NEW YORK—The City Council Land Use Committee today passed a resolution authorizing the City Council to file an application at the Department of City Planning to remap Rikers Island so that it will not be allowed to house incarcerated individuals after 2026. The application will be co-filed with the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice (MOCJ) and Department of Correction (DOC).
The map change at Rikers will be done through the City’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) and will ensure that the island will never again incarcerate New Yorkers. Through this ULURP, the City will seek to have the island designated as a “Public Place” on the City Map, which will ensure future development of the site will be solely for the public benefit.
“This process will require Rikers Island to close as a correctional facility by 2026, and shows our deep commitment to moving away from the failed policies of mass incarceration. I am proud of the Council’s Land Use Committee for taking this meaningful step and thank Mayor de Blasio and the Department of City Planning for working with us to begin this important process,” said Council Speaker Corey Johnson.
“We promised to close Riker’s Island, and we’re making good on that promise. 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,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.
“This land use action will guarantee the closure of Rikers Island and prohibit future administrations from using the land for the purpose of incarceration. The map change strengthens the borough-based jail plan and demonstrates that our city is not advancing an expansion, but rather, a proposal that will redefine and improve our justice system for years to come,” said Council Member Diana Ayala.
“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,” said Council Member Margaret Chin.
“I applaud Speaker Johnson for taking this step to insure that Rikers Island never hosts a facility that resembles mass incarceration. Additionally, as we look forward we should make sure that the name of the island is changed to make sure the island represents a new future,” said Council Member Karen Koslowitz.
“I have been pushing for a plan that meets the needs of my community and directly impacted New Yorkers across the city, and I am glad to see this concern is being listened to. One of our strongest tools in city council is our land use control and this action will create a legally binding mechanism for the closure of Rikers long after myself and this administration are out of office. I will continue to push for changes needed in the proposal, including further reduction in capacity and significant re-investment in directly impacted communities, and I look forward to continuing to work with the Speaker and Mayor on each of these areas. Up until today there has been nothing to assure the closure of Rikers. Today’s resolution provides the assurance the public needs. By codifying this in zoning law, we are ensuring this is not an expansion plan, this is a reduction plan. Thank you to the advocates and directly impacted leaders who have made today’s action possible,” said Council Member Stephen Levin.
“With tis measure, closing Rikers Island becomes even more of a reality. Not only does it confirm the complex will be shut down, it provides reassurance that this island will never serve as a jail complex ever again. During this process, this has been a priority for me. Thank you to Speaker Johnson and Chairman Salamanca for their commitment and partnership in overhauling the criminal justice system,” said Council Member Keith Powers.
“Today’s Land Use vote is key to ensure that the commitment to close Rikers Island and permit no further detention on the island by the year 2026 is solidified. This is one step toward moving New York City forward to end an inhumane and environmentally unsound system of mass incarceration,” said Council Member Adrienne Adams.
“We all know the moral imperative of closing the jails on Rikers Island, which will now be codified into law. This ULURP guarantees Rikers Island is not used to detain another soul by 2026, which will end this stain on New York City’s history. I want to thank Speaker Corey Johnson for fighting to ensure Rikers Island will never be used as a jail again. We must now look at how this island can be used to help the same communities that have historically seen over policing and underinvestment,” said Council Member Costa Constantinides.
“Today, the Council’s Land Use Committee took a huge step towards closing Rikers Island, and I thank my fellow Committee members for working to put an end to this sad chapter in our city’s history. Rikers Island is a stain on our city, and it’s continued operations hurts us all. I look forward to the day when it is gone,” said Council Member Donovan Richards.
“This zoning resolution is an important step towards ensuring that the accelerator of human misery that is Rikers Island is closed forever, and as quickly as possible,” said The Honorable Judge Lippman, former Chief Judge of New York.
“Today’s landmark agreement brings us one step nearer to closing a shamful chapter in our City’s history. For too long, Riker’s Island has wrought brutality and inhumanity on all who cross over that bridge and pass through its doors – incarcerated people, corrections officers, families and others. Shutting down this sprawling, inaccessible and dehumanizing facility forever and replacing it with state of the art, supportive borough-based jails will show that world that New York City believes in both true correctional reform and the value of all individuals. The Fortune Society looks forward to the day when Rikers Island can no longer be used to house, detain, or incarcerate our fellow New Yorkers. We congratulate Mayor de Blasio, Speaker Johnson and all who worked so hard on today’s historic achievement,” said Stanley Richards, Executive Vice President of The Fortune Society.
