A group of Queens City Council members have urged Mayor Bill de Blasio “to locate a new community-based jail” at the site of a former Queens Detention Complex Queens as part of the 10-year plan to close Rikers Island.
Located on 126-02 82nd Street, the Kew Gardens jail once housed 450 detainees. It shuttered 15 year ago and is now used as office space as well as a backdrop for television and film shoots, including Netflix’s Orange is the New Black.
On Monday, October 2nd, 11 elected officials sent a letter to de Blasio, stating that the Queens complex is “centrally located in a civic center, it is connected to the courts, and with the proper capital investment it can be functional for this use.” In addition, the facility’s proximity to the Criminal Court would reduce the cost associated with transporting prisoners.
While looking for alternatives to Rikers Island, an independent commission led by judge Jonathan Lippman, released a report earlier this year that recommended the decentralization of the Island and the opening of smaller jails in each borough, reports DNAinfo.
Although the Kew Gardens jail would have to be expanded or entirely reconstructed, the politicians note in their letter that the center functioned well when it was open. “The center was originally built for this purpose and for many years operated with little incident to the surrounding community.”
Reopening and expanding the Queens complex would be the ideal first step to closing Rikers Island, says Natalie Grybauskas, a spokeswoman for the mayor.
“…we have already started to take a hard look at this site to determine its feasibility,” said Grybauskas in response to the council members.
According to the de Blasio administration, the inmate population at Rikers would first need to be reduced from its average daily population of 9,400 to 5,000.