BENEFITING NEW YORK CITY

May 25, 2019 at 5:00 am

With the jails on Rikers Island set to close by 2026, what should be done with the land? And, who should be the chief beneficiaries of its eventual transformation? In partnership with Public Square Media, we conclude our special “Justice Week” series with a look at the options being debated.

Aired on May 24, 2019. 

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>> WITH THE JAILS ON RIKERS
ISLAND OFFICIALLY CLOSING IN
2026, THE BIG QUESTION NOW IS
WHAT TO DO WITH ALL THIS
NEWFOUND SPACE?
WITH REAL ESTATE IN NEW YORK
CITY IN SHORT SUPPLY, IDEAS FOR
THE ISLAND HAVE SPARKED A
CITYWIDE CONVERSATION ACROSS THE
FIVE BUROUGHS.
WITH SOME OF THE QUESTIONS
BEING, SHOULD WE SELL THE LAND
TO REAL ESTATE DEVELOPERS?
OR EXPAND THE LAGUARDIA AIRPORT?
OR SHOULD GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE
BE THE PRIORITY?
IN PARTNERSHIP WITH PUBLIC
SQUARE MEDIA, WE'RE CONTINUING
THE JUSTICE WEEK SERIES AND
SEARCH FOR ANSWERS, HERE WITH
INSIGHT IS CLAIRE WISE,
ARCHITECT AND URBAN DESIGN
PARTNER AT WXY.
CLAIRE, WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM.
>> THANK YOU.
GLAD TO BE HERE.
>> FIRST, FOR PEOPLE WHO MIGHT
NOT KNOW, TELL US A LITTLE BIT
ABOUT YOUR POSITION WITH WXY,
AND WHAT IT IS THAT YOU'VE DONE,
ESPECIALLY WITH THE CITY.
>> SO JUST TO GIVE A BIT OF
CONTEXT, ON WHAT AN ARCHITECTURE
PLANNING AND URBAN DESIGN FIRM
DOES IN NEW YORK, WE ARE KNOWN
FOR PROJECTS LIKE REBUILDING THE
ROCKAWAY BOARD WALK AFTER SANDY.
REFORMULATING THE BATTERY, WHICH
HAS A BIKE PATH AND A CAROUSEL
CALLED SEAGLASS.
AND MOST RECENTLY, OUR FIRM DID
A NEW PLAN, FUTURE PLAN, FOR THE
BROOKLYN NAVY YARD.
AND A DESEGREGATION PLAN FOR
DISTRICT 15 FOR THE MIDDLE
SCHOOLS IN BROOKLYN.
SO PLANNING AND PHYSICAL
PLANNING, AND DESIGN ARE VERY
OPEN, WE TAKE THESE HARD
QUESTIONS, AND TRY AND HELP WITH
THE FUTURE.
>> OKAY.
BUT IT SOUNDS LIKE ALL OF THE
ASPECTS OF THE CITY THAT WE
ENJOY, BUT MAY NOT ACTUALLY STOP
TO THINK ABOUT HOW THEY GOT
THERE.
>> EXACTLY.
>> OKAY.
>> SO IT IS IN THAT CONTEXT,
REALLY, NOT BECAUSE WE
SPECIALIZE IN THE JUSTICE
SYSTEM.
WHICH WE ACTUALLY DON'T.
>> OKAY.
BUT IRONICALLY, SINCE WE ARE
TALKING ABOUT THE JUSTICE
SYSTEM, RIKERS ISLAND, THAT DOES
LEAVE THIS PLOT OF LAND THAT
WON'T BE, AT LEAST BEING USED AS
A JAIL ANYMORE.
SO I JUST WANTED TO FIND OUT,
WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS ON WHAT
IS THE BEST WAY THAT YOU CAN SEE
FOR THE CITY TO MOVE FORWARD?
>> SO THE CITY IS A SERIES OF
ISLANDS.
AND RIKERS IS ANOTHER ISLAND AND
WE'VE HAD RANDALLS AND WARDS
ISLAND TO CONTEND WITH,
GOVERNOR'S ISLAND.
