Queens Jail Garage rendering

ADAMS WANTS COMMON CONSENT: Six design teams will develop detailed proposals to build jails in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and The Bronx that will replace the Rikers Island lockups. Although Mayor Adams said he would not challenge the entirety of the $8.2-billion plan, he said he wants renewed consensus from the City Council. Above, a rendering of a portion of the Queens complex.


As Mayor de Blasio left office, one of his signature initiatives—the closure of Rikers Island and its replacement by a set of four jails with restorative missions—got one step closer to becoming a reality 

The outgoing administration announced Dec. 29 that six design teams had been chosen to develop detailed proposals to build borough-based jails in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and The Bronx. 

Adams OK With Timeline

“I’m proud to see borough-based jails continue to move forward, and I look forward to celebrating more progress as expert teams design and build these new facilities,” the Mayor said in releasing the names of the firms for the four-borough, $8.2-billion project. 

While plans to build the jails and close the Rikers Island compound, approved with great fanfare by the City Council in October 2019, were set back by the pandemic, Department of Correction and City Hall officials this fall said they expect the entire project to be completed by 2027.

But whether the jails will rise as now intended will depend on numerous factors, most notably support or opposition to their planned locations. While Mayor Adams has said he supports the closure of the notorious penal colony and the decarceration philosophy behind the borough-based plan, he has also expressed ambivalence about locations for the new jails.

Planned jail sites in Queens—near Borough Hall and the Queens Criminal Courthouse—and Manhattan, on the White St. location of the current Detention Complex, have also been the subject of residents' resistance. While Mr. Adams said he was disinclined to start the process from scratch, he said during the second debate with Curtis Sliwa that it was necessary "to make sure incoming Council persons agree with the locations.

He has also said he would confer with Bronx officials on a location for the jail in that borough, now planned for the Mott Haven lot on the site of the old Lincoln Hospital. The former Brooklyn Borough President also found that the footprint for the jail in his borough—slated for the same Atlantic Ave. location of the now-shuttered Brooklyn Detention Center —was too large, even while he wrote in his recommendation for the city’s land-use application that the new jails “should meet state-of-the-art spacial standards and include a wide range of support facilities that are currently lacking.” 

Too Steep a Price-Tag?

The heads of the correction-officer unions and others have been unequivocal in their opposition to closing Rikers, arguing that jails there could be renovated at a fraction of the cost of building the four 'new ones. 

And in a recent article, Peter Curcio, a former Department of Correction Chief, suggested that the attention paid, literally and figuratively, to the four borough-based jails has come at the expense of Rikers and was at least partially responsible for the chaos that descended on the jail compound this year. 

“Mayor de Blasio’s decision to build them in the boroughs reeks of confirmation bias, in that he and his team of land developers sought out information that validated or supported their foregone decision to close Rikers while purposefully discounting any information to the contrary,” Mr. Curcio wrote in Law Enforcement Today. 

He counseled Mr. Adams to reconfigure a short-term plan to address conditions on Rikers. “Even with a continuation of the plan to close Rikers…help is needed now and not 5 years from now,” he wrote in early December. “The recommendation here is for Mayor-Elect Adams to consider a short term and long range plan for the infrastructure emergency.”

The new Mayor, in introducing his pick for Correction Commissioner, Louis Molina, had said it was imperative to address security and safety conditions on Rikers for both inmates and officers, and railed about “the lack of urgency” he said was exhibited by city leaders. 

“For far too long the situation there has been unacceptable,” he said Dec. 16. “It is a stain on our city…and we are not going to cover up this dysfunctional system.”

Some City-Based Firms

The request-for-proposals for the Manhattan site was released in December to a joint venture of the Providence, R.I.-based Gilbane Building Co. and the St. Louis-based Alberici Corp. Construction is expected to start in late 2022.

Two teams will compete for the right to build the Brooklyn site, also starting in late 2022, the first a joint venture by Australian concern Lend Lease Corp. and Nanuet-based Halmar International, and another led by Los Angeles-based Tutor Perini Corp. 

An RFP for the Queens site will be issued to the Leon D. DeMatteis Construction Corp. of Elmont this summer. That project is due to start in the spring of 2023.

The RFP for the planned Bronx location will be issued, also in the summer, to a group led by Galveston, Texas-based SLSCO and Manhattan’s Sciame Construction, and, separately, to Cauldwell Wingate 2022 Co., also based in Manhattan. Work on that facility is slated to start in summer 2023.

Design-build contracts for demolition and site preparation for all four facilities were registered in December.


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