The latest on demolition work for the jail

City Hall and the Department of Design and Construction met with city, state elected officials and members of the Chinatown community to discuss the potential for adaptive reuse at the White Street jail site last week and while I had hoped they were not just kicking the can down the road, it seems to me that is what’s happening.

When I reached out, the mayor’s office said that “the administration is continuing the ongoing dismantling of the Manhattan jail site and not pursuing this [adaptive reuse] proposal.” The city agreed to pause the work and are only proceeding with demolition tasks that do not conflict with adaptative reuse.

The mayor’s office said meetings will continue with the community “to provide more detail on our decision” but: “As we have repeatedly said, attempting to create this jail within the existing structure could put the building at risk of collapse and irresponsibly risk the safety of community members and workers in the building. Additionally, this approach would take longer, waste millions of additional taxpayer dollars, and cause greater disruption in the community.”

The City Council’s Local Law 194 of 2019, which put the creation of the new jails into law, requires that the building be brought up to code and in line with ADA regs, so major renovations would be necessary. And the city decided that given the complicated security infrastructure needed in a jail, repurposing is too challenging and inefficient.

The statement from the mayor’s office went on: “While some people may be willing to accept these impediments, we will never be willing to compromise safety or throw away taxpayer funds. We have engaged with the community every step of the way, and we are committed to continuing to work with them to limit the disruption of this project and build a more humane facility.”

I also have some updated FAQs from my last posts:

  • The site is to include 886 beds with a maximum building height of 295 feet
  • The demolition budget for our site is $125 million
  • The budget for the Manhattan site construction overall is $2.13 billion.
  • Demolition will continue for the next year
  • Construction on the new building should finish by 2027
  • The 800+ detainees that were at the two buildings have been cleared out and moved to Rikers

1 Comment

  1. Thank you for continuing to pursue, inquire, and report on this issue. If you press the powers that be again, please ask about the other issues as well: Why not renovate rather than eliminate Rikers (which can does not preclude also renovating the Chinatown facility)? How to handle the larger inmate population we have now, that exceeds capacity of the new plan? How to handle even larger inmate population in the next crime wave?