Summary of Our Opposition to the Mayor’s Plan to Build a New Jail
On August 15, 2018, the Mayor announced his plan to build a new 40-story jail at 80 Centre Street in connection with closure of Rikers Island. In a six-week period, the Mayor made the two most fundamental decisions about this project without community input: whether to build a new jail in Lower Manhattan and where to build it, namely at 80 Centre Street.
The Lower Manhattan community opposes the Mayor’s Plan in its current form. Multiple elected officials, including members of Congress and the State legislature, have called on the Mayor to withdraw the Draft Scope of Work and begin the process for this project anew.
Neighbors United Below Canal joins this call for the Mayor to stop the process and start again with community engagement on all fundamental questions, including whether to build a jail in Lower Manhattan. Unite with your neighbors by signing our Open Letter.
Below is more information on this crucial issue to Lower Manhattan. A repository of documents can be found here.
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The Mayor’s Surprise Plan to Build at Jail at 80 Centre Street
On February 14, 2018, Mayor de Blasio and Council Speaker Corey Johnson announced an agreement to close Rikers Island and create borough-based jails in four of the five boroughs, with the new Manhattan facility at the Manhattan Detention Center at 125 White Street. To ensure “more expedited review,” as they put it, they agreed to an unprecedented single Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) – which includes hearings and recommendations by the local community board, borough president, the City Council and the City Planning Commission – for all four boroughs. (Mayor’s February 14, 2018 Press Release.)
On August 15, 2018, Mayor de Blasio announced the final plan to build four new borough-based jails, including a surprise change of the Manhattan site to a new 40-story jail at the Louis J. Lefkowitz Building on 80 Centre Street in Lower Manhattan. (Mayor’s August 15 Press Release.) That same day, the Mayor’s Office issued the Draft Scope of Work for this project, beginning the environmental impact review period, a necessary precursor to the unprecedented ULURP. (Draft Scope of Work and Environmental Assessment Statement.) Public comment to the Draft Scope of Work close on or about October 28, 2018, then the Mayor will begin the ULURP.
In October 2018, the Mayor issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the Design / Build process for the borough-based jail. (RFP.)
The Community’s Opposition to the Mayor’s Plan
In creating the current plan, issuing the Draft Scope of Work, starting the Environmental Impact Study (EIS), and issuing the RFP—all within about a six-week period—the Mayor made the two most fundamental decisions about this project without community input: whether to build a new jail in Lower Manhattan and where to build it, namely at 80 Centre Street.
Now, the Mayor is rushing through the EIS and ULURP processes—his self-proclaimed “more expedited review”—after these fundamental decisions have already been made.
The process to date has been a sham.
At three public meetings on September 6, September 12, and September 27, the Lower Manhattan community, as well as others from around the City, came out to be heard loudly and clearly opposing the Mayor’s Plan. (Coverage of September 6 meeting by the TribecaTrib. Coverage of the September 12 meeting by OurTownNY. Coverage of the September 27 meeting by Patch.)
Lower Manhattan is home to a melting pot of immigrant cultures and socio-economically diverse neighborhoods. We, too, deserve a voice in criminal justice planning, especially when it affects our livelihood.
Elected Officials and Community Board Share Our Concerns
Elected officials and community boards agree that Mayor de Blasio should withdraw the Draft Scope of Work and renew the process for the borough-based jails — to ensure meaningful participation by affected communities in all fundamental decisions .
Senators Brian Kavanagh and Velmanatte Montgomery and Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon called for “the draft scope to be withdrawn,” as well the public to be “actively engaged with an eye toward releasing a revised scope reflective of that engagement.” As they explained, “[b]etween March and August, when the scoping documents were released, the City made little to no effort to engage the community,” and “a robust, active public engagement process needs to occur before proceeding further with the ULURP process.” (September 20 letter.)
Congressmember Nydia Velazquez, State Senator Brian Kavanagh, and Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou similarly called for the Mayor to “withdraw the Draft Scope of Work, re-start the conversation, and produc[e] a revised scope.” As they explained, this “is the best way for the City to move toward the profoundly important objectives of reforming the justice system and reducing incarceration, while adhering to basic principles of openness, public participation, and community engagement that lead to better outcomes.” (September 27 letter.)
Community Board 1 passed a resolution “reject[ing] the administration’s opaque site selection and lack of community input” and “call[ing] for a renewed process to look at a variety of sites that serve[s] both the local community impacted and satisfy the goals of an improved justice system.” (September CB1 Vote.)
Our Ask to Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Member Margaret Chin
To ensure that all communities have a voice in all crucial decisions, we call on Mayor Bill de Blasio to
(1) withdraw the Draft Scope of Work,
(2) stop the EIS and ULURP processes, and
(3) start the process anew with real community engagement regarding all crucial decisions, including whether to build a new jail in Lower Manhattan.
To ensure meaningful participation by these communities, we also call on Mayor Bill de Blasio to disclose all documents concerning (a) the decision to close Rikers and replace it with borough-based jails, (b) the selection of 5,000 as the target number for the City jail population, and the contingency plan if this target is not reached, and (c) the selection of 80 Centre Street and rejection of other sites.
We call on Council Member Margaret Chin to withdraw her support for the current plan and advocate for her community by championing these requests to the Mayor.