Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley and 10 fellow councilmembers have signed a letter calling on Mayor de Blasio to consider the Queens Detention Complex in Kew Gardens.
By Michael V. Cusenza
Nearly a dozen borough City councilmembers this week signed a letter urging Mayor Bill de Blasio to seriously consider locating a new community-based jail at the site of the former Queens Detention Complex in Kew Gardens as part of a citywide alternative to Rikers Island.
Earlier this year, the administration released its proposal to shutter the infamous 85-year-old jail complex over a 10-year period.
“The plan we’ve put forward would speed efforts, whether it’s bail reform, alternatives to incarceration – a number of things, obviously first and foremost driving down crime so fewer and fewer people are arrested, fewer people are going into the justice system,” de Blasio said in June. “We fundamentally believe we have to get to 5,000 inmates in our jail systems to be able to close Rikers once and for all, but we believe it can be done with all of these tools.”
Additionally, in April, the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, led by Jonathan Lippman, the former chief judge of the New York Court of Appeals, released “A More Just New York City,” a highly anticipated 150-page report in which the primary recommendation of the 27-member panel is printed in bold: Rikers Island must be closed.
In Monday’s missive to Hizzoner, the 11 Queens councilmembers cited the commission’s idea of replacing Rikers Island with a borough-based model of jail facilities situated in downtown civic centers and adjacent to existing court infrastructure.
“Should this plan be implemented, we believe that the Queens Detention Complex located adjacent to the Queens County Courthouse is the ideal location to house the borough’s detention population,” the pols wrote. “The former jail meets the primary criteria outlined in the Lippman plan: it is centrally located in a civic center, it is connected to the courts, and with the proper capital investment it can be functional for this use. The center was originally built for this purpose and for many years operated with little incident to the surrounding community. At the same time, selecting this facility would avoid the fraught process of placing community jails in residential neighborhoods throughout the borough, a move that we as lawmakers committed to the goals of the Lippman Commission forcefully oppose.
The letter was signed by Councilmembers Elizabeth Crowley (D-Glendale), Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria), Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton), Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens), Peter Koo (D-Flushing), Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest), Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), Julissa Ferreras-Copeland (D-East Elmhurst), and Antonio Reynoso (D-Ridgewood).