NYC Planning Commission Approves Plan for Borough-Based Facilities to Replace Rikers

By CN Staff

NEW YORK, NY—The New York City Planning Commission (CPC) recently approved the City’s plan to establish borough-based jail facilities to end the jails on Rikers. The CPC’s approval is binding and marks the beginning of the final phase of the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), in which the City Council evaluates the project. The ULURP is a standardized procedure whereby applications affecting the land use of the city are publicly reviewed.

“With [the] approval by the City Planning Commission of the City’s plan to establish smaller, borough-based jails, we are one step closer to shuttering the jails on Rikers once and for all,” said Jonathan Lippman, former chief judge of New York State and chair of the Independent Commission on NYC Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform.

The Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform is comprised of two dozen civic leaders from a variety of backgrounds, including law enforcement, academia, the judiciary, advocacy groups, business, and those who have spent time behind bars. 

Just three years ago, the prospect of closing Rikers seemed nearly impossible.

In April 2017, the Commission released A More Just New York City, a blueprint for closing the jails on Rikers Island, reducing the jail population, transitioning to a borough-based community justice model, and creating a more humane criminal justice system.

“With the momentum generated by advocates and those who have experienced firsthand the horrors on Rikers, and the blueprint we developed in A More Just New York City, we are closer than ever before,” explained Lippman.

“The City Council will now deliberate on the City’s proposal. I am hopeful that they will work to make this plan the best that it can be for those inside and outside of the facilities. We have a once-in-generations opportunity to shut the door on a dark chapter in our City’s history and open a new one in which our justice system can serve not only as a beacon of fairness for New York, but for our whole country.”

The City Council Land Use Committee held a hearing on September 5. Judge Lippman and the following members of the Independent Commission testified in support of borough-based jails:

  • Herbert Sturz, board chair of the Center for New York City Neighborhoods;
  • Stanley Richards, executive vice president of The Fortune Society, Inc.; 
  • Seymour W. James, Jr. criminal defense and civil rights attorney and former attorney-in-chief at the Legal Aid Society, and;
  • Brooklyn Supreme Court Hon. Matthew J. D’Emic, presiding judge of the Brooklyn Mental Health Court and Administrative Judge for Criminal Matters.