Rikers Island could hold as many as 25,000 new apartments—a sizable chunk of the 80,000 new affordable units and 160,000 market-rate homes that City Hall wants built by 2024.
"I'd like to see a community built that would address the city's needs for affordable and supportive housing—including people with [criminal] records," said JoAnne Page, chief executive of the Fortune Society, a nonprofit dedicated to reforming the criminal justice system.
That community could be as large as 65,000 people, or roughly on par with the West Village, according to Ginsberg Architects, which drew up a plan for a residential Rikers island at the behest of Crain's. The plan sticks to the city's grid system, with 80 blocks of homes and businesses, several schools and 80 acres of park space. Lying in the flight path of LaGuardia limits heights on the island, so the architects envision buildings no taller than 100 feet, and a total construction cost of about $7 billion for the apartments, before any infrastructure improvements the island would need.
A large park could act as a buffer between the housing and the runways of LaGuardia Airport. A new vehicular bridge could connect the island to Astoria and carry an extension of Mayor Bill de Blasio's proposed Queens-Brooklyn streetcar. A ferry could run to Manhattan and to Hunts Point in the Bronx.
Jonathan Rose, head of affordable-housing builder Jonathan Rose Cos., said 40,000 people could live on Rikers if single-person units and supportive housing were prioritized. An alternative-sentencing facility on Rikers would be the best way to counteract the jail complex's brutal history, he added.