Construction is starting soon on the White Street jail

I know I have said this all along and it is getting stupid, but I just can’t believe this is happening. The Department of Design and Construction sent formal notice that construction on the Manhattan site of the borough based jails — at White and Centre — will begin in the first quarter of 2022. Several readers (thanks to J. and P.) had sent me tips over the past months that things were happening over on White Street, but I just couldn’t get past the fact that they are not just rebuilding Rikers on Rikers Island, where there is tons of room and where there are no neighbors.

Here’s a aerial video to show you how much room there is, and below it is a aerial photo of the site in Chinatown where they think this new million-square-foot jail will fit just fine.

And since I know I am tilting at windmills, I’ll stop ranting and explain what’s going on:

  • The dismantling of the two current jail buildings (150,000 square feet) will start soon into 2022 and be “substantially complete” by Q3 2023
  • Construction on the new building should start in 2023 and finish by 2027
  • The city will build a “sally port” — a secure space for people arriving at the Manhattan Criminal Court on Centre Street while constriction on the site continues.
  • The 800+ detainees that were at the two buildings have been cleared out and moved to Rikers, so work can begin here.
  • The contract for this first stage of the work for our site went to Gramercy Group Inc, for $125.2 million.
  • The estimated budget for the Manhattan project overall is $1.678 billion.

Basically the bulldozers will be here as soon as March — they are already moving in Queens — and it looks like there’s no going back.

Finally some bullet points on the project overall, taken from the RFQ. The new building will include:

  • beds for 886 people in detention
  • space for on-site services and programming, staff facilities
  • 20,000 square feet of publicly accessible commercial retail and community space on the ground floor along White Street, fronting Baxter Street
  • a bridge connection must be provided from the new facility to the Manhattan Criminal Court.
  • 125 accessory parking spaces including EV charging stations below-grade for DOC staff with an entrance on Baxter

The builder also has to create a meeting room near the site to provide information to the public and serve as intake for comments. The site will be staffed by a community construction liaison from DDC.



  1. This seems like madness to me. In whose interest is this project, really? Will it really resolve or reform any issues with the criminal justice system? Those problems do not seem to arise from architecture or location, so how will spending billions on such a disruptive move help anyone?

    Agreed that the facilities should just be modernized and rebuilt on Rikers. This move makes no sense, economically, in terms of effects on the neighborhood, or in terms of criminal justice reform.

    More importantly: Is there any chance that the new incoming administration under Mayor Adams could still kill this plan?

    • It seems they’re setting it up so the demolition of this current complex will already be guaranteed. So it will be up to Adams to leave it as a ditch, build the current design, or change what will be built there.

  2. Maybe it’s time to start a serious letter campaign to our next mayor.

    “Adams Said He’s Against Chinatown Jail; Plan’s Foes Are Holding Him to It”

  3. This administration is just in denial about the basic facts on the ground. As it stands, there are nowhere near enough beds in these local jail designs to replace Rikers. And crime is not going down, it is going up. Bail reform all you like and there will still not be enough beds. I foresee all these jails being stood up by 2028 or so, and Rikers still being open because there’s not enough beds. The obvious solution would have been to build more wings on the facility that already exists, and renovate current cell blocks. Then build much more modest facilities to transfer people to near the courthouses in each borough.

  4. This is a final FU to the residents of this city from the thank God, soon to be ex mayor. total misuse of $, someone is definitely owed a favor on this one. makes more sense to rebuild on Rikers. less beds seem to indicate this city will continue to be soft on crime. Mayor and city council are ruining this city. Hope Adams brings some common sense back. Progressives live in LALa land and are bringing the rest of us there, vote intelligently folks!

  5. Do any of you have any experience or expertise in justice reform? Because I’m seeing a lot of armchair incarceration up in here.

    The benefits of borough-based jails to both the city and the justice system are undeniable. Having jails close to the courts keeps judges and DAs accountable to adjudicate more expeditiously without an island to throw people onto. It saves the city literally billions annually in transit costs alone.

    Rikers Island is a hellhole. At this point the only reason you could think closing it isn’t a good idea is if 1) you think jails shouldn’t exist, or 2) you want to pretend they don’t.

    • Actually the DOC spends about $31 million each year to transport defendants between Rikers Island and courthouses and other appointments, not billions. The Gotham Gazette has a very good breakdown on the costs. And no one had a problem with the jails there now. The problem is a decade-plus of construction in one of the densest parts of the city, not to mention the other jails going into low-income neighborhoods (Mott Haven, eg) already overburdened by noxious municipal uses. If you want to save transportation costs, move the courthouses. And if you want to build better jails, do it where you have room or adapt the current structures.

