Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters Thursday that his likely successor, Brooklyn Borough President and Democratic mayoral nominee Eric Adams, has committed to continuing plans to close Rikers Island on or about 2026.
In recent months and years, however, Adams had agreed that the infamous jail should be closed, but opposed plans to replace the facility with several community-based jails. When asked by an NBC New York reporter on Sept. 14 if he still agreed with the plan, Adams deflected and suggested more needed to be done to “close the pipeline” to Rikers by helping disadvantaged New Yorkers avoid falling into a life of crime.
But at his daily briefing on Sept. 23, the current mayor said Adams had given him a verbal commitment to move forward with the Rikers Island closure plan.
“The information I have is straight from the horse’s mouth, and he’s told me he is moving forward,” de Blasio said. “So I think he has concerns about some of the specifics of the community-based jails and that’s understandable, and that’s still being worked on. … but I’ve never heard him disagree with the notion of closing Rikers and moving to alternative sites, and I believe these sites are the ones that are ultimately going to move forward, and there’s a lot of support for getting out of Rikers.”
When asked about the mayor’s comments, a spokesperson for the Adams’ campaign referred amNewYork Metro to remarks the candidate made during his recent tour of Rikers Island with a contingent of law enforcement officials including Department of Corrections Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi and Corrections Officers Benevolent Association President Benny Boscio.
“Rikers Island has been a national embarrassment for far too long and the situation there
now is completely unacceptable,” Adams said. “Basic health and safety standards are not being met because of increases to the jail population, lack of resources for staff and facilities, and needed policy changes to address this crisis head-on. We also cannot wait for new jails to be built to deal with
the Rikers mess. We need action right now, today, to create more space for inmates on the island and through emergency supportive detention facilities for the mentally ill and drug-addicted off the island.”
While Adams visited Rikers Island only weeks ago, it’s been more than four years since de Blasio last toured the hoosegow.
As activists and elected officials have condemned the current sorry state of affairs on Rikers Island — including 12 inmate deaths this year; widespread violence; filthy conditions; and mass sickouts by assigned corrections officers — de Blasio has come under fire for seemingly avoiding the facility that remains his responsibility until his term expires at midnight Dec. 31, 2021.
De Blasio said recently he would visit Rikers Island before he concludes his term in office. Asked by a reporter Thursday if he couldn’t find time for Rikers, the mayor dismissed the suggestion.
“It’s not about time, I’ve been very clear about that,” de Blasio said. “I am focused on making the changes we need to make [on] Rikers. … The work is being done in different ways, working with members of my team, working with the state, we’re getting a lot of results done. That is where my focus is now. I’ll be touring it, but I want to get more of these pieces in place first before I go out there.”