There was tension last week as Kew Gardens residents expressed their opposition to the city’s proposal to reopen the existing Queens Detention Center complex as part of the city’s plan to shutter the Rikers Island prison over the next 10 years.
Hundreds of Kew Gardens residents attended the Queens Scoping Hearing, held Wednesday, Sept. 26 at Queens Borough Hall, located at 120-55 Queens Blvd. City officials were unable to finish their sentences amidst the loud interruptions in the Helen Marshall Cultural Center.
Misael Syldor, of the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform — who was born and raised in Queens — delivered the testimony.
“At Rikers, people come out worse off than when they go in,” said Syldor. “The proposed facility in Queens is an opportunity for us to be closer to our loved ones, legal representation, and other services that will help them rehabilitate and become productive members of our communities.”
Audience members were divided on the closing of Rikers Island and the implementation of community-based borough jails. Residents who stood up to speak stated that there was no community involvement on the city’s plan to reopen the Queens jail complex.
In August, the de Blasio administration announced a proposal to redevelop Queens Detention Complex — located at 126-02 82nd Ave., adjacent to the Queens Criminal Courthouse — and the neighboring municipal parking lot into a corrections center with space for 1,510 prisoner beds.
“Why is $10 billion being funneled into the jail plan when that money can be used for creating affordable housing, our public schools and creating new roads,” asked Grace Wong. of Fresh Meadows.
Residents stressed the issues of overcrowding, parking availability, nearby schools, and transportation in the neighborhood.
Andrea Crawford, counsel to the Kew Gardens Improvement Association, said the city’s plan to build the jail complex will “cripple the neighborhood,” and has no economic benefits to the community.
Residents gave city representatives an earful in the Bronx Wednesday night in response to a plan to build a jail to help replace Rikers Island.
The opposition was loud and clear as families from Mott Haven spoke out angrily against the city’s plan to open a jail at an old tow pound on Concord Avenue.
“Some of us residents have made lives and raised families on Concord Avenue for over 70 years,” resident Myra Hernandez said. “We are enraged.”
Hernandez lives two blocks from the proposed site in the Bronx.
“For anyone to propose that this is going to be beneficial for these communities that are oppressed and marginalized, has no clue,” she said.
Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to close the jails on Rikers Island and move towards a borough-based jail system. It would build facilities on the Concord Avenue property in the Bronx, Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, Centre Street in Manhattan, and 82nd Avenue in Queens.
From the NY Times:
When the city moved its youngest inmates from Rikers Island to a juvenile detention center last week, the goal was to shield them from the violence of the adult jail and place them in an age-appropriate setting, as required under a new state law.
But so far the mayhem has followed them.
Since last week, when the city’s youngest offenders began moving into Horizon Juvenile Center, there have been at least five violent episodes. These brawls among inmates have caused dozens of injuries to correction officers assigned to the center, union leaders said.
On Wednesday, 20 correction officers suffered minor injuries when a fight involving 16 inmates from two rival gangs broke out about 11:30 a.m., correction officials said. The officers’ union said the fight started when one group of teenagers, who were in school at the facility, spotted members of a rival gang in the hallway.
After the fight, unions representing correction officers and social workers, as well as two City Council members, criticized the mayor and city officials for moving the young inmates before addressing safety and security concerns.