Pols call for do-over of jail siting

The administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio has proposed 80 Centre St. as the location of a new 1,510-bed detention center, part of the city’s plan to close the Rikers Island jail facilities. The corner is now the site of the Louis J. Lefkowitz State Office Building, which houses courtrooms and offices of the Manhattan District Attorney, City Clerk, Manhattan Marriage Bureau and other city agencies. Photo: Michael Garofalo

Brewer, Chin call on de Blasio administration to reset scoping for new Manhattan detention complex

By Michael Garofalo

The city’s proposal to build a 1,510-bed jail at 80 Centre St. provoked immediate opposition from Chinatown residents after the Department of Correction announced its plans for the site in mid-August. Now, two local politicians say the city should restart the process of selecting a location for the new Manhattan detention center to allow for more community input.

City Council Member Margaret Chin, whose Lower Manhattan district includes the Civic Center area and Chinatown, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer penned a joint letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio on Oct. 26 calling on the mayor to reset the scoping process for the new facility, which Brewer and Chin claim has moved too quickly and failed to adequately engage the public.

“While we remain staunch supporters of criminal justice reform, and fully support the closing of Rikers Island, we also believe that the City has fallen short of its obligation to engage the Lower Manhattan community in a transparent and inclusive conversation about the site selection process,” Brewer and Chin wrote in the letter. “To that end, we are asking for a reset of the scoping process to consider fully all possible sites.”

Chinatown residents aired their frustrations with the plan to city officials at a Sept. 12 town hall and a Sept. 27 scoping meeting. Among the common areas of concern were complaints about how the new jail would impact parking and public safety, the fact that the proposal lacked an affordable housing component and the city’s general lack of transparency in its analysis of other sites before the 80 Centre Street location was announced in mid-August.

The new Manhattan facility is one component of the city’s plan to replace the notoriously violent Rikers Island jails with four new borough-based jails within 10 years. The three other new jails would be located in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens. The new jail at 80 Centre St. would replace the existing Manhattan Detention Complex at 125 White St., which has approximately 1,000 beds and is commonly known as the Tombs.

Both Chin and Brewer support the administration’s efforts to close Rikers but have objected to the planning process for the new Manhattan facility.

“It’s not too much to ask that we restart the process, actually listen to the community, and get the land use part of this right,” Brewer said in a statement. “The mayor must take the time to actually listen to what the neighborhood has to say, minimize the bad, and maximize the good.”

The mayor’s office did not respond to requests for comment on the letter.