The Real Deal New York

Real estate industry weighs in on the future of Rikers

Committee studying the Rikers site seeks RE expertise
November 07, 2016 11:30AM

Rikers Island

Rikers Island

If activists had their way and Rikers Island closed, what would take its place?

In February, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito appointed a criminal justice commission headed by former New York State chief judge Jonathan Lippman, to look into the possibility of closing the infamous jail, and members of the real estate industry are getting more involved in answering that question.

Lippman appointed MaryAnne Gilmartin TRData LogoTINY, CEO of Forest City Ratner, to the committee to study the possibilities for Rikers, and thinks it’s necessary to involve the real estate industry.

“The political center of this will be about how we make the system more humane and just,” Lippman told Politico, “and at the same time recognize that you do have a very strategically placed and valuable piece of real estate there that could have a multitude of public policy purposes to develop it.”

Some of the development ideas that have been floated for the island include an extension of LaGuardia Airport just across the river, a public-private partnership similar to Roosevelt Island’s Cornell Tech, and a megadevelopment. Ginsberg Architects estimated that despite the proximity to LaGuardia and low-flying planes, the island could hold 65,000 people.

Some advocates for closing the jail are concerned about the growing involvement of the real estate industry, afraid it might overshadow the issues of criminal justice reform that should be driving the conversation.

But it’s also a natural partnership.

“Closing Rikers will also open up the island to development,” Durst Organization spokesperson Jordan Barowitz told Politico. “It would be foolish not to engage the expertise and resources of the real estate industry in the disposition of this valuable asset.” [Politico]Chava Gourarie