BENEFITING THE BOROUGHS: EYE ON THE BRONX

May 25, 2019 at 4:45 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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>> IT IS OFFICIAL.
THE JAILS ON RIKERS ISLAND ARE
SET TO CLOSE IN 2026.
BUT WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO THE
ISLAND AFTER THE JAILS ARE GONE?
WHILE THE RIKERS FALLS WITHIN
COUNCIL DISTRICT 22 WHICH IS
PRIMARILY IN QUEENS, THE ISLAND
IS ACTUALLY CONSIDERED PART OF
THE BRONX.
AND MANY ARGUE THAT SINCE THAT
BUROUGH HAS EXPERIENCED DECADES
OF DISINVESTMENT AND NEGLECT, IT
SHOULD REAP THE LION SHARE OF
THE BENEFITS OF WHATEVER IS
DEVELOPED ON THE NEW RIKERS
ISLAND.
AND JOINING US NOW TO CONTINUE
OUR JUSTICE WEEK CONVERSATION
THIS WEEK, WITH PUBLISHED
SQUARE, COUNCIL MBA RAPHAEL, THE
CHAIR OF THE COUNCIL'S COMMITTEE
ON LAND USE, AND FROM THE SOUTH
BRONX.
CONGRESSMAN, THANKS FOR JOINING
US TODAY.
>> THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.
>> SO COUNCIL MEMBER, BEFORE WE
GET TO THE FUTURE OF RIKERS
ISLAND, LET'S TALK A LITTLE BIT
ABOUT ITS PRESENT.
AS WE KNOW, THE PLAN IS TO
REPLACE THE JAILS THAT EXIST, IN
RIKERS ISLAND, WITH FOUR SMALLER
JAILS.
THERE ARE A LOT OF FOLKS IN THE
BRONX WHO ARE UPSET WITH THE
PLACE THAT THE MAYOR HAS DECIDED
TO PUT THE JAIL IN THE BRONX.
DO YOU SHARE THEIR SENTIMENT?
>> FIRST, THANK YOU FOR HAVING
ME ON YOUR SHOW.
YOU KNOW, WHEN WE LOOK BACK AT
THE WAY THIS PLAN WAS ROLLED
OUT, VIA THIS CURRENT
ADMINISTRATION, DID NOT COME TO
THE COMMUNITY FOR ANY COMMUNITY
INPUT.
THEY JUST DECIDED WHERE THEY
WERE GOING TO PLACE THIS
BUROUGH-BASED JAILS AND JUST
MADE AN ANNOUNCEMENT.
THE LOCATION WHERE THEY'RE
PLANNING ON PUTTING, OR SITING
THIS JAIL IN THE SOUTH BRONX, IT
IS NOT IN MY COUNCIL DISTRICT.
IT IS LITERALLY ACROSS THE
STREET FROM MY COUNCIL DISTRICT.
HE HAS CHOSEN, THEY HAVE CHOSEN
THE TOLL POUND.
NOW, MANY YEARS AGO, THAT
PARTICULAR LOCATION WAS
PROMISED, THAT LAND WAS PROMISED
TO THE GEEGLE BEAKMAN COMMUNITY
WHO ARE A HOUSING PROVIDER TO
BUILD AFFORDABLE HOUSING.
THERE SO WE WERE KIND OF TAKEN
OFFGUARD WHEN THEY, THEY CHOSE
THIS PARTICULAR LOCATION.
NOW, WHEN YOU GO BACK AND YOU
READ THE LITMAN COMMISSION'S
REPORT, ON CLOSING DOWN RIKERS,
FIRST, THEY NEEDED TO DECREASE
THE POPULATION OF RIKERS, SECOND
THEIR RECOMMENDATIONS WERE TO
BUILD THESE BOROUGH BASED JAILS
IN A CIVIC CENTER OR AS CLOSE TO
THE COURTHOUSE AS POSSIBLE.
WELL THE BRONX HALL OF JUSTICE
IS NOWHERE NEAR.
>> IT IS TWO MILES AWAY FROM
WHERE THE LOCATION IS.
>> AND THEY'RE LITERALLY BEHIND
THE BRONX COURTHOUSE, THERE IS A
PIECE OF VACANT LAND THAT CAN BE
USED.
