October 12, 2018

Dear Council Member Margaret Chin and Mayor Bill de Blasio,

On August 15, 2018, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the final plan to build four new jails across New York City as a means to keep his promise to close Rikers Island.  One of these planned facilities is a 40‑story jail at the Louis J. Lefkowitz Building on 80 Centre Street in Lower Manhattan.

The below organizations and businesses across Chinatown, the Lower East Side, Tribeca, Little Italy, and the Financial District have joined together to oppose any new jails, with particular concern for the 80 Centre Street site.

We demand that, when planning criminal justice reform, the Mayor considers all sides of the equation:  the people living inside the jails, as well as the people living and working in the surrounding communities.

We have no assurances that the inhumane conditions at Rikers Island will not simply be transferred from one failing jail to four new jails.  And in creating the current plan, issuing the Draft Scope of Work, and starting the Environmental Impact Study (EIS)—all within 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 Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) processes after these fundamental decisions have already been made.

The process to date has been a sham.

Lower Manhattan is home to a melting pot of immigrant cultures and socio-economically diverse neighborhoods.  The lack of community input shows a disregard for our worth and our livelihoods.  We, too, deserve a voice in criminal justice planning. 

We stand with Congressmember Nydia Velasquez, Senators Brian Kavanagh and Velmanette Montgomery, Assembly members Yuh-Line Niou and Jo Anne Simon, and State Committeeman Christopher Marte, and we call on the Mayor 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, we also call on the Mayor 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.   

Finally, we call on Council Member Margaret Chin to withdraw her support for the current plan and advocate for her constituents by championing these requests to the Mayor's Office.

If you truly seek engagement from all those affected by this significant undertaking, we hope that you will proceed as we outlined above.  Help preserve and protect our vibrant, unique, and diverse community.  And hear our voices, too, as we speak as a united Lower Manhattan.  

Thank you.

— Members of Neighbors United Below Canal

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