Demolition of jails is paused for two weeks

The demolition of 124 White Street, one of the two jails the city plans to use as the Manhattan location of the borough based jail plan, has been paused for a couple weeks at the request of state and city elected officials.

At CB1’s Quality of Life Committee meeting last week, everyone was shocked to hear that the city was proceeding with the demolition of the two jails on White and Centre. (The plaza and bridge between them had already been demolished.) According to the electeds, the three city agencies involved in the process had previously agreed to discuss the potential for adaptive reuse, following a meeting in early March, but they jumped the gun with this announcement.

Late Friday night City Hall notified the electeds (Senator Brian Kavanagh, Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, Congressman Daniel Goldman, Assemblymember Grace Lee and Councilmember Chris Marte) that it would commit to a pause of at least two weeks on any action that would be in conflict with adaptive reuse of the existing structure at 124 White Street until a meeting is arranged at City Hall to continue the conversation that was begun on March 2, 2023, on adaptive reuse as an alternative to demolition.

Given the current legislative session schedules, the meeting will take place within the coming week.

Sadly, I think they are just kicking the can down the road. But wouldn’t it be exciting if someone actually applied some thought to this whole plan? My latest fantasy: adaptive reuse for affordable housing on White Street and at the other sites the city has secured in the three other boroughs; rebuild Rikers with the progressive prison construction plans on the island, where it can be done in stages over time; add a couple procedural courthouses there too; add a ferry service for visitors using the existing NYC Ferry system.

Any of that sounds like a better investment in the city than the plan we’ve got today.



  1. This is a start. Why no similar discussion of the adaptive reuse or renovation of Rikers itself, instead of abandonment of Rikers?

    These neighborhood facilities, whether the proposed new buildings, or adaptive reuse of the existing buildings, cannot even hold the current inmate population, which is around double the planned capacity of the new system. This disparity will get even worse once there is another crime surge, or interest in enforcing the laws by increasing arrests. Where will all the inmates be housed?

  2. I don’t quite get that part about lowering the overall capacity either. Part of the reason that Riker’s is such a nightmare is that it’s incredibly overcrowded. Literally 4 prisoners sharing a cell intended for one person in some cases. I know the city’s goal is to lower the prison population from 7,000 to 3,300 over the next few years (which really isn’t realistic), but all this does is create a situation where future overcrowding is guaranteed to happen again if there is any uptick in crime. Even with the nonsense policies about not arresting people for shoplifting and other offenses, there are still far too many violent criminals who pose a legitimate threat for that target to be met. What is the plan then? This will just lead to a similar situation like the one at Riker’s now.

  3. So the justice reform advocates want to SAVE THE TOMBS???

    Are they seriously suggesting that any effort to reform the justice system should preserve that awful building called THE TOMBS?

    There’s a reason it has that name. Getting rid of the Tombs is a good thing even if it’s for a new jail.

    • Please do not be ignorant. The Tombs name derived from the appearance of the original 1838 structure.

      “The nickname harkens back to the original jail at White and Centre Streets, an imposing Egyptian-style edifice erected in 1838 by John Haviland. While most likely inspired by the building’s perceived resemblance to an Egyptian tomb, credit for the name remains in doubt. Although the original tomb-like building is long gone, the nickname is still used.”

  4. It’s unfortunate that your fantasy involves continuing to ship thousands of people who have not even been convicted to an isolated island made up mostly of toxic, decomposing landfill to be tortured (as has always been the case at Rikers), at an exorbitant cost. The idea that that does anything to make the city safer is also a fantasy.
    Rikers will be closed, and our entire City will be better off for investing in proven alternatives and ensuring that when people are incarcerated, their human rights are still recognized.

  5. It might be helpful to do some research on the history of the Tomb, or jail in this location, and actually parts of now Tribeca. It’s interesting to know that once upon a time this was a undesirable wasteland, hence the jail and industrial and warehouse buildings.
    Not unlike cemeteries built on the outskirts of towns and cities.
    As population had multiplied as did housing and commerce, the jail sits on the dividing line of the most expensive zip code and the most immigrant neighborhood. One side tends to be completely indifferent while the other side silently endured years of prejudice and neglect.
    Would the residents of Tribeca feel differently if the jail were two block closer?

  6. Unfortunately this kind of holier than thou approach at the 11th hour, as the demolition machines are crunching concrete and toxic dust is wafting through the air in Chinatown and Little Italy, is the kind of armchair virtue signaling that has allowed jail after jail after jail to be built at this location, with ever larger mass and height. To be advocating TODAY for detainees is ironic, since NO ONE stopped the City from moving detainees from the two Chinatown jails and the Brooklyn jail on to Rikers Island in January 2021 (when covid was rampant, and guards were few), and as a result people died at a rate higher than any time in history. So save your high and mighty advocacy, because you, and the entire City Council, Assembly, Senate, combined hundreds of lawmakers, never came to say STOP sending people to Rikers Island where they will surely die. The City moved over 1000 men from Chinatown to Rikers , and no one stopped them . It was only AFTER the men started dying en masse that a literal parade of pols went to Rikers to cry foul. Performances that never saved anyone.