>> WELL, THE CITY SAYS IT
CANNOT, BECAUSE IT IS TOO SMALL,
THE FOOTPRINT IS TOO SMALL AND
THEY WOULD HAVE TO, THEY SAY
THEY WOULD HAVE TO BUILD A
SKYSCRAPER OF A JAIL IN ORDER TO
DO EVERYTHING THEY NEEDED TO DO
WITH THE JAIL.
>> WELL, WHEN YOU REALLY LOOK AT
THE POLITICS OF THIS, THERE'S
TWO LOTS HERE.
ONE LOT BLODGES TO THE STATE.
THE OTHER LOT BELONGS TO THE
CITY.
THE CITY HAS CHOSEN NOT TO ASK
THE STATE FOR PERMISSION TO
UTILIZE THAT LOT.
SO TO ME, THESE ARE JUST EXCUSES
THAT THEY ARE UTILIZING.
BECAUSE THE LOCAL MEMBER WHO
REPRESENTS THAT AREA, AND THE
COURTHOUSE, IS AGAINST BUILDING
A JAIL BEHIND THE COURTHOUSE.
NOW, YOU HAVE ANOTHER MEMBER WHO
IS MY COLLEAGUE, DIANE IALLA AND
I GAVE HER MAJOR KUDOS EVEN
THOUGH SHE AND I DO NOT AGREE ON
THE SITE.
>> SHE SUPPORTS THE SITE.
>> BECAUSE SHE WANTS TO SEE THE
CLOSURE OF RIKERS HAPPEN AND SHE
REALIZES IF ANOTHER ONE OF MY
COLLEAGUES DOES NOT WANT THIS
JAIL IN MY DISTRICT THEN THIS
RIKERS ISLAND CLOSURE PLAN CAN
BE KILLED.
>> BUT SOME PEOPLE SAY THIS IS A
MANIFESTATION OF NOT IN MY
BACKYARD MENTALITY.
BECAUSE IT IS EASY TO BE AGAINST
RIKERS ISLAND, THAT WANT TO
CLOSE, IT IS MUCH HARDER WHEN
YOU HAVE TO MAKE A PERSONAL
SACRIFICE OR A POLITICAL
SACRIFICE, FOR ITS REPLACEMENT.
HOW DO YOU RESPOND TO THAT?
>> WELL, LOOK, WE ALSO HAVE TO
LOOK AT THE SURROUNDING AREAS OF
WHERE THEY'RE PROPOSING THIS
JAIL.
SHOULD THEY PLACE THIS JAIL AT
THIS LOCATION, AT THE TOLL
POUND, IN A THREE MILE RADIUS,
THERE WILL BE THREE JAILS.
RIGHT NOW, YOU HAVE THE HORIZON
JUVENILE DETENTION CENTER WHICH
IS IN MY COUNCIL DISTRICT.
FURTHER DOWN, SOUTH, YOU WOULD
HAVE THIS BOROUGH JAIL THEY'RE
PROPOSING AND FURTHER DOWN IN
HUNT'S POINT, YOU HAVE THE
CENTER, THE BARGE, AND THIS
BARGE CAME TO OUR COMMUNITY IN
THE SOUTH BRONX IN THE LATE '80s
RIKERS WAS OVERSATURATED, HE
ORDERED THREE FLOATING JAIL, ONE
OF THEM CAME TO THE SOUTH BRONX,
IT WAS DOCKED IN 1992, AND HERE
WE HAVE MAYOR DAVID DENKINS WAS
MAYOR AND HE CAME TO THE
COMMUNITY BACK THEN IN 1992 AND
SAID THIS WOULD BE A TEMPORARY
THING.
>> IT WAS CLOSED FOR A WHILE AND
THEN REOPENED IN '95, I BELIEVE.
ARE THERE PLANS TO CLOSE THE
BARGE ALONG WITH RIKERS?
>> WELL, SO IN HAVING
CONVERSATIONS WITH THE
ADMINISTRATION, THE CLOSURE OF
THE BARGE, WHICH IS AN ANNEX OF
RIKERS ISLAND, IS PART OF THE
PLAN.
THEY ARE PLANNING ON CLOSING
DOWN THE BARGE AT THE END TAIL
OF THE PROCESS IN 2026 AND I
FIND THAT UNACCEPTABLE.
AND I'VE TOLD THIS TO THE MAYOR,
MR. MAYOR, IF YOU ARE SERIOUS
ABOUT CLOSING DOWN RIKERS, THIS
IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN WHILE
YOU'RE STILL MAYOR.
>> BUT I DON'T UNDERSTAND.
