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City Planning Commission Approves Borough-Based Jail Plan; City Council Hearing Thursday (Updated)

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125 White St. - Manhattan Detention Complex.
125 White St. – Manhattan Detention Complex.

The City Planning Commission Tuesday voted in favor of the mayor’s plan to replace Rikers Island with four borough-based jails, including a large new prison complex at 125 White St. in Chinatown.

The commission voted 9-3 in favor of a sweeping land use proposal to build the new facilities. The City Council now has 50 days to approve or reject the plan. A hearing of a City Council subcommittee is scheduled for tomorrow (Thursday).

“With (Tuesday’s) vote,” said Mayor de Blasio, “we are one step closer to closing Rikers Island and creating a smaller, safer, fairer jail system. That’s one step closer to bringing people back to their communities and families, one step closer to ending the cycle of recidivism and one step closer to ending mass incarceration once and for all.”

The planning commission meeting was interrupted by protesters from the activist group, No New Jails NYC. Locally, Neighbors United Below Canal, a coalition in Chinatown, released a statement, noting that, “a number of the commissioners expressed serious reservations and concerns about this flawed application, from the use of design/build, to the site selection to the size, yet they chose to approve the plan, as is.  This is NOT city planning but a rubber stamp. If the CPC had done their jobs appropriately, they would have demanded changes, clarification and corrections.”

While details have been sketchy, city officials have outlined plans for a new jail complex in Chinatown that could rise 40 stories. The building would replace the current Manhattan Detention Complex.

Tomorrow’s City Council hearing begins at 10 a.m. It will take place in Council chambers at City Hall.

UPDATE 9/6/19 During Thursday’s hearing, City Council members repeatedly questioned city officials about the vagueness of the plans that have been disclosed.  Curbed reported:

Among those concerns is the proposed density of the new jails, which has emerged as a central concern for lawmakers whose districts are slated for those buildings. Lower Manhattan Councilmember Margaret Chin, whose district is set to receive a 450-foot building—the tallest of the jails—emphasized that height is a “big problem” for her and the neighboring Chinatown community.

Chin brought up a variety of concerns besides building height. These included protections for low-income seniors living near the proposed construction site, commitments from the city for community facility space and sketchy promises from the city to make improvements in neighboring Columbus Park.  As the Daily News noted, the Lower Manhattan Council member expressed concerns about receiving firm commitments from the de Blasio administration before the Council votes on the ULURP application within 50 days:

“I think in the coming weeks we’re going to have a lot of work to do,” said Council Member Margaret Chin (D-Manhattan), referring to concerns over the jail buildings’ heights, locations and community impact. “We have to get these answers and we have to get these commitments before we recommend.”


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