Possibilities abound for Rikers Island if jail complex is closed

Affordable housing, new manufacturing hub, parks and an improved LaGuardia are on the table

TRD New York /
Mar.March 01, 2016 02:15 PM

As the drumbeat to shutter the city’s main jail complex on Rikers Island continues, many are imagining what could replace the exclusive gated community and the island’s 413 acres.

During Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, it should be no surprise that affordable housing on Rikers Island is on the list. As many as 25,000 new apartments could be constructed.

This could house as many as 65,000 people — roughly on par with the West Village — according to Ginsberg Architects, which drew up a plan for a residential Rikers Island at Crain’s request.

The residential plan would have to jump significant hurdles, including the drone of airplanes landing and taking off at LaGuardia. Much of Rikers was formed by dumping garbage into water, Crain’s reported, and removing toxic materials and ensuring buildings don’t sink is not a cheap proposition. Developers would have to charge at least $2,300 in rent on a two-bedroom apartment to make building on the island worth their while, according to Crain’s.

Airplane noise and height restrictions wouldn’t deter the second option: a new manufacturing hub. With a shortage of industrial space in the New York City, the 413-acre island would be larger than 300-acre Brooklyn Navy Yard. Manufacturers can’t contend with high land prices in the city. If the city leases buildable land on Rikers cheaply enough, local manufacturing firms could pay as little as $15 a square foot, according to Crain’s.

Another possibility includes building a bigger and improved LaGuardia, which is separated from the island by 250 feet at the closest point on the East River. Last year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced an overhaul of the airport, where the first phase of construction would cost $4 billion. Reclaiming the island for parks is another choice and architecture firm Perkins + Will told Crain’s it would turn Rikers into Bikers Island. [Crain’s]Dusica Sue Malesevic

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