Cuomo casts doubts over planned Rikers Island closure

Gov Andrew Cuomo says too soon to plan for Rikers Island property and also says crime is on the rise. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

Will Rikers Island actually close in 2026? Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Tuesday that isn’t putting all of his marbles on plans that it will.

The City Council recently voted to close Rikers Island, but the city is far from completing plans to build new jails in four of five boroughs to take up to 3,300 prisoners — about half the number currently incarcerated there.

At one point, Cuomo had suggested that part of a jail-free Rikers Island could serve as an extension to the runways of LaGuardia Airport, allowing it to become an international hub like JFK Airport. But the governor threw cold water on that plan for now, saying there is no study or plan in the works.

“The city passed a plan that says they are going to close Rikers Island in like seven years, but between now and then we will have a new mayor and new City Council people – seven years is a long time,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo believes subsequent administrations may have a change of heart, so he said, “lets see what happens – even though it passed this administration to do that, there will be subsequent administrations – seven years is a long time, so lets make sure Rikers is not actually occupied.”

Gov. Cuomo falsely claims “dramatic increase” in subway crimes

Cuomo justified plans to add 500 additional MTA police officers to the city transit system by pointing to a recent rise in crime–though police data suggest otherwise.

“Historically, the NYPD did the policing in the transit system, but there has been a dramatic increase in crime in the subway system,” Cuomo said. “Felonies are up, assaults are up, robberies are up, and I’ve been talking about this for years.”

Crime in the city’s transit system is actually down 1.4 percent through September, when compared to the same window last year, according to NYPD data. There has been an uptick in robberies when comparing those same figures, though overall crime rates have remained fairly consistent since 2015.

The governor said he is also in favor of MTA police officers joining their NYPD counterparts in wearing body cameras, saying “it protects everyone, makes the police transparent and it works.”

“For the city to survive, it needs public safety and the police need to have a relationship of public respect and a community that is reciprocal,” Cuomo said. “We must have a police force that is respected and trusted by the community, not either-or.”

Cuomo said the state is spending $50 billion to upgrade the subway system, so “if it is not safe people are not going to use it.”

“You look at the trajectory of NYC  and it’s the high crime periods that are problematic so we need to keep people safe,” Cuomo concluded, adding, “you have to get this increase in crime under control.”

Additional reporting from Vincent Barone