A New Jail for Greenpoint?
Not very likely. However, there has been talk in recent weeks of a new satellite jail being built in Greenpoint to compensate for a proposed closure of Rikers Island. The idea to close the city’s main jail complex is nothing new – it was first presented a decade ago by the then-commissioner of the New York City Correction Department, Martin F. Horn. Horn envisioned closing down the troubled Rikers facility and rehousing thousands of inmates in new state-of-the-art facilities built in the Bronx and Brooklyn. Recently, the former Brooklyn Union Gas Company location at 287 Maspeth Avenue has been scouted as a possible location for a new jail.
The New York Times has been following this story for years and has several articles documenting the struggle that is Rikers Island. The dilapidated jails, built on a landfill, are not structurally stable and are prone to flooding and other issues. In addition to the environmental concerns, Rikers has a pretty serious culture of violence (one that goes both ways). An investigation by the Times reported several cases of brutality against mentally ill inmates, which currently make up nearly 40 percent of the Rikers population. These incidents included gang assaults by officers that resulted in serious injuries.
Despite the multitude of problems at Rikers, closing the facility would be far from simple. Rikers Island is home to 10 jails that can house up to 15,000 inmates. Mayor Bill de Blasio has recently opposed the notion of relocating inmates to new facilities in communities such as Greenpoint, declaring it a “fanciful proposal” that would cost upwards of 2 billion dollars.
New York State Senator Martin Malavé Dilan also strongly opposed the relocation of inmates to the Greenpoint area. In an article published in the Brooklyn Eagle and posted to the NY State Senate government website, Dilan stated:
Like my constituents, I’m 100 percent against the building of a jail in Williamsburg. Williamsburg, and the surrounding Greenpoint community, prides itself on being a safe, tight-knit community. That pride is rooted in tireless advocacy and efforts to wrest a community from decades of industrial negligence and economic hardship. And a community is no place for a prison.
He goes on to say that the location in Greenpoint is not a location for a prison, but a location for opportunities — echoing what is surely the opinion of many other Greenpointers.