Mayor de Blasio is eyeing a now-shuttered Queens jail as an “ideal” spot to house prisoners as Rikers Island shuts down.
After eleven borough City Council members backed the Queens Detention Complex as a replacement jail site, de Blasio spokeswoman Natalie Grybauskas told the Daily News Monday City Hall likes the idea.
“Expanding and reopening the Queens Detention Center would be an ideal first step and we have already started to take a hard look at this site to determine its feasibility,” she said.
The mayor has previously declined to weigh in on any specific sites for new jails, even as he says he’ll shutter Rikers within ten years.
“The Mayor is committed to closing Rikers Island. For that to happen, we need to continue to reduce the jail population, and we need courageous elected officials and community leaders to help locate potential neighborhood-based jail sites. We thank these Queens officials for their role in this process,” Grybauskas said.
The Queens pols sent a letter to de Blasio earlier Monday asking him to use the detention center site in Kew Gardens, behind the borough’s courthouse. The jail there was shuttered 15 years ago after decades of holding detainees.
The group includes Elizabeth Crowley, the chair of the criminal justice committee, and Karen Koslowitz, whose district the site is in.
A commission headed by former chief judge Jonathan Lippman, which recommended shutting down the troubled jail complex on Rikers Island, said there should be smaller jails in each borough, near their courthouses.
Council members representing court sites in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx have said they’d be open to creating or expanding jails to make way for violence-plagued Rikers to close.
De Blasio has ruled out putting a jail on Staten Island, where the idea sparked more opposition.
The Queens Council members said the Kew Gardens sites “for many years operated with little incident to the surrounding community” and reopening it would “avoid the fraught process of placing community jails in residential neighborhoods throughout the borough.”
Even with new jails, getting out of Rikers will require dramatically driving down the city’s jail population, to about 5,500 from nearly 10,000 now.