Renew and reimagine Rikers Island at town hall in Jackson Heights

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QUEENS, N.Y. — The future of Rikers Island is being debated and discussed.

A judge, reform advocates, and the City of New York have said the jail facility needs to be fixed because of its design, location and history.

A proposal from the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio to replace Rikers with 4 borough-based community jails is in the first phase of public hearings.

What will happen to the 413 acres that make up the actual island?

The possibilities are endless.

A town hall with the theme “Renewable Rikers” was held on Thursday in Jackson Heights.

Council Member Costa Constantinides, U.S  Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, State Senator Jessica Ramos, Assembly Member Catalina Cruz, and Council Member Daniel Dromm spoke about environmental and green options for the location.

A panel of environmental experts and criminal justice stakeholders was introduced to talk about their experiences and possible plans.

Professor Rebecca Bratspies, founding director at CUNY Law School’s Center for Urban Environmental Reform, moderated the panel.

Other speakers included Maritza Silva-Farrell, executive director of ALIGN; Cecil Corbin-Mark, Deputy Director and Director of Policy Initiatives at WE ACT for Environmental Justice; Rachel Spector, Director of Environmental Justice at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest; and Marco Barrios of Just Leadership USA.

Suggestions from other groups have included housing, park land and expanding LaGuardia Airport to the land.

A group assembled across the street from the town hall with signs that said Rikers Island should not be closed based on the cost.

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