WE HAVE ALL SORTS OF ISLANDS
INCLUDING MANHATTAN, WHICH IS AN
ISLAND.
BUT RIKERS, IN A WAY, FOLLOWED
THE PATTERN OF SOME OF THE OTHER
ISLANDS LIKE ROOSEVELT ISLAND,
WHERE WE ISOLATED A USE THAT NO
ONE WANTED TO HAVE, IN THEIR
NEIGHBORS, AND WE TURNED IT INTO
A RATHER DIFFICULT SITUATION,
WHICH JUDGE LITMAN HAS TERMED A
PENAL COLONY.
AND REALLY THE OPPORTUNITY OF
RIKERS, IN REFORMING OUR JUSTICE
SYSTEM, IS TO SEE IT AS A
RESOURCE FOR NEW YORK AGAIN.
AND SOME OF THE BIG IDEAS THAT
HAVE POPPED OUT ARE KIND OF
MAKING A NEW GENERATION OF
INFRASTRUCTURE IN NEW YORK.
YOU KNOW, WE HAVE SEWAGE
TREATMENT PLANTS.
AND WE DON'T HAVE BIO GAS.
AND WE'RE NOT LOOKING AT SCALE
ALTERNATIVE ENERGY, AND RIKERS
GIVES THE CITY A CHANCE TO DO
SOME OF THESE THINGS IT ON A BIG
SCALE.
>> WELL, SPEAKING OF SOME OF
THOSE GREEN ENERGY
INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS, THERE'S
OF COURSE GOING TO BE PUSH AND
PULL IN TERMS OF WHERE THE
FUNDING FOR SOMETHING LIKE THAT
IS GOING TO COME FROM.
BUT IS THAT SOMETHING THAT CAN
BE DONE IN CONJUNCTION WITH
PERHAPS SOMETHING THAT THE
PUBLIC MIGHT SEE AS MORE
PRACTICAL, LIKE EXPANDING
LAGUARDIA AIRPORT OR SOMETHING
LIKE THAT?
>> WELL, I THINK THAT, AND FROM
WHAT I'VE SEEN OF THE
FEASIBILITY STUDY, YOU
ABSOLUTELY COULD EXPAND
LAGUARDIA, AND STILL FIT A LOT
OF THESE NEW KINDS OF
INFRASTRUCTURE IN.
BUT YOU MIGHT NOT BE ABLE TO FIT
ALL OF IT.
AND RUNWAYS HAVE A LOT OF
SECURITY ISSUES.
THEY HAVE A LOT OF CONSTRAINTS.
IT REALLY STRETCHES THE HEIGHT
LIMITS FOR DEVELOPMENT.
EVEN IN THE SOUTH BRONX.
EVEN FARTHER.
THERE'S NOISE.
YOU EXTEND THAT RUNWAY AND YOU
MIGHT HAVE EVEN NOISE YER
CONDITIONS.
FOR NEIGHBORS AROUND HERE.
AND I THINK THAT WE HAVE TO LOOK
AT AIRPORT NEEDS.
KIND OF MORE REGIONALLY.
REGIONAL PLAN ASSOCIATION REALLY
KIND OF PUSHED SOME IDEAS ABOUT
RETHINKING NEWARK, ABOUT HOW TO
GET ONE SEAT RIDES EVERYWHERE,
HOW TO KIND OF MAKE GREENER
AIRPORTS, AND YOU KNOW, OVER AND
OVER AGAIN, INCREASING THE
RUNWAYS, ON AN AIRPORT THAT IS
ALREADY PRETTY VULNERABLE, MIGHT
NOT BE THE BEST SOLUTION IN THE
LONG TERM.
>> YOU MENTIONED EARLIER IN YOUR
COMMENTS ABOUT LOOKING TO SOME
OF THE OTHER ISLANDS AS AN
EXAMPLE OF WHERE WE COULD
POSSIBLY BE GOING.
>> WELL, FIRST ONE IS
MEMORIALIZATION, RIGHT?
I THINK ONE OF THE KEY THINGS IS
TO REALLY LEARN LESSONS FROM
RIKERS, AND TO CREATE, NOT ON
RIKERS, BUT THE POTENTIALS ON
RIKERS, A REAL MEMORIAL AND A
TESTAMENT TO THE LIVES BROKEN
AND LOST, AND HOW WE'RE GOING TO
ACTUALLY LOOK AT THE FUTURE.
AND A NUMBER OF OUR ISLANDS ALSO
HAVE SERVED AS MEMORIAL.
YOU KNOW, AND EQUALLY, I THINK
WE COULD LOOK TO GOVERNOR'S
ISLAND, WHERE THEY'RE TESTING