WHAT IS THE EXPLANATION FOR THE
BARGE CONTINUING TO BE OPEN
SINCE IT EXISTED FOR THE
OVERFLOW OF RIKERS, WHICH, WHOSE
POPULATION HAS DRASTICALLY
DECREASED?
>> THERE IS NO EXPLANATION.
RIGHT NOW, YOU HAVE AN 800-BED
JAIL, YOU KNOW, IN HUNTS POINT,
AND IT IS VERY SIMPLE.
THE MAYOR CAN JUST TRANSFER OVER
THE DETAINEES OVER TO RIKERS,
AND HE CAN CLOSE DOWN THAT
BARGE.
HE CAN SIGNAL THE BARGE AS WE
LIKE TO SAY AND GIVE THE LAND
BACK TO THE COMMUNITY.
>> LET'S TALK ABOUT THE FUTURE.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE TAKE
PLACE IN THE POST-JAIL RIKERS?
>> WELL, YOU KNOW, I AM, LOOK,
I'M A COMMUNITY GUY, I COME FROM
THE LOCAL COMMUNITY BOARDS, AND
I STRONGLY BELIEVE IN THE
COMMUNITY, STARTING THAT
CONVERSATION WITH THE COMMUNITY,
AND ENDING THAT CONVERSATION
WITH THE COMMUNITY.
AND SO YOU KNOW, YOU HAVE THE
QUEENS COMMUNITY, AND YOU ALSO
HAVE THE BRONX COMMUNITY, AND
JUST, TO GIVE YOU SOME INSIGHT,
YOU KNOW, RIKERS ISLAND IS
LITERALLY IN QUEENS, BUT THE
LINES, THE WAY THE LINES ARE
DRAWN OUT, RIKERS ISLAND IS PART
OF THE BRONX, SO WHEN VIOLENCE
OCCURS IN RIKERS ISLAND, SHOULD
THEY BE A FELONY ASSAULT, THOSE
NUMBERS, THE CRIME STATS GET
ATTACHED TO THE PRECINCT IN THE
SOUTH BRONX.
>> THAT'S AMAZING.
>> WHICH I FIND IT TOTALLY
UNACCEPTABLE.
>> RIGHT.
>> SO FOR DECADES, THE SOUTH
BRONX, MY COMMUNITY, HAS
SUFFERED FROM HIGH CRIME ON
PAPER BUT IN REALITY THOSE
CRIMES ARE NOT ACTUALLY
HAPPENING IN OUR STREETS.
AND SO I STRONGLY FEEL THAT
WHEN, AS WE MOVE FORWARD WITH
THE CONVERSATION, AS TO WHAT IS
GOING TO HAPPEN IN RIKERS, THE
SOUTH BRONX, COMMUNITY BOARD
TWO, WHERE THE 3413 PRECINCT IS
AT, 413 PRECINCT IS AT, SHOULD
BE AT THE TABLE MAKING
DECISIONS.
>> NEVER MIND THE PEOPLE IN
DISTRICT 22 IN QUEENS.
>> THEY NEED TO BE PART OF THE
CONVERSATION AS WELL.
>> WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE?
WE HAVE ABOUT 30 SECONDS LEFT.
WHAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE?
>> THERE'S MANY CONVERSATIONS
ABOUT SOME TYPE OF GREEN
INFRASTRUCTURE, WHETHER IT IS
SOLAR PANELS, JOB CREATION, THAT
WOULD COME FROM THIS
INFRASTRUCTURE.
>> RIKERS ISLAND IS VERY BIG.
IT HAS ROOM FOR A LOT.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE SOME PARK,
AFFORDABLE HOUSING?
>> THERE IS A POSSIBILITY FOR
PARKS.
THERE IS A POSSIBILITY FOR A
FERRY SYSTEM.
WHERE YOU CAN GO DIRECTLY FROM
HUNT'S POINT, FROM THE BRONX, TO
QUEENS, BACK AND FORTH.
SO THERE IS A WIDE RANGE OF
POSSIBILITIES THAT CAN HAPPEN
THERE.
BUT THE CONVERSATIONS NEED TO
START WITH THE COMMUNITY.
AND THIS ADMINISTRATION HAS
FAILED TO DO THAT AS WELL.
>> ALL RIGHT.
WE WILL SEE WHAT HAPPENS THERE.
COUNCIL MEMBER, THANK YOU SO
MUCH FOR JOINING US TODAY.
>> THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

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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