Chinatown Fights Back Against Mayor’s ‘Community-Based’ Jail Plan

Posted on: August 20th, 2018 at 5:03 am by

Photo: City of New York

Last Wednesday, Mayor de Blasio announced the draft plan to replace the Rikers Island prison system over the next decade. As part of its so-called “roadmap to closing Rikers,” the city envisions glitzy new jail facilities in four of the five boroughs. Including one situated in downtown Manhattan, on the border of Chinatown.

In a reversal from prior plans to expand the Tombs, the de Blasio administration is instead eyeing 80 Centre Street – current home of the city’s marriage bureau – as the prime spot for a high-rise detention center. (The city worked in collaboration with the Fortune Society.) This proposed detention center would carry roughly 1,500 beds for the incarcerated, plus a day room, activity room, counseling services, and potentially outdoor space. But since this is New York City, the 430-foot-high building will pull double duty as potential offices for Manhattan DA’s office “programming and recreational space.”

“I would say to the communities, this isn’t just about supplanting what we currently have on Rikers,” Fortune Society SVP Stanley Richards told Gothamist, noting that the four new jails will have smaller, well-lit housing areas with access to services and recreation. “We are fundamentally changing the way detention happens…Those principles require space.”

As before, many Chinatown residents are vehemently against the plan. There is a petition making the rounds that’s gained some traction in recent days; more than 400 signatures were collected so far.

We the undersigned oppose the building of a new MDC correctional center jail complex at 80 Centre st as part of the overall plan to close Rikers island.

Our neighborhood roads are congested enough with traffic negotiating routes between the Manhattan & Brooklyn bridges and the Holland & Brooklyn Battery tunnels.  In addition, this project would undoubtedly exacerbate air, noise & environmental issues we already endure.  Residents of Chinatown, Tribeca, Little Italy, Soho, BPC, FiDi & The LES should not be made to suffer more.

We support the call for real prison reform but feel a jail in residential areas is not the best way to approach it.

Please hear our concern and rethink the options.

Thank you

Meanwhile, Councilwoman Margaret Chin is speaking up, urging City Hall to plan a town hall that provides vital information and address community concerns.

“It’s crucial that the Administration participate in a robust community engagement process, which must begin with full transparency about the proposal to move the Manhattan Detention Center from its current location to 80 Center Street,” Chin said in a statement Friday.

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