Jail protests get some traction beyond the neighborhood

The effort to block the ($8 billion and counting) jail planned for White Street — part of the city’s borough-based jail plan to close Rikers — has gotten some traction in the citywide press and beyond. Until now, most have supported closing Rikers, but (IMO) not given a lot of attention to how that plays out in local communities.

The Washington Post features the issue, noting that the “moderate Democrat and retired police captain is staring at a no-win situation politically.” It also discusses the possibility for federal receivership of Rikers (reserved for the worst of the worst) and highlights the potential for a new facility on Rikers. (More on the local connection to that plan this week.)

And amNY and CBS News featured the most recent protest, held Sunday in Chinatown. (My photos by Emma Guliani.) And The Post reported that at his inaugural speech, Christopher Marte said that the mayor agreed to oppose the Chinatown jail.

The jails on White have already been emptied, and plans for their demolition are scheduled to start this spring. Let’s hope someone (ahem) at City Hall gets a grip on this and changes course.




  1. Excellent that the protests continue. But where is the mayor in all of this? What of his supposed stance against this misguided plan?

  2. Rikers is a mess. I never fully understood the objection to local jails. Is it the construction? A bigger building blocking views? More traffic? You already have a jail there and all the courts etc. It’s not like the area will be less safe because criminals are locked up nearby.

    • Location is the least of Rikers’ problems. Developers probably have had their eyes on the real estate for years, just waiting for the right moment to pounce. This is mostly about real estate, like everything else in NYC.

      • Location, along with its sheer size, are the MOST of Rikers’ problems. Having a colony of 10 mega-jails (all but 2 of which are bigger than the proposed “mega-jail” downtown) isolated from the city on an island creates a huge logistical nightmare in carting people back and forth to the borough courthouses 15+ times per person on average, gives prosecutors a tool for extracting pleas from detainees, and perhaps most importantly allows us as residents to ignore all of this because it’s all on an island we can pretend doesn’t exist. The borough-based jail plan may not be perfect, but it absolutely addresses the worst problems of Rikers Island. If having a jail in your neighborhood bothers you, then by all means do the work toward making them unnecessary. But don’t pretend that a plan to decarcerate the city and close the stain of Rikers Island isn’t doing just that.

  3. Not important enough for NYT coverage?! This is a colossal case of bad city planning, possible collusion and most of all discrimination. Has to be stopped. Follow the money, who are benefiting from all this? How many people’s livelihoods are going to suffer? Like the out of control outdoor dining land grab, this is another example of short sighted politicians making decisions that have very damaging long term effect on our city and its residents.

    • Ok. But why is this bad? Just because there wasn’t local input. I’m honestly asking. I don’t understand. See my questions above. Is it the specific location or would anywhere in the neighborhood also be unfavorable?

      • Just a quick follow up on location. The location of the new Manhattan facility was chosen for one reason: its proximity to the downtown courts. Having the jail connected to the courts drastically reduces the transit expenditure and helps keep the jail accountable to the courts that use it. It seems pretty clear the decision to put it there was logistical in this respect. If the City was trying to Bob Moses the project, they could find many less politically powerful areas to put a jail than downtown Manhattan.

      • Lots of reasons but for me: the two huge jails already on White Street should be rehabbed if necessary and not knocked down and rebuilt to create a 10-year construction project in a dense neighborhood. The Nunez Monitor Reports (the most recent came out last week) make it clear that it’s an “entrenched culture of dysfunction” at Rikers that is killing people; there’s no reason to think that will change with a new location. The current plan has space for a lot fewer inmates than we have now, which makes me think that we will end up with these new jails AND Rikers. Also the other borough locations are sited in neighborhoods that have their fair share of other municipal uses and should not get a (another) jail. Finally, if it’s proximity to the courts that is needed, move the courts — or at least some of them.

        • IDK. This still strikes me as mostly NIMBYism. No one really wanted a massive construction project where Disney is but it’s happening, or for that matter any big condo project. But that’s one of the realities of living here. I also just assumed there was consensus about shutting Rikers forever, but I don’t follow that topic closely. But if that’s the case I don’t see how building jails where we already had one and is near the courts, and easier for families to visit, is all so bad. All the complaints about “process” and “ramming” the project through all just sounds like typical NIMBY obfuscation. There’s nothing wrong with that in one sense but we should call it what it is.

  4. really happy to see traction against new jail.
    city did not follow procedures and tried to ram this in
    that will be more clear soon
    spend precious tax dollars on higher impact issues like safety, cleaning up streets, addressing homeless and helping rebuild retail & small biz post covid