.
Mayor Bill de Blasio believes that closing Rikers Island will make New York City stronger. With a system built to better reflect the city’s values, de Blasio states that a huge step was conducted in reaching the goal of a, “fairer and more equitable jail system for all New Yorkers”.
The NYC Department of Design and Construction is managing the Borough-Based Jails construction projects citywide. Jamie Torres-Springer, NYC Department of Design and Construction Commissioner, claims that the four new facilities will offer better connections to and space for families, courts, attorneys, medical and mental health care, education, therapy, and service providers.
DOC Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi noted that the jails will be fully air-conditioned and will provide a humane atmosphere.
The bill to close the jails on Rikers Island and build smaller borough-based jails was passed by the City Council back in October of 2019 when the city was experiencing the lowest crime and incarceration rates of any major city in the U.S.
Early site preparation is ongoing for the remaining three Borough-Based Jails in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. It is expected that the Brooklyn House of Detention will be dismantled later this year.