NEW YORK — A judge has blocked the city’s efforts to replace the Manhattan Detention Complex with a new jail as part of plans to replace Rikers Island with community-based jails.
State Supreme Court Judge John Kelley ruled Monday in favor of Neighbors United Below Canal and other community groups that sued over the plan.
In the ruling, Kelley based the decision on complaints that the City Council ignored correct procedure and failed to get impact studies and approvals for a plan that was still being formulated.
It’s unclear as of this writing if the city plans to appeal. NY1 reached out to the city for comment.
Like many residents of neighborhoods that would house new jails, people in Chinatown have been enraged.
In 2018, the city dropped plans to build a 40-story jail on the site of a government building at 80 Centre Street, in part due to community concerns. But its fallback plan, replacing the existing Manhattan Detention Complex just up the street with a new jail, hasn't quieted the outrage.
Community leaders complained of being shut out of the process, and some demanded an analysis of viable alternatives and further environmental review. Also at issue: the Chung Pak affordable senior housing development shares a wall with the existing jail.
The original height of the proposed jail to replace the Manhattan Detention Complex was about 50 stories, but the city reduced the planned height to 29 floors.
In October 2019, the City Council approved the controversial proposal to close Rikers Island by 2026 and replace the massive jail complex with four borough-based jails. As part of the plan, which would cost more than $8 billion, the jails would be located in every borough except Staten Island. Three of the jail sites, in downtown Brooklyn, Kew Gardens, Queens, and the Chinatown location, already exist but would be significantly renovated. The Bronx facility would be brand new.
The jail buildings are meant to be lower and have fewer beds than the current facilities. Women detainees would be housed in one jail.
City officials say a steep drop in the jail population has made it feasible to close Rikers, a complex of 10 jails on an island between Queens and the Bronx that mainly houses inmates awaiting trial.
Even with the approval of the Council, the city still has to finalize the jail designs.
Renderings show a concept for what the administration hopes to build: jails that seamlessly blend into neighborhoods, near restaurants and subway stops, not far from the city's civic center in lower Manhattan.
There is no timeline yet for when the first shovel will hit the ground. The plans were made before New York was upended by the coronavirus pandemic, which blew a hole in the city’s budget.
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Renderings courtesy of the mayor's office.
This story includes reporting from Bobby Cuza and Gloria Pazmino.
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