Residents rally against Kew Gardens Prison
Opponents of a plan to build a new jail news to Borough Hall in Kew Gardens protested near the site last week.
This jail is part of a plan to replace Rikers Island Prison with four smaller jails in every borough but Staten Island.
Rikers Island has a notorious reputation of overpopulation and abuse. Stories of corrupt officers and inhumane treatment of inmates compelled Mayor Bill de Blasio to introduce a plan that would close the city’s largest prison.
According to the original 2018 plan, Rikers Island is supposed to close by 2027. Replace the complex are the four jails, which will cost $8.7 billion.
The project was delayed in October of 2020, and now with de Blasio ending his term as mayor, the path forward is becoming increasingly unclear.
Many Queens residents were displeased with the plan even before it was approved, mainly because the jail would be near businesses, homes, and schools.
“It’s not safe because all the kids walk to school,” said Yan Ling, a Middle Village resident and parent. “We already have ten homeless centers in this area. They already harass young kids, imagine you have more inmates here.”
Residents fear the prisons will result in more criminals on the streets.
“Skyscraper jails don’t work,” said Councilman Robert Holden of the current design. “How do you evacuate the population in case of a fire or some other problem? And can you offer enough space to actually have a gym or recreational space?”
Holden argued the jails at Rikers Island should be restored instead of building new ones.
“Instead of closing Rikers, how about rebuilding Rikers?” he said. “Make it a state-of-the-art correctional facility with a mental health facility. And how about a court on the island to actually speed up some of the hearings?”