Borough-based prison coming to Kew Gardens as plan to close Rikers moves forward

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Less than a week after a Rikers Island prison guard was viciously attacked by six alleged gang members and hospitalized with a fractured spine and bleeding on the brain, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced an agreement Wednesday to move forward with the closing of the notorious prison complex by creating a borough-based jail system.

City Council members from Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Manhattan, Speaker Corey Johnson and the Mayor agreed to a single public review process for four proposed sites that together will provide space for 5,000 detainees.

“This agreement marks a huge step forward on our path to closing Rikers Island,” de Blasio said. “In partnership with the City Council, we can now move ahead with creating a borough-based jail system that’s smaller, safer and fairer. I want to thank these representatives, who share our vision of a more rehabilitative and humane criminal justice system that brings staff and detainees closer to their communities.”

In Queens, the city identified the old Queens Detention Center in Kew Gardens after nearly a dozen Queens council members suggested the former jail in October. City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), the chairwoman of the Queens delegation, spearheaded the “unpreceden­ted” move with former councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley.

“The reopening of the Queens Detention Center not only makes sense, but it’s the right thing to do,” Koslowitz said. “This proposal restores the Center back to its original purpose and ensures that Queens’ borough-based jail facility is located in our civic center, close to our courts. This smaller facility will bolster the safety for our Department of Correction staff, will create an environment that is more conducive to rehabilitation and will save taxpayer dollars in transportation costs.”

The safety of DOC personnel became a hot-button issue since Saturday’s attack on Correction Officer Jean Souffrant, 39, who was sucker punched by an inmate and then brutally kicked by five others. Four of the inmates pleaded not guilty in a Bronx courtroom Monday.

De Blasio spoke with Souffrant and members of his family in a phone call Sunday, and he called the officer a “noble man.” Elias Husamudeen, the president of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, is criticizing the Mayor for banning solitary confinement for inmates 21 years old and younger in 2016, a move Correction officers contend takes away one of their most effective tools.

But de Blasio was adamant that the ban would not be rescinded and instead the administration announced Wednesday it will invest $4.5 million to fund a rapid increase of safety and security measures designed to immediately address violence against DOC officers. The enhancements, which will be completed by the end of June, include more Emergency Services Unity patrol groups, expanding the number of tasers for emergency personnel and select uniform staff, boosting cooperation and coordination with the NYPD on intelligence-sharing and gang intelligence training, and assigning NYPD gang intelligence staff to DOC facilities.

“With these high-visibility and comprehensive measures, we send a clear message to the gangs and violent inmates behind the recent attacks against our officers: We aren’t tolerating it,” DOC Commissioner Cynthia Brann said. “These steps will be taken immediately to boost safety to our staff, especially those working in our highest risk facilities. We want all our officers and staff that we have their backs, and they have the full support of the security apparatus at the department’s disposal. We are acting aggressively to make sure our jails are safe.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

Updated 8:25 am, February 18, 2018
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Reader feedback

Not good from Queens says:
Yes make space for convicts but dont put up actual "affordable housing" for regular people. Mayor dumbdumbs idea of "afordable housing" is to house all the 100k families in nice areas and everyone who earns below that is stuck in garbage neighborhoods like south Jamaica. Even Flushing Commons had an impossible monthly income. Their income requires for a family of three was like 40k per year but meanwhile if you made 65k per year, the only thing available to you was Jamaica or the rockaways three blocks away from the projects over there. Then of course if you made 100k you were eligible for nice areas. If you make 100k , you can afford to live practically anywhere in this city in non "affordable housing" places. And we all know that if he places housing on rikers it will be more apartments where you must make 100k to live in.
Feb. 15, 6:04 am
THINK from Queens says:
“The reopening of the Queens Detention Center not only makes sense, but it’s the right thing to do,” Koslowitz said.

WAIT, just last week, this political hack, Koslowitz, stated "that you can put a homeless shelter (the Comfort Inn on Queens Blvd, right across from the future jail)or a jail in the community, but not both."

What happened Koslowitz, NOW you got BOTH. Shows what a hack you are as a councilmember and yet, this hack ran unopposed in the past election.

AND what is going to be done about parking. Parking for the workers of the jail, parking for family members of the prisoners, etc. WAS THAT EVEN THOUGHT ABOUT in an area where parking is so limited to begin with.

OF course NOT, put up CRAP and worry about the consequences down the road.

NYC and Queens government at its worse and the bar is already SO LOW in NYC and Queens to begin with.
Feb. 15, 7:56 am
just tired from Queens says:
Karen, please retire.
Tax paying law abiding citizens.
Feb. 15, 1:40 pm
jo from Elmhurst says:
They're already moving the inmates out of Rikers...trying to get the number down to 5K so they can close it down.... we all know it's a land grab. Developers are circling the site. We the taxpayers are going to pay the price. They are opening more men's shelter lately..why you they can house the homeless inmates that they are releasing in droves....Time to get out of this sinking ship....
Feb. 15, 4:44 pm
THINK from Queens says:
Queens Blvd, the new SKID ROW!!!!!
Feb. 16, 8:48 am
There goes the Neighborhood from Forest Hills/Kew Gardens says:
Talking about skid row:
Feb. 17, 2:16 pm

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