Real estate development not coming to Rikers Island, mayor says

Mayor said isolated location of jail made it a bad choice for a residential project
June 21, 2019 04:37PM

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Rikers Island (Credit: Getty Images)

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Rikers Island (Credit: Getty Images)

Even for jails, it’s all about location, location, location.

When a listener to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s weekly call-in show with Brian Lehrer on WNYC asked him if any plans for business or residential development were on the table for Rikers Island, which is scheduled to close in 2026, he responded, “No. Just plain and simple, no.”

“There is not a plan yet for the future of Rikers Island,” de Blasio said, “but I’ll tell you in all the internal discussions at City Hall, all the initial reviews of options, real estate development is not on the table because it’s a site that wouldn’t work for it.”

The mayor cited the jail’s isolated location next to an airport as reasons why it was not an ideal place for a residential project and said his own idea for the space would be to consolidate a number of city facilities in different neighborhoods on the island.

This in turn could open up space for more affordable housing in those neighborhoods, the mayor said.

“If we suddenly had a huge amount of public land to work with, what could we move over there and therefore open up space in neighborhoods that desperately need affordable housing in particular or other types of public facilities,” he said. “It could really be a game-changer for the city.”

The city’s current plan is to shut down Rikers Island and replace it with four borough-based jails, although locals, to the surprise of no one, have already voiced resistance to some of the new proposed locations. [WNYC] – Eddie Small