    • I work in the criminal court system. Prisoners spend hours on busses going to and from court. It causes huge court delays and inefficiency. Prisoners often have to get up at 4:00 in the morning to get to court and don’t arrive back to Riker’s many times several hours after court closes. Busses breakdown, there are traffic jams that cause huge delays, inmates miss meals–it is a disaster. Riker’s is also a difficult place for family members of inmates to go to visit relatives who are incarcerated. I see people walking around Tribeca with “end cash bail” t-shirts and espousing their progressive views (many of which I agree with) but, when a plan is put in place to make prisons more humane, that will make it easier for family to visit, that will help speed up the court process for those arrested, and thereby get those who shouldn’t be in jail out more quickly– people balk. Riker’s Island is beyond repair–it has been a cesspool for decades. Why do people assume that “crazies” will be coming out of there? Defendants have been coming and going to court in that neighborhood for years.

    • rikers is on an island in the middle of our city because that’s the most sensible place to put the jail. the problems with rikers aren’t because of it’s location. build a proper modern facility on the same damn island. to do anything else is idiotic.

  6. I’m I missing something on the outrage? There are already jails on the site. There is a federal detention across the street. There are courthouses on surrounding blocks that have been transporting prisoners to and from court since 5 Points was no longer a swap.

    Looks looks nothing more than classic NIMBYism and classic
    “jumping to the worst possible conclusion” syndrome.

    • DTWNNYC –
      That’s the point. There is already a fully functional jail in place. To tear it down and then build a higher one that would be an eyesore to all downtown for billions and billions of dollars makes zero sense. Not to mention that that Chinatown bears the brunt of housing prisoners in NYC, so why should they have to house even more. No neighborhood wants a mega prison.The project makes zero sense economic or otherwise and even Judge Lippmann, who was the leading force against Riker’s Island disagrees with building mega prisons in neighborhoods.

  7. The Riker’s Island debacle will haunt this City for decades. Anyone who thinks this is actually a good idea and that it improves the City would probably also happily buy the Brooklyn Bridge from someone selling it on the corner.
    The cost of this project was originally estimated at $8.7 billion over four years ago, which is equivalent to $10 billion today. If you use other mega NYC projects as benchmarks and factor in the complexities of four locations and massively disrupting/ruining three neighborhoods, the total cost will probably run between $20-$30 billion by the time they are done.
    Somehow the ‘We can’t fix Riker’s for $1billion dollars’ delusional woke mob that helped De Blasio push through this inflated kickback ridden fiasco actually think this is a better use of funds then spending the money on the actual communities that need it. Just imagine what $10 billion of funding could do for both the communities and to reduce recidivism by providing for for the future by improving services, education, facilities, job training and opportunities. Instead they happily give away a better outcome to instead ruin three neighborhoods while actually reducing the number of prison beds while crime is rising.
    The total disregard to the neighborhood’s impacted and the mad rush to start the project before the next Administration can weigh in, just shows how illogical and fraudulent this entire process has been. This is an embarrassment to common sense and NYC.

    • Agree Adam. Eric Adams agenda on crime is impressive and cannot imagine he would get behind this insanity. We stopped the court house going in on Thomas so why not ban together now and stop this!?

  8. The only good news here is that I have enough time to move my family out of Tribeca to avoid the crazies coming out of there

  9. Through the eyes of developers ( and their enablers) every square foot of land near the water is gold. The De Blasio ferry scheme is the partner in ushering in more glassy condo towers and gentrification along the rivers. Surely some people have been scheming to turn Rikers into the next Governor’s Island?
    What’s there not to like? Tourism, art fairs, food trucks, glamping, condo-hotels, renovated prison as galleries and performing arts center( how cool!).
    Why let the prison have the best spot?

    • R – You are correct. if you check out the coast line of the Bronx you will see it’s almost all zoned as Opportunity Zones. If you were putting in billion dollar projects, would you want to look at Riker’s? The City will hemorrhage tens of billions on the idiotic new mega jails program and surprise surprise, will the. have to turn to the private sector to redevelop Riker’s. Yet another real estate bonanza thanks to De Blasio.

    • you nailed it. location, location, location.

  10. I’m glad they’re getting rid of so many of the ageing, decaying jails in NYC. It should have happened LONG time ago. Rikers is the WORST of the lot. I hope they can create a much more stable correctional institution in its place. They should close down Attica, too