Press excluded from joining de Blasio on promised tour of Rikers Island this evening

Mayor de Blasio, Governor Hochul, and Police Commissioner Shea chat in the NYPD’s Joint Operations Center
Ben Brachfeld

Mayor Bill de Blasio has chosen to visit the embattled Rikers Island this evening around 5 p.m., and he has decided that his promised tour of the correctional facility will not include the press.

At his Sept. 27 briefing, de Blasio told reporters that they would only be welcome to a press availability after his tour, rather than accompany him on his journey. Later in the day his public schedule was updated to show that he will hold a media availability at 5:10 p.m.

De Blasio promised to visit the jail during a WNYC appearance on Sept. 24, after rolling out a series of plans to get more correctional officers on the site.

“I’ll be going this week, we’re gonna announce as soon as we nail it down, but certainly in the next few days,” the mayor said Monday morning.

“I’m going to go on the tour with officials from my team, we’re not bringing a whole big media contingent,” he continued.

De Blasio has not been to Rikers since his first term, and now many state legislators, the attorney general and the city’s public advocate have visited and voiced their concerns. 

Instead, he announced more measures to address the crisis. De Blasio has already spoken about ending triple shifts for corrections officers who do show up to work. Hundreds had called in sick, and now face suspension if they continue to avoid the situation. 

“We also are absolutely certain that we will end the triple shifts in the month of October,” said the mayor.

One of the reasons that corrections officers were being overworked on the island had to do with the COVID-19 pandemic, he said, but added that it never should’ve happened. 

The city also plans to change the intake process and speed it up, which could limit the amount of people staying in the jail at one time. 

“The goal is always to have intake, and the necessary approaches to get under 24 hours,” he said. The current average is 10 hours for the entire process. 

“That also helps us address the challenge of COVID,” de Blasio said. In the coming weeks, the mayor would like to continue to reduce the population in New York City jails from 5,600 to under 5,000, and even fewer inmates after that.

“That in combination with bringing more and more officers back, and bringing in outside help from the NYPD, from private security — all of these actions are going to help us to make a safer, healthier environment,” de Blasio said.