A newly released report recommending the closure of the Rikers Island jail facility endorses two plans for “re-imagining” the island, including an option for a LaGuardia Airport expansion.
Building an additional terminal and runway on the island could reduce the airport’s notorious delays and serve an additional 12 million more passengers annually — an increase of about 40 percent — according to the 148-page report published Sunday by the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform.
“Being next door to LaGuardia presents a rare opportunity to improve operations at one of the nation’s most challenged airports and to meet the region’s need for additional flight capacity,” reads the report, titled “A More Just New York City.”
Empaneled at the request of City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, the commission is chaired by Jonathan Lippman, former chief judge of the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s top court, and is comprised of a variety of experts, advocates and policymakers.
The report was published two days after Mark-Viverito and Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans to close Rikers’ jail in ten years, with the goal of opening much smaller community jails to serve in its place.
Redevelopment plans for the 413-acre island were featured in one of three sections of the study, which focuses on creating a “new blueprint” for criminal justice in the city.
“[Rikers] is a place that is an affront to humanity and decency and is a stain on our city’s reputation,” said Lippman at a Sunday news conference announcing the report’s publication.
New York could also transform the island into a hub for waste and energy management that would support new green industries, the commission suggests in its second plan. That option would bring wastewater treatment and composting facilities, a large-scale energy-from-waste facility, a 115-acre solar field, a power storage facility, urban agriculture, a research campus and a public greenway.
When considering the island’s current proximity to LaGuardia, transit access limitations and other factors, the city has few other reasonable alternatives, according to the report.
An airport expansion would require an extension of the proposed LaGuardia AirTrain, which is still in its early planning stages. It’s unclear how receptive the Port Authority, its board already critical of the AirTrain project itself, would be to the idea.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who is already spearheading a large-scale redevelopment of LaGuardia, said at an Association for a Better New York event last year that he was “intrigued” by the idea of the jail’s closure and “using Rikers to build another runway for LaGuardia. ”