“Not another person should ever have to suffer through the inhumane conditions and the culture of abuse and violence that Rikers fosters. We appreciate the elected officials that are responding to the organizing by survivors of Rikers Island — working quickly to improve the administration’s proposal and to create the strongest legal mechanism to concretize the closure of Rikers. Our organizing will continue to ensure its closure sooner than 2026. We urge this Administration and City Council to focus on producing a meaningful community investments agreement ahead of next Thursday’s vote. We must invest in our communities and our loved ones who are incarcerated, at the same time,” said Brandon Holmes, New York City Campaign Coordinator at #CLOSErikers.
“The people of this City have scored another victory. This important historic precedent set by the decision of the administration and the City Council to permanntly bar incarceration on Rikers Island after 2026 is another significant step towards decarcerating New York City and treating people with dignity,” said Soffiyah Elijah Executive Director, Alliance of Families for Justice.
“We must take this moment to applaud City Council and the Mayor for their unwavering commitment to ensure Rikers Island is never again used as a space to warehouse people in cages. As a formerly incarcerated leader who works with women who have cycled through Torture Island, I know firsthand that the commitment must not end there. Even with this victory in place, we look again to Council to continue their obligation to the people of this City and in place of Rikers Island to provide facilities that are designed to address the holistic problems facing communities historically targeted by the criminal legal system. This is the first step towards the City reinvesting in communities that have been devastated by mass incarceration,” said Vivian Nixon, President, College and Community Fellowship.
“Proclamation is important! Today, we are grateful for the foresight of the Mayor and the City Council to proclaim and cement the closure of Rikers Island. We continue to demand investments in mental health services and community building to reverse decades of destruction that hyper-incarceration has inflicted our men, women, and children. We must commit to funding and implementing thoughtful solutions to uplift our impacted communities. We look to a new era in New York City, where all can be safe and prosperous,” said Rev. Wendy Calderón Payne, Executive Director, BronxConnect.
“This is a brilliant proposal by the Mayor and City Council President to put the final nail in closing the notorious jail complex on Rikers Island. It should assure those skeptical of approving borough based jails that Rikers will be closed once and for all when those other jails are completed, so we can move to do so with the sense of urgency our awful jail conditions deserve,” stated Vincent Schiraldi, co-director of the Columbia University Justice Lab and former Commissioner of New York City Probation.
“This unprecedented agreement by the Council and the Mayor’s office, although not legally binding, does give us some guarantee that Rikers Island will not be used to detain people. The culture of violence and abuse that has been the cornerstone of Rikers existence will end and, we can focus on creating better more humane conditions for those who will not be affected by the new policies in January. The last penal colony is finally being shuttered,” said Donna Hylton, President, A Little Piece of Light.
“Closing Rikers is a major undertaking and now the Mayor, the City Council Speaker and the City Council are making history again. How often do we have an opportunity to do the right thing—to forever remove any chance that Rikers, infamous for its in-human treatment of thousands of our citizens can ever be opened again. Thank you for your leadership,” said Rita Zimmer, President, Women’s Community Justice Association and Sharon White-Harrigan, Executive Director, BeyoneRosies2020.
“Today’s agreement between the City Council and Mayor to ensure that no person is jailed at Rikers Island after 2026 is a powerful step towards dismantling systems and policies that are harming individuals and communities. For nearly nine decades, Osborne has worked to transform jails and prisons for the people who live in them, visit them, and work in them. I have visited Rikers over a span of 40 years, as a family member, a lawyer, and a service provider. It has long been a stain on NYC and the soul of everyone who enters it. The City has taken seriously the objection that Rikers might someday again be used as a jail and is taking the strongest possible legal steps to block any such future use. There is now no reasonable objection to a plan to replace decrepit facilities with new ones that will house fewer people than at any time in memory. As we continue to work to make these systems and places obsolete, it is morally essential that we take this unprecedented opportunity to move toward a smaller and more humane jail system. It is equally essential that we invest in the communities most affected by incarceration, and that we work to ensure that the oppressive culture on Rikers Island is not imported into the new jails. That is as challenging a task as closing Rikers, and as worthwhile,” said Elizabeth Gaynes, President and CEO of the Osborne Association.