Kew Gardens residents oppose city’s plan to close Rikers Island

Hundreds of Kew Gardens residents attend the Queens Scoping Hearing at Borough Hall on the city’s plan for a new jail on the existing Queens Detention Complex footprint.
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There was tension last week as Kew Gardens residents expressed their opposition to the city’s proposal to reopen the existing Queens Detention Center complex as part of the city’s plan to shutter the Rikers Island prison over the next 10 years.

Hundreds of Kew Gardens residents attended the Queens Scoping Hearing, held Wednesday, Sept. 26 at Queens Borough Hall, located at 120-55 Queens Blvd. City officials were unable to finish their sentences amidst the loud interruptions in the Helen Marshall Cultural Center.

Misael Syldor, of the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform — who was born and raised in Queens — delivered the testimony.

“At Rikers, people come out worse off than when they go in,” said Syldor. “The proposed facility in Queens is an opportunity for us to be closer to our loved ones, legal representation, and other services that will help them rehabilitate and become productive members of our communities.”

Audience members were divided on the closing of Rikers Island and the implementation of community-based borough jails. Residents who stood up to speak stated that there was no community involvement on the city’s plan to reopen the Queens jail complex.

In August, the de Blasio administration announced a proposal to redevelop Queens Detention Complex — located at 126-02 82nd Ave., adjacent to the Queens Criminal Courthouse — and the neighboring municipal parking lot into a corrections center with space for 1,510 prisoner beds.

“Why is $10 billion being funneled into the jail plan when that money can be used for creating affordable housing, our public schools and creating new roads,” asked Grace Wong. of Fresh Meadows.

Residents stressed the issues of overcrowding, parking availability, nearby schools, and transportation in the neighborhood.

Andrea Crawford, counsel to the Kew Gardens Improvement Association, said the city’s plan to build the jail complex will “cripple the neighborho­od,” and has no economic benefits to the community.

Meanwhile, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday the removal of 16- and 17-year-olds from Rikers Island into more age-appropriate facilities with expanded access to programs and services.

“Raise the Age,” which passed last year, builds upon the work that has already been done to transform the juvenile justice system in New York City, including the implementation of the Close to Home Program and cutting the juvenile population by more than half over the last four years, de Blasio said.

“Beginning today [Monday], no one under 18 will go to Rikers Island. Kids will be treated like kids instead of adults,” said de Blasio. “This is a historic moment for criminal justice reform and another step toward replacing Rikers Island with smaller, safer, more humane facilities that are closer to communities and loved ones.”

In the coming weeks, the city plans to hold meetings in each of the four boroughs — all except Staten Island — set to receive new or expanded prisons as part of the plan to shut down Rikers.

The development of the new facilities requires a City Environmental Quality Review — a legally required city process that identifies and discloses significant adverse impacts on the environment, including noise, air quality, displacement and traffic.

After the meetings, the city will issue a Final Scope of Work. The document will be the basis for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which will study the environmental impact of the projects on the surrounding areas. It’s after the issuance of this statement that the city will enter into the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.

Reach reporter Carlotta Mohamed by e-mail at or by phone at (718) 260–4526.

Posted 12:00 am, October 4, 2018
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Reader feedback

JR from Bayside says:
Im surprised you are against this. Kew Gardens overwhelmingly voted for Comrade DiBlasio, this was his idea. Reap what you sow
Oct. 4, 1:28 pm
Dwayne from Queens says:
Interesting to note that these people actually voted for de blasio, a known slave-promoter and plantation owner. Eat it all 'cause you built that. #walkaway
Oct. 5, 7:15 am
The Venerable Stan from Flushing says:
de Blasio had lots of supporters (so he implied) when he brought this forward. Where are they now? Please hold up your hands, so we know where to put the new prison if you supported his plan……
Oct. 5, 1:44 pm
The Filth of Forest Hills from Forest Hills says:
ARMED ROBBERY: IS THIS IS THE NEAR FUTURE OF FOREST HILLS/KEW GARDENS?????? COULD WELL BE WITH A HOMELESS SHELTER AND POSSIBLE JAIL Many are seeing the decline of quality of life in Forest Hills/Kew Gardens, it starts off small and slow, with litter and garbage appearing, then there is panhandling by the homeless and mentally ill folks dumped into the area, thanks to deBlasio (the mayor of destroying communities), a graffiti marked Austin St Pedestrian walkway underneath Union Turnpike where gang graffiti, litter and empty beer and alcohol cans/bottles can be found and where it has become a go to place for people to urinate and take a dump. While the crime rate in Forest Hills is still low compared to many other places like Jamaica and Jackson Heights, there has been changes taking place in this community and we are seeing more crime than before. AND with a problematic big homeless shelter for single men that was dumped onto 82nd Ave and Queens Blvd in the Comfort Inn hotel and now talk of the disastrous borough based jails in 4 boroughs, including here in Kew Garden/Forest Hills on 82 and Queens Blvd at Borough Hall, could we begin to see more of the article from Forest Hills Patch: Forest Hills Mugger Used Stolen Cards At UES Market, Police Say - as well as in the Queens Courier: Armed thief robs man at gunpoint in Forest Hills and uses victim's credit cards to buy stuff: cops - At a public meeting for the Kew Gardens/Forest Hills jail proposal (yes, by the destructive deBlasio), the majority of people were outrage (and no this is not a "white people anger thing" as some have suggested, because an even more angrier crowd at a public meeting in the Bronx, who may also get a jail dumped smack in their residential area, the crowd consisted mostly of people of color. FACT: While people feel that the NY jail system needs a long overdue reform, people do not want a jail right in the middle of their residential area, PERIOD. Ironically and not surprising, the two HACK elected officials representing the Kew Garden area, Councilman Karen Koslowitz and Senator Leory Comrie (the do nothing politician of Jamaica), refused to speak and give their comments on the issue, Comrie citing some BS, that the meeting was for the community. As if Koslowitz and Comrie are not part of the community. Typical crooked behavior from the corrupt Democratic Queens Machine, which is destroying Queens and saying F YOU to the hard working constituents who pay taxes, while cow towing to the homeless and criminals, neither who pay taxes and help to keep this city running.
Oct. 6, 10:11 am
Urban Mole from Flushing says:
Whats this objection? How interesting that CM Karen Kozlowitz way in advance of publicly alerting her Kew Gardens constituents, volunteered to have the Kew Detention Facility house 1500 relocated Rikers inmates under the dopey progressive mantra of diversity, equity and inclusivity. Indeed this is who Kew Gardens and neighboring residents all voted for- radical leftist Wilhelm DiBlasio and Kozlowitz- and continue to vote for. Here's a great teaching moment for all those foolish knubskulls that failed to educate themselves about the "progressive" community- destroying radical left agenda and all those elected to promote it.
Oct. 9, 7:23 am

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