Planning for Jails to Replace Rikers

Under the city’s plan, the north and south towers of the Manhattan Detention Center (24 White St., right, and 125 White St.) would be demolished and replaced by a jail as tall as 50 stories. (Photo by Carl Glassman via Tribeca Trib)

New jails planned for individual boroughs to replace Rikers Island after it is closed are “way too tall” and “out of scale,” said Jonathan Lippman, who chaired the commission which recommended the closure of Rikers Island, reports Carl Glassman in Tribeca Trib.

Residents of Chinatown opposed the initial plans for a new jail at 80 Centre St., and have not been mollified by the latest plans for replacing the current Manhattan Detention Center on White Street with a building that could reach 520 ft. in height.

Jonathan Lippman, chair of the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, speaks on Jan. 18 at New York Law School. (Photo by Carl Glassman via Tribeca Trib)

Lippman, former chief judge of the state’s highest court and chair of the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, spoke out against the city’s plan for the new jails at a breakfast meeting held Jan. 18 at New York Law School.

“Those buildings are way too tall. I don’t think you have to be a nuclear scientist or a jail designer to get it,” said Lippman, who chairs the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform—more commonly known as the Lippman Commission.  

“And you know what?” he continued. “I’ve gone and spoken to these architects who build jails around the country and they’re very smart and they know how to do these things. They know how to do it in ways that serve the community. But yet they are not just so huge that they dwarf the community.”

Responding to questions at New York Law School’s CityLaw Breakfast, Lippman said the city is trying to pack too many services and spaces into the buildings, which will house re-entry and other programs as well as space for visitation and recreation. “Those jails are many times the size, square footage per inmate, of anything in the country,” he said. “So what we’ve recommended to [the city] is that it’s a noble goal to put more community services and meeting rooms and whatever, but we can’t have buildings that are out of sync with where they are.”

The mayor and city officials say they are working to reduce the height of the Manhattan building, Glassman writes. Go to Tribeca Trib to read what a NYC spokesman had to say in response to Lippman’s criticism, and to read more details about the planning process. And check out City Limits for an article on the Neighborhood Advisory Councils working with city planners on the borough-sited jails. Jarret Murphy writes:

The city is pursuing a unique path to getting approval for the four new jails that will take over housing detainees and inmates when Rikers Island closes: There is one environmental review, and one Uniform Land-Use Review Procedure, for the four very disparate sites.

That could mean that the voices of each individual neighborhood are less audible than they would be if the city proceeded jail by jail.

The Neighborhood Advisory Councils are a way to get that community input, and City Limits lists the name of individuals and organizations on the councils – with the exception of the Manhattan council, for which only organization names are available, since the council has yet to meet. Read more at City Limits.

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