Borough Jail in Kew Gardens
If elected, I pledge to revoke support of the borough jail projects. I believe the entire process revolving around closing Rikers and creating 4 new borough jails has been done in a haphazard and frankly irresponsible manner.
First, the process to close Rikers and build 4 new borough jails was railroaded through City Hall. Instead of having 4 distinct ULURP processes to cover each of these new super-structures, the city only conducted 1 ULURP to cover all 4. This decision significantly limited public input and involvement. Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said no, our community board said no, community residents at large said no.
Second, the location of these new facilities has drawn the ire of each one of the communities affected. If we take a specific look at the proposed location of the Queens Borough Jail in Kew Gardens, it is evident that the jail is within walking distance of 4 different schools, P.S. 99, the Kew Forest School, Ezra Academy, and Archbishop Molloy High School. No account was taken by the city to ensure these locations were not within walking distance of any school children. A jail, like a hospital for example, is a 24-hour operation that requires proper planning and infrastructure to accommodate its operations without placing a burden on the corresponding community.
In Kew Gardens, this proposed location is within walking distance of four major intersecting roadways, Queens Boulevard, Union Turnpike, the Jackie Robinson Parkway, and Grand Central Parkway. Each one of these roadways already experience a high volume of traffic and congestion. A borough jail added to the mix will significantly impair transportation across central Queens.
Finally, there is a lack of continuity when it comes to planning. These borough jails are designed with a certain number of detainees in mind. Altogether, the city is looking to house about 4,000 individuals, at a cost of tens of billions of taxpayer dollars, with no backup in mind if crime rises in the years to come. There is no concrete plan to break the culture of violence that made Rikers so notorious. There is no regard given to the elderly population, at risk of health complications, that will be exposed to construction related pollutants for years to come. There is no commitment to fund the maintenance and upkeep of the structures themselves decades down the road. I fear the borough jails will be allowed to decay as with any other example of our city building stock whether that’s our public housing, our schools, our homeless shelters, our hospitals or our current jails.
This “criminal justice reform” process will affect the city for decades to come and we must ensure that any and every process of such size and scope is done in conjunction with the community. If elected, I pledge to stand shoulder to shoulder with the community against this project. I pledge to fight for our community.