New York City is accelerating construction of a new prison in Queens as part of its plan to phase out troubled Rikers Island – sparking outrage among residents, The Post has learned.
The existence of a prison recently became more tangible to residents of Kew Gardens when the Department of Design and Construction issued a notice restricting access to the area around Queens Borough Hall in order to lay the foundation stone for the prison.
“We upgrade the infrastructure in your community. These temporary access restrictions are necessary to facilitate preliminary work to level a 48-inch trunk water line for the Queens Borough Based Jail at the above location,” the DDC said.
The community bulletin was a blow to many local residents, who said they didn’t want their neighborhood to be home to accused criminals.
“I am against prison. It’s just a safety issue,” said neighbor Michael Brocking, 31.
Yan Lin, mother of three boys aged 7 to 14, added, “We don’t need any criminal elements here.”
“I don’t like prison. We have a good community. I love this community,” said the concerned mother.
Howard Cohn, a 75-year-old retired schoolteacher, said, “I don’t want to live next to criminals.”
“A prison will lower real estate values here,” he added.
Mayor Eric Adams had promised to implement former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s $8.3 billion plan to shut down the troubled Rikers Island prison complex and replace it with four smaller, more humane high-rise buildings in each of the boroughs except Staten Island .
Opponents have submitted an alternative plan to build a more modern complex on Rikers – and the controversy could haunt Adams if he runs for re-election, sources said.
Chinatown residents have also objected to their community becoming the site of Manhattan’s “mega-prison.”
The Rikers exit in favor of the county plan was engineered before the COVID-19 pandemic, but crime has skyrocketed in the years since. According to a recent Quinnipiac College poll, residents are unhappy about the increase and are letting Adams know about it.
At Kew Gardens, residents wondered if the county jails were better run than the jails on Rikers and if the problems at the island complex were only affecting the city’s neighborhoods.
“You want to take one big problem and turn it into multiple small problems,” Brocking said.
Longtime Kew Gardens resident Sylvia Hack, the land use chair of Community Board 9, said the prison will “downgrade our community”.
“The city will not improve prison culture by closing Rikers. They’re just going to transmit the problems,” said Hack, also a member of the Community Preservation Coalition, which fights county jails and proposed the alternative jail complex on Rikers.
“I still hope that eventually sanity will prevail.”
But city building officials said things are moving at full speed for the prison at Kew Gardens.
A DDC spokesman said the proposed Kew Gardens prison complex is the first project where the city will use a new “design-build” methodology – a unified contract that oversees both the designers and the builders – to warrant completion accelerate. The prison complex will include a community center and garage.
The first phases of the project began last June and will be completed before the end of the year, said DDC spokesman Ian Michaels.
Regarding the waterline work, Michaels said the DDC’s contractor dug two test pits to study pre-construction field conditions at 82nd Avenue and 126th Street and 82nd Avenue and 132nd Street.
“The attached notice was issued to the local community ahead of work and shows parking restrictions for the night. In the fall, DDC will begin an 18-month project to move a 48-inch main line on 82nd Avenue from 126th Street to 132nd Street as that portion of the street closes to accommodate a new jail at Am site to be completed,” said the DDC representative.
https://nypost.com/2022/05/15/residents-outraged-as-nyc-ramps-up-construction-of-new-jail/ Residents outraged as NYC pushes ahead with construction of new prison