T IDEAS, BUT THEY MADE TWO
GIANT YELLS AND ALL SORTS OF
THINGS, IT HAS BECOME QUITE THE
PERFORMANCE SPACE.
>> QUITE THE CONCERT SPACE.
>> IT MIGHT BE POSSIBLE TO
COMBINE THESE INFRASTRUCTURE
INVESTMENTS WITH THINGS LIKE
PLACES LIKE FOR GIANT CONCERTS.
ALTHOUGH MAYBE WITH THE
AIRPLANES IT WILL STILL BE TOO
NOISY.
>> OF COURSE THE ONGOING ISSUE
FOR A LOT OF PEOPLE IN THE CITY
IS WE NEED MORE HOUSING, WE NEED
AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND IS THAT
SOMETHING THAT YOU SEE AS THE
BEST USE OF SPACE, CONSIDERING
RIKERS LOCATION, ITS HISTORY, ET
CETERA?
>> SO, YOU KNOW, WE'RE BACK TO
THE LESSONS LEARNED.
THINK ABOUT THE ROCKAWAYS, WHICH
IS VERY VULNERABLE.
AND HOW MANY PUBLIC HOUSING AND
NURSING HOMES AND, YOU KNOW,
EXTENDED CARE FACILITIES WE PUT
OUT IN A PLACE THAT IS VERY
VULNERABLE.
AND ALTHOUGH RIKERS ITSELF IS
ACTUALLY PRETTY WELL ABOVE THE
FLOOD PLAIN, IT'S INACCESSIBLE
BY TRANSIT.
AGAIN, THERE'S, YOU KNOW,
AIRPORTS ARE NOT THE CLEANEST
USES, AND IN IT, IN ITSELF, IT
IS A BROWNFIELD SITE.
I MEAN IT IS A SITE THAT NEEDS
TO BE CLEANED UP THERE.
IS ALL SORTS OF TOXIC USES.
SO RIKERS NEEDS TO BE CLEANED UP
BEFORE YOU EVEN THINK ABOUT
TEMPORARILY HOUSING PEOPLE.
BUT THE REAL OPPORTUNITY IS, WE
HAVE ALL SORTS OF PLACES, FOR
GARAGES, AND STOREHOUSES, AND
WASTE WATER TREATMENT PLANTS,
AND ENERGY PLANTS, THAT E
RIGHT INHE BNX AND ON THE
WATER FRONT UES, A IF WE
CAN MOVE THEM TO RIKERS, THEN
YOU HAVE PLACES ALREADY IN
NEIGHBORHOODS TO BUILD MORE
HOUSING.
AND I THINK A LOT MORE
AFFORDABLE HOUSING SHOULD BE
BUILT.
BUT IDEALLY IT'S BUILT IN
NEIGHBORHOODS, IN CONJUNCTION
WITH ACCESS TO WATER FRONT,
WHERE PEOPLE WHO ARE ALREADY IN
CRAMPED SITUATIONS, IN THEIR OWN
NEIGHBORHOODS, CAN ACTUALLY FIND
NEW PLACES TO LIVE.
>> ALL RIGHT.
SO PERHAPS NOT QUITE A LUXURY
DEVELOPMENT ON RIKERS ISLAND.
>> I WOULD SAY OTHER PLACES ARE
KIND OF MORE RIGHT FOR THAT THAN
RIKERS ISLAND.
AND IN A WAY, RIKERS ISLAND IS
SORT OF A PERFECT CENTRALLY
LOCATED SITE FOR KIND OF MAKING
THE CITY WORK BETTER.
>> ALL RIGHT.
WELL, YOU DEFINITELY LAID OUT
SOME VERY EXCELLENT SUGGESTIONS.
I WOULD HOPE THAT SOME OF THE
PEOPLE, OUR LAWMAKERS WHO MIGHT
BE MAKING THESE DECISIONS ARE
WATCHING THIS SEGMENT.
>> I HOPE SO.
>> SO THEY CAN GET THE WHEELS
TURNING.
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING
US.
AND GIVING US SOME IDEA OF THE
FACT THAT ONCE WE CLOSE THIS
JAIL, WE DO HAVE A PLOT OF LAND
THAT WE HAVE TO DECIDE WHAT TO
DO WITH.
>> IT'S AN OPPORTUNITY.
THANK YOU.

Mutual of America PSEG

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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