Chinatown jail that would replace Rikers is halted by judge

Manhattan Detention Complex at 125 White Street and State Supreme Court Judge John Kelley (Google Maps; Ballotpedia)

The city’s $8 billion plan to close Rikers Island and replace it with four borough-based jails suffered a setback this week.

State Supreme Court Judge John Kelley ruled in favor of community groups that sued over the city’s plan to build a new jail on the site of the Manhattan Detention Complex in Chinatown, according to Spectrum News.

Kelley said the New York City Council and the City Planning Commission failed to follow the correct procedure prior to approving the plan, and didn’t consider proper alternatives for the new jail sites. The city could appeal the decision.

The decision is the latest roadblock in the city’s quest to shutter Rikers and build new community-based jails.

In October 2019, the City Council approved a plan to close Rikers Island by 2026, replacing the jail with four borough-based jails. Three of the jail sites — in Downtown Brooklyn, Kew Gardens, Queens and Chinatown — already exist but would be renovated. The Bronx facility would be new, according to Spectrum News.

Community leaders in Chinatown have long been outraged by the city’s plan, both over the height of the proposed building (which eventually shrunk from 50 to 29 stories), and over what they argued was a rushed process to get the project approved. Another concern is that an affordable senior housing development shares a wall with the existing jail, according to Spectrum News.

It’s also another blow to the city’s besieged Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, the process through which rezonings and major land-use changes occur. In December 2019, a judge annulled the city’s rezoning of Inwood, though that decision was later overturned.

It is unclear if or when construction on any of the jail projects will begin. [NY1] — Keith Larsen

Tags: chinatown, Politics, Rezoning, ulurp