City changes plans for Manhattan jail meant to replace Rikers Island

The city is nixing plans to open a detention center at 80 Centre St. in lower Manhattan as one of several new locations to replace Rikers Island.

A representative for Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Wednesday that the site, which is currently used by the city’s marriage license bureau and other government offices, will not be considered as a location for the mayor’s plan to house inmates in jails in four boroughs. The administration said there were more logistical challenges to moving out the office space and creating a jail than originally anticipated, according to mayoral spokeswoman Natalie Grybauskas. 

"As we met with the community, it became clear that the original site we considered better addressed their needs without the costly challenges created by using 80 Centre, and we are reverting our site selection to the Manhattan Detention Complex," she said in a statement. 

In February, de Blasio announced a 10-year plan to close Rikers Island and open new detention facilities in Brooklyn, Manhattan, the Bronx and Queens. The Bronx location would be constructed from the ground up at the site currently used as an NYPD tow impound while the remaining three were chosen because of their proximity to criminal courts.

The announcement was decried by community members and elected officials from across the city. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Councilwoman Margaret Chin, who represent the area where the Manhattan detention center was planned, strongly opposed the plan. Brewer said she was concerned that the Manhattan detention center plans, which would have extended 80 Centre by 40 stories and included retail and residential developments, went ahead with no input from Chinatown residents. 

"The administration needed to change course on the location for the new facility, but the core problem here was that City Hall wanted to announce its plan before engaging with the community on how to craft it," she said in a statement. 

The proposal is currently going through City Environmental Quality Review, and Chin said she hopes the city will be more transparent going forward.

"My office will work closely with all stakeholders to continue urging the administration to prioritize meaningful engagement between City Hall and the community on the future of this detention facility,” she said in a statement.

The mayor’s office said Wednesday’s changes will not affect the timeline for closing Rikers, and that it would extend its community engagement period during the review  for an additional three to four months in each borough . 

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