Inching closer to borough-based approach, City Council approves ban on future Rikers Island jails

An aerial view of detention centers on Rikers Island, which will no longer be used for jails starting in 2026 thanks to a resolution passed by the City Council Land Use Committee. (File photo)

BY MARK HALLUM | The city has officially barred Rikers Island from housing detainees after 2026 — a move that only took 24 hours for the City Council’s Land Use Committee to approve.

The resounding action buttresses Mayor Bill de Blasio’s resolve to reduce the capacity of city jails and open four borough-based jails.

“We promised to close Rikers Island and we’re making good on that promise,” said de Blasio, whose term ends in 2021. “We’re making our commitment ironclad and ensuring no future administration can reverse all the progress we’ve made. Mass incarceration did not begin in New York City, but it will end here.”

Many groups opposing borough-based jails have voiced distrust toward the city, claiming that it is possible to build more jails without closing Rikers, saying “If they build them, they will fill them.”

Council members from the various the districts where the new jails will be built threw their support behind the resolution in a joint press release from the City Council Speaker’s office.

Councilwoman Margaret Chin did not not shy away from calling the vote a step toward criminal justice reform, despite push-back from her Chinatown constituents. The new borough jail plan would replace the Manhattan House of Detention on the west side of Columbus Park.

“With advocates demanding an ironclad guarantee that our city will never see a jail on Rikers Island ever again, this marks a critical step to turning the page and continuing the hard work to truly transform our criminal justice system once and for all,” she said.

She and her Queens counterpart, Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz, do not serve on the Land Use Committee, but they both issued their support in the press release.